Deep in the Empty Quarter recently a photographer saw a vision.
He had been assigned to drive with a convoy of great supply trucks churning their way through the desert to a remote islet of exploration (Aramco World, May-June 1969), but as his eyes restlessly scanned the passing dunes he saw a sight that caught at his memory as well as his eye: a boy, a Bedouin boy, and his camel walking across the desert.
It may not have been an extraordinary sight in other ages. Man and animal, after all, have faced nature together since the domestication of the dog some 10,000 years ago, and boys in remote areas still may own and ride animals as varied as oxen, llamas, elephants, reindeer and water buffalo.
They won't long, though. Into the wild tundra and mountain meadows, into dark forests and teeming marshes and onto the open plains, into the lands where cantankerous prospectors and their burros, lonely cowboys and their ponies, shepherds and their flocks were once the only wanderers, urban society with its roads and buildings and lights is beginning to push its way.
Saudi Arabia is no exception. Highways, pipelines and power lines stretch further into the plains and deserts each year. Jet contrails arch across the sky like bridges to the future. Villages grow. Modernization, which has so little room for simple things, is coming.
On this day, though, there was none of this. There were only the boy and his camel, drifting along like castaways from a disappearing past, crossing a dune in lovely solitude, a vision of the past to be captured quickly on film before it vanished into an onrushing future.