The continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia meet in this region, which has been a crossroads for travelers and traders for centuries. The Mediterranean Sea dominates the region's many seas and peninsulas. Although some areas receive plentiful rainfall, water is scarce across much of the region. Vegetation varies widely depending upon the climate.
The Land The region consists of many seas and peninsulas. Rivers flow through fertile valleys that once were the birthplaces of early civilizations. The region is dominated by deserts and mountains, but fertile coastal plains such as those bordering the Mediterranean Sea form rich agricultural areas. Several mountain ranges have fertile areas along their slopes. Three tectonic plates come together in the region, forming mountains and causing earthquakes. Major petroleum, natural gas, and other mineral deposits have enriched the region. However, some countries that suffered economically during times of price fluctuations of these resources are now diversifying their economies.
Climate and Vegetation A desert climate predominates in the region, and the scarcity of water makes it a precious resource. The vast expanse of the Sahara covers most of North Africa and supports only drought-resistant shrubs and cacti. The semiarid steppe climate extends throughout the region and supports short grasses suitable for pasture. Fruit crops are grown in countries with a Mediterranean climate, and food grains are produced in the wetter, colder highlands climates.