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The Persian word karawan refers to a group of merchants, pilgrims, soldiers, or other persons traveling together, often over extended distances; the animal most often used for the caravan routes across the Middle East and Arabian desert was the camel, whereas donkeys and horses were used for caravans through the mountains along the Silk Road. The size of the caravan depended upon many factors, including the availability of pack animals, relative security of the route traveled, and volume of trade and commerce. The largest recorded caravans for the pilgrimage from Cairo and Damascus to Mecca numbered more than 10,000 camels. Other important caravan routes flourished through the 1800s, when railroad and road transport led to their decline. The great salt caravans from the Saharan desert ...

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