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6 December 2011-29 April 2012

"Caravans" – trade routes in the Arab world

Visitors to the DB Museum could see the exhibition on trade caravans from 6 December 2011-29 April 2012. It spirited them away on a journey to the fascinating world of the Orient of old, and at the same time revealed how modern trade routes were born.

Today, these caravans seem almost like myths from our stories about 1001 nights, but they in fact played a vital role in the economic activities of their age. Following celebrated itineraries such as the Silk Road or Incense Route, thousands of people and animals spent months traversing deserts and wilderness with one objective: trading goods.

A logistical challenge

The leaders of these caravans needed detailed knowledge of the routes so they could locate water and make the right decisions in the event of adverse weather or attacks. Despite all of these risks, camels, horses and donkeys managed to transport their heavy loads of precious items – silk, salt, gold, jewels, spices and perfumes – safe and sound to ports on the Mediterranean. Here, ships carried these luxuries to Italy, Spain, France and the rest of Europe.

Cultural contacts

Caravans not only transported goods, but they also established routes for communication between China, the Middle East and Europe. It wasn't until the end of the 19th century that modern transport technology in the form of ever-expanding rail, aircraft and road connections began to replace the "ships of the desert". The old routes may be no more, but the international links they created still remain. One symbol is the Orient Express, which linked Paris with Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The trains' luxurious carriages were built in Nuremberg. The Baghdad Railway connected Turkey and the present capital of Iraq from 1903-1940. Financed by Turkey, France, Austria-Hungary and Italy, its planning and construction were overseen by German firms. Camel caravans were used to transport the cement necessary for building this line.

The exhibition was prepared by the DB Museum and Nuremberg's Arabic museum group, Verein Arabisches Museum Nürnberg. Further information on this group is available to the right in the section "On the internet".