Home The Map as History > History of the Middle East since the early 20th century > The Middle East at the beginning of the 20th century
(…) The Arab Middle East extended from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia, including the Arabian Peninsula and the Nile Valley.
Arabic was the common language, apart from groups such as the Kurds in the north-east.
The region was host to a wide variety of religions. Most of the inhabitants were Sunnite Muslims but, even within the Islamic community, there were several schismatic groups, the largest being the Shiites found mostly in Iraq and Lebanon, the Wahhabites in the Arabian Peninsula, and the Alawites and the Druze found in the mountainous regions along the coast. Christian and Jewish communities had settled along the Mediterranean coast and in many urban areas.
Most of the Middle East was ruled by the Sultan of Istanbul, Protector of the Pilgrimage to Mecca; with the construction of railway lines from Istanbul to Medina, his domain was extended as far as the Hejaz.
The Ottoman Empire was divided into administrative provinces: Mosul, Baghdad and Bassora in Mesopotamia, Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut in Syria. These provinces were further divided into districts, known as Sandjaks.The Sandjak of Jerusalem was a special case, since it was under direct rule from the Ottoman Government, the Sublime Porte (…)
History of the Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century: Ottoman Empire – European interference – French and British mandates – independence of Arab countries – creation of the State of Israel – wars in Lebanon and Iraq
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