This study characterizes the spatiotemporal variability and relative contribution of different types of aerosols to the Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) over the Eastern Mediterranean as derived from MODIS Terra (3/2000-12/2012) and Aqua (7/2002-12/2012) satellite instruments. For this purpose, a 0.1° × 0.1° gridded MODIS dataset was compiled and validated against sunphotometric observations from the AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET). The high spatial resolution and long temporal coverage of the dataset allows for the determination of local hot spots like megacities, medium sized cities, industrial zones, and power plant complexes, seasonal variabilities, and decadal averages. The average AOD at 550 nm (AOD550) for the entire region is ~ 0.22 ± 0.19 with maximum values in summer and seasonal variabilities that can be attributed to precipitation, photochemical production of secondary organic aerosols, transport of pollution and smoke from biomass burning in Central and Eastern Europe, and transport of dust from the Sahara Desert and the Middle East. The MODIS data were analyzed together with data from other satellite sensors, reanalysis projects and a chemistry-aerosol-transport model using an optimized algorithm tailored for the region and capable of estimating the contribution of different aerosol types to the total AOD550. The spatial and temporal variability of anthropogenic, dust and fine mode natural aerosols over land and anthropogenic, dust and marine aerosols over the sea is examined. The relative contribution of the different aerosol types to the total AOD550 exhibits a low/high seasonal variability over land/sea areas, respectively. Overall, anthropogenic aerosols, dust and fine mode natural aerosols account for ~ 51 %, ~ 34 % and ~ 15 % of the total AOD550 over land, while, anthropogenic aerosols, dust and marine aerosols account ~ 40 %, ~ 34 % and ~ 26 % of the total AOD550 over the sea, based on MODIS Terra and Aqua observations.