National Geographic : 1972 Jul
NATONJuly 972 THE NATIONALGEOGRAPHICMAGAZINEVOL. 142, NO. I COPYRIGHT© 1972 BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY,WASHINGTON,D.C. INTERNATIONALCOPYRIGHTSECURED IN THE LEXICON of our daily newspapers, the terms "Middle East" and "crisis" seem linked in a natural association. Israeli strong points look out on a ring of hostile neighbor nations. On Cyprus, Greek and Turk try desperately to find a way to survive together. From the mountains of northern Iraq, Kurdish warriors press for greater autonomy. In the Persian Gulf, huge tankers fill with the lifeblood of European and Japanese economies, while anxious diplomats and busi nessmen bargain to keep the oil flowing. The scenes represent not only national interests and divisions, but often international commitments involving nuclear powers. The world's stake in the Middle East is noth ing less than peace itself. By their nature, headlines tend to obscure the human realities behind them. Familiarity with the ethnic backgrounds and historical roots of Arab, Jew, Persian, Turk, and Kurd will give us all a better understand ing of the news. With this issue, National Geographic includes another in its unique series of cultural supplements, a double-sided map that sur veys the whole range of Middle Eastern lands and peoples. This immense region, homeland to 194 million, might be thought of not as Middle East, but simply as Middle-the vast, arid meeting ground of three continents. Its mounds entomb man's first cities. Along its precious Te ai astronomy, invented mathematics, and, above all, simplified written communication by inventing an alphabet. From its tribes, prophets arose who preached of one God; they bequeathed to the world three of its major religions. Today much of the region bears the cultural stamp of Arabic-speaking peoples and the religious stamp of Islam. In the article that follows, staff writer and photographer Thomas J. Abercrombie, who has traveled to the remotest corners of the Moslem world, tells of the birth of Islam and of the dazzling empire its converts created centuries ago. The accompanying National Geographic map supplement, which de picts the entire Middle East as a cultural unit, has already been acclaimed by scholars who aided in its preparation. Encompassing subjects as varied as languages and politics, land use and physical geography, it will broaden understanding of this crucial part of our world, as men pray for the day when headlines speak of cooperation, not of crisis.