The Islamic World (632-1500s) - The Growth of Cities and Trade
Standards: 7.2.5
  • Describe the growth of cities and the establishment of trade routes among Asia, Africa, and Europe, the products and inventions that traveled along these routes (e.g., spices, textiles, paper, steel, new crops), and the role of merchants in Arab society.
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The Growth of Cities and Trade

Key Terms and People

urban: having to do with a city or cities.

textile: woven fabric

social mobility: ability to rise in society

souk: marketplace in North Africa and the Middle East

letter of credit: written record issued by one bank that allows a person to take money out of another bank


Section Notes

Muslim Cities

  • A strong central governement and a single language fueled economic expansion and urban growth.
  • By A.D. 1000, Islam had the world's largest and most developed cities outside of China: Mecca, Damascus, Baghdad, Cordoba in Spain, and Cairo in Egypt (map). Baghdad was the center of the Islamic world. Trades brought silks and other goods from distant lands.
  • Some of Islam's most famous and valuable products were textiles, such as Egyptian cotton and Persian carpets, steel swords from Damascus, and leather goods from Cordoba. Merchants bought and sold goods at a souk.
  • Traders and merchants were honored in the Islamic world and had social mobility.

Trade and Trade Routes

  • The location of the Islamic world was ideal for trade. It lay between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean and covered parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Muslim traders traveled by land and sea, creating a network of trade routes that spanned three contenents. They travled in dhows by sea and by camel caravan by land. A famous land route was the Silk Road. It linked Baghdad to distant China. Goods that flowed into Islamic cities included:
    • Goods: silk, paper, dishes From: Asia/China
    • Goods: spices, gems, coconuts, tropical woods From: India
    • Goods: gold, salt From: Africa
    • Goods: amber, furs From: northern Europe
  • Muslim bankers issued letters of credit that could be used anywhere in the empire. These lightweight paper documents were easier to pack and safer to carry than heavy bags of coins.
  • With these methods, trade grew. Goods, ideas (Hindu numerals), invetions (Chinese compass), and religious customs and beliefs (Islam) spread throughout the lands.


Summary: The Islamic world had many large and prosperous cities. Merchants and trade played an important role in the economies of these cities.

Study Guide Questions

What was the economic foundation of Islamic cities?

How did the location of the islamic world stimulate trade?

How were merchants viewed in the Islamic world?

How did merchants contribute to the growth of cities?

What were the two main ways in which Muslim merchants traveled?

What do the great distances traveled by merchants indicate about trade in Muslim world?

Practice Test

Homework: Choose one
  1. Workbook Chapter 4 Section 3 (Page 49)
  2. Answer three of the study guide questions using complete sentences.
  3. Draw a picture of something important from this section and summarize this section of the text (three sentences minimum).