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Lawrence of Arabia
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Desert survival
 
Navigation

Before the invention of global positioning satellites, without even map and compass, Arabs traveled safely across vast, inhospitable and repetitive terrain.


In the desert, landmarks can vanish, sand dunes move, distance can be difficult to judge and visibility may be nil. And yet the Arabs were great travellers and traders.

Perhaps the oldest form of navigation was 'detouring'. The Arab proverb "by three sides is the quickest way across a square" makes sense if you have a large obstacle in your way. A 90° departure from your planned route, followed by measured distances and two subsequent 90° turns will bring you back on course safely around any difficult ground.

Where possible Arabs use footprints and tracks in the day to help guide them, and use rocks and their own shadows as makeshift sun compasses.

At night the North Star, Polaris, aided the traveling Arab. Dune shapes and rock erosion can help if you are familiar with the direction of the local prevailing winds.

Lawrence relied on his trusty compass but the Bedouins he traveled with could find their way practically blindfolded, an amazing skill.

Water | Food | Shelter | Clothing | Transportation | Navigation | Hospitality
Landmarks are used to navigate
  Arabs can navigate through the desert blindfolded  


Lawrence of Arabia