The flags of the Middle-East may differ ever so slightly but almost all of them have one idea in common, Pan-Arabism. Thus, the Pan-Arab colors are clearly visible on most, if not all flags. Pan-Arabism was an idea that gained prominence during the 19th and 20th centuries, when most countries were either fighting for independence or reshaping their national identities.
The four Pan-Arab colors represent four historical dynasties. White represents the Ummayad Dynasty; black represents the Abbasid Dynasty; Red represents the Hashemite Dynasty. There are different opinions about the origins of the color green. However, green definitely does has some historical significance. It was part of the flag of the Arab Revolt (1916) and is still visible on many flags today, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan.
Another influential Pan-Arab flag was the flag of the 1952 Egyptian revolution: a tricolor flag with three horizontal bands of red, white, and black. This flag was adopted as the basis for the current flags of Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
What is Pan Arabism?
Pan Arabism is the idea that Arab peoples have common political cultural and religious interests and so they need to unify into a single nation. It also promotes the eminence of the Arabic language, religion (Islam), and culture to counter Western imperial influences in the Middle-east.
The idea of Pan-Arabism started to take shape in the 19th century, during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which dominated most of the Middle East. The voices of Arab intellectuals from across the region seemed to echo a similar message. That message was that Arabs need to unite upon their commonality to secure their freedom and independence.
The idea of Pan-Arabism continued to gain popularity in the Arab world, especially in the post-WWII era. One of the strong champions of Pan-Arabism was the famous Arab nationalist, the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1956-1970). Some argue that he was considered a leader of Pan-Arabism. So much so that after his demise the idea lost momentum and today, it scarcely exists at all.
After reading a little bit about histroy, let’s dive into each flag of the Arab world/middle eastern countries and the meanings behind them.
List of the Arab/Middle Eastern Flags and their Meanings
The Flag of Saudi Arabia
Saudi flag description: The flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a green flag featuring in white color an Arabic inscription written in the calligraphic Thuluth script and a sword pointed to the left. The inscription is the Islamic Shahada (Islamic declaration of faith): “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah“.
Saudi flag meaning: The green of the flag represents Islam and the sword stands for the strictness in applying justice.
The flag of Saudi Arabia was addopted in 15 March 1973
Important Note: Because the shahada is considered holy, the flag is not used on T-shirts or other advertising items. Also, The flag of Saudi Arabia is never flown at half-mast.
Read More About Saudi Arabia
The Flag of the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates flag description: The flag of the United Arab Emirates represents the Pan-Arab colors (red, green, white, and black). The flag contains horizontal tricolor of green, white, and black with a vertical 1⁄4-width red bar at the hoist
United Arab Emirates flag meaning: The meaning of the flag’s four colors is the unity of Arab nations.
The flag of the UAE was adopted in 2 December 1971
The Flag of Qatar
Qatari flag description: The national flag of Qatar is maroon with a white band on the hoist side, separated from a maroon area on the fly side by nine white triangles which act like a serrated line. The flag of Qatar is very similar to the flag of the neighboring country Bahrain.
Qatari flag meaning: The purple-red color of the flag highlights Qatar’s history of the purple dye industry. The 9 white serrated triangles signify Qatar’s inclusion as the 9th member of the ‘reconciled Emirates’ of the Persian Gulf.
The flag of Qatar was addopted in 6 July 1971
#The Flag of Bahrain
Bahraini flag description: The national flag of Bahrain consists of a white band on the left, separated from a red area on the right by five triangles that serve as a serrated line.
Bahraini flag meaning: Bahrain flag contains red which is the traditional color for flags of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The five white triangles symbolize the five pillars of Islam which are the declaration of faith, (Shahada), Prayer (Salat), Alms (Zakat), Fasting (Sawm), Pilgrimage (Hajj).
The flag of Bahrain was adopted on 14 February 2002
The Flag of Oman
Omani flag description: The national flag of Oman has three stripes (white, green, and red) with a red bar on the left that contains two crossed swords over a Gambia, a traditional curved Omani dagger.
Omani flag meaning: In the flag of Oman, the white stands for peace and prosperity, the green for fertility and the Green Mountains “Jebel al Akhdar“, and the red for battles against foreign invaders. The dagger and the swords are the national emblem of Oman that dates back to the 18th century.
The flag of Oman was adopted in 1970
The flag of Kuwait
Kuwaiti flag description: The flag of Kuwait is A horizontal triband of green, white and red; with a black trapezium based on the hoist side.
Kuwaiti flag meaning: The present flag of Kuwait represents the Pan-Arab colors. But each color refers to its own meaning and dynasty. Red symbolizes the blood on the swords of Arab warriors (The Hashemite dynasty), White symbolizes purity and noble deeds (The Umayyad dynasty), Green represents the fertile land of Arabia (The Fatimid dynasty), and Black represents the defeat of enemies in battle (The Abbasid dynasty)
The flag of Kuwait was adopted on 7 September 1961
The Flag of Jordan
Jordanian flag description: The flag of Jordan consists of horizontal black, white, and green bands that are connected by a red chevron.
Jordanian flag meaning: The flag of Jordan is based on the 1916 flag of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The colors stand for the Pan-Arab Colors, representing the Abbasid (black band), Umayyad (white band), and Fatimid (green band) caliphates. The red chevron is for the Hashemite dynasty and the Arab Revolt. The star stands for the unity of the Arab people. Its seven-pointed star refers to the seven verses of Al-Fatiha.
The flag of Jordan was adopted on 16 April 1922
The Flag of Egypt
Egyptian flag description: The flag of Egypt has three horizontal stripes (red, black, and white). In the center of the white band, the flag bears the Eagle of Saladin,
Egyptian flag meaning: The red color in the Egyptian flag is a memorial of the sacrifices and blood of the martyrs, the white symbolizes peace and the black represents the dark period of occupation. The eagle is a symbol of power and strength.
The flag of Egypt was adopted in 4 October 1984
The Flag of Syria
Syrian flag meaning: The flag of the Syrian Arab Republic is divided into three rectangles of identical dimensions of three colours: red, white and black, with two green stars, of five angles each. The upper rectangle is red, the bottom one is black and the middle rectangle being white with the two green stars in the middle.
Syrian flag meaning: The flag of Syria was readopted to show the country’s commitment to Arab unity. The flag is based on the Arab Liberation Flag, which had four colors – black, green, white, and red – representing four major dynasties of Arab history: Abbasids (oppression), Faṭimids (the stars representing Egypt and Syria), Umayyads (bright and peaceful future), and Hashimites (bloody struggle for freedom).
Important Note: As a result of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, there are currently two flags used to represent Syria, used by different factions in the war.
The Flag of Lenanon
Flag of Lebanon description: The flag of Lebanon is formed of two horizontal red stripes enveloping a horizontal white stripe between them. The green cedar (Lebanon Cedar) in the middle touches each of the red stripes and its width is one-third of the width of the flag.
Flag of Lebanon meaning: The two red stripes refer to the Lebanese bloodshed to preserve the country against the successive invaders while the white color on the flag represents the snow as a symbol of purity and peace. The Presence and position of the Cedar in the middle of the flag are directly inspired by the mountains of Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani). The Cedar is the symbol of Maronite Christians.
The flag of Lebanon was adopted in 7 December 1943
The Flag of Yemen
Flag of Yemen Description: The flag of Yemen is basically the Arab Liberation Flag of 1952, introduced after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 in which Arab nationalism was a dominant theme. It consists of three equal horizontal stripes (red, white, and black from top to bottom).
Flag of Yemen Meaning: According to the official description, the red stands for unity and the bloodshed of martyrs, the white for a bright future, and the black for the supposed dark past.
The flag of Yemen was adopted on May 22, 1990
The Flag of Palestine
Flag of Palestine Description: The flag of Palestine is a tricolor of three equal horizontal stripes (black, white, and green from top to bottom) overlaid by a red triangle issuing from the hoist.
Flag of Palestine meaning: This flag is derived from the Pan-Arab colors and is used to represent the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people.
The flag of Palestine was adopted in 15 November 1988
The Flag of Iran
Flag of Iran description: The flag of Iran is a tricolor comprising equal horizontal bands of green, white and red with the national emblem “There is no God Except Allah” (La Ilaha Illa Allah ) in red centered on the white band and the Takbir (Allaho Akbar) written 11 times in the Kufic script in white, at the bottom of the green and the top of the red band.
Flag of Iran meaning: In the Iranian culture, Green symbolizes growth, happiness, unity, nature, vitality, and the Iranian languages. The traditional color of white symbolizes freedom because white represents blankness and it is free to carry anything on it, red symbolizes bravery, fire, life, love, warmth, and sophistication. Both the middle and the side Arabic scripts represent Iran’s religion and faith (Islam)
This flag of Iran was adopted on 29 July 1980
The Flag of Iraq
Flag of Iraq description: The flag of Iraq includes the three equal horizontal red, white, and black stripes of the Arab Liberation flag, with takbīr (the phrase Allahu akbar, meaning “God is the greatest” in Arabic) in Kufic script written in the center.
Flag of Iraq meaning: The black, white, green, and red are the pan-Arab colours, representing pan-Arabism.
The flag of Iraq was adopted in 31 July 1963