The Country Similarity Index groups the North African countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, together with the Southwest Asian countries of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Yemen has characteristics of both the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, but is ultimately placed in this group as well. Here are some of the traits most of these countries share:
The region is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean and spans two continents, Africa and Asia. Most of the countries have a hot and dry climate that results in a desert landscape. The majority of the land is barren sand and very little of it is forested land or farmland. In the few lands that are cultivated, wheat, barley, and dates are common crops. Most countries in this region are not especially mountainous.
The majority of people in this region have Caucasian ancestry, but many also have some admixture with Sub-Saharan African people, especially those in North Africa. In most countries men outnumber females, especially in the Persian Gulf, where there are a large amount of immigrant male workers. This also makes the population relatively young and there is a low percentage of elderly people. Male employment rates tend to be high but female employment rates are lower than the world average. There is a great degree of variation in the affluence of the region, since it includes some of the world’s richest countries, while Yemen is especially poor.
All the countries in this region have Arabic as one of their official languages and use the Arabic script. Most people can speak Arabic, although their dialects can vary widely. The vast majority of the people are Muslim and most are Sunnis. All countries observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as national holidays. The rate of suicide is quite low in this region. While very little alcohol is consumed in this region, drug usage tends to be high. Bread is a huge part of the cuisine in these countries. Tomato is a popular vegetable, while chicken is the most popular meat. Compared to other countries, very little pork is consumed due to religious reasons. Another cultural trait that has its roots in religion is that most males are circumcised.
Few countries in this region are democracies. Most are autocracies, where the freedom of press is highly restricted. Monarchs are common as the head of state. Legal systems in these countries often incorporate Islamic law. In the vast majority of countries, same sex relationships are criminalized, while polygamy is legal. Abortion is also often highly restricted. Most countries retain the death penalty. There are also less restrictions on firearms than average. Tuition free college is common. However, there are few unemployment benefits. Pensions are given to the elderly only if they contributed to the fund by working. Tax rates are relatively low, since many governments rely on revenue from fossil fuels. All countries in this region are part of the Arab League and also the Greater Arab Free Trade Area.
All countries in this region drive on the right side of the road and most of the railroads are standard gauge. The region produces a lot of oil and natural gas, so most countries rely on these energy sources to create electricity. Due to the extremely dry climate, countries in this region often get their water from wells or desalination plants, not freshwater lakes or reservoirs. Improved sanitation and access to drinking water are relatively common in most countries. Type C and Type G are two common electrical outlets used in the region. Gun ownership is disproportionately high and more money is spent on the military than average.