Coordinators: Ann Goerdt, Bob Gottfried, Ellen Gottfried

For each Near Eastern country we will provide some history so that you better understand its current level of development, the major issues it is dealing with today, and how it interacts with and affects the larger region of the Middle East.

The Near East, the site of the world’s earliest civilizations, is complicated. We know this area gave the world the three Abrahamic religions, and that alone has stimulated interest in its history. We cover the development of the earliest civilizations and empires, continue through their expansion and interactions with the rest of the world, briefly examine how the three religions grew in the Near East, and follow the changes brought by the region’s dominant religion, Islam, up to the 20th century.

To view a video click on the link below its description. Once the video window comes up (in a new tab), click on the start button to begin.

Turkey: Ancient Civilizations, History, Religions, Architecture, and Natural Wonders

Presenter: Sandy Frank, Glenn Johnston, Bob Gottfried
Presentation Date: September 12, 2022

Turkey is a country rich in ancient history, striking architecture, and natural wonders. The antiquities of Anatolia are truly in an ancient land where its surviving monuments and exceptional archaeological surprises link the present to the past. Turkey is called the other Holy Land as it has more biblical sites than any other country in the Middle East. The land that is now Turkey was at the heart of human civilization, trade, religion, technology, and history.


Presenter: Ann Goerdt
Presentation Date: October 3, 2022

Iraq is a country we have all heard about, sometimes daily, in 1991 and again during the early 2000s. How did this land of Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent develop into the Iraq of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? What is happening within the country today? Do we think it was helped or harmed by the American invasion in 2003 that got rid of Saddam Hussein? This presentation will address these questions, with a focus on Iraq’s development and persistent problems since its independence in 1932.

NOTE: The audio does not come on until 20 minutes and 30 seconds into this video.

People Without a Homeland

Presenter: Ellen Gottfried
Presentation Date: October 24, 2022

When the Colonial powers decided to carve up the Near East, they had no interest in the people who lived in the lands they wanted. This presentation is about two groups that were stranded without a home. The first group to be discussed are the Kurds. For the second half, I hope to have a lively discussion, since the presentation will be about the Palestinians from their point of view.

Saudi Arabia

Presenter: Ann Goerdt
Presentation Date: December 12, 2022

The Arabian Peninsula does not have a history of famous empires like many other areas of the Near East. It is known as the birthplace of Islam, and the first Islamic Caliphate did cover the entire peninsula in the 600s CE. But the caliphs moved north and ruled greatly expanded areas from Damascus and then Baghdad.

No emirate or kingdom after the Caliphate ruled over a major area of the peninsula until the 1930s, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded by family of Saud. For most of its history, the kingdom has been a friend of the United States. This seems to be changing, so we will look at what changes are occurring, particularly within the kingdom.