chapter  14
The Eastern Mediterranean coastlands
Pages 51

The region lying between the Mediterranean Sea and the interior arid plateaux of Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Arabia, sometimes spoken of - particularly by the French - as the Levant, has a strong geographical individuality. Structurally, it is a zone of transition, where the sediments laid down in the Tethys are folded on to and against the buckled edge of the Arabian platform; climatically, there is a striking ‘ Mediterranean’ rhythm of abundant winter rainfall and absolute summer drought; one can observe a special economy based on intensive ‘ garden’ cultivation, with commerce and craft industries as unusually important adjuncts; and finally, in the sphere of human relations, the concept of a boundary zone occurs once more, since the Levant has in a unique way acted throughout historic time as an intermediary between east and west. Within this general zone, extending from the Turkish Anti-Taurus in the north to the Sinai in the south, is a complex of small, highly individual regions, comparable in their variety and scale to the ‘ p ays’ of France, that together make up a general geographical unity based on factors both of physiography and of human relations. Political developments since 1919 have tended to accentuate and exacerbate disunity, but it will be recalled that for centuries before the Versailles settlements the name ‘ S yria ’ was held to apply to the whole of the region now described; and the fluidity of political boundaries in this region over the last 50 years could be taken as a further indication of fundamental geographical unity.