Saudi Arabia traces its roots back to the earliest civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula. Over centuries, the peninsula has played an important role in history as an ancient trade center and as the birthplace of Islam. Since King Abdulaziz Al Saud established the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, its transformation has been astonishing. In a few short decades, Saudi Arabia has turned itself from a desert nation to a modern, sophisticated state and a major player on the international stage.
An Ancient Trade Centre
Located between the two great centers of civilization, the Nile River Valley and Mesopotamia, the Arabian Peninsula was the crossroads of the ancient world. Trade was crucial to the area’s development; caravan routes became trade arteries that made life possible in the sparsely populated peninsula. The people of the peninsula developed a complex network of trade routes to transport agricultural goods highly sought after in Mesopotamia, the Nile Valley and the Mediterranean Basin. These items included almonds from Taif, dates from the many oases, and aromatics such as frankincense and myrrh from the Tihama plain. Spices were also important trade items. They were shipped across the Arabian Sea from India and then transported by caravans. The huge caravans traveled from what is now Oman and Yemen, along the great trade routes running through Saudi Arabia’s Asir Province and then through Makkah and Madinah, eventually arriving at the urban centers of the north and west.
The Islamic Empire
Less than 100 years after the birth of Islam, the Islamic Empire extended from Spain to parts of India and China. Also, a large number of pilgrims began regularly visiting the peninsula, with some settling in the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. These pilgrims facilitated the exchange of ideas and cultures between the people of the peninsula and other civilizations of the Arab and Muslim worlds. The emergence of Arabic as the language of international learning was another major factor in the cultural development of the Arabian Peninsula. The Muslim world became a center for learning and scientific advances during what is known as the “Golden Age.” Muslim scholars made major contributions in many fields, including Medicine, Biology, Philosophy, Astronomy, Arts and Literature.