chapter  22
14 Pages

Changing Middle Eastern Environments

WithArthur Goldschmidt, Aomar Boum

This chapter covers some of the environmental issues and risks that face Middle Eastern societies. It introduces the significance of water and the environment in Islam and provides a short account of water management in traditional Middle Eastern societies. In stark contrast to the extreme desert and harsh environmental conditions of the Middle East, scenes of green oases, gardens, and flowing water dominate Islamic art, architectural forms, and urban spaces. The West tends to perceive the Middle East as a stretch of sand dunes and deserts with few scattered oases supported by springs, underground water systems (known as qanats), or wells. In addition to oil spills that have damaged rivers and coastlines, the frequent wars in the Middle East since the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980 have caused some of the most damaging environmental disasters in history. Vehicle pollution degrades the quality of air and lifestyle in today's Middle Eastern cities and towns.