Consistently biased media representations and lack of awareness have made the Middle East arguably the most misunderstood region in the world.
In recent years, many people have been outspoken about the issue of stereotyping Middle Easterners, Arabs and Muslims, and the discourse has been understandably focused on the unfair and blatantly false belief that anyone belonging to any of these groups is a terrorist.
However, there are many other common misconceptions about the region that aren't addressed as much, here are 7 other myths about the Middle East, debunked.
1. The Middle East is the most dangerous war-torn zone and constantly suffering
"The Palestinian girl scouts of Ramallah at band practice."
Just like any region in the world, the Middle East has experienced multiple wars over the years such as the wars in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, but the region's historical record in terms of scale and longevity of wars is almost insignificant if compared with the records of Europe, Asia and Africa, they just get more media attention.
Moreover, Middle Eastern people are not constantly torn by loss and conflict, they are normal people who go through life with hopes and challenges, just like everyone else in the world.
2. Everyone in the Middle East is an Arab and a Muslim
"St. Mark's C athedral where the Coptic Pope permanently resides. Cairo's equivalent of the Vatican."
The Middle East is one of the most diverse regions in the world. Ethnically speaking, it is not only composed of Arabs, many non-Arabs including Persians, Kurds and foreigners from all over the world co-exist in the region.
In addition, the Middle East is the place that witnessed the birth of Christianity and Judaism, not just Islam, so naturally it has Christian and Jewish communities. Egypt alone has one of the largest communities of Coptic Christians.
3. The Middle East is a piece of desert
"In Oman, the hike from Sharafa Alamyeen all the way to Balad Seet."
Contrary to what popular Hollywood productions would like people to believe, the Middle East is not only desert, it takes up a very large area of land that encompasses vast geographical diversity, ranging from snow-capped mountains to green hills and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
4. The Middle East is the most undeveloped region in the world
"The Dubai Marina"
This myth largely stems from racist beliefs about Arabs and Muslims and is even historically incorrect, with some of the oldest urban centers in the world.
Currently, the Middle East lies between the highly developed and undeveloped regions of the world on the development scale and has increasing economic growth with the potential to become an emerging market leader.
5. Middle Eastern people are violent and they hate foreigners
"Street dancer being photographed, Istanbul, Turkey."
Many representations have dehumanized people in the Middle East by consistently portraying them as violent individuals chanting angry slogans. In reality, as many foreigners and expats can attest, Middle Eastern societies are some of the most hospitable, friendly and welcoming.
Moreover, the region has a thriving cultural and artistic scene that showcases the creativity, humor and talents its individuals possess, a scene that is largely ignored by international media.
6. Middle Eastern women are uneducated and passive
" Members of Tehran team celebrate after winning the women’s softball national championship."
While there are varying degrees of education within each country, many women in the Middle East are educated, ambitious and active members in their communities who seek to better their societies just like women everywhere in the world. In fact, women in many Middle Eastern countries outnumber men in universities.
7. The only thing the Middle East can produce is oil
"Wind farm in Zaafrana, Red Sea in Egypt."
Only a number of the Gulf countries are major producers of oil and these countries compose only one part of the region. The Middle East's diverse countries are home to a large variety of industries such as tourism and natural resources such as mineral reserves, solar and wind energy.