7.2 Arabia and the Empire of Islam

Media Guide


Type Description


DVD Well known Disney film about the story of Aladdin. I typically use this as an introduction to the unit to simply highlight the geography and architecture. I also have my students read other versions of the story to compare.
Islam: Empire of Faith DVD Fantastic documentary from PBS. It is very information-heavy so I show only small parts in class. In particular, the story of Muhammad's revelation is well presented. There is also a section on the importance of water in the Arabian desert that is solid.

Lawrence of Arabia

DVD Classic film about a British soldier in Arabia during World War I. While this doesn't fit the time period it does a fantastic job of "setting the scene" in Arabia. There are some incredible shots of nomads crossing the desert that are well worth showing.
Ancient Discoveries:Machines of the East DVD Good documentary on Arabian technology but oddly repetitive. Discusses in great detail the mechanics of various water pumps designed in Arabia where one would have done fine. Minor explorations of other Eastern technologies are all present but not in depth. Great in parts, not in whole.
Arabian Nights DVD A mini-series that retells some of the stories from "1,001 Arabain Nights". Well done and entertaining. I usually show at least part of one of the stories after we read them.
Digging For the Truth: Hidden Treasures of Petra DVD The first 2 seasons of this series are available for the same cost as this one episode so it might be worth waiting to see if season 3 ever is released in full. Unfortunately, this is one of the best episodes of the series and for me has replaced the Petra video below. Great information and presented in any entertaining way.
The Hidden City of Petra DVD Pretty good, if somewhat dated, documentary on Petra. It has no reenactments but great footage and the talking heads are mostly interesting. It helps that Petra is a fascinating topic in any case.I haven't shown the full video in years but if you do here are some pre-made questions for it.

Stealers Wheel - Stuck in the Middle With You


Background music I use to introduce the location of Arabia in terms of the spice trade and the Silk Road. I have to say, it really drives the point home.

The Crusades: The Crescent and the Cross

DVD If you are looking for a film that gives more of the Islamic perspective on the Crusades this will do it for you. I use it only for a couple short clips as I prefer Kingdom of Heaven.

Unit Guide

Arabia and Islam Lecture Notes 

I. Geography and Technology

a. Arabia, obviously, was greatly influenced by its geography so significant time is spent here. It also helps set the stage for the fact that this unit is not in Europe unlike all of them were first semester. This section uses a few clips from Lawrence of Arabia to give students a more lively sense of the area.

b. Arabia Walkthru

II. Muhammad and the Growth of Islam

a. Sets up the background of Islam by telling the story of Muhammad. A very basic primer of Islamic beliefs is included.

b. Culture Shock: Arabia

4 shocks are included here. 1 involves designing a home for a harsh environment. The 2nd is playing some Arabian math games. 3rd is a four quarters picture analysis. Finally there is a retelling of the story of Arabian Nights.

III. Technology

a. Examines how Arabian technology made the desert livable and set them ahead of Europe in many ways.

b. Lab - none.