Unit 3: Trade and Tradition
Despite its harsh climate, civilizations developed in the Arabian Peninsula. The Nabataeans built complex water storage systems for their cities, while Bedouins relied on traveling from place to place to survive. Muhammad the Prophet began the religion of Islam. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. The holy book of Islam, called the Quran explains the five basic duties of all Muslims, called the Five Pillars of Islam. Today, there are more than a billion Muslims worldwide.
Shortly after Muhammad's death his successors, called "caliphs", united Arabia under their rule. Their Muslim empire then spread across the Middle East and North Africa. Islam spread with them, becoming the dominant religion in their empire. The capital of the Muslim empire was Baghdad. It became a center for science, medicine, and the arts. The Muslim empire eventually became too large to manage, breaking apart into many smaller Muslim states.
In what today is the nation of Turkey, the Ottoman Turks built an empire. They conquered the Byzantine Empire, much of North Africa, southeastern Europe, and the Middle East. The city of Constantinople became their capital and was renamed Istanbul. It remained a cultural center for centuries.
In ancient Africa the Nubians and the kingdom of Kush were influenced by Egypt. They formed empires of their own, controlling a stretch of the southern Nile. In present-day Ethiopia, the Christian kingdom of Aksum controlled trade and built churches out of enormous blocks of stone. In West Africa, the empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai grew rich from the trade of gold and salt, while the Yoruba created a culture that can be found even in the United States today.
Great Zimbabwe became rich from the gold and ivory trade in southern Africa. Their great stone mounds can still be seen today. Along Africa's east coast, Swahili merchants sent trading ships to places as far as China. Their language, called Swahili, is common in East Africa today.