Around 1000 BC to 700 AD

1. The Kingdom of Saba (or Sheba) 10th century BC to the 7th century AD.
This is the earliest and most important of all pre-Islamic civilizations, it was located in today's regions of Aseer and today's Yemen.


The Romans named it "Arabia Felix" (fortunate or prosperous Arabs). The Sabacean capital, was located near San'a which is the capital of today's Yemen. It is suggested that Ma'rib was founded by Noah's eldest son Shem (or "Sam" in Arabic).

The Sabacean kings also controlled parts of the East coast in Africa along the Red Sea where they founded the Kingdom of Abyssinia, which is today's Eritrea.

The Kingdom of Saba produced and traded in spices, Arab frankincense, myrrh, and other Arabian aromatics. The Sabaceans excelled in agriculture, had a remarkable irrigation system, incredible water tunnels in mountains. They built the legendary Ma'rib Dam, considered one of the greatest technological wonders of the ancient world. The dam was depicted as being destroyed in 575 in the Quran.

Around 115 BC to 525 AD

2. The Kingdom of Himyar 115 BC to 525 AD. The majority of the population in this kingdom was Arab Christians and Arab Jews (non Hebrews).

The capital city was first Zafar and later San'a. The powerful Himyarite kings executed military expansion plans that extended their kingdom. Eventually, internal disorder and change of trade routes caused economic and political decline.

Later, the African Abysinians invaded the Kingdom in 525 AD, followed by the Persians in 575. Soon after, Islam swept the entire Arab Peninsula.

Back to top

Around 600 BC to 195 AD

3. The Nabataean Kingdom 600 BC to 195 AD. It is suggested that the Nabataean Kingdom is named after Nabaioth, son of Ishmael. It stretched from Akaba (or Aqaba) in the south to Damascus in the north during the first century A.D, and its capital Petra rose to commercial supremacy as it controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it.

The Nabataeans were nomadic tribes who were attracted around 600 BC to Petra from areas beyond Jordan in search of pure water supply, displacing the native Edomites. In 312 B.C., they resisted a Greek invasion by Alexander's successor in Syria, two centuries later they became a colony of the Roman emperor Trajan. Three hundred years later the Nabataeans offered their support to help the Roman Empire in its attempt to invade southern Arabia and capture Yemen. But the expedition was destroyed and returned to Egypt with shame and disgrace. Petra (similarly to Saba) became affluent due to its location, where caravans passed through its rose-red gorges and found shelter, fresh camels and protection for the onward journey. Later, as the Romans developed their own sea routes to the orient, by-passing the Arabian Peninsula, Petra lost out to Palmyra as the center of the caravan routes of Arabia.

Around 300 BC

4. The Kingdom of Tadmor (or Palmyra). This is today's Hims city in Syria. Tadmor became prominent and affluent only in the 3rd century BC when it controlled the vital trade route between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean.

This kingdom excelled in international trade but eventually came under the control of the expanding Roman imperialism due to its strategic location.

In 265 BC the Tadmorian King Udhayna (or Odenatus) was given the position of vice-emperor of Rome, after his assistance to the Romans in their war against Persia. However, King Udhayna's widow, Queen Zainab (or Zenobia), wanted independence from Rome, and this angered the Romans. This in turn led to the destruction of the Kingdom of Tadmor and the brutal capturing of Queen Zainab.

Back to top

Late 500 AD and early 600 AD

5. The Kingdom of Kindah

Located in the Southern part of the Arabian Peninsula near Hadramawt. Al-Fau was the capital city.

It is suggested that al-Murar was the founder of this kingdom. His grandson extended the kingdom by invading Iraq in the north and only temporarily capturing al-Hirah, the capital city of the Christian Kingdom of Lakhmid. After loosing al-Hirah, the kingdom of Kindah was divided into four factions: Asad, Taghlib, Kinanah and Qays – each faction was ruled by a prince.

Around 300 AD to 600 AD

6. The Kingdom of Lakhmid
Reached its golden era under King al-Munthir III (503-554). It extended from the western shores of the Arabian (Persian) Gulf all the way to Northern Iraq. Al-Hira its capital city, was located on the Euphrates River near present day Kufah.

Working in close cooperation with the Persian Sasanian Empire, King al-Munthir III frequently challenged the Arab Kingdom of Ghassan in Syria which was a pro-Byzantine. The Lakhmids, were patrons of the arts. The Lakhmid dynasty disintegrated after the death of its great Arab Christian King an-Nu'man III in 602.

Around 600 AD to 700 AD

7. The Kingdom of Ghassan

The Ghassanids were originally a group of South Arabian Christian tribes that emigrated around the 3rd century from Yemen to southern Syria and Jordan where the Ghassanid kingdom was founded in today's Syria. The capital was Damascus. It was an ally of the Byzantine Empire and it protected the vital spice trade route from southern Arabian Peninsula against the desert Bedouin. After the emergence of Islam in the 7th century, most inhabitants became Muslims.

Back to top