There are more than 12 million Roma located in countries all around the world. An exact figure is impossible to obtain as they are often not recorded on official census counts. They are a distinct ethnic group but there is a great deal of mythology surrounding their origins.
The term ‘gypsy’ stems from an original misconception that the Roma people arrived in Europe from Egypt.
What is known now from linguistic studies is that they descend from India and it is believed that during the 11th Century they were drafted into the Hindu warrior caste to be involved in fighting the Muslim general Mahmud of Ghazni as he strove to push Islam eastwards into India. Through this struggle they moved through the mountain passes and westwards into Persia fighting Muslim armies. The conflict carried the Indian troops – and the early Roma further and further to the west until they eventually crossed into Southeastern Europe about 1300.