Gulf, Middle East & Asia
The six nations that formed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman—are all oil-producing monarchies. Until a few decades ago, they were among the poorest countries in the world. Since the discovery of oil and particularly the oil price revolution of the early 1970s, the six have been able to carry out massive programs of socioeconomic development that have dramatically increased the per capita income of their citizens, resulted in a huge immigration of foreign workers, strengthened the control of ruling families over the states, and thrust the members into the international spotlight. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest of the group with a population estimated at 27 million. The other five range in size between 700,000 and 3 million.
The Middle East is that part of Western Asia extending from the eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey and Syria, through the desert to Iraq and Arabia, and to the East through Iran to the Caspian, the Caucasus, and the Black Sea. Into Africa, it includes Egypt, and, by some accounts, Arab North Africa. This area comprises mountains, deserts, fertile plains irrigated by grand rivers, and seacoasts. Climatically, the Middle East ranges from the temperate Mediterranean coast, to the extreme heat of the arid desert areas, to snowy mountains. This variety of terrain produces a wide range of food ingredients.
Three centuries separate the missions of Vasco da Gama to India in 1498 and George Macartney to China in 1793. Da Gama opened a new sea route to the Orient; Lord Macartney, ambassador of Great Britain, sought to renegotiate the terms of trade with the Qing (Manchu) empire. During the course of the intervening centuries, successive waves of Europeans sailed into Asia—after the Portuguese came the Dutch, English, Spanish, and French. Their experiences taught them that there was more than one Asia. In south and east Asia, there were the powerful and expansive continental empires of the Mughals and the Manchus. In northeast Asia, there were the secluded kingdoms of Korea and Japan. But initially, for the Europeans, there was above all the Asia of the Indian Ocean trading network.
We fly to Gulf, Middle East & Asia with: