Abraj Kudai, a complex in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is set to become the world's largest hotel by room count when it opens in 2017.
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Abraj Kudai, a complex in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is set to become the world's largest hotel by room count when it opens in 2017.
Las Vegas currently has the four of the five largest hotels in the world; people flock to the Nevada desert in droves for the gambling and nightlife. Mecca has a very distinct draw that pulls tourists in from all over the world. As a sacred pilgrimage site, the tourism industry thrives and needs an immense infrastructure to handle the high volume of visitors that come for the Hajj.
"A founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, standup comic Maz Jobrani riffs on the challenges and conflicts of being Iranian-American -- 'like, part of me thinks I should have a nuclear program; the other part thinks I can't be trusted ...'"
This comedian doesn't just get laughs; he uses stand-up as a platform for discussing important social issues and to foster greater cultural understanding. His big goal is to break stereotypical perspectives of Muslims and Middle Easterners by showing that "there are good people everywhere." Here is another of his entertaining and educational TED talks.
Clarissa Ward breaks down the history of differences between opposing sects of Islam
The geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics. This 5 minute video (as well as this NPR podcast) examine the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today. Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis. Take this quiz to test your knowledge.
Put yourself in the shoes of a Syrian migrant and see whether you could make the right choices on the journey to Europe.
This BBC interactive tries to get the user to empathize with the plight and the geographic circumstances of Syrian refugees that are fleeing a land a strife. The choices are not easy and there is no certain path. This is an interesting interactive that is designed to build geographic empathy.
"TeachMideast is an educational outreach initiative developed by the Middle East Policy Council. TeachMideast is a resource designed primarily to give high school and community college teachers the foundation they need to teach about critical , complex, and intriguing subjects."
After writing an article about cultural empathy and stereotypes for National Geographic Education, I was delighted to hear from the educational outreach coordinator at Teach Mideast. The amount of resources they have for teachers is impressive--check it out!
Most of the world's major religions are made up of multiple sects or denominations, and Islam is no different. Islam's two major sects are the Sunnis and the Shiites, and the division and interplay between the two is a major factor in the geopolitics of the Middle East. How well do you understand Sunni and Shiite Islam? Take our quiz and find out!
The ghosts of religious wars past are rattling in Iraq; The geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics. This NPR podcast examines the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today. Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis. Take this quiz to test your knowledge.
A school that lays in ruins, hospitals and refugee camps under attack, and a city center with the size of Manhattan destroyed by shelling — these are some of the shocking details of a new United Nations report on the conflict in Syria, four years after in began.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia passed away on Jan 23rd and has been replaced by King Salman. What does that mean for Saudi Arabia? What will it mean for the region? The Plaid Avenger has the answers (here are the links for part 2 and part 3).
"Self-taught Iranian photographer gains rare access to shoot religious buildings as they've never been seen. It's a side of Iran the rest of the world doesn't normally get to see -- the kaleidoscopically brilliant interiors of the country's intricately designed mosques.With beautiful mosaics and stained glass framed by powerful architecture, the buildings are astounding."
A site in the Old City of Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, has been a flash point since the advent of modern Zionism.
There has been turmoil and violence in Jerusalem this month; at it's core, much of the fighting has been around the political control of sacred spaces that are seen as critical to both groups' cultural and religious identity. This particular sacred place is intertwined with both Judaism as well as Islam, and understanding the current round of violence demands that we understand some of the historical geography of religion in Jerusalem. To explore more about sacred sites in general as a spatial concept, visit this link.
"Naif al-Mutawa, creator of comic book series THE 99, spoke with Al-Monitor about the recent death threat by the Islamic State and how US President Barack Obama's enemies became his."
Seven years after the Kuwaiti psychologist and entrepreneur first launched his comic book series based on the 99 attributes of Allah, he's facing a sudden onslaught of death threats, fatwas and lawsuits (his comic books were highlighted in this TED talk on cultural change in the Islamic World). His US distributor, meanwhile, continues to sit on a TV deal, in part because of pressure from conservative bloggers who object to any positive description of Islam.
"Though it may come as a surprise to outsiders, the journey to Mecca is a manifestation of globally moderate Islam."
The Mecca region of Saudi Arabia has recently been in the midst of Hajj season. The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is strongly encouraged of all Muslims who have the means to undertake it. Importantly, by bringing together 2 million to 3 million people from across the globe, the Hajj pilgrimage is a manifestation of the diversity and moderate nature of global Islam. This image of the Muslim world as cosmopolitan and reasonable stands in stark contrast to the militant Islamist fundamentalism we more regularly hear about in media coverage — with the Islamic State and Boko Haram being the most recent manifestation of this.
"Religious scholar Reza Aslan took some serious issue on CNN Monday night with Bill Maher‘s commentary about Islamic violence and oppression. Maher ended his show last Friday by going after liberals for being silent about the violence and oppression that goes on in Muslim nations. Aslan said on CNN that Maher’s arguments are just very unsophisticated. He said these 'facile arguments' might sound good, but not all Muslim nations are the same. Aslan explained that female mutilation is an African problem, not a Muslim one, and there are Muslim-majority nations where women are treated better and there are even female leaders."
There are far too many oversimplifications when people throw around the terms "Muslim-majority countries" and this video shows that a more nuanced understanding is needed. That being said, it would be naive to pretend as though Islam today were without some structural problems. As stated in the linked article, "In 2013, of the top 10 groups that perpetrated terrorist attacks, seven were Muslim. Of the top 10 countries where terrorist attacks took place, seven were Muslim-majority. Of the 24 most restrictive countries (according to Pew Research), 19 are Muslim-majority. Of the 21 countries that have laws against apostasy, all have Muslim majorities."
Question to Ponder: How does the media play a role in shaping the conversations we have in society about different cultures and places? How can 'painting with a broad brush' lead to stereotypes and inaccurate conclusions?
Some are contemplating migration, severing ties to their holy land. Others want to stay and protect their shrines.
When we discuss the geography of religion, frequently we are discussing the distribution of particular religions. However, some religions are deeply embedded in particular places and their spiritual rites, customs and traditions are intrinsically linked with sacred spaces and particular geographies. The Yazidi are are religious group that is deeply connected to the mountains of northern Iraq--areas that are now being evacuated because of ISIS. Some are contemplating migrating to safety, but severing their ties to their holy land. Others want to stay and protect their sacred spaces.
If you want to understand the Islamic State, better known as ISIS, the first thing you have to know about them is that they are not crazy. Murderous adherents to a violent medieval ideology, sure. But not insane.
This interactive is a series of related articles, each designed to tackle popular narratives that have been constructed to explain ISIS; there are bits of truths in these myths, but they fail to fully contextualize the reality on the ground. These nine myths are:
"Islamic State's capture of the Mosul dam gives it control over the water and electricity supply in northern Iraq."
There is a geography to insurgency. This dam controls both the energy and water resources in the region, which gives the insurgents/rebels/terrorists greater local power. On a related noted, this op-ed entitled, "How America Lost the Middle East" has plenty of foreign policy and geopolitical material worth discussing.
These maps are crucial for understanding the region's history, its present, and some of the most important stories there today.
Titles like the one for this article, 40 maps that explain the Middle East, are becoming increasingly common for internet articles. They helps us feel that we can explain all of the world's complexities and make sense of highly dynamic situations. While we can all agree that maps are great analytical tools that can be very persuasive, sometimes we can pretend that they are the end all, be all for any situation. Maps can also be used to show how something that we thought was simple can be much complex and nuanced than we had previously imagined, as demonstrated by this article, 15 Maps that Don't Explain the Middle East at All. Both perspectives have their place (and both articles are quite insightful). Not connected to the Middle East, but East Asia, this article entitled Lies, Damned Lies and Maps continues the discussion of maps, truth and perception.
There are major hurdles in drawing borders between Israel and a future Palestine.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed peace talks in Washington in July for the first time in three years. While the talks are initially expected to focus on procedural issues, they are already beginning to take on a last-ditch quality. Explore some of the contentious issues that negotiators have faced in drawing borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
This five-part video report from the New York Times is from 2011, but still has some pertinent information, even if the situation has changed in some of the particulars. These videos brings important voices from a variety of perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; together they all show how a complex cultural and political geography leads to many of the difficulties in creating a long-lasting peace. The discipline of geography doesn't simple study the peace process--it is a part of it. The creation of borders and the cartographic process play a critical role in solving territorial issues. Geography can be both the problem and the solution.
"As a Muslim woman who chooses to wear hijab,I'd like to apologize for this poster, to my non-hijab wearing cohorts. http://pic.twitter.com/IoLfDPEGx7”
The hijab is an incredibly complex cultural artifact full of social meanings all over the political spectrum. This poster shows some of the social pressures exerted on women in Iran to wear the hijab. This poster comes from Iran where the government is using this platform to encourage traditional values and gendered norms using a chocolate bar/candy analogy. This poster struck a nerve on social media throughout the Middle East in part because blends some modern cultural diffusion elements with some older folk traditions. Many hijab-wearing women don't want other women to be shamed into conforming, and many women wear it the hijab in public, but privately subvert the cultural norms on social media. What stereotypes and perspectives are embodied in this poster? Why do you think this poster was seen as inflammatory or culturally insensitive by many? This image would be a great discussion starter for cultural patterns and process as well as the geography of the Middle East.
"A THOUSAND years ago, the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo took turns to race ahead of the Western world. Islam and innovation were twins. The various Arab caliphates were dynamic superpowers—beacons of learning, tolerance and trade. Yet today the Arabs are in a wretched state. Even as Asia, Latin America and Africa advance, the Middle East is held back by despotism and convulsed by war.
Pluralism, education, open markets: these were once Arab values and they could be so again. Today, as Sunnis and Shias tear out each others’ throats in Iraq and Syria and a former general settles onto his new throne in Egypt, they are tragically distant prospects. But for a people for whom so much has gone so wrong, such values still make up a vision of a better future."
As the likelihood of an independent Kurdish state on Turkey’s eastern border grows, Ankara is losing its historical resistance to the idea.
Developments in Iraq have left Turkey facing the prospect of an independent Kurdish state on its eastern border. Such an idea would have been abhorrent for Turkey a mere decade ago for fear that its existence would incite separation among its own restive Kurds. The standard Turkish narrative at the time was that an independent Kurdistan was a Western project aimed at destroying Turkey, an age-old ambition. Even the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was viewed in this context by many. The picture is no longer so black and white.
The division between Islam's Shiite minority and the Sunni majority is deepening across the Middle East. The split occurred soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, nearly 1,400 years ago.
The ghosts of religious wars past are rattling in Iraq; The geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics. This NPR podcast examines the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today. Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis.
"A radical fringe Islamic group names ISIS is fighting to establish a extremist Islamic state in Iraq and Syria...and beyond. They control eastern Syria, western Iraq, just took control of Iraq's 2nd largest city of Mosul and are advancing on the capital Baghdad. In this podcast, the professor John Boyer outlines just a few of the contributing factors to why this significant event is taking place, the geographic/historic background of the state, and the consequences for the future of the region."
If you haven't yet discovered John Boyer, a.k.a. the Plaid Avenger, I recommend exploring his site. He has numerous resources for world regional geography and current global affairs. His colorful persona is highly entertaining for college age-students as his class attracts over 3,000 students each semester (you can decide for yourself whether that personality works for you and your classroom). This particular 'plaidcast' discussion focuses on Iraq's current devolution and possible total collapse.
With Tuesday's seizure of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria notched a major victory in its campaign to create a new country containing parts of what had part of both Syria and Iraq. On Wednesday, the insurgents continued their march south, taking control of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.
The story of ISIS's spread -- and its influence -- is one that begins in Syria, where the group has been waging a brutal insurgency against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and, increasingly, other more moderate and secular rebel groups. The map above depicts the areas of Syria under its control. The group's influence is bounded by the Free Syrian Army in the west, the Kurds in the north, and pockets of government influence. Who is the ISIS/ISIL?