Bread suq, Sana'a, Yemen
In this small square around noon, bread sellers congregate near stalls selling grilled meats and vegetables. You buy your bun, then get the stall owner to open it and add the grilled goods. If you want tea, that's provided by yet another seller. It's delicious, and you can sit on the bench by the wall and watch the chaotic bustle. For desert, get some honey-sweetened pastry or some freshly squeezed lemon juice — all served within 10 meters of where this photo was taken.
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Modern civilization began right here in the Tigris-Euphrates river valley. Also known as the Fertile Crescent or Mesopotamia, this is the place where, six thousand years ago, agriculture, writing and mathematics were brought into widespread use.
The term "Middle East" comes from the British navy, which used it to describe the countries on the trade route from Europe to India and China. Everything from Afghanistan to Morocco may possibly be classified as "middle eastern", depending on whom you ask -- and when.
Only a partial list of past Empires in the middle eastern territory includes Sumeria, Babylonia, Persia, the Ottoman Empire and the Roman Empire!
When northern Europe was still lurking about in slimy cold stone castles playing chess, the Middle East was enjoying the flowers of poetry, luxurious craftsmanship, music and literature. In fact, the Renaissance in Europe was partly inspired by stories brought back from the middle east by travelers along the trade route.
Strategic location, religious history and the world's largest supply of crude oil have kept the Middle East at the center of world activity for centuries. The saga continues.
Text by Steve Smith.