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Arab tribes, most notably the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, begin to appear in the southern Syrian Desert from the mid 3rd century CE onward, during the mid to later stages of the Roman and Sasanian empires.
Before the expansion of the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), "Arab" referred to any of the largely nomadic and settled Semitic people from the Arabian Peninsula, Syrian Desert, North and Lower Mesopotamia.
Arab Muslims primarily belong to the Sunni, Shiite, Ibadi, Alawite, Druze and Ismaili denominations.
Arab Christians generally follow one of the Eastern Christian Churches, such as the Maronite, Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic or Chaldean churches. The earliest documented use of the word "Arab" to refer to a people appears in the Kurkh Monoliths, an Akkadian language record of the ninth century BC Assyrian conquest of Aram, which referred to Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula under King Gindibu, who fought as part of a coalition opposed to Assyria.
His book, Jamharat al-Nasab ("The Abundance of Kinship"), seems to posit that the people known as 'Arabs' (of his time) were all descendants of Ishmael.
Of the names of the sons of Ishmael the names "Nabat, Kedar, Abdeel, Dumah, Massa, and Teman" were mentioned in the Assyrian Royal Inscriptions as tribes of the Ishmaelites.
The Christians of Iberia used the term Moor to describe all the Arabs and Muslims of that time.
Arabs have greatly influenced and contributed to diverse fields, notably the arts and architecture, language, philosophy, mythology, ethics, literature, politics, business, music, dance, cinema, medicine, science and technology Arabic epitaph of Imru' al-Qais, son of 'Amr, king of all the Arabs", inscribed in Nabataean script. Herodotus refers to the Arabs in the Sinai, southern Palestine, and the frankincense region (Southern Arabia).
The most popular Arab account holds that the word "Arab" came from an eponymous father called Ya'rub who was supposedly the first to speak Arabic.
Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdani had another view; he states that Arabs were called Gharab ("West") by Mesopotamians because Bedouins originally resided to the west of Mesopotamia; the term was then corrupted into "Arab".
The Arab world stretches around 13 million km, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast.
Beyond the boundaries of the League of Arab States, Arabs can also be found in the global diaspora.
In the pre-Islamic era, most Arabs followed polytheistic religions.