Islam Map Assignment Middle East

Blank map of MENA (image)

Click here for a blank map of MENA,  from BYU

Fact Sheet on Palestine Geography

Facts and figures related to Palestinian geography.

Geography Strikes Back

This article from the Wall Street Journal explains the impact of geography on current world conflicts.

Geography: A Collection of Articles from Teach Mideast

A collection of articles about geography of the Middle East. From Teach Mideast


Irancarto is a scientific research website devoted to cartographic studies on Iran and the Iranian world current or past: society, demography, economics, politics, culture, history, language, arts, cities, countryside.

Israel & the Palestinians: Key Maps

BBC gives interactive maps on Israel and Palestine.

Palestinian Territories

The state department offers key facts and maps about the area.

Unrest in the Arab World: An Interactive Map

When Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit vendor, set himself on fire in December 2010, he also lit the fuse for an uprising that has spread across much of the Arab world. Click on the countries to see the roots of their unrest and where they stand today.

Water: Teaching about the World’s Most Valuable Resource


Where is the Middle East?

This slide show from the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations uses maps to illustrate the lack of consensus among governments, international organizations, and scholars regarding how to define the Middle East or even whether to use that term. The instability of the concept “Middle East” points to the need to break down traditional area studies barriers.

You can also view this 8 minute screencast introducing the changing definitions and borders of the Middle East.

Al-Monitor (news source)

Al-Monitor is a new media website providing original reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East and offering in-depth analysis through its Iran,  Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine and Turkey “Pulses.”

Blank map of MENA (image)

Click here for a blank map of MENA,  from BYU

Distribution of Religious Groups Across Lebanon (images)

This map shows the distribution of religious groups across Lebanon including Sunni, Shiites, Christians, Muslims and others.

Is Peace Possible? In Interactive Map (multimedia)

The Interactive Map is an addition to the “Is Peace Possible?” – a multi-platform project developed by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, SAYA/Design for Change, and The Atlantic on the opportunities and challenges of reaching a comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The initial project is organized around four core issues of the conflict: Borders, Security, Refugees, and Jerusalem – presented on a unique website platform – containing animated and narrated presentation videos for each issue.

Middle East and Islamic History in Maps (images)

A collection of maps posted by Dr. Steve Tamari at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

Maps of Iran from PBS (images)

Maps of Iran from PBS

Arab Culture through Literature and Film

Arab Culture through Literature and Film is a five unit high school curriculum that provides students with knowledge and tools to analyze and understand the Arab world. The materials utilize a student-centered pedagogical approach that promotes critical thinking and respect and encourages engaged global citizenship. Through this curriculum, students will recognize shared themes across the region and gain a sense of the rich diversity inherent to the multidimensional cultures of the Arab world. Students will study life and culture in the Arab world and engage with primary sources including films, short stories, and poems. Exposing students to Arab voices and putting human faces on the Arab world will increase understanding and tolerance in the American classroom.

Blank map of MENA (image)

Click here for a blank map of MENA,  from BYU

Explorers, Traders and Immigrants: Tracking the Cultural and Social Effects of the Global Commodity Trade

This unit examines eight global commodities from their points of origin and the social, cultural, political, and economic changes they have wrought along their way. Each case study encompasses four “stops” along the commodity’s journey: its initial discovery and/or access; its progress from local good to international trade; the ramifications of large-scale production; and the drama of its boom-and-bust cycles through the years.

Developed by the University of Texas at Austin.

Geography of the Modern Middle East and North Africa

Through this 50 minute lesson, students learn the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, where they lie on the map and how that might impact the citizens.

Kurds: People Without a Country,a lesson plan by Lisa Adeli.

The lesson teaches the history and geography of the Kurds through an opening presentation and a short research assignment.
Supplementary materials:

Mapping Middle East & Northern Africa Countries

This lesson serves to introduce students to the physical and political background of the Middle East and North Africa.  This lesson can stand alone or be used as a first lesson in a unit about the region

Developed by Karen Brush and Gloria Pagan as a part of the Middle East Studies Center 2013 Summer Institute: The Arab Uprisings


Measuring the Travels of Two Adventurers: Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta

Students will learn about two medieval explorers, the Venetian Marco Polo, and theMoroccan Ibn
Battuta, and how their travels affected Asian trade and migration. Students will use maps of their travels
to compare and estimate distances covered by Polo and Battuta.  Developed by Cheryl Wiens and published by the Center for Middle East Studies at University of Arizona.

Middle East and North Africa Geography

This lesson plan gives students an overview of the region’s geographical past, while exposing students to the complexity and diversity of the region. It also ensures a basic geographical starting point for any unit plan about the region, or for any mini-unit delving into Middle Eastern current affairs.  Published by PBS

Middle East Map Game

This fun and interactive map game has students place countries of the Middle East and North Africa on a map.

Migration of the Turks

In this lesson students will map Turkic migration.  Students will use Google Maps Engine, the Library of Congress’ Country Studies and self-selected web resources to discover, map and self-check their map of the historical Turkic migration.  This lesson will take two 55 minute class periods.

Oil and Water in the Middle East Region

In this lesson, students will explore the roles of oil and water in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. Students will use maps to look at the distribution of oil in the Middle East and discuss what it means for the different countries in the region. They will also examine how water has influenced the region historically (in the “fertile crescent” region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) and politically (for example, how Iraq’s access to water is limited to one small part of its border). Finally, they will study specific aspects of Iraq’s struggles with water, using satellite imagery to understand and illustrate the problem.

Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean

This collection of 6 teaching modules features resources for teaching about the role of the Mediterranean as a commercial and cultural ecosystem in past eras, as well as lesson materials on the present and prospects for the future. Given the unique geography of the transitions currently underway in the Middle East (several geographically contiguous North African states) and the likelihood that interactions between Europe, northern Africa, Turkey, and the Arab world will constitute a vitally important sub-region of globalization going forward, new cross-Mediterranean tendrils of economic and civil society connectivity will be necessary to help anchor these transitions.

Physical Geography of Iran

A study guide for Iran’s geography.

Sailing the Great Sand Sea

In this unit, students will understand the ways in which North African traders were able to adapt to the harsh environment of the Sahara desert in order to extract natural resources and engage in trans-desert trade for economic gain. They will understand: (1) the factors that define a desert and the different types of deserts; (2) that the introduction of the camel to North Africa provided a solution that made trans-Saharan trade possible; and (3) the natural resources available in the desert and the advantages to be had from harnessing them.

Content developed by the University of Texas at Austin

Slavery in Ottoman Egypt

By the 19th century, slavery was a well-known and well-defined institution in the Egypt, at that time a province of the Ottoman Empire. For most of the 19th century, the slave population of Egypt was between 20,000 and 30,000 out of a total population of five million. The number of slaves in Cairo, a city of a quarter-million people, was estimated to be between 12,000 and 15,000 at any given point until 1877. Yet, slavery in Egypt took on quite a different form than it did in the Americas. Learn more about slavery in an Islamic emirate.

Developed by the University of Texas at Austin

Slavery in the Swahili Emirates of East Africa

In 1828 Sultan Seyyed Said of Oman moved his court from Muscat in Arabia to the island of Zanzibar (in present day Tanzania) in order to establish a royal monopoly on clove production. Zanzibari society was Swahili and Muslim, which provided a rigid social and legal framework for the slave trade and the practice of slavery locally. Slaves have certain legal rights under Islamic law that their counterparts elsewhere did not enjoy. However, the constrictions of society and demands of the booming Zanzibari economy in the mid-19th century meant that the laws were neither evenly applied nor always followed. Learn more about the practice of slavery in Africa itself, and how the institution managed to persevere into the 20th century.

Developed by the University of Texas at Austin

TeachMideast: Tunisia

Basic background info on Tunisia.

The Aswan High Dam in Egypt

Students will understand that: (1) the construction of the Aswan High Dam has had both positive and negative effects on the physical environment in Egypt; (2) the construction of the Aswan High Dam has both been an example of humans changing the environment in order to meet their needs and an example of the geography adapting itself in return; and (3) the issues involved in sharing and allocating water resources between nations and the variety of strains put on available water resources are complex.

Resource developed by the University of Texas at Austin.

The Palestinians “Right of Return” 

One of the most difficult issues that Israelis and Palestinians must solve in order to work out a peace agreement is the issue of the Palestinian “right of return.” When the state of Israel was declared in 1947, a war broke out between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Many of the Arab residents who lived in what became Israel fled their homes. Many more fled during the Arab-Israeli war in 1967. Now, many Palestinians are asking for the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel proper. This is an issue that is very emotional for people on both sides of this conflict. Students will consider the reasons for and against the Palestinian ‘right of return.’

A lesson from the Understanding Migration Curriculum Resources for the Classroom Unit Plan from the University of Texas at Austin.

The Southeastern Anatolia Project

This case study was created to help students understand the complexities of large-scale construction and development projects. Such projects often inspire an optimistic outlook; students will get a better sense of the many different benefits that such projects can have and the ways in which the quality of living can be dramatically improved. At the same time, students will gain an understanding that such projects have side effects, both positive and negative, that can extend across geo-political boundaries.

Developed by the University of Texas at Austin

World War I in the Middle East- Museum Research Project

Students work in pairs or small groups to create a project that becomes part of a ‘museum’, either a physical exhibit or an online one, to share with other classes, their families and the community.

Lesson Plan
Overview of World War I in the Middle East
List of Projects
Assignment for Students
List of Resources
Museum Viewers’ Assignment

Materials produced by Lisa Adeli, Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona.


Lesson Plans

Back to lesson plans archiveJune 13, 2013

Middle East and North Africa geography – Lesson Plan

By Leah Fabel, Washington, DC


Geography and History

Estimated Time

Two or three 45-minute class periods

Grade Level

9 – 12


Students will be able to:

  1. Find the Middle East and North Africa on a map of the world, and know the location of the countries and capitals within the Middle East and North Africa.
  2. Understand and give examples of the diversity in the region, distinguishing from prevailing stereotypes.
  3. Understand and analyze the geographic history of the region, from its ancient empires to its 20th century colonial powers.
  4. Apply geographic knowledge to a 1941 newspaper article about the political future of the region.
  5. Evaluate the arguments made in the article, and the cultural perspective of the writer.
  6. Embark upon further study of the region, whether the unit concerns history or current affairs.


This lesson plan gives students an overview of the region’s geographical past, while exposing students to the complexity and diversity of the region. It also ensures a basic geographical starting point for any unit plan about the region, or for any mini-unit delving into Middle Eastern current affairs.


Throughout history, the geography of the Middle East has been at the heart of many of its most critical political and cultural moments. An understanding of not only its present-day geography, but also its historical geography, is essential for any student eager to understand what’s going on in the region, and why.


  1. Hand out unlabeled maps of the Middle East and North Africa to each student. (Maps can be found at National Geographic — there is a specific one for the Middle East Region, but a map of Africa needs to suffice for North Africa.)
  2. (5 min) Working with a neighbor and a sheet of scratch paper, have students brainstorm a list of as many Middle Eastern and North African countries and capital cities as they can think of. Ask who was able to come up with 10/20/30 responses. Gauge to what extent students actually have a geographic knowledge of the region.
  3. Come back together as a class for a short discussion before labeling the maps together.
Discussion questions:
  1. What is the Middle East? Where did the term come from? (Is it in the “middle” of anywhere?)
  2. Is it a defined land mass, or can it have different definitions?
  3. If we don’t mean an defined set of countries, what do we mean by Middle East?
  4. As a class, come up with a list of qualities generally assumed to be similar about Middle Eastern countries. As students do this, point out anomalies. They might say “Muslim,” for example. That’s generally true, but point out that several Middle Eastern countries (e.g. Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria) have sizable Christian populations, and that more than 80 percent of Israeli citizens are Jewish. If they say “Arabic,” point out that Moroccan Arabic is almost unintelligible to an Arabic speaker in Jordan or Syria, for example. In Iran, the majority speaks Farsi (also called Persian).
  5. Using an overhead or a projection screen, label the countries and capitals/major cities of the Middle East and North Africa: Turkey (Istanbul, Ankara), Syria (Damascus), Iraq (Baghdad), Iran (Tehran), Jordan (Amman), Israel/Palestine (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv), Lebanon (Beirut), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh, Mecca), Kuwait (Kuwait City), Bahrain (Manama), Qatar (Doha), UAE (Abu Dhabi), Oman (Muscat), Yemen (Sanaa), Algeria (Algiers), Libya (Tripoli), Morocco (Rabat), Tunisia (Tunis), Egypt (Cairo), as well as major bodies of water (students may find this is more neatly done on a new map altogether): Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Bab el Mandeb (Teacher’s note: Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb are especially important if you’re going to do a lesson on oil production/transportation.)
  6. Working with a partner and using in-class resources such as the Internet or almanacs, list on a graphic organizer each country’s predominant religion and % who identify with it; predominant language and % who identify with it; form of government, current leader, and his/her years in power. (Teacher’s note: If you do not have access to the Internet, make copies of almanac pages for each country — or for the countries on which you want students to focus. Scatter the pages around the room, and have students move from station to station gathering the info from each page.)

The boundaries of the modern Middle East largely are a 20th century, post-WWI creation. To understand the modern dynamic of the region, however, it’s important to be aware of the boundaries and the leaders that existed for centuries before.

In a summary paragraph of 10 sentences or less (rubric below), summarize the time period, geographic reach and defining political and cultural traits of of one of the following: (Or, assign students one of the following, so as to make sure at least one person does each empire or caliphate.)

  • The Ottoman Empire
  • The Byzantine Empire
  • The Abbasid Caliphate
  • The Fatimid Caliphate
  • The Umayyad Caliphate

(Differentiation for special needs students: Depending on the skill level of your students, assign this as a completely independent research project, or give them a reading such as a Wikipedia page or a section from a textbook that contains the information requested. As a modification for students with disabilities, highlight for them key passages of the reading.)

10-point rubric:

2 pts: Paragraph includes the time period that this empire or caliphate was in power.

3 pts: Paragraph includes the capital of the empire/caliphate, as well as its reach at the peak of its power.

2 pts: Paragraph includes the dominant religion of this empire or caliphate. Student should distinguish whether the Muslim rulers are Sunni or Shiite.

3 pts: Paragraph includes one of the most important historical legacies of this empire or caliphate (e.g. brought Islam to North Africa), and at least two cultural or political details of the empire or caliphate.

DAY 2:
  1. For each empire/caliphate, call on one student to share his/her summary. Students should take notes or use a graphic organizer to record information about each empire/caliphate.
  1. Discussion: What does this information tell you about the region’s history with democratic rule? What about its history as individual countries? In the absence of a strong sense of nationality, to what do you think people felt loyal? (Tribe? Religion? Town? Employer? Family?)
  1. Explain to students that you will now focus on post-WWI Middle East. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, European colonial powers became a greater influence. Using maps and colored pencils, have students shade countries based on their colonial power (or, in some cases, their relative independence in the 20th cent.)
  • Turkey: independent (following fall of Ottoman Empire)
  • Syria: France
  • Iraq: Great Britain
  • Iran: independent
  • Jordan: Great Britain
  • Israel: independent (gained statehood in 1948)
  • Palestine: Great Britain
  • Lebanon: France
  • Saudi Arabia: independent
  • Kuwait: Great Britain
  • Bahrain: independent (with some British oversight)
  • Qatar: independent (with some British oversight)
  • United Arab Emirates: independent (with some British oversight)
  • Oman independent (with some British oversight)
  • Yemen: independent (with some British oversight)
  • Algeria: France
  • Libya: Italy
  • Morocco: France
  • Tunisia: France
  • Egypt: Britain

Have students read “Moslem Federation,” Washington Post, May 1941. Working in pairs or groups, have students start on homework questions.

Differentiation for special needs students

Highlight for students the key passages in the article. For students who struggle with comprehension skills, answer question number two for them. Also, if necessary, delete question number five.

Extension Activities

Students can research a country currently facing political turmoil and write a piece in the tone of “Moslem Federation” offering modern day guidance concerning U.S. foreign policy.

Further learning:

Depending on how teachers choose to focus their unit plans, the following video clips are excellent examples of recent protests and democracy movements in the Middle East. Each would require a briefing for students about the modern history of the country. In Libya, for example, students would need to know that following Italian colonial rule, Libya was led by King Idris (1951-1969). Qaddafi took power from Idris in a 1969 coup, and has been in power ever since.

Reports of Violence in Libyan Protest

Egypt’s Revolution Inspires Protests in the Middle East

Disappointing Speech Incites Protesters, Leads to Mubarak’s Resignation

Egyptians Take to Streets to Oust President

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    EgyptMiddle EastSyriaWorld & Geography

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