During the years he spent among the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq Wilfred Thesiger came to understand, admire and share a way of life that had endured for many centuries. Travelling from village to village by canoe, he won acceptance by dispensing medicines and treating the sick. In this account of his time there he pays tribute to the hospitality, loyalty, courage and endurance of the people, describes their impressive reed houses, the waterways and lakes teeming with wildlife, the herding of buffalo and hunting of wild boar, moments of tragedy and moments of pure comedy, all in vivid, engaging detail.
Untouched by the modern world until recently, these independent people, their way of life and their surroundings have suffered widespread destruction under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Wilfred Thesiger's magnificent account of his time spent among them is a moving testament to their now threatened culture and the landscape they inhabit.
In the spirit of T.E. Lawrence, Wilfred Thesiger spent five years wandering the deserts of Arabia, producing Arabian Sands, 'a memorial to a vanished past, a tribute to a once magnificent people'. The Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction by Rory Stewart.
Wilfred Thesiger, repulsed by what he saw as the softness and rigidity of Western life - 'the machines, the calling cards, the meticulously aligned streets' - spent years exploring in and around the vast, waterless desert that is the 'Empty Quarter' of Arabia. Travelling amongst the Bedu people, he experienced their everyday challenges of hunger and thirst, the trials of long marches beneath the relentless sun, the bitterly cold nights and the constant danger of death if it was discovered he was a Christian 'infidel'. He was the first European to visit most of the region, and just before he left the area the process that would change it forever had begun - the discovery of oil.
This edition contains an introduction by Rory Stewart discussing the dangers of Thesiger's travels, his unconventional personality and his insights into the Bedouin way of life.
Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger (1910-2003) was a British travel writer born in Addis Ababa in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). Thesiger is best known for two travel books: Arabian Sands (1959), which recounts his travels in the Empty Quarter of Arabia between 1945 and 1950 and describes the vanishing way of life of the Bedouins, and The Marsh Arabs (1964), an account of the traditional peoples who lived in the marshlands of southern Iraq.
If you enjoyed Arabian Sands, you might like T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, also available in Penguin Modern Classics
'Thesiger is perhaps the last, and certainly one of the greatest, of the British travellers among the Arabs'
'Following worthily in the tradition of Burton, Lawrence, Philby and Thomas, it is, very likely, the book about Arabia to end all books about Arabia'
Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger (1910–2003) was a British travel writer born in Addis Ababa in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). Thesiger is best known for two travel books: Arabian Sands (1959), which recounts his travels in the Empty Quarter of Arabia between 1945 and 1950 and describes the vanishing way of life of the Bedouins, and The Marsh Arabs (1964), an account of the traditional peoples who lived in the marshlands of southern Iraq.
Rory Stewart served briefly in the British Army and then as a diplomat in Jakarta and Montenegro. In August 2000 he resigned from the Foreign Office and began walking from Turkey towards Vietnam. His book about the walk, The Places In Between (2004), was a critically applauded account of his experiences in Afghanistan. His second book, The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq (2006), outlines his experiences as deputy governor of the Iraqi province of Maysan and Senior Advisor in the city of Nasiriyah shortly after coalition forces entered Iraq and describes his struggles to establish a functional government in these regions. Stewart has been awarded the OBE. Stewart currently lives in Kabul, Afghanistan.