name originally applied to the Semitic peoples of the Arabian Peninsula. It now refers to those persons whose primary language is Arabic. They constitute most of the population of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank, and Yemen; Arab communities are also found elsewhere in the world. The term does not usually include Arabic-speaking Jews (found chiefly in North Africa and formerly also in Yemen and Iraq), Kurds, Berbers, Copts, and Druze, but it does include Arabic-speaking Christians (chiefly found in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan). Socially, the Arabs are divided into two groups: the settled Arab [ fellahin
= villagers, or hadar
= townspeople] and the nomadic Bedouin
The derivation of the term Arab is unclear, and the meaning of the word has changed several times through history. Some Arab scholars have equated Joktan (Gen. 10.25) with the ancient Arab patriarch Qahtan whose tribe is thought to have originated in S Arabia. The Assyrian inscriptions (9th cent. B.C.) referred to nomadic peoples inhabiting the far north of the Arabian Peninsula; the sedentary population in the south of the peninsula was not called Arab. In classical times the term was extended to the whole of the Arabian Peninsula and to all the desert areas of the Middle East, and in the Middle Ages the Arabs came to be called Saracens.
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