The Arab Middle East is a term that refers to a region stretching from the Arabian Peninsula to Syria and from Egypt to Iraq. Many important markers point to a special attachment between Islam and this region, among them the importance of the Arabic language and the presence of sites endowed with great religious and cultural significance. The historical commonalities are particularly important: the last century of interactions of political economy and foreign intervention, the four preceding centuries of Ottoman rule, and, prior to that, eight centuries of various types of Arab-Islamic rule. Nonetheless, the difficulties of defining the region as a coherent subject of study must be recognized. On the one hand, it is a complex mosaic of distinct and intersecting identities (embracing significant non-Muslim Arab communities and nonArab Muslim communities) while on the other hand (as will become evident in this chapter) it is difficult to study the history of the region in isolation from Arab North Africa, or for that matter other neighboring Muslim countries (Turkey, Iran, Sudan, for example).