The Middle East hides many mysteries. Middle Eastern culture has a special role in the world. It differs from other countries. Along with Byzantium, Arab countries, Iran and Central Asia, it is a center of ancient artistic civilizations, immediate successors and keepers of the achievements of the ancient culture. The Middle East is considered a cradle of human civilization. Throughout its long history, the Middle East has been one of the most important religious and cultural centers. Science, literature, and art created by the nations of the Middle East had an impact on many countries including Western Europe.
Introduction to Middle Eastern Culture
During the era of feudalism, people of the Middle East made a great contribution to world civilization. The Middle East is the birthplace of human civilization. The medieval culture of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt was an important progressive step in the development of humankind. In addition, especially in the field of science, people retained and passed many valuable achievements of antiquity to subsequent generations. The culture of the peoples, who inhabited this region, has been known since ancient times.
Deep social and historical processes that took place in the Middle East led to the composition of the new Arab peoples in the countries of Asia Minor and North Africa. In each of the Arab countries in the era of feudalism, features of the development of social life, as well as local ancient cultural and artistic traditions, left their mark on art. “Traits of unique identity distinguish medieval artistic monuments of Syria, Iraq, and Egypt”.
In the Middle East, people have passed a long way of development. This way is distinctive and self-sufficient. It is based on their religious beliefs and wise philosophical teachings. In the Middle East, every creation becomes an art. In courtiers of the Middle East, art is not only architecture, literature, music, dance, and painting. For them, art is also martial arts based on observations of the movements of wild animals and the art of yoga, which is leading to a harmonious existence of the soul and the human body. The distinctive features of the Middle Eastern culture are rich mythology, the developed world of feelings and artistic ideas. Myths and legends, architectural images, sculptures and decorative art created by the masters of the Middle East will never lose their beauty and continuous attractiveness.
For thousands of years, the Middle Eastern culture developed steadily and continuously. New trends and ideas did not lead to the destruction of established values. Moreover, they organically harmonized with the established way of life and became an essential part of it. The main feature of the Middle East is that different religions and philosophical thoughts coexisted in balance. Historically, music and art, sculpture and dance have often spread cross-culturally. People in this region have not lost their connection with nature. Therefore, their actions are aimed primarily at improving the body and soul, and acquisition of harmony between the man and the environment. In the Middle East, traditions and rituals play an important role, the violation of which is condemned by society. The traditions are preserved in art. Many poets and writers still write literary works and poems in compliance with the dimensions that were used before the modern era. Musicians often use the same tunes in music.
Impact of Religion on Culture
Culture in the Middle Eastern countries developed closely interacting with religion. “The Middle East, the birthplace of monotheism, is arguably the world’s most influential religious epicenter. Religion made a definite impact on the development of the medieval art of the people professing Islam. “Islam is a global religion and its culture is embraced by believers of many races, nationalities, and ethnicities. However, views on the world, as well as the aesthetic attitude of the people on reality cannot be reduced only to religious beliefs. In the minds of medieval people and their artistic views, religious and scholastic tendencies, as well as a real understanding of the world were contradictorily combined. One of the greatest scientists and philosophers of the medieval East, Abu Ali ibn Sino (Avicenna), recognized the divine origin of the universe. Nevertheless, at the same time, he asserted that scientific and philosophical knowledge existed independently from religious beliefs. Many other prominent thinkers claimed the power of human will and intelligence, value and richness of the real world. However, a rule, they did not speak openly from the atheist position.
As for the fate of art in the Middle East, an iconoclastic trend of Islam had a great value. Islam denied the possibility of the image of the deity. In religious buildings, there were no images of people. The Koran and other theological books were decorated only with ornaments.
The mosque became a main religious building. A classic type of the Arabic mosque is a rectangular area enclosed by a high wall. The main element of the composition is a courtyard surrounded by an arcade on columns or pillars. Columns are usually arranged in several rows. However, in various regions of the caliphate, builders widely used local, accustomed and traditional techniques and architectural forms. Therefore, the columns of the mosque in each of the Arab countries received a certain interpretation. In the Middle East countries, monumental architecture is distinguished by special artistic qualities, such as clarity of architectural forms, particular contours of lancet arches and domes, and richness of carved ornament and inscriptions. An important moment in the creation of an architectural masterpiece is decorated with ornaments.
In addition to Islam, Christianity is also widespread in the Middle East. Hinduism and Druze are two other religions practiced in the Middle East but only in small numbers. These religions also have an impact on the culture and traditions of the Middle East.
Cultural Traditions of the Middle East
In the Middle East, there are several rather harsh restrictionsб such as the prohibition on pork, strong drinks, images of living creatures, restrictions in clothing and jewelry. Nevertheless, the very carriers of еру cultural traditions of the Middle East react calmly toward them and do not doubt the rules. Religious people experience sincere love for national art and culture. In the East, people carefully treat ancient works of art of past generations. Other cultural tradition, which attaches great importance to the Middle East, is respect for elders. It is inculcated from childhood when parents taught their children to love and reverence grandparents. Warm regard is a mandatory attribute of the Eastern family. Another cultural tradition, which is of great importance in the Middle East, is respect for elders. Warm relations are a mandatory attribute of the Eastern family. The family is an important part of the culture in the Middle East.
In the culture of the East, jewelry occupies a worthy place. Jewelry art of the Middle East developed under conditions of broad cultural exchange between different tribes and peoples. However, despite the huge number of ethnic groups and peoples living in this territory, the traditions of the ethnic arts have a lot in common. The most important factor determining these similarities is a common cultural environment formed by the Islamic religion. Intense cultural mixing led to the formation of new styles and techniques of art processing of materials, as well as unique forms of jewelry, many of which are still used in the traditions of jewelry in the Middle East. Initially, jewelry was endowed with magical properties. Therefore, it was of great importance. The decoration was seen as an object, which had a protective effect. It was believed that the very form defined magical powers of jewelry.
Two colors – red and blue – are the most common. They dominate in the art of jewelry in the Middle East. Red has a protective function. It symbolizes life, passion, and other manifestations of different activities. The blue color symbolizes the sky and water. In addition, such colors as green, yellow, black, and white are used in Middle Eastern jewelry. Green and yellow are associated with fertility and life-giving light of the sun.
The symbol of the eye as a protective figure is popular in the Middle Eastern arts and crafts from the time of ancient Egypt. In the Arab world, this amulet is designed to protect people against the evil eye. Another common motive of the protective symbolism in the jewelry of the Middle East is the Hand of Fatima. It is an image of a palm with five fingers. Besides Muslim arts and crafts, this amulet is often used in the Jewish tradition. Art symbolism of the heavenly bodies, especially the sun and the moon, and the stars are also very popular in the Middle East. This tradition can be traced to ancient times. Images of the sun, the moon, and stars as amulets in the Middle Eastern culture are auspicious symbols designed to protect people from adverse circumstances and events.
Influence of Middle Eastern Culture
The culture of the Middle East has had a huge influence on the culture of Western countries. The Middle East is perhaps the most difficult region of the world for Westerners to comprehend. Despite this, Eastern symbols can be seen in the Western theater, arts, painting, and literature as well as the works of applied arts, created in the style of chinoiserie. In the West, people appreciated the traditional Eastern culture and tried to supplement their views with the special Eastern perception of the world, so-called Eastern mysticism. In different European countries, there are motifs of the Middle Eastern countries such as ornaments adorning belts, as well as carving on cathedrals and engraved inscriptions. European people created orient jewelry and weapons with oriental motifs combining them with national traditions.
The culture of the Middle East is unique and diverse. The Middle East is the cradle of civilization. Many historians are engaged in studying the history and development of this region. Islam created in these areas a common cultural environment allowing different people to communicate freely using Islamic imagery. It led to an unprecedented flowering of science and arts. In addition to Islamic traditions and cultures, in the Middle East, there is a combination of other religions that also made their impact on the development of the region. In the world, the culture of the Middle East occupies an extremely important place. Substantially, sources of many other countries begin from the Middle Eastern culture.