Customer Reviews


85 Reviews
5 star:
 (57)
4 star:
 (18)
3 star:
 (9)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


88 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Journeys in the "Empty Quarter" of Arabia
The deserts of Arabia cover more than a million square miles. The southern desert occupies nearly half of the total area. It stretches nine hundred miles from the frontier of the Yemen to the foothills of Oman and five hundred miles from the southern coast of Arabia to the Persian Gulf. It is a wilderness of sand, a desert within a desert, an area so enormous and so...
Published on August 30, 2001 by bcj222

versus
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Get THE LAST NOMAD !!!! instead of Arabian Sands
While waiting for my inter-library loan of Arabian Sands to arrive I pulled THE LAST NOMAD (same author) off my library's shelf. Turns out they are the very same book! Same tho only in text. The Last Nomad is a big 20" x 20" book filled with BIG beautiful black and white photos Some full page and a few even two page spreads. Tho they do suffer from being black and white...
Published on April 14, 2008 by DM


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

88 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Journeys in the "Empty Quarter" of Arabia, August 30, 2001
By 
"bcj222" (Newport Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
The deserts of Arabia cover more than a million square miles. The southern desert occupies nearly half of the total area. It stretches nine hundred miles from the frontier of the Yemen to the foothills of Oman and five hundred miles from the southern coast of Arabia to the Persian Gulf. It is a wilderness of sand, a desert within a desert, an area so enormous and so desolate that even Arabs call it the "Empty Quarter."
Wilfred Thesiger was born in Addis Ababa in 1910 and educated at Eton and Oxford. Though British, he was repulsed by the softness and rigidity of Western life, "the machines, the calling cards, the meticulously aligned streets, etc." In the spirit of T.E. Lawrence, Thesiger spent five years exploring and wandering the deserts of Arabia. With vivid descriptions and colorful anecdotes he narrates his stories, including two crossings of the Empty Quarter, among peoples who had never seen a European and considered it their duty to kill Christian infidels.
Thesiger greatly illuminates our understanding of the nomadic bedouins of Arabia. He loved, admired, respected and was humbled by a people who lived desparately hard lives in the harshest conditions with only a few possessions that might include saddles, ropes, bowls, goatskins, rifles and daggers and traveled days without food and water. Yet these people were unflappably cheerful, welcoming, generous, self-reliant, loyal and dignified. Thesiger explains why the Bedu with whom he traveled refused to forecast the weather (blasphemy against God)or could discern where to find a hare in the sand (only one set of tracks into the buried hole). As a reader I could almost sense I was traveling with Thesiger, could not help but mourn the passing of the way of life he described, and, as he, pondered the meaning of the word "civilized" as we Westerners conceive the term.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A key to understanding the Arab world, February 1, 2000
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
Besides being a wonderful book, as other reviewers have remarked, 'Arabian Sands' is important reading for anyone who wants to understand the culture and history of the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa.
The Bedu are, and always have been, a small fraction of the Arabs; historically, they have been disliked, mistrusted and often hated by the settled Arabs of the Middle East. In North Africa, the Berbers (a completely different people, with non-Arabic languages) have sometimes been confused with the Bedu. The Bedu way of life is now nearly extinct; Thesiger's book, which describes his travels with the Yamani Bedu of Southern Arabia, is the only careful account of Bedu culture and Bedu peoples I have ever come across. I know of no similarly illuminating study of the Qaysi Bedu of Northern Arabia, not even the works of T. E. Lawrence.
The historical importance of the Bedu in the Arab world is that on several occasions from the 8th century to the 20th century, Bedu tribesmen formed the core of armies that swept across the Middle East and/or North Africa. Invading Bedu armies overthrew decadent regimes in North Africa in the 13th century, and effectively destroyed Berber power on the North African coast. Bedu formed the core of the Arab armies that defeated the Turks in the First World War, and were the core of the army which Ibn Saud created that turned him from being a refugee into being the founder of Saudi Arabia as it is today. How did the small number of people who comprised the various Bedu tribes exercise such military power throughout the Arab World? Read "Arabian Sands" to understand this.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About the spirit of the land and the greatness of the Arabs, June 7, 2001
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
A book about "the spirit of the land and the greatness of the Arabs."
This is a must read for anyone interested in the tribal Arabs of the desert (southern Arabia). I had this book for many months until I got around to reading it and then I absolutely couldn't put it down. The excursions of Wilfred Thesiger (Umbarak) take place during the 1940s. Thesiger loved the Bedu tribes (Rashid)and he writes from the heart, which is why I think the text is so readable. You relive this phenominal experience with him. Thesiger never fit in with his own people of England. He couldn't bare to live amongst the materialistic culture he found in the western world and felt more akin with his Arab friends yet as a "Christian" he could never be one of them. His relationships with two of the Rashid in particular, bin Kabina and bin Ghabaisha and the love, admiration and loyalty he had for these two young men was very moving. Amazingly Thesiger survives many dangerous encounters while traveling in the desert with his Arab companions. How he ever survived some of these excursions is astonishing; between the lack of food, water, heat and cold exposure but mostly other hostile Arab tribes. His companions and he escape being killed by mere hours. By our western standards many people would think Thesiger's companions to ultimately be murderous and barbaric yet I have met very few westerners that held the same unbreakable code of honor that many of Thesiger's Arab companions lived by. Their generosity, faith in god, honor, dignity, strength and endurance is nothing short of amazing. They would give a stranger who stumbles upon their camp the last scrap of food and final cup of water even when starving in the desert for days. As a "westerner" reading this book I realized the immense differences in what we as a culture think is barbaric and immoral compared to these tribes of Arabia. Of course the ease at which they would kill between tribes to settle blood feuds and their "habit" of stealing camels was truly mind boggling when contrasted with their overwhelming personal ethics. As a female reader I didn't miss the lack of discussions about Arab women although I would have been very interested in the various tribal Arab woman's role as mother, wife and sister. What little I did find in the book about women sent chills up my spine. I do feel that female readers would enjoy this book none the less. Many readers will empathize with the author's sentiment as he writes about his dismay and disgust in the way the Western world has invaded the lands of these nomadic people with new mechanical inventions and infiltrated and ruined the unique beauty of this desert tribe (as well as many other indigenous tribes) which are now completely lost and irreplaceable.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars must-read for Middle East visitors, January 20, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
I had the opportunity to meet Sir Wilfred Thesiger while I was working in the United Arab Emirates. He had come to the city of Al-Ain to promote his book "My Kenya Days". He was about 85 years old at the time and his hearing was impaired. Yet when someone mentioned something about an incident he had written his eyes lit up and his voice got louder, and it was as if he had been taken back to the Empty Quarter amidst the camels and the bedus. I read Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs, (which was, in my opinion, better than Arabian Sands), after I met Thesiger, and I was moved to see a country that had changed so rapidly in such a short time. Thesiger is definitely anti-west, anti-development, anti-modern; he has lived a life that far few of us could ever imagine. I think he became anti-modern because of what wealth was doing to the Arabs and how it was eradicating vestiges of a culture that would be hard put to replace (I believe that there are currently one half of one percent of people who would classify themselves as Bedouins on the Arabian Peninsula) It is a kind of life that far few of us would want to live; going for days without water in the middle of nowhere; not bathing, not having any of the 'comforts' of life, it is hard to imagine doing what he did. Yet as I read Arabian Sands, and walked in parts of the desert around the U.A.E, I could hear, almost smell, the life Thesiger came to admire and the life that really he became for him one with the Bedu.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I craved for the past, resented the present, dreaded the future", June 30, 2005
By 
Richard Arant "Toun" (Lanesville, Indiana USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
A truly magnificent book, such an easy pleasure to read in comparison to Doughty's great but exhausting work, Travels in Arabia Deserta. The author is a man in the fine tradition of T.E. Lawrence, a man who resigned from the British Political Service in the Sudan to rejoin the service as a contract officer not eligible for pension on the understanding that he would only be asked to serve in the wilderness. He served in the S.A.S. in the Western Desert, but makes only one oblique mention of that mission in this text. See Thesiger's autobiography "The Life of My Choice" for the broader picture of this unique life.

Wilfred Thesiger writes, "I went there with a belief in my own racial superiority, but in their tents I felt like an uncouth, inarticulate barbarian, an intruder from a shoddy and materialistic world." I wonder how many men among us today would agree with Thesiger's deep belief that "even today there are experiences that do not need to be justified in terms of material profit."

One passage, if even remotely true, bodes ill for our crusade to spread democracy. "Arabs rule, but do not administer. Their government is intensely individualistic, and is successful or unsuccessful according to the degree of fear and respect which the ruler commands ... Focused on an individual life, their government is impermanent and liable to end in chaos at any moment ... To these tribesmen security can be bought too dearly by loss of individual freedom ... Here the evil that comes with sudden change far outweighs the good."

Wilfred Thesiger closes by writing that leaving the remote Bedu world with which he was obsessed, The Empty Quarter, was to him an exile. It was in the stimulating harshness of an empty land that he found satisfaction. When he began to lose courage in an "intolerable" state of thirst, hunger, and fear for his life, he asked himself, "Is there really anywhere else I would rather be?"

I have met one solitary Beduwi in my life, a man imprisoned, caught up in a great tragedy. I regret that I had not read Arabian Sands before that meeting. Not that I could have helped, but I would have understood that in his eyes I was a more pitiful creature than he, "for he was Bedu and Muslim, and I was neither."

I highly recommend "Fire and Sword in the Sudan" to anyone interested in anything Wilfred Thesiger has written. I sought out that memoir, written by an officer held captive in Sudan for 12 years, because of the new world which "Arabian Sands" opened to me.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Minor Masterpiece, November 17, 2001
By 
Thomas F. Ogara (Jacksonville, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
Thesiger stands in a long tradition of English who found the deserts of the Middle East hospitable. Wilberforce Clarke, Burton, Doughty, Lawrence, Glubb, Philby (Senior) - the list sometimes seems endless.
One is tempted to speculate that the Arab world brings out certain facets of the English character, and perhaps it is true. "Arabian Sands" is one of the best travel books ever written. The purported idea behind the book was a chronicle of crossing Al Rub' al Khali - The "Empty Quarter" of the Eastern Arabian peninsula, one of the most barren areas on earth. This central focus of the expedition, and the story, gradually pales as one reads on and the reader becomes caught up in Thesiger's relationship with his Bedouin companions.
The Bedouin are admittedly a fringe society in the Middle East. However, the values that their way of life represent have always been seen as having a central place in the Arab view of life, and Thesiger's obvious sympathy for his companions allows us to understand them as humans as few other western books can do. In this sense he resembles T.E. Lawrence, although he manages to tell his story in a lot less words than Lawrence did.
This book will stand the test of time as one of the best books in the English language on the Arabs, and it is a rewarding read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the adventure/hardship chronicles, January 12, 2003
By 
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
Having traversed the Antarctic with Shackleton, Scott, and Mawson, the Himalayas with Maurice Herzog and others, and the high seas on the doomed whaling ship, Essex, I can say that for non-fiction adventure, nothing beats Thesiger in the deserts of Arabia, before they were tamed by oil money.
Each page is gripping, whether Thesiger describes the desert environment itself, his own adventures, or the Bedu camel herders with whom he lives and travels. This last theme is the most important in the book, and Thesiger's 1940s travels uncover the ways and even the mind of these most Arab of Arabs as well as anyone can. Thesiger understands and praises the Bedu's better aspects, but is not blinded to their faults. He points out the differences among the ways, thought and even religious practices and tolerance of the desert tribes, and their even greater differences with Arab townsfolk.
Read it to understand the places we are sending our troops, or read it to be taken away completely from whatever troubles your urban or susburban psyche, but read Arabian Sands.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering my time in the East, October 14, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
I have not been to Arabia, but as an Archaeologist I worked with Arabs in Israel and Palestine and enjoyed their company greatly. Thesiger's book gives the reader an excellent introduction to the nobility of the majority of Arabs; their willingness to die defending a friend and traveling companion; and, their contradictory nature. To see the world of the Arabs in the era before Middle Eastern industrialization is a real treat not to be missed by anyone who enjoys visiting "vanished worlds."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As an Arab, I recommend this book of "understanding", July 21, 2006
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
I could not find a truer book that this one to describe us, the Arabs in the proper & correct way. The Arabic mentality is fully explained in this book. Although the incidents occurred more than fifty years ago, the true essence of Arab culture today is still mirror image of ancient times, which was described fully in this book.

As an Arab, I can attest to the author's success in understanding Arabs, although from time to time he confuses Islamic tradition with tribal traditions. For example, in one paragraph, the author describes the marriage process as if it's solely an Arab process, while in reality it is an Islamic process shared by every Muslim whether in Malaysia or in US.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an objective book, August 1, 2001
By 
Alya (Dubai, UAE) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) (Paperback)
i read so many books and novels about the Arabic world and people..i was trying to figure out how other nations look at us and what they know about our culture and people...but unfortunately..many writers wrote about the surface and didn't describe our culture deeply....and i guess i can say that this is the first book among the ones i read that describes this unique culture honestly.. although i agree with Wendy Kreitzer that it lacked the mentioning of women's role in the Bedu's life...but as an Arabic woman i can tell u Wendy that it was and is still a very great role...it is true that the world that Thesiger described in his book had nearly vanished....but many Bedu tribes are still there...maybe they don't have now to suffer and struggle as before....but they still have the same ethics and beliefs..some of them chose to change their way of life..but some were forced to
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library)
Arabian Sands: Revised Edition (Travel Library) by Wilfred Thesiger (Paperback - March 5, 1985)
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.