THOSE WHO TRAVEL the desert in Saudi Arabia today are heirs to a long tradition of determination and ingenuity. Both qualities were vital to the hardy caravaneers who challenged the desert in years past. In those days, as the bashi (leader) cried out the departure order, the caravan's banner was raised, signaling the end of long planning and the beginning of the march. Camels and mules had been selected, food and water carefully stowed, daily destinations worked out and places assigned in the long line of men and beasts. Nothing was left to chance, for the desert has always been a harsh taskmaster. For hours the caravan wound out of the city, accompanied by the jingling of camel bells and the shouts of men of many nationalities—merchants, soldiers, muleteers, camel drivers, adventurers, each anxious to reach a city across the sands. The caravan offered the surest means of arriving, even though its pace was no faster than the two-mile-an-hour plod of the camel. Far away in distant cities, merchants awaited the caravan's treasures—jewels from India, silk from China, bundles of incense from southern Arabia, spices and herbs from Eastern lands. Despite the waterless tracts, the sun that scorched from dawn to dusk, stinging sandstorms, robbers, despite every hardship the desert put in the paths of men who would use it as a highway, the skills of the caravaneers would defeat the desert. The spirit of the caravan lives on in Saudi Arabia. With the confidence that comes from hard-won experience and proud tradition, the challenges of desert travel are now met and mastered in new ways.