Original Unit




  • Trade


  • Creates 1 Trade Route


The Caravan is the first means by which a player can conduct trade between both foreign and domestic Cities. Caravans do not appear on the game map as moveable units. Rather, they are added to a pool from which the player can assign Caravans to Trade Routes.


In ancient times, merchants, pilgrims and travelers often journeyed together in deserts and hostile regions for mutual protection. In the deserts of northern Africa and Asia, camels were the most common animal used in caravans, due to its broad appetite, its ability to go without water for several days and its load capacity. Although camels were harnessed to carts in the tea trade between China and Mongolia, they often carried their loads split in two equal parts and fastened to their backs. In hot weather or on long journeys, camels typically carried 350 pounds. On shorter journeys, in cooler climes and in order to evade customs duties, camels often carried as much as 1,000 pounds.

Caravan sizes varied depending on the amount of traffic on the route, the relative safety of the route and the availability of camels. The largest caravans ever recorded were for special purposes, such as Muslim pilgrimages to Mecca that included over 10,000 camels, or the salt caravans that traversed the Sahara from Taodenni to Timbuktu, which numbered 20,000 camels. Camels were fastened together with rope passed through nose rings and tied to the saddle, in lines of up to 40 camels. As many as four strings would travel abreast or the whole caravan traveled in a single-file line.

The timelines of caravan operations depended on the availability of water and food, as well as seasonal considerations. The Orenburg caravan left Bukhara after the winter snows of Russia melted, and the Basra caravan left Alepo after the rains of late autumn in the Middle East. A caravan averaged 2 to 3 miles per hour for up to 14 hours a day. Some locations along well-traveled routes had caravansaries, which had stables and rooms for rest.

Eventually, the increase in sea trade contributed to the decline of many of the major routes (such as the Silk Road from China to the Mediterranean). Many caravans continued to operate until the 19th century, when rail transport and the abolition of the slave trade spelled the end for the centuries-old form of transport and travel.