The Middle East is a term which relates to a vast area covering parts of Western Asia and Egyptian North Africa. Middle-Eastern history dates back as far as ancient times and the area has long been involved in world affairs. The region has vast wealth but also vast poverty, dependent on the country. For example, some of the countries located around the Persian Gulf have huge amounts of wealth due to the incidences of crude oil, whereas the autonomous Palestinian Authority of Gaza and the West Bank has the lowest income per head in the Middle East.
Abu Dhabi, a Sheikdom under British protection, is located in Arabia on the Persian Gulf and issued its first stamps in 1964. A British Agency was initiated in Abu Dhabi on 30 March 1963 for the purpose of issuing agency stamps as the then Sheikh had objected to the use of definitive stamps from the Trucial States. Sheikh Shakbut bin Sultan was depicted on the first set of definitive stamps issued on 30 March 1964. Although these definitives had been introduced, the British Agency stamps were still valid in Abu Dhabi and Das Island up until the end of 1966 when they were withdrawn. Following the expiration of the treaty with Great Britain at the end of the same year, Abu Dhabi took over its own postal administration and produced Abu Dhabi stamps It issued about 83 different stamps until 1971, at which time it became part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and no longer had its own postal service. There is a later, 1972, issue of three stamps that has become very expensive.
Iraq, a former province of Turkey known as Mesopotamia, fell under a British Mandate granted by the League of Nations in 1920 and this was when the Iraq postal service properly began. The first set of Iraq stamps were thirteen pictorial definitive stamps, produced in 1923 and issued during the British mandate period. The set had eight different designs with scenes from both ancient history and current times. Their denominations were in annas and rupees, and they were inscribed with “IRAQ” and “POSTAGE & REVENUE”. They were followed by another long set of thirteen stamps in 1931 depicting Faisal I of Iraq. The first Kingdom of Iraq issues were in 1932 and were actually overprinted versions of the earlier 1931 issues. In 1958 Iraq declared itself a republic and began issuing more colorful stamps with a broad range of topics and continues to do so to this day.
Independence in Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948 and the first Israeli postage stamps were issued two days later on May 16, 1948. Due to the fact that independence was declared on a Friday, and Saturday is a day of rest, it was a Sunday when the first Israel stamps were issued. By 1950, Israel had 64 Post Offices providing postal services throughout the small nation. Modern Israeli stamps are actually tri-lingual and printed in English, Hebrew and Arabic. They are quite colorful and cover a very broad range of topics from butterflies and horses to ancient history and modern poets. Somewhat unique to Israel, is the fact, that Israeli stamps should be collected with the imprinted margin tab attached. Such stamps often are significantly more valuable than the same stamp without the tab.
Located on the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab country in the Middle East and before the introduction of the Post Office most of the mail was delivered by camel, although it was in limited amounts. Historically, Hejaz, under the Sherifate of Mecca, issued its first postage stamps in 1916 after declaring its independence from Turkey. In 1925 Ibn Saud, then Sultan of the Nejd captured Hejaz after a prolonged siege of Jedda and formed therewith the Kingdom of the Hejaz and Nejd which was later renamed Saudi Arabia in 1932. In 1926 the first stamps of the new kingdom were introduced and then on 1 January 1934, the first stamps marked Saudi Arabia were introduced. The Kingdom in modern days issues many colorful stamp sets commemorating their history, oil wealth, Muslim religion and social issues.