- Series: Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (January 2, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141442077
- ISBN-13: 978-0141442075
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 105 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Arabian Sands (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 2, 2008
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"The narrative is vividly written, with a thousand little anecdotes and touches which bring back to any who have seen these countries every scene with the colour of real life." —The Sunday Times (London)
About the Author
Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003) was a British explorer and travel writer. He was born at Addis Ababa, Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). Educated at Eton and Oxford, he worked in the Sudan Political Service and and later, for a year, as a Political Officer for the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie. He is best known for two travel books: Arabian Sands (1959) and The Marsh Arabs (1964).
Rory Stewart (introducer) has written for the New York Times Magazine, Granta, and the London Review of Books, and is the author of The Places In Between and The Prince of the Marshes. A former fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire by the British government for services in Iraq.
Top customer reviews
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I read this book as I started departing from LAX and since the flight was over 27 hours with a stop in Paris and an over night, I finished it.
This man, Sir Wilfred Thesiger was remarkable and although only 29 years old, struck off into uncharted lands even the Bedu did not dare cross. He traveled and lived among the tribes of all the areas he charted and learned amazing things from the nations. Because of him today, we learned much about a peoples unknown to the western world. I often wondered what happened to him and since we did not have computers, there was little way to actually look for him. He seemed to have vanished. But on my second time living among the Emirates in the 1990's, they found him in a mud hut in Africa being cared for by an Ethiopian woman and he had satchels of film never processed from his trips in the 1940's! I own 2 of these unpublished photos of his journeys and had the amazing pleasure of meeting my idol at 90+ years old! I cherish my photo with him. He was a remarkable man who did much to bring us the very news about corners of the earth he was later to regret as it brought westernization to the quiet countries and people he adored.
Thesiger served as a foreign service officer in Sudan for a number of years as a young man before setting off on his 2 crossings of the empty quarter in southern Arabia. He notes the great abundance of wildlife in Sudan: herds of thousands of elephants, an abundance of lions (he shot 70 himself on hunting trips while stationed there). It's such a sad shame that it's almost all gone now after years of poaching, over-hunting, and civil war. Though apparently there has been some return of these animals on a much smaller scale with some degree of peace in South Sudan.
It's hard to imagine that a description of desert life--traveling with camels and how important they were to survival, the daily hardships and rituals of endurance that were just routine, the constant danger--would be fascinating, but it is.
Even though Thesiger's travels happened only about 60 years ago, they seem taken from a different era, a much different and wild time. It is, for example, jolting to read that slavery still very much exists in Arabia at this time. And the religious fundamentalism is striking too: for example, a Beduoin is taken aback when Thesiger tells him that in England they have weathermen who can tell you when it is going to rain; the Bedu think that is something only God knows and that it is blasphemy to say otherwise.
If you read this book, you should also catch the documentary about Thesiger on the Journey Pictures channel on YouTube. In it, you can hear him, shortly before his death, reflect on his life and adventures. The filmmakers also visit and interview Thesiger's Bedouin companions and contrast their past and contemporary lives. The juxtaposition and contrast is interesting to watch and ponder.