MENA Region Countries List 2020 Update
MENA is an acronym which refers to the Middle East and North Africa.
M – Middle
E – East
N – North
A – Africa
The following countries are normally included in MENA: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, and Yemen. Sudan and Turkey are sometimes included in MENA.
MENA is usually grouped together by international, economic, and academic organizations. The acronym, often considered interchangeable with the term “greater middle east” and in some cases the “Arab world”. It has different variations of included countries depending on the defining organization. In this article, we provide you with the complete list of MENA countries and accompanying data useful to those researching, investing, or traveling within the region. We start with an alphabetized list of those countries almost always included in the MENA region and outline which ones are only sometimes included and then move into more specialized data of the region, filtered by GDP, geographical sub-section, population, and language. Finally, we also discuss common variations of the acronym and the origins.
MENA Region Background
The Middle East was a Eurocentric term coined sometime during the 19th century, referring to a trans-continental area between North Africa (Egypt) and South West Asia. Over time, its use has become commonplace among both Europeans and non-Europeans, however the ambiguity of what countries the geographical region actually includes remains an issue today. To this end, international organizations such as the World Bank and UNICEF have started using more specific terms such as MENA to refer to the region spanning horizontally from Morocco to Iran. The acronym is sometimes analogous to the term “Greater Middle East”, coined by the second Bush administration to refer to the area of the Middle East and also other Muslim majority countries such as Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan. However, while the term MENA is almost always inclusive of Iran, it is typically not inclusive of Turkey, Afghanistan, or Pakistan and is strictly geographically defined, rather than religiously or socially.
United Arab Emirates
Alphabetized List of all countries sometimes considered MENA (those only sometimes included marked by asterisk*)
United Arab Emirates
Population of MENA Countries
Below we include population statistics of MENA countries according to the 2019 UN World Population prospects, first alphabetized and then ranked by population.
|United Arab Emirates||9,770,529|
|Iran (Islamic Republic of)||82,913,906|
|Syrian Arab Republic||17,070,135|
|United Arab Emirates||9,770,529|
|State of Palestine||4,981,420|
MENA Countries By GDP
The MENA region makes up about $3.3 trillion dollars in Gross Domestic Product every year, which surmounts to about 4.5% of the world’s GDP. Although only a small percentage of the world’s GDP, the region also has a relatively small population. The vast majority of people in the MENA region live in middle-income countries and despite the size, the area also lays claim to 60% of oil and 45% of natural gas reserves in the world, making the MENA region a global player in economic outlook. Below we break down nominal GDP for MENA countries (alphabetized and ranked by GDP) and then rank MENA countries by GDP per capita, which gives a good sense of more rich and more poor countries in the group.
2018 GDP (in millions of USD) (Alphabetized)
|United Arab Emirates||414,179|
2018 GDP (Ranked by GDP)
|United Arab Emirates||414,179|
|State of Palestine||14,498|
MENA countries GDP per capital 2018
|United Arab Emirates||37,750|
MENA Countries Broken Up By Continent
As the MENA acronym implies, the region spans across a single continent making it confusing sometimes when grouping them together. Below we categorize the MENA countries by the continent it belongs to, alphabetized within each.
African countries part of the MENA Region
Asia countries part of the MENA Region
United Arab Emirates
Languages in the MENA region
The final part of this comprehensive article on the MENA region is a list of official languages in each country. This is useful for research purposes and also knowing what language to conduct official business in each country. Every country except Iran has Arabic as at least one of its official languages! Some countries also have more than one official language, with the second language in parentheses. Below is a table, alphabetized by country.
Official Language (Alphabetized)
|Algeria||Arabic (with Berber)|
|Iraq||Arabic (with Kurdish)|
|Israel||Hebrew (with Arabic)|
|Morocco||Arabic (with Berber)|
|Palestine||Arabic (Hebrew also in occupied territories)|
|United Arab Emirates||Arabic|
MENA Countries and Capitals
Below is a table listing the capital of every country in the MENA region. Its important to note that not all capitals cities in the MENA region are largest city in their respective country. Abu Dhabi is an example of a capital city that is not the largest city in its home country. Dubai is the largest city in the Emirates but is not the capital of the UAE. Also, the State of Palestine and Israel technically both have the same capital city (Jerusalem).
|Palestine||Jerusalem (declared), Ramallah (de-facto)|
|United Arab Emirates||Abu Dhabi|
Below is a table listing the official state religion (officially endorsed by the state) of every country in the MENA region. Three countries in the MENA region (Lebanon, Palestine, and the Syrian Arab Republic) do not have a state established religion.
|Bahrain||Islam (Mixed Shia and Sunni)|
|Kuwait||Islam (Mixed Shia and Sunni)|
|Saudi Arabia||Islam (Sunni)|
|United Arab Emirates||Islam (Sunni)|
|Yemen||Islam (Mixed Shia and Sunni)|
Because of the wide span of the MENA region, it overlaps with other sub-regions used to group together countries in North Africa and South West Asia. Below we discuss the main 3 sub-regions (GCC, Levant, and North Africa) and mention which countries fall into each.
GCC stands for Gulf Corporation Council, now formally known as Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, and is a transnational political and economic union of Arab countries surrounding the Persian Gulf. With the exception of Iraq, all Arab states bordering the gulf make up the union, making the membership (alphabetically) Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Since its inception in 1981, the GCC’s membership has not changed and focuses on economic, scientific, and technological integration and cooperation across the region. Every one of the countries in the GCC is considered to be in the MENA region.
2020 GCC Update
The GCC is currently in a state of crisis due to tensions between Qatar and the other GCC states. Though there is too much complexity to this issue to cover in full detail here, what should be said is that there are fears that the GCC or at least the GCC in its historic form may change or go away all together.
The term the Levant has historical connotations tracing far back to the 13th century, originally referring to countries east of the Mediterranean. Today, it almost always refers to (alphabetically) Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey and typically also includes (alphabetically) Egypt, Greece, Libya, and Turkey. Levant is usually considered close to the Arabic word Mashriq, translating to ‘the land where the sun rises’. As such, the term is often times synonymous with the terms ‘Near East, Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean’. The Levant does overlap with the MENA region, but Cyprus and Greece are a part of the Levant and are not a part of MENA region. Turkey is considered “sometimes included” in both the Levant and MENA regions.
North Africa refers strictly to the northernmost part of the continent Africa and includes (alphabetically) Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara, as defined by the United Nations. Since MENA refers to Middle East North Africa, all of these countries are sometimes included in the MENA region, however Sudan and Western Sahara are not always included because they are typically not considered Middle Eastern countries. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia are always considered both a part of MENA region and the North Africa region. It is also worth noting that Egypt is considered transcontinental because it also stretches into Asia.
Doing Business in the MENA region
Business in the MENA region varies greatly by country, however there are commonalities especially among the majority Muslim countries. Below we list some a few brief tips to do business in the MENA region, but for a more detailed article on business in the Middle East and other country specifics, check our complete guide to doing business in the Middle East.
Hospitality and cultural sensitivity are key because each country in the MENA region has differing appropriate greetings, meeting styles, and dress codes. Before doing business in a country in the MENA region, it is worth doing some research on that specific state, city, and business sector because it varies greatly. Some commonalities among all of the countries are that 1) hospitality is very important to countries in the MENA region because establishing trust and friendship is usually considered synonymous with the business process, 2) Dress code is typically modest for both men and women meaning that pants are preferred over shorts and long sleeves are preferred over something that shows your arms, and 3) Religious consideration is very important, as many countries in the MENA region are Muslim majority or Islam is the official state religion, meaning required considerations with scheduled meetings and prayer times, Islamic holidays, and serving pork or alcohol, both of which are prohibited. These again may vary by country but are a good start to understanding unique business practices in the region. Remember that there are certainly more similarities between business in the MENA region and other regions in the world than differences!
Frequently Asked Questions:
To finalize our article on the MENA region, we include some frequently asked questions. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to us. Thanks for reading!
Is Turkey a part of MENA?
Turkey switches between being considered a part of the Middle East and Europe. Due to the fact that much of the MENA region was once ruled but the Ottoman Turkish empire there are strong ties between Turkey an the rest of the MENA region. Even today Turkey is an extremely popular destination for most Arabs, who travel there for holidays, real estate investing and its new medical tourism industry. That said Turkey has equally as strong ties with Europe and was the capital of the Eastern Roman empire at one point. Recently Turkey has pushed to enter the European Union. If it were to enter the European Union it would most likely be consider a European country there after. So in short, only sometimes is Turkey considered a part of MENA and by the most used definition, it is not.
Is Iran a part of MENA?
Iran is typically considered a part of the MENA region, but it does depend on the organization or government and how they define the group of countries. The MENA region is defined strictly geographically, which is why Iran is typically included, despite not being a part of the “Arab World” or other terms used to describe regional groupings based on culture or language.
Is Pakistan a part of MENA?
Pakistan is typically not included in the MENA region because it is usually defined as spanning horizontally from Morocco to Iran. However, there is no universally agreed upon definition of the region so it is possible that it would be included based on who you ask.
Is Afghanistan a part of MENA?
Afghanistan is typically not included in the MENA region because it is usually defined as spanning horizontally from Morocco to Iran. However, there isn’t a globally agreed upon definition of the MENA region so it is possible that Afghanistan would be included based on who you ask.