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Arabian Sands is Wilfred Thesiger's record of his extraordinary journey through the parched "Empty Quarter" of Arabia. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Thesiger was repulsed by the softness 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, traveling 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 East.
Sir Wilfred Thesiger was born in 1910 at the original British Legation - a collection of wattle-and-daub tukuls - in Addis Ababa, and spent his early years in Abyssinia. He was educated at Eton and Oxford and at the age of 20 attended the coronation of HIM Haile Selassie at the emperor's personal invitation. Three years later he made his first expedition into the country of the murderous Danakil tribe. He joined the Sudan political service in 1935 and served in the War in Abyssinia and the Middle East with Special Operations Executive and the Special Air Service under David Stirling.
The author of Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs and The Life of my Choice, he was a legend in his own lifetime but his character and motivations have remained an intriguing enigma. In this authorized biography--written with Thesiger’s support before he died in 2003 and with unique access to the rich Thesiger archive--Alexander Maitland investigates this fascinating figure’s family influences, his wartime experiences, his philosophy as a hunter and conservationist, his writing and photography, his friendships with Arabs and Africans amongst whom he lived, and his now-acknowledged homosexuality.
“Five thousand years of history were here and the pattern was still unchanged.” 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 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.
An anthology of writings and photographs celebrating the contribution of one of the country's most distinguished and enduring travel writers, and the century's greatest living explorer. At the age of 23, three years after attending the coronation of Haile Selassie, Thesiger made his first expedition into the country of the murderous Danakil tribe. Since then he has traversed the Empty Quarter twice, spending five years among the Bedu, followed by several years living as no Westerner had in the strange world of the Marshmen of Iraq. Later he made many mountain journeys in the awesome ranges of the Karakorams, the Hindu Kush, Ladakh and Chitral.
"Wilfred Thesiger's superb portraits of tribal peoples have earned him worldwide recognition as a photographer. Using a simple box camera which had belonged to his father, Thesiger began his photographic career during a short hunting trip in Ethiopia in 1930 and used the same camera to photograph hostile Danakil tribesmen when he returned three years later to explore the Awash river. Whilst in the Sudan, and now equipped with a Leica 35mm, Thesiger portrayed the Muslim tribes in Northern Darfur, pagan Nuer in the Western Nile swamps and Nuba wrestlers. Among Ethiopia's Danakil he had travelled as a European accompanied by servants, but here he lived increasingly on equal terms with his followers and his photography mirrors this changed attitude. The dramatic visual impact of Arabia's deserts fully awakened Thesiger's latent talent for portraiture and composition. During his five years in Arabia from 1945-50 he was able to depict his Bedu companions with a sensitivity and power only suggested by his pre-war photographs. Conceived in the harshest of settings, these Arabian pictures bear eloquent testimony to the inspirational effect the desert had upon this great traveller. In contrast, tranquil images of reeds, waterways and lagoons characterize Thesiger's matchless portraits of the Marsh Arabs of Iraq -- in which he captures a world which has now completely disappeared. In the seldom visited regions of Kurdistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan Thesiger took many photographs of their striking inhabitants who remained thoroughly unselfconscious in front of the camera -- as did the graceful tribespeople of northern Kenya and Tanzania later in Thesiger's eventful life. These unique portraits were all taken under exceptional conditions. Together they provide a magnificent pictorial record of diverse cultures and vanished worlds"--Publisher description.
As a child in Abyssinia he watched the glorious armies of Ras Tafari returning from hand-to-hand battle, their prisoners in chains; at the age of 23 he made his first expedition into the country of the Danakil, a murderous race among whom a man's status in the tribe depended on the number of men he had killed and castrated. His books, "Arabian Sands" and "The Marsh Arabs," tell of his two sojourns in the Empty Quarter and the Marshes of Southern Iraq. In this autobiography, Wilfred Thesiger highlights the people who most profoundly influenced him and the events which enabled him to lead the life of his choice.

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