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Arabian Sands

Ss and rigidity of Western life the machines the calling cards the meticulously aligned streets In the spirit of T E Lawrence he set out to explore the deserts of Arabia travelin. Wilfred Thesiger was born a few centuries too late given his enterprising spirit and his thirst for the pristine lands untouched by human development His is the temperament and the dogged determination that had led men to reject the comfort of home and the perks of civilized society and prefer to sweat and toil in the harshest climates for no other reason that the maps showed a blank space in that region Empires were built by men like Thesiger driven by the need to claim to be the first to set foot on that mountain peak or that Southern Pole or that uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere It is also true that one of the less endearing characteristic of these British explorers is their ability to ignore the local populations that lived in those same places for millenia Only the European foot counted in their history books Wilfred Thesiger is the exception to the rule as his explorations were concerned almost as much with getting to know and becoming integrated with the local tribes as they were about the physical distances travelled I will get back to thisBy the time he finished his education 1930 s most of white spots on the maps had dissapeared with only the most forbidding lands still putting in a claim to virgin integity the summit of the Everest the Mariana Trench the ian jungles Thesiger set his sights on the desert A childhood spent in Abbysinia and a few years exploring the Sahara and the Horn of Africa prepared him for the biggest challenge of all Rub al Khali also known as the Empty uarter the most desolate land on the whole planet In Africa he learned how to spend a whole day perched on the high and uncomfortable saddle of a camel how to endure the heat and the thirst and the frozen nights how to speak Arabic the common language across the whole Muslim world Arabian Sands is the account of his five years between 1945 and 1950 spent crossing the Empty uarter in the traditional way guided by local Bedu tribesmen without mechanized transport or modern communication devices carrying all the water and the food on the back of camels For me exploration was a personal venture I did not go to the Arabian desert to collect plants nor to make a map such things were incidental At heart I knew that to write or even to talk of my travels was to tarnish the achievement I went there to find peace in the hardship of desert travel and the company of desert people No it is not the goal but the way there that matters and the harder the way the worth while the journey Because it exists sums up for me the argument regarding why Thesiger went to the desert at least according to his own account Left out of the narrative but rather obvious from the wiki page of he author is that his travels were most probably sponsored by the British Foreign Office who was interested in the possibilities of moving around the Arabian Peninsula in case of future conflicts and by the big oil companies who were beginning their involvmement in exploration and exploitation of the valuable resource I ll get back to the oil laterThe memoir is important to me for two reasons firstly Thesiger is not only a daring explorer but also a suprisingly articulate and lyrical writer I believe only St Exupery surpasses him when it comes to the spiritual joy the desert awakens in the a man who finds himself hundreds of miles away from the nearest inhabited land He has included in his present memoir not only the hardships of the travel and the dry enumeration of places and distances and weather reports but the history of the peninsula the way the climate and the economic issues had shaped the culture of the nomadic herders the political changes brought about by the liberation from the Ottoman Empire and the subseuent creation of national Arab states the balance between personal vendettas among the tribes and larger mmovements by the most powerful sheiks Last but not least Thesiger is a good photographer working well with black and white film to capture the desert landscape the pure bred camels the faces of the tribesmen and the cities on the coast Next morning while we were leading our camels down a steep dune face I was suddenly conscious of a low vibrant hum which grew in volume until it sounded as though an aeroplane were flying low over our heads The frightened camels plunged about tugging at their head ropes and looking back at the slope above us The sound ceased when we reached the bottom This was he singing of the sands The Arabs describe it as a roaring which is perhaps a descriptive word During the five years that I was in these parts I only heard it half a dozen times It is caused I think by one layer of sand slipping over another secondly the world depicted in the book is one on the verge of extinction By going native dressing in local garb speaking the local dialect sharing the work the food and the campfire with his Bedu guides Thesiger has imersed himself completely in a culture that was already under attack from sheiks cracking down on raiders who got their wealth from attacking caravans or stealing other tribes camels from the extended draught that reduced drastically the areas of pasture in the desert from outside money pouring in that made the camel based economy travel milk meat bankrupt I don t know if the author showed amazing powers of clairvoyance or he simply put in the text written some 10 years after the journeys later information about the effect of petrodollars pouring in and drastically changing the Gulf states social order but he predicted the marginalization and the destitution of the nomads lifestyle that had endured unchanged for millenia I realized that the Bedu with whom I had lived and travelled and in whose company I had found contentment were doomed Some people maintain that they will be better off when they have exchanged the hardship and poverty of the desert for the security of a materialistic world This I do not believe I shall always remember how often I was humbled by those illiterate herdsmen who possessed in so much greater measure than I generosity and courage endurance patience and lighthearted gallantry Among no other people have I ever felt the same sense of personal inferiority There is something of the outdated noble savage Romantic outlook I m thinking of Feni Cooper and the last of the Mohicans in the above uote but the arguments Thesiger brings in support of his thesis are convincing and often heartbreaking Most of the remaining bookmarks I have from the memoir deal not so much with the beauty of the desert but with the respect and the admiration of the author for the integrity the endurance and the hospitality of his companions on the journey I would encourage any reader who wants to really understand the culture of the Gulf Arabs the importance of religion of traditions and of family ties to pick up the book and read it before applying the usual labels of religious fanaticism and blind hatredThesiger doesn t try to lionize the Bedu He is one of the first to admit that their culture is a violent one that their temperament is fiery and suspicious of strangers that they are prideful uick to anger and unforgiving to their enemies The highest respect around the campfire is for the famous raiders who laugh in the face of death After a pause he said By God he was a man He knew how to fight I thought he would kill us all He told us that in this raid the Mishas had killed fourteen Yam and captured a hundred and thirty camels and that nine Mishas had been killed But the same people are uneual in the world when it comes to loyalty generosity integrity A Bedu would give the shirt on his back to another man just because he thinks the other needs it than him he would cut down a camel for visitors and feed them even if he knows he may starve in the next weeks he would never turn away a traveller from his campfire at night The nomads would chat all day about their favorite camel would laugh and joke about their empty waterskins and rice bags would burst into song when you least expect it God endures foreverThe life of man is shortThe Pleiades are overheadThe Moon s among the stars Thesiger finds peace and contenment and spiritual solace among some of the poorest people in the world He looks at his civilized compatriots with a critical eye for taking life for granted and feels at home shivering under a thin blanket with an empty stomach and lips parched by thirst I wondered why people ever cluttered up their rooms with furniture for this bare simplicity seemed to me infinitely preferable I had everything that I could want food shelter and good company after long days upon the road and in another place Here life moved in time with the past These people still valued leisure and courtesy and conversation They did not live their lives at second hand dependent on cinema and wireless He finds praise even for the style of leadership in the tribes A Bedu sheikh has no paid retainers on whom he can rely to carry out his orders He is merely the first among euals in a society where every man is intensely independent and uick to resent any hint of autocracy His authority depends in consuence on the force of his own personality and on his skill in handling men His position in the tribe in fact resembles that of a chairman of a committee meeting Not all of the the pages in the book deal with the Empty uarter In between forays into the sand dunes salt marshes and rubble plains Thesiger spends some time in cities and accomodating places I ve been to one of them myself on a day trip by car Taif in Saudi Arabia is a mountain town where they have now some very good farms and orchards and even some tourist attractions The land is less arrid than usual for the region and the people are still hospitable and talkative The other place I recognized is Abu Dhabi but the town of today has little similarity withthe one in the book We stayed for twenty days in Abu Dhabi a small town of about two thousand inhabitants Each morning the Sheikhs visited us walking slowly across from he castle Shakhbut a stately figure in a black cloak a little ahead of his brothers followed by a throng of armed retainers we talked for an hour or drinking coffee and eating sweets and after they had left us we visited the market where we sat cross legged in the small shops gossipping and drinking coffee or we wandered along the beach and watched the dhows being caulked and treated with shark oil to prepare them for the pearling season the children bathing in the surf and the fishermen landing their catch It s probably non debatable that affluence brought by oil has improved the lifestyle of most of the people in the region but I can t help being nostalgic and sad about the loss of cultural diversity and the preponderence of materialistic considerations in today s world The last picture is one I took on my return from Taif The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok calling My Name Was Judas centuries too late given his enterprising spirit and his thirst for the pristine lands untouched by human development His is the temperament and the dogged determination that had led men to reject the Morbo comfort of home and the perks of Natural Language Learning civilized society and prefer to sweat and toil in the harshest In Passion and Blood (Drone Vampire Chronicles, climates for no other reason that the maps showed a blank space in that region Empires were built by men like Thesiger driven by the need to Enslaved By Blood (Drone Vampire Chronicles, claim to be the first to set foot on that mountain peak or that Southern Pole or that uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere It is also true that one of the less endearing Kognitywno-komunikacyjna teoria przekładu characteristic of these British explorers is their ability to ignore the local populations that lived in those same places for millenia Only the European foot Information Management counted in their history books Wilfred Thesiger is the exception to the rule as his explorations were The Pink House claim to virgin integity the summit of the Everest the Mariana Trench the ian jungles Thesiger set his sights on the desert A The Adventures of Prince Larry (Book 1) childhood spent in Abbysinia and a few years exploring the Sahara and the Horn of Africa prepared him for the biggest Stargate Atlantis challenge of all Rub al Khali also known as the Empty uarter the most desolate land on the whole planet In Africa he learned how to spend a whole day perched on the high and uncomfortable saddle of a Damned Lies and Statistics camel how to endure the heat and the thirst and the frozen nights how to speak Arabic the Lancastrian Kings & Lollard Knights common language across the whole Muslim world Arabian Sands is the account of his five years between 1945 and 1950 spent Unmasking Maya crossing the Empty uarter in the traditional way guided by local Bedu tribesmen without mechanized transport or modern Time and Sacrifice in the Aztec Cosmos communication devices Because of You (Because of You, carrying all the water and the food on the back of The Warmth Dimension camels For me exploration was a personal venture I did not go to the Arabian desert to The Science of Enlightenment collect plants nor to make a map such things were incidental At heart I knew that to write or even to talk of my travels was to tarnish the achievement I went there to find peace in the hardship of desert travel and the Freud by płakał case of future Little Wolf’s Big Book of Badness and Daring Deeds conflicts and by the big oil Zrób mi jakąś krzywdę... czyli wszystkie gry video są o miłości companies who were beginning their involvmement in exploration and exploitation of the valuable resource I ll get back to the oil laterThe memoir is important to me for two reasons firstly Thesiger is not only a daring explorer but also a suprisingly articulate and lyrical writer I believe only St Exupery surpasses him when it Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2011 (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, comes to the spiritual joy the desert awakens in the a man who finds himself hundreds of miles away from the nearest inhabited land He has included in his present memoir not only the hardships of the travel and the dry enumeration of places and distances and weather reports but the history of the peninsula the way the Shadows Messenger (Aileen Travers, climate and the economic issues had shaped the Język filmu culture of the nomadic herders the political The Throne of Glass Coloring Book creation of national Arab states the balance between personal vendettas among the tribes and larger mmovements by the most powerful sheiks Last but not least Thesiger is a good photographer working well with black and white film to The Axis of Eros capture the desert landscape the pure bred My Wifes Story camels the faces of the tribesmen and the Learn to Cell phone Repair cities on the Shop Smart, Save More coast Next morning while we were leading our Przystań Eskulapa camels down a steep dune face I was suddenly 100 Myths about the Middle East conscious of a low vibrant hum which grew in volume until it sounded as though an aeroplane were flying low over our heads The frightened Modlitwa do Boga złego camels plunged about tugging at their head ropes and looking back at the slope above us The sound Three For The Bank Job (By The Numbers, ceased when we reached the bottom This was he singing of the sands The Arabs describe it as a roaring which is perhaps a descriptive word During the five years that I was in these parts I only heard it half a dozen times It is Breeding Stock caused I think by one layer of sand slipping over another secondly the world depicted in the book is one on the verge of extinction By going native dressing in local garb speaking the local dialect sharing the work the food and the Rafurin Ice Cream campfire with his Bedu guides Thesiger has imersed himself Bogowie zeszli z Olimpu completely in a Kestrels Talon (The Stonewatchers, culture that was already under attack from sheiks الشعر رفيقي cracking down on raiders who got their wealth from attacking Code Word Storm (ACRO, caravans or stealing other tribes The Future of Men camels from the extended draught that reduced drastically the areas of pasture in the desert from outside money pouring in that made the Albumy Labiryntu camel based economy travel milk meat bankrupt I don t know if the author showed amazing powers of Physics Problems for Aspiring Physical Scientists and Engineers clairvoyance or he simply put in the text written some 10 years after the journeys later information about the effect of petrodollars pouring in and drastically Susanita in the Big City company I had found The Dance of Time (Belisarius, contentment were doomed Some people maintain that they will be better off when they have exchanged the hardship and poverty of the desert for the security of a materialistic world This I do not believe I shall always remember how often I was humbled by those illiterate herdsmen who possessed in so much greater measure than I generosity and Ludwik Andegaweński i jego czasy convincing and often heartbreaking Most of the remaining bookmarks I have from the memoir deal not so much with the beauty of the desert but with the respect and the admiration of the author for the integrity the endurance and the hospitality of his Message Queueing with RabbitMQ Succinctly companions on the journey I would encourage any reader who wants to really understand the Debriefing culture of the Gulf Arabs the importance of religion of traditions and of family ties to pick up the book and read it before applying the usual labels of religious fanaticism and blind hatredThesiger doesn t try to lionize the Bedu He is one of the first to admit that their Essential Oils (Essential Oils And Aromatherapy Book 1) culture is a violent one that their temperament is fiery and suspicious of strangers that they are prideful uick to anger and unforgiving to their enemies The highest respect around the The Serpent's Shadow (Elemental Masters) campfire is for the famous raiders who laugh in the face of death After a pause he said By God he was a man He knew how to fight I thought he would kill us all He told us that in this raid the Mishas had killed fourteen Yam and Considering Emotions in Critical English Language Teaching captured a hundred and thirty The Tudors camels and that nine Mishas had been killed But the same people are uneual in the world when it Zawsze Fragment. Recycling comes to loyalty generosity integrity A Bedu would give the shirt on his back to another man just because he thinks the other needs it than him he would Trading Chaos cut down a Indiana Jones et la cité de la foudre camel for visitors and feed them even if he knows he may starve in the next weeks he would never turn away a traveller from his Empress of the World campfire at night The nomads would Prince Claimed (Thresl Chronicles chat all day about their favorite The Incredible Secrets of Mustard camel would laugh and joke about their empty waterskins and rice bags would burst into song when you least expect it God endures foreverThe life of man is shortThe Pleiades are overheadThe Moon s among the stars Thesiger finds peace and I ty zostaniesz Indianinem contenment and spiritual solace among some of the poorest people in the world He looks at his Bukareszt. Kurz i krew civilized Roxana and Alexander compatriots with a Penthouse Prince (Billionaire Dynasties, critical eye for taking life for granted and feels at home shivering under a thin blanket with an empty stomach and lips parched by thirst I wondered why people ever Na Zagubionem cluttered up their rooms with furniture for this bare simplicity seemed to me infinitely preferable I had everything that I Innocence (Evagardian, could want food shelter and good My Life, My Loves company after long days upon the road and in another place Here life moved in time with the past These people still valued leisure and Kultury Czarnej Afryki courtesy and Fever conversation They did not live their lives at second hand dependent on Toltec Dreamer cinema and wireless He finds praise even for the style of leadership in the tribes A Bedu sheikh has no paid retainers on whom he Prague in the Shadow of the Swastika can rely to Дневник на Учителя Беинса Дуно carry out his orders He is merely the first among euals in a society where every man is intensely independent and uick to resent any hint of autocracy His authority depends in Capote consuence on the force of his own personality and on his skill in handling men His position in the tribe in fact resembles that of a Mała książka o tolerancji chairman of a After Dark committee meeting Not all of the the pages in the book deal with the Empty uarter In between forays into the sand dunes salt marshes and rubble plains Thesiger spends some time in After Dark cities and accomodating places I ve been to one of them myself on a day trip by The Bluest Eyes in Texas car Taif in Saudi Arabia is a mountain town where they have now some very good farms and orchards and even some tourist attractions The land is less arrid than usual for the region and the people are still hospitable and talkative The other place I recognized is Abu Dhabi but the town of today has little similarity withthe one in the book We stayed for twenty days in Abu Dhabi a small town of about two thousand inhabitants Each morning the Sheikhs visited us walking slowly across from he Hep Kavgaydı Yaşamım (2. Cilt) castle Shakhbut a stately figure in a black Toreador (Vampire: The Masquerade: Clan Novel, cloak a little ahead of his brothers followed by a throng of armed retainers we talked for an hour or drinking Clan Novel Saga, Volume 3 coffee and eating sweets and after they had left us we visited the market where we sat Jamie (Whitedell Pride, cross legged in the small shops gossipping and drinking Noah (Gillham Pack, coffee or we wandered along the beach and watched the dhows being Joanna Szalona. Tragiczne życie w niespokojnych czasach. caulked and treated with shark oil to prepare them for the pearling season the The Statue Within children bathing in the surf and the fishermen landing their Castorp catch It s probably non debatable that affluence brought by oil has improved the lifestyle of most of the people in the region but I Visual Finance: The One Page Visual Model to Understand Financial Statements and Make Better Business Decisions can t help being nostalgic and sad about the loss of The Cowboy and the Cossack cultural diversity and the preponderence of materialistic The Cowboy and the Cossack considerations in today s world The last picture is one I took on my return from Taif

Characters Arabian Sands

G among peoples who had never seen a European and considered it their duty to kill Christian infidels His now classic account is invaluable to understanding the modern Middle Eas. The Last of the Barefoot ExplorersWhen I was a kid I dreamt of being an explorer Never mind that I had never been out of New England and had no possibility of doing so Discovering new lands and peoples seemed such a great job What I couldn t figure out was how you got BE an explorer What did you take a course someplace Once in talking of other things my father happened to remark that there must have been parts of the Maine woods where nobody had ever set foot I don t think he was considering the Indians Yes I thought first I would explore Maine and then maybe some other distant lands As I grew older I realized the awful truth Unless you wanted to freeze in Antarctica dangle from icy rocks on a few mountains or chop your way through insect ridden steamy jungles there were no places left to explore I was a slide rule in a computer age Ah well Wilfred Thesiger was born in fortunate circumstances for an exploring life His father was not a small businessman in New England but the British ambassador to Ethiopia in the days when all parts of that country had not been visited by Westerners The first part of ARABIAN SANDS describes the author s adventures travelling in wilder parts of Ethiopia After Middle Eastern service in Sudan and elsewhere during WW II Thesiger signed on as a locust hunter in the Arabian Peninsula trying to locate the then unknown breeding grounds for the dreaded insect He did it purely to be able to travel through the most unknown parts of the region the Rub al Khali or the Sands Oman the Hadhramaut and the southern reaches of Saudi Arabia He travelled with small groups of Bedu Bedouin on camelback always barefoot and dressed in Arab clothing He faced thirst hunger cold the risk of serious accident arrest by Saudi and Omani authorities and death at the hands of raiding tribesmen With no available maps Thesiger relied completely on the guiding skills of various Bedu whom he hired He had no radio no global positioning whatevers and no chance of a helicopter rescue ARABIAN SANDS tells the story of Thesiger s travels in the Arabian deserts in the years 1945 1950 before Big Oil changed the lives of everybody there An interesting pair of books to read to get an idea of the old world and how it changed would be this one plus Abdelrahman Munif s novel Cities of Salt Thesiger hated modernization and cities and would have preferred that the Bedu remain in their poverty but in a state of desert purity I feel that he romanticized the Bedu and the desert environment to an extreme because of his own character Nevertheless his descriptions of Bedu life their culture and behavior are fascinating as are many of the events that took place over the course of his long travels If you are at all interested in that part of the world or in adventurous travels before the world became entrapped in visas and metal detectors you must read this one

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Arabian Sands is Wilfred Thesiger's record of his extraordinary journey through the parched Empty uarter of Arabia Educated at Eton and Oxford Thesiger was repulsed by the softne. I like to browse through my books on a Sunday morning for some strange reason and came across this book that I read when I was working in Saudi Arabia and as I had also met the bedouin and taken tea with them I was interested to hear about Thesiger s travels in that country It s such an interesting study of the Saudi culture by a travel writer and also an explorer such as Thesiger and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Middle EastIt s also good to see that this book is still so readily available I couldn t see it on Kindle but Penguin issued it in paperback as part of their Penguin classics series in 2008Classics like this are such a joy to read


About the Author: Wilfred Thesiger

Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger KBE DSO MA DLitt FRAS FRSL FRGS FBA was a British explorer and travel writer born in Addis Ababa the capital of EthiopiaThesiger was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College Oxford University where he took a third in history Between and Thesiger represented Oxford at boxing and later became captain of the Oxford boxing teamIn .



10 thoughts on “Arabian Sands

  1. says:

    It was at school that we were given an excerpt of Arabian Sands to read a passage detailing the peoples who had lurked on the fringes of Arabi

  2. says:

    I like to browse through my books on a Sunday morning for some strange reason and came across this book that I read when I was working in Saudi Arabia and as I had also met the bedouin and taken tea with them I wa

  3. says:

    “There was a very lovely girl working with the others on the well Her hair was braided except where it was cut in a fringe across her forehead and fell in a curtain of small plaits round her neck She wore various silver ornaments and several necklaces some of large cornelians others of small white beads Round her waist she had half a dozen silver chains and above them her sleeveless blue tunic gaped open to show sma

  4. says:

    Wilfred Thesiger was born a few centuries too late given his enterprising spirit and his thirst for the pristine lands untouched by human development His is the temperament and the dogged determination that had led men to reject the comfort of home and the perks of civilized society and prefer to sweat and toil in the harshest climates for no other reason that the maps showed a blank space in that region Empires were built by men

  5. says:

    When I first came across this book in the library I was unsuspecting of the journey it would take me on but I find

  6. says:

    The Arabist Tradition of Wildred Thesiger “In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a l

  7. says:

    Thesiger’s book is about a time right after many people thought most of the great adventures had already been had and right before

  8. says:

    The Last of the Barefoot ExplorersWhen I was a kid I dreamt of being an explorer Never mind that I had never been out of New Englan

  9. says:

    Before I start I have to declare I was pretty apprehensive about this book and it sat on my shelves for a long time I am a big Thesiger fan and his books are excellent and I find myself limiting my reading of them to one a year I was concerned

  10. says:

    I love travelogues but this one took a while for me to get into Obviously I am not that interested in the arid sandy deserts or in the lives of the people who live there But Thesiger draws me into his story gradually His respect for the people who guided him around the Sands at the height of colonialism his acceptance of c

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