Nomadic tribes have existed across the Arabian peninsula for thousands of years. The pre-Islamic period saw the development of civilizations based on trade in frankincense and spices, notably, from about the 12th century BC, the Minaeans in the southwest of what is now Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Sabaean and Himyarite kingdoms flourished from around 650 BC and 115 BC respectively, their loose federations of city states lasting until the 6th century AD. Although increased trade brought these civilizations into contact with the Roman and Persian empires— the two great regional powers before the advent of Islam— they remained, for the most part, politically independent. The Nabataeans, an Aramaic people whose capital was at Petra, modern-day Jordan, spread into northern Arabia over a period covering the 1st century BC and the 1st AD before annexation of their territory by Rome. Persian influence was prevalent along Arabia’s eastern coast, centred on Dilmun which covered parts of the mainland and the island of Bahrain.
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