|1.||(loosely) the area around the E Mediterranean, esp Israel and the Arab countries from Turkey to North Africa and eastwards to Iran|
|2.||(formerly) the area extending from the Tigris and Euphrates to Myanmar|
|of or relating to the Middle East or its inhabitants|
Note: As the site of such ancient civilizations as Phoenicia, Babylon, and Egypt, and the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Middle East is known as the cradle of Western civilization. The Greek Empire, Roman Empire, Persian Empire, and Ottoman Empire are among the great civilizations that developed and prospered in the Middle East.
Note: A hotbed of religious and political strife (see Arab-Israeli conflict and Persian Gulf War), the Middle East attracted the attention of such powerful nations as Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union eager to protect their strategic interests at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and their access to precious oil reserves.