Arabs were familiar with the Mediterranean coast through their trade with the region, and there were already some established Arab communities in Northern Africa. So, seven years after the prophet’s death, four thousand Muslim warriors led by Amr ibn al-As invaded and conquered Egypt. That began a systematic move west through the region over the following centuries. The Arab influence brought significant changes to the region beyond a new religion, such as bringing camels to Northern Africa. The animal’s ability to thrive in the Sahara’s brutal desert conditions, where it can easily reach 120° Fahrenheit (49° Celsius) in the summer and drop to below freezing in places during the winter, made for a reliable form of transportation year-round, which expanded trade and made it easier to communicate over longer distances.

Camels are not native to Africa. They were introduced to Northern Africa by Arab refugees in the seventh century.

Chapter 1: The North


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