They dodged raids and rebels, drove in dunes, coped with breakdowns, fixed flats in the sand and, more than once, faced financial ruin as they revolutionized transport across the Syrian desert.
To diversify its one-crop economy, the Saudi Arab government has launched a new search for its other minerals: iron, zinc, copper, gypsum, phosphates, and - an exciting possibility - gold.
In "fours" and "pairs" "sculls" and "eights" Egypt's rowers sometimes won, often lost but always tried as they faced stiff international competition in an annual festival of oars, as old as Akhnaton.
In the wilds of the world-the arid desert, the icy mountain, the trackless marsh - Wilfred Thesiger found "the stillness of a world that knew no engine" -and his first taste of a special freedom.
As part of its massive new airport in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia has also erected a special air terminal just for the Hajj - the annual pilgrimage to Makkah - a terminal in a tent.