Arabic is a Semitic language akin to Hebrew, Aramaic, and Amharic, and more distantly related to certain language families of North Africa.
Arabic has a vast literary heritage dating back to the pre-Islamic era (5th and 6th centuries, A.D.). It is today the native language of over 200 million people as well as the liturgical language for over a billion Muslims throughout the world.
The Arab world shows strong linguistic and cultural continuity. Arabic is the official language of countries from North Africa to the Arabian Gulf (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen). Although geography (including great distances and topographical barriers such as deserts and mountain ranges) has fostered diversity of regional vernaculars, a shared history, cultural and literary background, and (to a considerable extent) religion act to unify Arab society and give it a strong sense of cohesion.
For more on the features of Arabic, see on this website “Key Issues in Learning Arabic as a Foreign Language” and also consult Dr. Margaret Nydell’s useful handbook: Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Modern Times (Intercultural Press, 2005).