Arabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger (1959) (1st ed)


Arabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger (1959) (1st ed)


A classic of travel literature, in which Thesiger crosses Arabia’s Empty Quarter with bedouins.

Title: Arabian Sands

Author: Wilfred Thesiger

Publisher: E. P. Dutton, New York, 1959. Stated first edition. Published the same year as the UK edition.

Condition: Hardcover, library rebind. Reading copy only. Looks to be an ex-library book with the library markings removed – there is some residue on the endpapers. Map at the back torn out and is absent. Tanning to edges and slight foxing to pages. A few annotations to text. With black-and-white photographs. 326pp., 9″x6″.

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About the book (from Wikipedia):

Arabian Sands is a 1959 book by explorer and travel writer Wilfred Thesiger. The book focuses on the author’s travels across the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula between 1945 and 1950. It attempted to capture the lives of the Bedu people and other inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula. It is considered a classic of travel literature.

The book largely reflects on the changes and large scale development that took place after the Second World War and the subsequent gradual erosion of traditional Bedouin ways of life that had previously existed unaltered for thousands of years.

About Wilfred Thesiger (from Wikipedia):

Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger KBE, DSO, FRAS, FRSL, FRGS, HonFBA (3 June 1910 – 24 August 2003), was a British military officer, explorer, and writer.

Thesiger’s travel books include Arabian Sands (1959), on his foot and camel crossing of the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula, and The Marsh Arabs (1964), on his time living with the Marsh Arabs of Iraq.

After the Second World War, Thesiger travelled across Arabia, lived for some years in the marshes of Iraq, and then travelled in Iran, Kurdistan, French West Africa and Pakistan. He lived for many years in northern Kenya.

He is remembered for his Arabian expeditions. In 1945, an entomologist, O.B. Lean, acting on behalf of the Middle East Anti Locust Unit (MEALU), hired Thesiger to search for locust breeding grounds in southern Arabia. This led to two crossings of the great Arabian desert, the Rub’ al Khali or Empty Quarter, and travels in inner Oman. He rode camels in the company of Bedu guides through remote areas that were potentially dangerous on account of tribal tensions and the opposition of local rulers to the presence of foreigners. His first camel expedition began in Salala (Oman) on 13.10.1945 and ended in Tarim (Yemen) on 22.02.1946.

Thesiger’s first large desert crossing began in October 1946 when, with his Bedouin companions, he left Salalah in the Dhofar province of Oman and travelled to the Mughshin Oasis. From there, he entered the sands but there was dissent among his party, some of whom were unwilling to travel any farther. Thesiger continued with four members, two from the Rashid and two from the Bait Kathir tribes. He reached the Liwa Oasis in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in mid-December, visited the town of Abu Dhabi, then crossed into Oman, heading back towards Salalah via Dhofar and ending his journey at Salalah on 23 February 1947.

His second crossing began in December 1947, at Manwakh well in Yemen. The king of Saudi Arabia did not agree to Thesiger entering his territory, and imprisoned Thesiger and his party when they arrived at Sulayil. Soon released, they travelled to the Liwa Oasis and then to Abu Dhabi town, arriving on 14 March 1948. In April, Thesiger visited the Buraimi Oasis, for which the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) held an oil concession, which it operated through an associate company, Petroleum Development Oman. Dick Bird, the company’s representative, was concerned by Thesiger’s attitude towards oil exploration. Thesiger disapproved of the company’s activities, believing that the discovery of oil would destroy the Bedouin way of life. However, the need to finance his expeditions led the explorer to accept funding from the oil company in exchange for providing information garnered from his travels.

Thesiger returned to England in the 1990s and was knighted in 1995.