The Middle East

The Middle East
  • Credit:

    Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

This true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image provides a cloud-free view of the Middle Eastern countries surrounding the Fertile Crescent. Arching along the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea from the Red Sea through modern-day Syria, and then across to the Persian Gulf in an upside-down “u” shape, the Fertile Crescent is a rich, food growing area in an otherwise dry, barren land. Anciently, the land nurtured some of the earliest recorded human civilizations. Even today, a narrow strip of green along the Mediterranean Sea and the Euphrates River marks out the Fertile Crescent.

Nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Mesopotamia forms the eastern half of the Fertile Crescent. “Mesopotamia” is a Greek name meaning, “between the rivers.” Early civilization began to develop in the region over six thousand years ago. Mesopotamia was home to several ancient cultures out of which came early writing, and some of the first recorded laws and literature.

Most of Mesopotamia is in modern-day Iraq and Syria. A large brown and green area at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (right center) is the Marshlands of Mesopotamia, home of the Madan, the Marsh Arabs. The marshlands have been drying as water has been diverted upstream for cities and agriculture. A few dark green areas show where the marshlands persist. Nearby, red dots mark the locations of fires. Along the right side of the image, the lines of Iran’s Zagros Mountains add variety to the landscape.

The modern countries shown in this image include Turkey (upper right), and going counterclockwise, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran. The image was acquired by the Terra satellite on November 3, 2003.

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  • Data Date:

    November 3, 2003
  • Visualization Date:

    December 4, 2003
  • Sensor(s):

    Terra - MODIS


NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration