Caravane Route
A brief history

The caravan trails: a trade route

This trip takes us along the caravan trails: routes taken by caravans through Morocco, to or from the desert.

For centuries caravan travel was the central means of transportation for goods traded between the Mediterranean and the Sudan. Cloth, salt, metals, pearls and writing paper were brought from Europe and the Maghreb into present-day Mali, where they were exchanged for gold, slaves, ivory and ostrich feathers.

These caravans were led by nomadic desert tribes: middle-men whose leverage lay in their knowledge of the land and ownership of camels- "the vessel of the desert".

Camel caravans (or should I say dromadery caravans) first started operating in the 3rd century A.C.; the last caravan routes were closed down in 1933.

Leo traveled along these caravan routes, into the Saharan desert and to Timbuktu twice- once as a young man, accompanying his uncle on an embassy to visit the sultan of the Sudan; and once a few years later, on a longer trip through what was then known as "Black Africa".

Today's political situation in Algeria and Mauritania make it difficult for travelers to follow these ancient caravan trails fully- this trip will bring you along these routes through Morocco, to the three "gateways into the desert" : Figuig in the South East and Sijilmassa and the Draa valley in the West. As Leo did 4 centuries before us, we will follow the two most common itineraries through Morocco:

-the route of the East: From Fes to Figuig, then to Sijilmassa
-the route of the West: from Marrakech to Zagora and down the Draa valley.

Join the Caravan to learn more about Camels, deserts and traveling habits of the 16th century!