Discover more from Show Me One Thing - by Funmi Oyatogun
Is Egypt in Africa or the Middle East? Is Russia in Europe or Asia? How are some countries on two continents?
Some people say Egypt is in Africa, others say it is in the Middle East. Which is correct? If the world is divided into continents and countries, how come some countries are found in two continents?
Today’s story answers the question: is Egypt in Africa or the Middle East. I also explain why some countries are found in two different continents and the proper way to refer to them. I must also mention that we are on the 12th day of #EndSARS protests against the extra-judicial killings of a rogue police unit called SARS in Nigeria. It has been a long road to get here but I truly believe that we are very close to a new Nigeria where killing of innocent citizens by the police is not acceptable! Thank you so much for standing with us at this difficult time. If you need a break, which we all do, join our exciting boat cruise and beach getaway to the Private beach house of La Casa in Ilashe on the 31st of October. Let’s spoil you a little! Send me a message to book one of the last few slots.
Okay, time for our story!
Growing up, Africa was used to refer to every country on the continental African block as well as the islands that surround the block. Then, one day, I was playing volleyball in college during the summer holidays with a group of high school students who were visiting our university on tour. Our university and town were both white as a snow avalanche so it was always exciting to see anyone who was different - black people, African people, other people of minority populations. As they introduced themselves, one of the boys mentioned that he was from Tunisia. My friend, an Ethiopian-American woman blurted out ‘yaay, an African.’ His response was interesting: ‘'I am from the Middle East, not Africa.’' He is not the only one. Many people consider North Africa ‘not African enough’. Others distinguish between Africa beneath the Sahara Desert (Sub-Saharan Africa) and the North of Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania and co.)
So which is it? Is Egypt in Africa or the Middle East?
The short answer is that Egypt is in both Africa and the Middle East. One is a continent and one is a smaller region. Let’s go through the story of continents and how countries are divided along geographical and political borders. Some times, political and geographical borders align and other times, they do not.
The Earth is a huge ball of water that has 7 big land masses called continents - Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe and Australia. There’s even a cool kids’ song that helps you remember the continents. Some of these continents are big (Asia), some are small (Australia) and some of them are mid-sized (Europe). Some of them touch each other (North and South America) and others are far from each other and can only be connected by the ocean (South America and Australia). Most countries fall into these big chunks of land masses, but not all of them, since some small islands are scattered around the huge round ball of water called the Earth.
So, if two continents that are near each other do not touch, it is easy to have countries that fit neatly into each one without confusion. Most countries fall under this category…they fit nicely into one continent and there is no confusion. However, when two continents touch, there is usually a region that marks the junction between the two continents and that region commonly takes on a name of its own. That region is not a continent, just a smaller area (sub continent) and it is common for countries to identify with both that sub continent as well as the whole continent. For instance; Egypt is in the Northern part of Africa (Africa) and it is also in the region around the Red Sea and Persian Gulf that joins the African continent to the Asian continent (Middle East). In the case of Middle Eastern countries, the ones closer to Africa are often referred to in politics as Africa (Egypt) and the ones closer to Asia are often referred to in politics as Asia (Oman, Iran, Iraq, etc). Together, they are referred to as the Middle East.
This is quite different from those countries that are so big, they fall into two continents. Look at Russia - some of it is in Europe and some of it is in Asia. To be fair, the two continents of Asia and Europe are not really separated by an ocean so at some point, Europe simply becomes Asia. Think of a long road that bends a little and then becomes another street with another name but you don’t really change roads.
So, what happens when world leaders meet and they have to break out into small groups? Does Russia go to the Europe group or the Asia group? What group does Egypt go to? Well, Egypt might find itself in the small group for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) which is whole new story for another day.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
Tell me. Have you ever wondered whether Egypt was really in Africa? Did you know that Russia is on two continents? What other strange questions about the world would you like to ask?
Before you go, please share this newsletter with other curious minds. There’s something pretty cool to share every week!