In August 1,000 years ago, a Fatimid army marched into al Fustat, the capital of ancient Egypt, staked out a site for its Caliph's new palace and, as the planet Mars moved into its ascendancy, inadvertently gave it an ominous name: "The Warrior," in Arabic "al Qahira."
There they were, a boy and his camel, drifting along like castaways from a disappearing past and vanishing into a future where he, like stray gypsies, old prospectors and wandering cowboys, will have no deserts to cross, no plains to ride, no more open roads to tread.
No one in the exploration party, not even the Arab guides, had even seen a wild oryx, that rare and handsome Arabian antelope, but that day near the Dahna dunes they turned and saw three: as fabulous as beasts out of a fairy tale, as improbable as three unicorns.
It may sound like code but it's only shorthand: for a new project in Saudi Arabia at a place called Qatif Junction, the Grand Central Station for the network of pipelines that Aramco has constructed throughout the Eastern Province to gather and move ever-growing quantities of oil.
In November 100 years ago, the imperial yacht L'Aigle , with the Empress of France on board and some 40 other ships in her wake, moved into a narrow channel of water in Egypt and three days later dropped anchor in the Red Sea. The Suez Canal, a challenge to man for 2,000 years, was open al last.
They said it couldn't be told: the inside story of Thomas Charles Barger, surveyor, miner, professor, archeologist, photographer, mechanic, marksman, and, for 10 years, president and chairman of the board of the Arabian American Oil Company.