How Big is the Middle East?

Given the region’s importance to U.S. national security, it’s important to understand the true size of the Middle East.  While you may have heard that Iraq is “the size of California” or other similar comparisons, the size of the region is expressed with more impact in this map, which superimposes the Middle East and its countries over a map of the 48 continuous United States.

The comparison is stark: Egypt stretches from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho; the Arabian Peninsula engulfs the Great Plains; and the entire Great Lakes region could fit within Iran with room to spare.  The distance between southwest Egypt and southeast Iran is the same as the distance between Los Angeles and Washington, DC.  The legend at the bottom of the map points out that “the Middle East encompasses 90 percent of the area of the contiguous United States.” 

Click here or on the picture above to enlarge and see the full map.

This map was created by the U.S. government.  It was taken from the government documents website of the Paul V. Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Il.


29 Responses to “How Big is the Middle East?”

  1. 1 aziz March 3, 2011 at 11:21 am

    where is Sudan,Libya,Algeria,Morocco,Tunisia and Mauritania ?
    or you think they are not meddle east ?

    • 2 Malcolm X June 10, 2013 at 12:04 am

      DUH, The nations you just called off are NOT a part of the Middle East they are AFRICAN NATIONS. Just because Islam is followed in those nations does NOT make them a part of the Middle East. Islam was forced onto these nations during the Ottoman Empire’s reign. Egypt is NOT a part of the Middle East and neither is Turkey. Americans are really DUMB….

      • 3 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz August 8, 2013 at 8:22 am

        Islam was forced on this people?! you dont know much about history do you? If islam was forced on those forced nations (the majority of them being partly Arabs) then islam was also “forced” on the ME.I wonder what Malcolm X would have thought of your post…..

      • 4 jt December 13, 2015 at 5:18 pm

        Why do the Arabic countries allow ISIS to rein terror on its people of peace?

      • 5 shanedi November 12, 2017 at 10:26 am

        Wasn’t Malcolm X an American?

  2. 6 None ya January 17, 2013 at 9:13 am

    You didn’t even say the size of the Middle East

  3. 7 Bordlman May 2, 2013 at 5:01 am

    First, this is very interesting demonstration of the ME because traditionally the ME includes all of North Africa-but you didn’t include Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algiers-meaning that you cut the ME size by 20-30% just like that. Also, though it depends on the scholar, it’s reasonable to include in the ME Pakistan and Afghanistan as well. In this case you cut the ME by almost half. The size of the ME is almost that of the entire continental N. America (meaning US and Canada combined).

    • 8 Malcolm X June 10, 2013 at 12:09 am

      Where are you guys going with this IGNORANCE of AFRICA being a part of the Middle East??? It is NOT a part of the Middle East. As I said above simply because Islam is followed in these regions thanks to the Ottoman Empire’s reign, does not mean those nations are a part of the Middle East. Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco etc are AFRICAN NATIONS…

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    First couple of responses are why I wished I never had kids, cuz they’re the typical responses seen – we humans are determined to destroy ourselves. Too many humans cannot even be civil to each other posting or replying to a comment. Of course there are going to be variations on what is considered the “Middle East”. Discuss civilly, don’t argue! Sheeez…

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Welcome to Cartographia

Cartographia is a blog about how we use maps to represent the world around us, and how people interpret maps today and throughout history. Please feel free to send any questions, comments, or recommendations directly to me at

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