Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 16: Physical Geography of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia

Chapter Overviews

For centuries, the people of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia have adapted to survive in this dry region. The region extends from the Atlantic coast of northwestern Africa to the towering mountain ranges of the middle of Asia. All three areas of the region have similar landscapes. Several mountain ranges along with low-lying plateaus stretch across the area. Coastal plains support agricultural, but inland areas are quite dry.

The region is surrounded by water, and waterways connect the seas. The Strait of Gibraltar links the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. A human-made waterway, the Suez Canal, connects the Mediterranean and the Red seas, and the Strait of Hormuz allows access to the Persian Gulf. Humans built civilizations along the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers. Many areas of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia have harsh environments. As a result, people have settled in more temperate areas such as river valleys. Many areas have misused their water supplies and surrounding seas. One of the most important challenges facing the region is managing water resources. The lack of water in the region is a growing problem.

The region is the world’s leading producer of petroleum and natural gas. During the past century, the increasing global need for these resources has brought new wealth and changing lifestyles to the area. Coal and iron ore are also found in the region. But the scarcest resource is water. Much of the land of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia is desert. The world’s largest desert, the Sahara, covers much of North Africa. The Arabian Peninsula is nearly covered by deserts, and Central Asia has two large desert areas. Some areas, such as coastal areas of North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, and Turkey, have Mediterranean climates and receive higher levels of rainfall.

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