Since independence, states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have been dominant players in shaping the regional order. The purpose of this paper is to explore and define challenges to the state and their role in shaping identities in the MENA region, and to evaluate their regional roots. The paper emphasizes two key aspects of nationalism in the region. The first concerns the existence of multiple identities and layers of identity that co-exist in the MENA region and which do not necessarily clash with each other. The second is that nationalism and national identities are not a recent phenomenon in the region. This paper shows that there are similarities as well as differences among the three major sub-regions of MENA in terms of the impact of identities at three levels of analysis.