MARK ALLEN PETERSON
Miami University, USA
The Middle East refers to a broad geographic region whose borders shift according to North American and European geopolitical interests. Currently, the term is used to describe a belt of Muslim-majority countries stretching from Morocco in the west to Afghanistan or even Pakistan in the east. The bulk of consumption studies has focused on those countries with strong historical ties to the colonial and postcolonial West (Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon), and to those states that rose to positions of extreme wealth in the twentieth century through extraction of oil (Dubai, Saudi Arabia).
Throughout most of its history, the Middle East has been primarily rural, producing grain, cotton, sesame, olive oil, oranges, soap, and other goods for consumption in urban centers and trade with Europe and Asia. In antiquity, great trade routes carried goods across the Arabian peninsula from Spain in the far west to China and Japan. The most significant of these was the Incense Route, which brought frankincense and myrrh from Hadhramaut, the easternmost kingdom of South Arabia, to Gaza, a port north of the Sinai Peninsula on the Mediterranean Sea. The Incense Route also carried gems, gold, ivory, pearls, spices, and textiles which originated in Africa, India, and East Asia. Both the Nabatean kingdom (encompassing much of modern-day Jordan and Syria) and the South Arabian kingdom ...