Trans Eurasia travel

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In the early seventh century, a merchant named Muhammad began preaching a new religion to fellow Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula. His belief that there is only one God, Allah, soon gained many followers. By the time of his death in 632, Muhammad had gained the adherence of many Arab tribes. After his death, his followers began a campaign of conquest, a holy war to spread their religion to the entire world. Thus was the beginning of Islam and its spread into Asia Minor, including the Caucasus region. In 640, the Arabs first invaded the area and began to establish control. Over the next 120 years, the Muslim army continued to spread, stopping only when it reached France on the west and China on the East. The northern frontier was set along the Caucasus Mountains after a great Arab defeat at the hands of the Khazars in northern Azerbaijan. Having been invaded on and off again since the beginning of recorded history, and possibly feeling resentment toward Byzantine religious orthodoxy, the rest of the Caucasus region put up little resistance to its new rulers. Some areas, such as the coastal region around the Caspian Sea, were nearly completely converted to Islam, while the more western areas continued to have a more blended culture. More and more Arabs mixed with the local inhabitants and “the indigenous elites underwent an administrative and linguistic arabization.” By the mid-eighth century, when the more ruthless Abbasids controlled the Arab empire, Arabic was the language of government and business.

While under Arab power, the region reached a Golden Age. Armenia (which included modern-day Armenia as well as much of modern-day Georgia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan) built valuable trading relationships with other nations and saw a great deal of advancement in both trade and industry. Citizens enjoyed the freedom to build their own businesses catering to the many traders traversing their lands. The arts also underwent significant advancement during this time, building on the skills developed through contacts with the Far East and western Europe. Potters advanced Chinese glazing and firing techniques. Carpet weavers created intricate designs based on Arabic symbolism. And, seeking to create even more beautiful places to worship their God than the Byzantine Empire had created, architects built on an elaborate scale. This period also ushered in the first age of mass communication. Paper was being manufactured in the late 700s in the Arab city of Baghdad. The Arabs took this invention and translated nearly every important written document from every culture under Arabic control. Many of these documents have since been lost in other languages and have yet to be translated from Arabic into a Western language.

Abbasid rule in the area ended in 946 when a Persian general deposed a caliph (Muslim leader) and inserted his own, creating the Bagratid dynasty. Under Queen Tamar, who ruled in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, the area reached another Golden Age. Music and literature were well-developed during this time, as well as the fine arts of sculpture and painting. A clan of nomadic Turkmen tribes, called the Seljuks, were looking to create an empire, seizing Persia and then Iraq, and pushing into what is now southern Georgia and western Armenia in the 11th century. Although they never conquered the entire area of the Caucasus, the Turkish influence in the Caucasus would prove important in later years.