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Know Your Geography

June 21, 2016

There are certain places you hear mentioned on the news or read about in magazines that aren’t exactly countries—they’re more like regions or “geographic distinctions.” But where are they? (Here they are.)


The peninsula at the far west of Europe occupied by Spain and Portugal. The name was derived from Iber, the Greek name for the river that flows across the peninsula.


A peninsula in western Asia, bounded by the Black Sea on the north and the Mediterranean Sea on the south.
The entire landmass is occupied by Turkey. It gets its name from the fact that it’s a small part of Asia that connects the continent to Europe.


The Sahara Desert stretches across the northern third of Africa through Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, and Tunisia. These nations, some of which have oil-based economies, are largely made up of Muslim Arabic peoples. Nations south of the desert, in sub- Saharan Africa (“below the Sahara”), are inhabited mostly by non- Arabic people. The climate is much hotter and there’s little oil.


Coined around 1900 by American archaeologist James Henry Breasted,the term refers to the crescent-shaped area that ranges across Syria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. It encompasses ancient Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, known as “the birthplace of civilization.”


The three westernmost former Soviet republics Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. These eastern European nations are bordered by the Baltic Sea, and other than geographic proximity they have little in common. Latvians and Lithuanians speak related languages, but Estonians use a language similar to Finnish.


A desert in the southernmost parts of Argentina and Chile that extends almost to Antarctica. The name comes from pata, Spanish for “paw.” According to legend, when Magellan explored the area in 1520, he was impressed by the gigantic tracks he found in the snow and thought they must belong to a race of giants. In truth, the marks were probably left by the oversize llama-skin shoes worn by the indigenous Tehuelches people.


A cave complex situated at nearly 13,000 feet in the Safed Koh mountain range on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Tora bora is the local Iranian dialect’s term for “black dust.” After the 2001 U.S.-led invasion against the Taliban, Tora Bora was the suspected hideout of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
tora bora


Comprising a mostly mountainous region in southeastern Europe, the Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the west and the Aegean and Black Seas on the east. Countries making up the Balkan states: Albania, Bo snia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Ro mania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, and the European tip of Turkey. Balkan is the Turkish word for “mountain.”


A steppe is a grassy plain that can be flat or hilly. The Great Steppe in Europe and Asia is a vast expanse bordered by the Black Sea that extends over Russia, eastern Europe, and former Soviet republics Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Historically, it was home to nomadic tribes and conquering hordes on horseback.

great steppe.jpg


The Tropics is a band between two imaginary lines that circle the Earth, parallel to the equator. The Tropic of Capricorn is 23° south of the equator, and the Tropic of Cancer is 23° north of it. The distinguishing characteristic of the region is that the Sun is directly overhead at least once a year. This makes for very warm climates in locales like Brazil, Polynesia, and northern Australia. The two Tropics are named after the constellations where the Sun was positioned, in ancient times, during the summer solstice.


This mountain range divides Europe from Asia. It’s nestled between the Black and Caspian seas, and bordered by Ukraine and Turkey. The region includes southwest Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. The name comes from the ancient Greek word kau, meaning “mountain.”
Caucasus Mountain and other gepgraphic areas
Uncle John's Triumphant 20th Anniversary Bathroom Reader

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