A handful of acres in Jerusalem contain some of the holiest sites of both Islam and Judaism, as this map suggests. The accompanying article from The Washington Post explains why the area is a religious and political flashpoint and why it may be in the news more often with Israel's current government: www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/01/05/temple-mount-al-aqsa-ben-gvir-israel/
For more than 7 years, Egypt has been planning and building a new capital city 40 miles east of Cairo. New Administrative Capital, as the city is called, is not yet complete, but civil servants are being asked to move to the new capital beginning this month, in the hope that other Egyptians will follow: www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-is-spending-billions-on-a-new-capital-that-egyptians-may-not-visit-11671838772
The Middle East Institute, a nonpartisan think tank specializing in issues related to the greater Middle East, presents its recommendations for the top 10 books published in the last year related to the Middle East: www.mei.edu/blog/10-books-expand-your-knowledge-middle-east
Negotiations over a "cap" on the price paid for Russian oil has been in the news recently. This geo-graphic from Al Jazeera highlights Russia's role in global oil markets: bucket.mlcdn.com/a/2764/2764870/images/e37fb5d7fa9398245e8017714bc383775d23a256.png
Liquifying natural gas is a more expensive, energy-intense alternative to pipelines in the delivery of natural gas. Several European countries are trying to bring more liquified natural gas (LNG) capacity online as quickly as possible to replace Russian, pipeline-delivered gas. This geo-graphic from Statista looks at which countries are currently the biggest suppliers of LNG: www.statista.com/chart/27839/biggest-liquefied-natural-gas-exporters
Europe's record-shattering heat has been in the news, but "Qatar is heating faster than almost anywhere else on the planet, the consequence of being a peninsula surrounded by overheating seas in one of the hottest corners of the world." This article from Geographical (UK) looks at what climate change means for Qatar and how the country is responding: geographical.co.uk/climate-change/climate-and-qatar?
World Refugee Day was earlier this week. Although Ukrainian refugees -- now numbering 5.2 million -- have dominated the news this year, this map from Statista is a reminder that Ukrainians are just a fraction of the world's refugees: www.statista.com/chart/18436/total-number-of-refugees-by-origin-country
In some ways, the violent re-ordering of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs that flowed from Indian and Pakistani independence in 1947 has overshadowed the violent re-ordering of Jews, Muslims, and Christians that flowed from Israeli independence the following year. Concerned about denialism and "memoricide" of the latter event, the Middle East Institute, a broad-based nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC, has published a new paper based on diplomatic documents in the U.S. archives about what U.S. diplomats knew was happening on the ground in Israel/Palestine in 1948: www.mei.edu/publications/five-things-united-states-knew-about-nakba-it-unfolded
As of late last month, an estimated 4 million people had left Ukraine, 9% of the population. This geo-graphic from Statista, based on data from the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, puts Ukraine in the context of previous refugee crises since 1960: www.statista.com/chart/27151/largest-refugee-crises-since-1960-by-peak-number-of-refugees
Not surprisingly, Russia has become the most sanctioned country in the world, with nearly 6,000 different sanctions targeting individuals and/or governmental entities. This geo-graphic from Statista looks at the countries with the most international sanctions. cdn.statcdn.com/Infographic/images/normal/27015.jpeg
Egypt was once the bread basket of the ancient world. Today, it is the world's biggest importer of wheat. This map features the 10 biggest importers of wheat over the last 4 years -- with Egypt, Indonesia, and Turkey in the top three -- suggesting these countries are likely to feel the pinch of rising wheat prices and possible wheat shortages with Russian and Ukrainian wheat off the market. Egypt's heavy reliance on imported wheat coupled with its long political tradition of subsidizing bread makes it particularly vulnerable to crisis.
Biogeography includes the study of the geographic distribution of microbes, and right now researchers are watching intently the intersection of a virulent new strain of bird flu and the spring bird migration. About 6,000 wild cranes migrating through the Levant -- nearly 20% of the migrating Eurasian crane population -- have died of the disease and forced a cull of more than 1 million domestic chickens in Israel, for example. In the U.S., a bird flu outbreak first identified among domestic turkeys in Indiana has begun to spread to other states just as North America's spring bird migration gets underway. foodinstitute.com/focus/us-bird-flu-outbreak-has-poultry-operators-on-edge/
Egypt's Wadi Al-Assiut protectorate (just west of the Nile, roughly half way between Cairo and Luxor) is home to many rare plants and animals, including the last hives of an Egyptian bee whose honey and venom have been used therapeutically since pharaonic times. www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/11/neglected-egyptian-nature-reserve-home-last-pharaonic-honey-bees
After a decade of civil war and economic collapse, Syria has become the newest narcostate, with the Syrian Army and businessmen close to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad overseeing the production and distribution of captagon, an illegal amphetamine popular in the Arab world. Captagon is now Syria's most profitable export, by far, with captagon labs scattered across government-held regions of Syria. www.nytimes.com/2021/12/05/world/middleeast/syria-drugs-captagon-assad.html
Saudi Arabia is planning a new city. What makes this city different is that it is supposed to be a super-technologically advanced octagon-shaped industrial city floating in the Red Sea and powered entirely by clean energy. interestingengineering.com/a-floating-city-saudi-arabia-is-building-the-worlds-largest-sea-based-industrial-site
Recent street battles in Beirut -- reportedly started when Christian militias fired on Shi'ite protesters, who then fired back -- brought Lebanon's complex religious geography back into the news. This map, based on voter registration data because Lebanon has not had an official census since 1932, illustrates the issue:
And therein lies the rub: just days after the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its bleak report on global warming, the Biden White House asks the OPEC+ group to pump more oil to bring down gasoline prices, which are at or near a seven-year high. OPEC+ refers to the official members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, shown in dark blue on this map, and other major petroleum producers who often coordinate with OPEC but are not members of OPEC, shown in light blue on this map. www.insightsonindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Break_through.png
Just days ago, with the Tokyo Olympics underway, the site of the original Olympic games, Olympia, Greece, was evacuated due to wildfires. Intense wildfires are also raging across multiple locations in Turkey, Italy, and elsewhere around the Mediterranean. In fact, over the last two weeks all of the countries shown in red on this map have experienced serious wildfires, many of which are still burning.
Threatening Europe with refugees appears to be a new favorite ploy in international relations. Turkey has been using this tactic for more than five years, primarily focused on keeping Syrian refugees in Turkey in exchange for money and various other EU considerations. In May, Morocco allowed illegal migrants, primarily from Sub-Saharan Africa, to "escape" into adjacent Spanish territory to show displeasure with Spain's decision to provide medical treatment for a leader of Western Sahara's Polisario Front. Now Egypt is suggesting Europe may be faced with a flood of refugees (including "youth joining terrorist groups") if European countries do not side with Egypt in its dispute with Ethiopia over the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on a section of the Blue Nile in northwestern Ethiopia. www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/07/egypt-warns-europe-against-illegal-immigration-amid-nile-dam-impasse
Since the beginning of the civil war in neighboring Syria 10 years ago, Lebanon has hosted the largest number of externally displaced people on a per-capita basis. At one point, as many as one in four people in Lebanon were Syrian refugees. In 2020, the island of Aruba (technically part of the Netherlands) supplanted Lebanon as the host of the greatest per-capita number of externally displaced people, most of whom have fled nearby Venezuela. This geo-graphic, based on UN data, shows the eight countries hosting the most externally displaced people on a per-capita basis: www.statista.com/chart/3576/the-countries-with-the-most-refugees-per-capita
This map, based on satellite imagery, shows the geography of recent Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. The more urban northern part of Gaza, in and around Gaza City, shows the most destruction of buildings (389 building destroyed or severely damaged, in red, and 157 moderately damaged buildings, in orange). The more rural southern part of Gaza mostly shows impact craters in fields near the border with Israel, in gray. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/06/11/gaza-damage-map-rebuilding-israel/.)
This chart looks at casualties over the last 13 years resulting from conflict between Israel and the West Bank/Gaza: www.statista.com/chart/16516/israeli-palestinian-casualties-by-in-gaza-and-the-west-bank
Dam projects around the world are sources of geopolitical conflict and intrigue. A dramatic drop in the quantity of water carried by the Euphrates River from Turkey into Syria is the latest to generate outrage, but, as with so much in Syria, it's complicated:
"The Euphrates River in Syria separates between the lands under the control of the Syrian government and the territories held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Syrian government controls the areas located south of the Euphrates and overlooking its right bank, including the areas extending to the southern countryside of the provinces of Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Manbij in the countryside of Aleppo. ... The SDF, meanwhile, controls the left bank of the river, which is seen as its first point of control that spans the areas of northeastern Syria, including the northern countryside of the provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), backed by Turkey, controls the right bank of the Euphrates over a distance of no more than 6 kilometers into Syrian territories near Jarablus. Both the Syrian government and the SDF accuse Turkey of the dramatic drop in the levels of water flowing into the Euphrates River. The Syrian opposition, however, has remained mum, as it does not benefit from the river’s water. During a tour to check on the water situation at the Euphrates River on May 7, the Syrian government's Minister of Water Resources Tamam Raad called on Turkey to release water into the river according to Syria's and Iraq's fair share. He also urged the international community and international organizations to intervene in this regard."
This geo-graphic shows the world's biggest sovereign wealth funds (i.e., state-owned investment funds), by asset value as of January. (GIC Private Limited and Temasek Holdings are both Singaporean; together they would move Singapore into the #3 position.) Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, is derived largely from its offshore oil reserves in the North Sea. It was established in 1990 "to invest government revenues from fossil fuel industries into sectors deemed more sustainable in order to provide for a future when the country can no longer rely on its income from oil" and helps give Norwegians one of Europe's highest median disposable incomes. www.statista.com/chart/24060/the-worlds-biggest-sovereign-wealth-funds
A recent report from the British nonprofit Save the Children finds that approximately one out of every six children on earth is living in a conflict zone, and "165 million of these children are affected by high intensity conflicts." This map shows the areas with the largest numbers of children living in conflict zones, including Honduras, with a total population of fewer than 10 million. For the complete report, see www.savethechildren.org.uk/content/dam/global/reports/education-and-child-protection/war_on_children-web.pdf
Blog sharing news about geography, philosophy, world affairs, and outside-the-box learning
This blog also appears on Facebook: