As it refers to countries bounded between the Mediterranean Sea and Iran, it is therefore the companion term to Maghreb (western part of North Africa). Egypt occupies an ambiguous position: while it has cultural, ethnic and linguistic ties to both the Mashriq and the Maghreb, it is unique and different from both. Therefore, Egypt is located at the center/heart of the Arab world and that is why the headquarters of the Arab League is located in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. Thus, it is usually seen as being part of neither; however, when it is grouped with one or the other, it is generally considered part of the Mashriq on account of its closer ties to the Levant. Egypt and the Levant were often ruled as a single unit, as under the ancient Egyptian New Kingdom, the Umayyad, Abbasid, the Fatimid caliphates, the Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluks, and for a time under Muhammad Ali Pasha. There are also similarity between the Egyptian and the nearby Levantine dialects.
Similarly, Libya is finds itself bifurcated between Mashriq and Maghrib influences, with its eastern part linked more to Egypt and the rest to the Mashriq.
These geographical terms date from the early Islamic expansion. This region is similar to the Bilad al-Sham and Mesopotamia regions combined.
As the Mashriq is home to several pilgrimage sites, some Muslims elsewhere view it as a source of religious legitimacy. Mashriqi learning is also esteemed by scholars from the Maghrib. As of 2014, the Mashriq is home to 1.7% of the global population.