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From time to time I dream about an epic trip on foot from Tangier to Mecca in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, where you ride a camel for hours while following a big caravan, dodging bandits and finally resting in a caravanserai for the night.
Right now I'm reading Richard Francis Burton's "A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Meccah" and I'm totally amused by his crazy journey disguised as "Arab" to be able to reach Mecca.

After this lovely introduction here is my question: Is it still actually possible to travel independently from, let's say, Sirte to Alexandria following a caravan or nowadays even the locals don't use these means any more? Are there parts of the world where this would still be doable?

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Wouldn't many travelers actually walk beside their camels? –  Relaxed May 23 '13 at 18:14
    
@Annoyed if I knew I wouldn't ask so elaborate more :-) –  Geeo May 23 '13 at 18:17
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It's difficult to describe the difference between extreme and adventure travel. But this is a great example of adventure travel so I've changed the tags around. I've also added animal-riding which is as close as we have for joining a caravan - I think it's apt. –  hippietrail May 26 '13 at 6:45
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But you should note that there are no bidets along these routes. –  PERSONA NON GRATA May 26 '13 at 16:04
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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The last trade route regularly used by camel caravans in Sahara is the Darb-el-arbain, or the forty days road, from Sudan to Egypt. The traded goods are the camels themselves.

As recently as May 25, 2013, a TV documentary about this trade route has been broadcast by Arte, the German-French TV channel. This documentary is available during one week on the Arte web site, in French and in German. A detailed report of this documentary can be found in French on the Enjoy Louxor! blog.

Darb-el-arbain (Picture from the TV documentary broadcast on Arte)

I don't know whether strangers can join a caravan.

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that's exactly the kind of stuff I'm after. –  Geeo May 25 '13 at 22:25
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I believe such tours were available 10 years ago but I doubt that anybody is offering journeys across the Sahara today, no matter the transport means.

I have some vague recollection of acquaintances doing this kind of thing a long time ago, before the Algerian civil war of the '90s but if you believe travel advisories from the different Foreign Affairs ministries publishing this kind of advice, pretty much the whole Sahara from the East of Mauritania to Libya through Mali, Niger, Sudan, Chad, the South part of Algeria and the border areas of Tunisia are basically no-go areas.

The Paris-Dakar moved to South America (far away from either Dakar or Paris) years ago.

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Thanks for your reply but I'm not looking for "organized tours" as the word "independently" suggest. I was trying to understand if that mean of transportation still exists nowadays, regardless the difficulties, and if someone is aware of people that actually did it fairly recently. I think that area was more dangerous 200+ years ago than it is today. –  Geeo May 23 '13 at 18:25
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Well, what does “independently” even mean in this context? Hiring a guide there instead of relying on someone with local contacts might give you some feeling of “not being a tourist” but I assume you don't own a camel nor know how to take care of one so you are going to depend on someone to take care of your transportation… –  Relaxed May 23 '13 at 18:52
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Before thinking about traveling independently or by camel, it seems that knowing if travel is possible at all would be relevant. Either way, info on the local political situation therefore seems quite important except if we just want to engage in idle talk about means of transportation. Other than that, camel trips definitely existed recently… for the benefit of tourists looking for cachet and authenticity, as google quickly reveals. –  Relaxed May 23 '13 at 19:14
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