Arabia is a peninsula located in the South-West of Asia. It has area of about 1230,000 square miles. The name is said to be derived from “Araba” district in the South East of the province of Tihama. Arabia is bordered “on the North by territories made up of Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and their desert lands on the East, it is bordered by the Persian Gulf; in the South by the Indian Ocean and in the West by the Red Sea. Arabia was divided into three provinces, Tihama; Hijaz and Najd
Arabia is one of the driest and hottest of places in the world. The land consists mainly of desert, mountains and steppe. As a result of the dryness, the land is not fertile with the exception of the South-Western part of Arabia where Yemen is located.
Besides, there are certain areas in the desert called ‘oasis’ where water can be found in springs and wells. Dates, barley, wheat and millet and other vegetables are grown in these areas. However, there is no single river in the area that flows perennially and reaches the Sea.
The main domestic animals found in Arabia are the camel, the donkey, the ordinary watchdog, cat, sheep and goats. The horse was later introduced into the area and became an animal of luxury because feeding it and caring for it constituted a big problem for the Bedouin of the desert. As we have already noted, the land is mainly desert with just a few places where grass grows. Horses eat a lot of grass and whoever wants to keep one must be a rich man, As a result of its speed, the horse was used for raids, sports and hunting.
However, the camel is considered the most useful animal in the Arabian desert. One important characteristics of the animal is that it can go for many days without water, The Arabian camel can go for about twenty-five days in winter about five days in summer without water, Even in critical water shortage situations a camel is killed to enable people to drink the water stored in its paunch, or when they are sure that a camel drank water a day or two ago, a stick is thrust down its throats to make it vomit water for drinking. Water that stays in the camel’s paunch for a day or two is suitable for drinking:
As the desert is a place where water is scarce and the camel can survive without it for some days, it is found to be very useful. The camel has flat feet that make its movement in the desert sands quite easy and it can carry heavy load. Without the camel, the desert cannot be conceived as a habitable place
Apart from using the camel for transportation, it provides meat and milk for the nomads. Camels are also used to pay the dowry of a bride and compensation for murder (price of blood). The wealth of a shaykh is calculated in terms of camels. The camel is considered the nomad’s constant companion. It’s usefulness to the nomad is noted in the fact that the nomads drinks the camel’s milk instead of water, he eats the flesh of the camel; he covers himself with its skin; he makes his tent from its leather and hair; he uses its dung as fuel and even uses its urine as hair tonic and medicine. The nomads take delight in referring to themselves as ahlul-ba’ir that means “people of the camel”.
As a result of the closeness and usefulness of the camel to the nomad, the Arabic language has about one thousand names for the camel in its numerous breeds and stages of growth.
The inhabitants of Arabia can be classified into two groups, the nomads who are also referred to as tent dwellers and the townsmen. The nomads do not live at one place but move from place to place in the desert in search of pasture for their camels, sheep and goats. One of the main causes of conflicts among the Arabs is ‘the search for pasture. The competition is usually so keen that it results into tribal wars. These nomads live in tents made of goat or camel skin and as they move from place to place they carry these tents along with them. On the other hand the townsmen lead a settled life at one place. The general occupation of the townsmen is trading but there are others who are farmers and craftsmen. The traders travel to distant lands in and outside Arabia to sell their wares and also purchase goods home. These traders do not normally travel individually but in a group so that-when they are attacked they would be in a good position to defend themselves and their goods. This journey by merchants with their camels across the desert is known as Caravan. Therefore, the caravan trade was the most important commercial activity of the traders in Arabia. The important province in Arabia in connection with the history of Islam is the Hijaz, which occupies the western strip of Arabia to the east of the Red Sea and contains the famous cities of Makkah and Madinah. There is also the beautiful town of Ta’if situated in an oasis. It has excellent weather and beautiful; vegetation. Today it is a holiday resort for the rich people in Saudi Arabia. There were no schools during this period and very few people could read and write. People in this group were the Jews and Christians. Traders who sent their caravans to far-off places had the privilege of contacting people outside Arabia. As the nomads belong to the desert and nowhere else, they were able to find their way about without the use of landmarks such as signposts. They also developed keen interest in astronomy. Their system for fixing the beginning and length of the year is based on the lunar calendar. The nomads believe that the moon regulates their life
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