The study of Western Civilization traditionally follows a well-known but incomplete arc: the grand achievements of Greece and Rome, several hundred years of the Dark Ages, and then the bright emergence of the European Renaissance. But amid the "dark" Middle Ages, the Abbasid Empire, which ruled the Middle East as well as much of Northern Africa and Central Asia from 750 to 1258, serves as a vitally important but often overlooked bridge between the ancient and modern worlds.
The Middle East is a critically important area of our world. And, with its current prominence in international affairs, media images of the Middle East reach us on a daily basis. Much media coverage, however, is incomplete at best, failing to take account of either the complexities or the historical background of this pivotal region. For most of us, the real story of the Middle East remains untold. What made this crucial geopolitical area what it is today?
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