Almost 1,400 years ago, the established world order was overturned by the emergence of a dynamic new power in the Near East. From the mid-630s, fearsome bands of Arab tribesmen began to pour out of their homelands in the Arabian Peninsula. Within a few decades these highly mobile, mounted warriors achieved startling successes – overrunning Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt with mercurial speed – and, by the middle of the next century, their descendants could claim dominion over a vast swathe of territory, stretching from the Indus River and the borders of China in the east, across north Africa to Spain and southern France in the west.
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