Determining the European country most similar to the Middle East and North Africa region 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 Albania is the most similar European nation to the Middle East. On the other end of the spectrum, Iceland and Finland have the least amount of traits in common with the Middle East.
(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)
The Ottoman Empire ruled over Albania for several centuries. Its influence has left a lasting impact on Albanian culture, including religion, architecture, cuisine, and social customs. Many Middle Eastern countries were also part of the Ottoman Empire.
Culture is by far the biggest reason why Albania is the most similar country in Europe to the Middle East. Albania is mostly Muslim, unlike the vast majority of European countries. Many traditional customs and social practices in Albania come from the Middle East. In general, Middle Eastern countries and Albania have a high rate of male circumcision and a low rate of divorce. Albanian cuisine, influenced by both Mediterranean and Balkan flavors, shares some similarities with Middle Eastern cuisines. Common elements include the use of herbs, spices, olive oil.
The Most Similar Middle Eastern Country to Albania
The Country Similarity Index suggests that Lebanon is the most similar Middle Eastern country to Albania. Both countries border the Mediterranean and most of their mountainous land is close to the coast. Because of their similar climate, the majority of their agricultural land is used to grow olives and their land has similar flora and fauna. Furthermore, both countries have a mix of Muslims and Christians.