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Arabian Sands Paperback – Jan 2 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (Jan. 2 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141442077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141442075
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #125,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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 MagazineGranta, 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.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you like true adventure (not fiction), have a spot in your heart for nature, different cultures and personal hardships and challenges with a goal of self improvement and introspection, then this book should be in your personal library. If you don't have the above, you will probably find the text slow and boring, and put the book down before the half way mark.
The author goes into some detail that is minutia, irrelevant, and tedious, and then all of a sudden, you find yourself re-reading the same few sentences several times in order to fully grasp the magnitude of what he just said. Amongst all the sand that he describes in the book, he'll also provide golden nuggets of insight into the human soul and spirit, and done so very elequently, just like an Oasis in the midst of a bleak desert. That is to say, it's worth the effort to get there.
This is not a book with a "plot". It's a personal account of an individuals travels with the Bedu. You can read into it Protagonists and Antagonists, but again, this is not a fictional work. Nonethless, you find yourself rooting for "Umbarak", as the author is called, and worrying about other Arabs who would kill him given the chance, and there are many chances and near misses.
Surprisingly, there are also bits and pieces of insight into the Arab world that help put into perspective some of the tensions we see today in the Middle East. While that is certainly not his intentions, he does touch on some things that are relevant today in respect to the Muslim attitudes towards Christians and Jews.
This is not a book that can be glossed over and read during TV commercials, on the bus, or while the kids are screaming up and down the hallways... you need to focus and concentrate, and if your heart yearns for nature and adventure, you'll find it well worth the effort.
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Format: Paperback
An extraordinary book, by an extraordinary man, about an extraordinary people - the desert arabs (Bedu) - before the outside world encroached on their way of life. Thesiger travelled through that inhospitable desert between the Yemen, Oman and the south of Saudi Arabia ('The Empty Quarter') in the 1940s, most of it then unmapped.
He account of exploring this unknown hostile territory, against a background of tribal raids and blood feuds and tensions where many tribes would have considered it an act of merit to kill the foreigner 'infidel', gives these travels an additional level of drama beyond the excitement of new exploration.
The harshness of the Bedu life amid the driven sands with its intense cold, heat, and blinding glare in a land without shade or cloud is the everpresent backdrop to these travels and adventures between scant and bitter wells. Sometimes travelling for up to 16 days between wells, death was often a palpable presence at the very edge of the camel's endurance.
The book is also a valuable anthropological log of these tribes, and their differing customs. The men is his party come alive in the sparse prose and a narrative pace as steady as the unfolding days. Thesiger's companions live in the anecdotes and black and white photographs. Listening to their talk the reader comes to love and admire those 'ships of the desert' (camels) for their patience and endurance and individuality, and to marvel at the simplicity and standards of honour of the Bedu tribes.
This is one of the truly great books of exploration. It is even more significant however as a journal of human encounter, and a unique and tenderly perceptive record of a people whose way of life, which had endured unchanged for 4000 years, was to become irrevocable changed by roads and the impact of oil exploration.
A book that educated Arabs give to Westeners to help them understand the Arabs. (That's where my copy came from). Contains a comprehensive index.
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Format: Paperback
When 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, more 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 more 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.
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