Monthly Archives: June 2010

Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands

The book begins with a quick summary of Thesiger’s early life before describing travels he made over several years in the late 1940′s in and around Arabia’s Empty Quarter. These were the final years of much that had been a way of life for centuries: totally nomadic tribes, use of camels and traditional boats for most transport – and of slavery. Already, though, oil companies were drawn to the area by domed hills that would bring wealth and sweep most of this away.

Few would be willing to endure the privations that Thesiger experiences and even welcomes (for example, travelling some 400 miles between wells), and the risks which he assures us were posed by hostile tribes. In the introduction, Rory Stewart claims him as an early hippie rather than a late colonialist, but he is very pragmatic and not in search of spiritual enlightenment. You’ll learn a lot about camels from reading this book. And, unlike certain other travel writers, he doesn’t try to make the reader envious of him for having been denied his experiences.

Thesiger was also a fine photographer and the text is illustrated with several photographs of these journeys.

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (25 Oct 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0141442077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141442075
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