The Geographies Comprising the Levant Region
The term ‘Levant’ describes a conceptual region at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, precisely defined by neither geography nor politics.
Derived from the Italian word Levante – ‘rising’, a reference to the rising of the sun in the East’ – the name has been in use since the 15th Century.
The precise lands of the Levant have varied throughout history. In its broadest use, the Levant included all of the eastern Mediterranean, with its islands, and so extended from Greece and Cyrenaica (the eastern port in modern Libya) in the west, across modern day Iraq in the east.
Today, the term Levant is once again in common parlance, with those territories grouped under the term dependent, to some extent, on the agenda of the user.
The Aramea Foundation principally views the region as comprising the modern days the states of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel/Palestine. In addition, the neighbouring states of Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are of significance in our considerations.
The Syrian Arab Republic borders Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south and Israel to the southwest. Syria’s capital and largest city is Damascus. Syria is home to a plethora of ethnic and religious groups, including Muslim Arabs and Kurds, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Circassian.
The Republic of Iraq is bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest, and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Its main ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds, with other populations of Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans and Circassian.
The Lebanese republic is situated on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south. Its capital is Beirut. The population is just over half Muslim and around 40% Christian, with Druze making up the balance. Despite its small area, Lebanon is highly prosperous and, in consequence, influential in the region.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan lies on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the east and south, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north, Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories, and the Dead Sea to the west and the Red Sea in its extreme south-west. Its capital is Amman. Some 92% of Jordan’s population are Muslims, with the remainder being, in the main, Christian.
The State of Israel sits on the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It borders Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. Israel’s proclaimed capital (internationally unrecognised) is Jerusalem. Israel’s populace is approximately 75% Jews, with the remainder of Arab Palestinians (Muslims, Christians and Druze).