The Trans-Saharan trade routes connected all parts of northern Africa to each other, as well as the rest of the world. Powerful empires had control of the route, leading to its growth and increase in influence. Using camels, large caravans of merchants and traders would distribute products from east and central Africa across the Saharan Desert to western Africa. The main two products traded included salt and gold. This network of trade routes lead to cultural diffusion, most notably in the form of the spreading of Islam throughout the region.