The early Middle Ages was a time of increased connections across continents. This period was marked by the continued development of the maritime networks centered on the Indian Ocean, and of the Silk Roads—a series of trade routes linking China and parts of central Asia, India, and the Middle East. A globally connected medieval world was emerging, one united by long-distance trade networks and enhanced by the exchange of ideas. An important element of this system was the caravansary, an inn funded by the state or wealthy individuals where travelers could spend the night and store their goods securely (Figure 12.1). In addition to providing shelter, caravansaries were a place for merchants to meet other traders to exchange goods as well as share and spread Islamic ideas and traditions.