The Arabs are the descendents of Ishmael (known in Arabic as Ismael), who is the eldest son of Abraham from his wife Hagar. Jews are descendents of Abraham's son Isaac from his wife Sarah. Therefore, Arabs and Jews are cousins. Both of them are Semites. Prophet Jesus is of Jewish ethnicity and Prophet Mohammad is an Arab; therefore, they are distant cousins.
Muslims believe that it was Ishmael who was the subject of the story in which Abraham had a vision in which he was ordered by God to slaughter his son to test his obedience to God. Ishmael showed obedience by accepting God's order and was willing to be slaughtered. However, before Abraham was about to slaughter his son, God descended a sheep for him to slaughter instead. Jews claim that the son in this story was Isaac, not Ishmael because they want the honor to be associated with the Jews.
In the Old Testament, God promised to make the descendents of Ishmael a great nation. So, Arabs are not evil people as many people in the West today tend to believe, but in fact they have been blessed by God.
Today, there are more than 315 million Arabs. Not all the Arabs are Muslims and not all the Muslims are Arabs. About 18-20 million of Arabs are Christian.
There are 18 major Arab countries in which Arabic is the mother tongue of most of the citizens:
(1) Morocco (34 million)
(2) Algeria (34 million)
(3) Tunisia (10 million)
(4) Libya (6 million)
(5) Egypt (82 million)
(6) Sudan (40 million)
(7) Palestine (4.5 million Arab Palestinians in West Bank/Jerusalem and Gaza)
(8) Jordan (6 million more than 50% are of Palestinian origin)
(9) Lebanon (4 million)
(10) Syria (20 million)
(11) Iraq (28 million)
(12) Saudi Arabia (28 Million, out of which 5.5 Million only have work visas )
(13) Kuwait (2.5 million, 50% of them only have work visas)
(14) Bahrain (700,000 , 35% of them only have work visas)
(15) Qatar (900,000 , more than 30% of them only have a work visa)
(16) United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) (4.6 million, 80% of them only have work visas)
(17) Oman (3.3 million, 580,000 of them only have a work visa)
(18) Yemen (23 million)
Each Arab country has its own culture which evolved out of its unique history. However, Arab countries can be grouped into regions in which the countries constituting that region have similar cultures.
1. The Maghreb Region: Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
2. Libya: unique culture
3. Egypt: unique culture
4. Sudan: unique culture, but the Arab Sudanese's culture is somewhat similar to the Egyptian culture
5. Fertile Crescent Region (or Greater Syria): Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.
6. Iraq: unique culture which is a blend of cultural elements of Fertile Crescent Region and the Gulf Region.
7. Gulf Region: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, U. A. E., Oman, and Yemen.
There are other countries in which Arabic is spoken or understood by some people. These countries which are also members of the Arab League are: (a) Somalia, (b) Djibouti, (c) Comoros, (d) Western Sahara, (e) Mauritania.
It is worth noting that Arabic spoken casually by people varies significantly from "Formal Arabic". Furthermore, there are many variations in the "Spoken Arabic" or dialects, not only from one Arab country to another, but also within the same country. Despite these differences, there are regional similarities in terms of dialect or Spoken Arabic, so each of the regions we listed above can be said to have a general distinctive dialect.
The Egyptian dialect/accent is the most widely understood in the Arab and that is due to popularity of Egyptian movies and TV shows in the Arab World. Egypt is the Hollywood of the Arab world. The Maghreb Region's dialect is generally considered the most difficult to understand by most of the other Arab regions. That is why people of the Maghreb Region tend to use an Egyptian accent when they speak with Arabs from other Arab regions.
The Gulf Region is the most conservative region in the Arab world. In general, Saudi Arabia can be described as the most conservative, but there are regional variations within Saudi Arabia itself. The capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, is much more conservative than cities like Jeddah or Dammam.
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