Caravan (trade), name applied to groups of pilgrims or merchants organized for mutual help and protection against the hazards of travel, particularly on the deserts of Asia and Africa. On these journeys, many of which cover long distances, the beasts of burden most frequently used are the camel, donkey, and, in South America, the llama. The animals are traditionally arranged in a single file, which in larger caravans may extend for almost 10 km (6 mi). Pilgrims on their way to the holy city of Islam, Mecca, particularly the groups that assemble annually in Cairo and in Damascus, Syria, form the most celebrated caravans. Groups en route from these cities sometimes consist of several thousand people, and the number of camels used for the journey may be more than 10,000.
Trade caravans figured prominently in the ancient history of Asia and Africa. Wars were fought for control of caravan routes, many of which, for centuries, were the only arteries of communication and trade between parts of the various empires. Although trade caravans are still used in parts of Africa and Asia, in recent times camels and donkeys have been replaced by specially equipped motor vehicles and, to a certain extent, by the airplane.Tags: camels, merchants, pilgrims, Trade caravans