Any member of the Arabic-speaking peoples native to the Middle East and North Africa. Before the spread of Islam in the 630s, the term referred to the largely nomadic Semitic peoples of the Arabian Peninsula; it came to apply to Arabic-speaking peoples from Africa's Mauritanian and Moroccan coasts east to Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula and south to The Sudan after their acceptance of Islam. Traditionally, some Arabs are desert-dwelling pastoral nomads (see Bedouin), whereas others live by oases and in small, isolated farming villages. While most Arabs are Muslims, some are Christian. The term has also been used in a political sense by Arab nationalists to describe a greater sociolinguistic or ethnic ideal (“the Arab nation”). See also Pan-Arabism.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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