Geography of Southwest Asia

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  • 0:03 Southwest Asia
  • 0:29 Physical Geography
  • 2:45 Human Geography
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Southwest Asia is a major region in the world. In this lesson, we're going to talk about the physical and human geography of the region and see what defines Southwest Asia.

Southwest Asia

When we think of Asia, we may think of bamboo forests, forbidden cities, and irrigated fields of rice. These things are found in Asia, but they're not found in all of Asia. On the opposite end of the continent from these stereotypes is a whole separate region called Southwest Asia. Many of us know it by a different name: the Middle East. But how much do we really know about this region? Let's take a tour and find out.

Physical Geography

Let's start by looking at the physical geography of Southwest Asia, or the region as it appears in terms of natural features. Southwest Asia stretches from the Arabian Sea in the south up to the Black Sea in the North. It is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the west side, and connects to Central Asia through rolling mountains on the east. So, off the bat we can see that the region has access to lots of water, and most of it is salt water. Let's look at the landforms and the water as two important aspects of physical geography.


Southwest Asia gets a negative image as a place of endless deserts, but there really is a lot more to the region than that. It is dominated not just by deserts but by two major peninsulas, surrounded by water. The Anatolian Peninsula, basically what we call the modern nation of Turkey, is situated right in between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The Arabian Peninsula is further south, separating the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Arabian Sea.

The land of Southwest Asia tends to be hot, and very dry. Southwest Asia has an arid climate, meaning that fresh water is often scarce. In fact, most of the region gets less than 18 inches of precipitation in a year. For that reason, the wadi, or dried riverbed, is a common site in the dry season. You may also expect to see massive sand storms called haboobs.


So, is there water anywhere in Southwest Asia? Yes there is. Besides the numerous salt-water seas we've mentioned, there are parts of this area that actually get reliable rainfall and have adequate springs for fresh water. Most of these are either along the coast of the Mediterranean, which have a pleasant climate like that of Southern Italy or Greece, or the region between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Running parallel across Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, the Tigris and Euphrates are the dominant rivers of the region. The land between them is one of the most fertile river valleys on Earth, and in fact most archaeologists believe that it was here that agriculture was first developed by humanity. The rich soil of this region, along with the lush coastlines along the Mediterranean, form something of a half-moon shaped territory of great soil and healthy agriculture. For those reasons, historians have termed this the Fertile Crescent.

Human Geography

Of course, not everything in Southwest Asia is composed of purely natural features. Humans have had a major impact on the region as well. We call the study of the relationship between humans and the physical landscape human geography. Let's look at the borders, peoples, cities and holy sites, and the natural resources that comprise the human geography of this region.


One of the most obvious things we see in terms of human geography is that people like to draw borders, creating nations and states. The countries that make up Southwest Asia include Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.

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