West Asia is situated south of Eastern Europe, and its coastline meets seven different seas. It shares mostly the same borders as the area known geographically as the Middle East, and contains thirteen countries including Jordan, Iraq and Iran, as well as Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
For around three thousand years this area was governed by huge empires, including the famous Roman Empire. The population has soared to over 300 million. Because of the ongoing local history of warfare and conflict between countries, the people, environment, and infrastructure in many places have been seriously affected. Petroleum is the major contributor to the West Asian economy, as the region contains over half of the oil reserves in the world.
West Asia is mostly arid or semi-arid, but there are forested, mountainous and swampy areas too. The dusty, dry sharqi and shamal winds which sometimes sweep the region stir up severe seasonal sand storms. Rivers like the Euphrates and the Tigris provide water for drinking and irrigation, but they are under pressure as the population grows.
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