The Southeast Asian Country Most Similar to the Middle East

Determining the Southeast Asian country most similar to the Middle East requires considering various social, cultural, economic, and political factors.

One way to answer this complex question is by analyzing the data from the Country Similarity Index. The index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries, using a variety of statistics from five broad categories: demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography.

The data suggests that among countries from the Southeast Asian region, Brunei is the most similar to the Middle East. On the other end of the spectrum, Cambodia and Laos are the least similar.

(Middle Eastern countries are defined as Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen)

southeast asian countries most similar to middle east graph

Due to its culture and politics, Brunei stands out as being the most similar country to the Middle East in the Southeast Asia region. Over the centuries, there has been a great amount of cultural exchange between Brunei and the Middle East because of spice trade routes. Furthermore, like many Middle Eastern countries, it produces a lot of oil.


Brunei has a history of Middle Eastern influence dating back to the 14th century, when it converted to Islam. Over the centuries, its culture has played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s traditions. For example, although most people in Brunei do not natively speak Arabic, they traditionally use the Jawi script, based on the Arabic alphabet to write the Malay language.

Along with Indonesia and Malaysia, Brunei is one of the three predominately Muslim nations in the region. As a result, a significant portion of its population practices traditions common in Islam, like abstaining from eating pork or drinking alcohol. Furthermore, a majority of the male population is circumcised. Women in Brunei generally adhere to Islamic dress guidelines, which emphasize modesty and decency.


Brunei is a monarchy ruled by the Sultan of Brunei, who serves as both the head of state and head of government. This is a common political system in many Middle Eastern countries, where monarchies or authoritarian governments are prevalent. The sultan has historically maintained a conservative stance on various social and political issues. The Religious Council plays a crucial role in advising the Sultan of Brunei on matters related to Islam.

Furthermore, Brunei has implemented conservative Sharia laws, like many Middle Eastern countries. Same sex relationships and gambling are criminalized there. Furthermore, abortion is not allowed. In addition, the consumption of alcohol is heavily restricted. In fact, it is illegal for Muslims. The international community, including human rights organizations, has expressed concerns about human rights and civil liberties in the country.

The Most Similar Middle Eastern Country to Brunei

The Country Similarity Index suggests that Oman is the most similar Middle Eastern country to Brunei, although the United Arab Emirates is a close second. Both countries are extremely wealthy Muslim countries, due to oil and gas reserves. In addition, they both are monarchies and their leaders are known as sultans. They were both once ruled by Great Britain as well.

Leave a Reply