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4,6 von 5 Sternen
4,6 von 5 Sternen
Arabian Sands (Penguin Classics)
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am 1. August 2008
In Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger describes his crossing of the Empty Quater (1946-48), the largest sand desert in the world, located in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman. He travelled their by foot, with a small band of Bedouins. They were exposed not only to extrem physical hardship, but also to several warring tribes who declared to kill the "infidel" in their country. It is difficult to understand how someone can find pleasure in such a journey.

Wilfred Thesiger himself recounted his motives as followed, "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. I set myself a goal on these journeys, and, although the goal itself was unimportant, its attainment had to be worth every effort and sacrifice[...] Everyone knew that there was nothing to be found on the top of Everest, but even in this materialistic age few people asked, "What point is there in climbing Everest? What good will it do anyone when they get there" They recognized that even today there are experiences that do not need to be justified in terms of material profit. No, it is not the goal but the way there that matters, and the harder the way the more worth while the journey. Who, after all, would dispute that it is more satisfying to climb to the top of a mountain than to go there in a funicular railway? Perhaps this was one reason why I resented modern inventions; they made the road too easy."

And during the whole journey he praises the desert and the Bedouins, for example, "In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by posessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance. I had found, too, a comradeship inherent in the circumstances, and the belief that tranquillity was to be found there. I had learnt the satisfaction which comes from hardship and the pleasure which springs from abstinence: the contentement of a full belly; the richness of meat; the taste of clean water; the ecstasy of surrender when the craving for sleep becomes a torment; the warmth of a fire in the chill of dawn."

And not to forget Thesiger got to know the famous hospitality of the Arabs saying, "I went their with a belief in my own racial superiority, but in their tents I felt like an uncouth, inarticulate barbarian, an intruder from a shoddy and materialistic world. Yet from them I learnt how welcoming are the Arabs and how generous is their hospitality."

Wilfred Thesiger clearly understood that the traditional way of life of the Arabs was close to its end when he noted, "Here in the desert I had found all that I asked; I knew that I should never find it again. But it was not only this personal sorrow that distressed me. 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."

The whole book is a declaration of love for the desert and its inhabitants. When he wanders there I get the impression he searches for the lost paradies; and the Bedounis will take him there.
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am 1. März 2009
What a challenge! Living for years among the Arabs of old. Thesiger was one of the few westerners who made the experience. And he seems to be the last one who can claim to have lived as an Arabian nomadic tribesman. In our days it is difficult to find an opportunity to repeat such a feat as there are hardly any nomads left who give you the unspoiled experience. What kind of difficulties the author must have faced when travelling through the ever hot endless sand dunes of the Empty Quarter, can be very well suspected by anybody who travel on a camels back for just a few days through a sand desert and got exhausted by it.
The narrative is much more than just a travel report. It contains many anecdotes of a real nomad`s life in the deserts. But much more than this it is an ode about and to the Arabs, it is indeed all about the Arabs, the Sand is nothing more than a staffage.
No doubt the author is an adventurer par excellence but I have a problem with him which other readers might share. He is just relating what he lives for, he is an observer, interesting enough, but where are the more sophisticated observations? It is not fair to claim from all great voyagers to be an Alexander von Humboldt who puts travel in and gets a depiction of cosmos out. But going through an "Empty Quarter" of southern Arabian sand deserts without emptying to a remarkable extent the never filling quarters of the human mind, is -sometimes - tiring on the long run.
No, Thesiger is not a philosopher, he has no "wisdom" to offer, except to let the peoples live their traditional lives, whether they include killing out of revenge or insult or treating women in the Allah`s angel given method or whatever.
Thesiger is not very critical with the Arabs; he admired them. "I knew the essential decency which was the bed-rock of their character, their humour, stubbornness, and self-reliance. I knew that if called upon they could adapt themselves to any kind of life, in the desert, in the jungle, in mountains, or on the sea, and that in many respects no race in the world was equal." Which is true for any race. So Thesiger was a racist? No, he is not constantly over-stressing romanticism. He is of the kind, I presume, who would have emphasised the preferences of any human tribe.
Thesiger seemed to have himself such qualities he praised of his chosen customers, no wonder that he got along with the Arabs. He was just lucky not to fall victim of any representative of Arabs who assault, kill and forget to ask afterwards for the merits. Of course Thesiger is not blind to this: "Always reserved in front of strangers and accustomed on formal occasions to sit for hours motionless and in silence, they are a garrulous. Light hearted race. But at the instigation of religious zealots, they can become uncompromisingly puritanical, quick to frown on all amusement, regarding song and music as a sin and laughter as unseemly. Probably no other people, either as a race or as individuals, combine so many conflicting qualities in such an extreme degree."
Everybody who wants to get acquainted with the real Arabs, as we would like to have them, should read this book. And sweep the sand away with an iced drink!
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am 3. Oktober 2015
The author, Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003), has given the world with this book, that was first published in 1959, a rare insight of the Bedu and the tribal life in the Arabian desert.
Thesiger was one of the first travelers that explored a great part of the Arabian desert, some parts unknown before to the western world. During a time where the desert was ruled by tribes in constant war with each other, in a time where raids where a constant occurrence, in a time where nomads where still nomads - born free, living free, the author traveled with them, always by food or on camel, always completely adopting to the nomad style of life. While he was living and traveling with his companions, mostly from the Rashid tribe, he became insight into their culture, customs, and thinking, like probably nobody else.
Now, 70 years later, what is left from these proud nomad tribes? So many of them have moved to cities, that this book reads almost like a fairy tale, a story about a world almost dead. A story about a culture that survived hundred of years of sand storms, droughts, hunger and thirst, incredible hardships, but a one point slowly could not withstand the seduction of money and modernity.
It is a wonderful, wonderful book that is an absolute joy to read.
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am 23. November 2000
Wilfred Thesiger described himself once as " the last explorer in the old fashion " . This is actually true. Only by the help of aims which were the same a thosand years ago did he accomplish to cross the so called " Empty Quarter " the great sand desert of South Arabia. His book concentrates on an exhaustive description of the natural landscape as well as on his deep sympathy and admiration for the natives- the Bedus. The prose of the account is as plain as the surroundings but nevertheless overwhelming. He allows the reader to get an insight into a world, which was with the oil-boom uncontrovertibly lost. For everybody who dreams of, or is even planning to visit Arabia or the desert, this book offers first-hand information on the "true " character of the desert. Thesiger is not too much known but he is certainly to judge among the most important explorers of the 20th century. Read it !!!!
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am 29. März 2016
Die beeindruckenden Durchquerungen der grössten Sandwüsten der Welt. Wilfred Thesiger hat dieses Gebiet bereist kurz bevor Öl entdeckt und die Kultur der einheimischen Bevölkerung nachhaltig verändert wurde. Ein faszinierender Einblick in eine andere Welt, eine andere Kultur. Geschrieben in einer offenen Art, offen gegenüber den Unterschieden die es gibt. In schnörkellosem Englisch verfasst. Eine klare Empfehlung.
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am 26. April 1997
In this
slender book Thesiger recounts several of his journeys though the Peninsula including the two crossings of the vast deserts of
the Rub-al-Kahli. A fascinating tale, this book not only manages to skillfully capture our attention about a bleak and desolate
region of the world, but it also brings our attention to the people who live in these lands. Inhabited by fierce, fanatical, and aggressive
war-like tribes, the feat that Thesiger managed to achieve -- that of cris-crossing this bleak region -- is further accented by the fact the he
was Christian traveling through a fundamentally lawless region ruled by a series of very suspicious and ruthless sheiks. Add to this that
Thesiger was a Christian, and you can appreciate the great efforts he took to disguise himself and use elaborate cover stories.

Thesiger spent many months travelling with the Bedu and over time became accepted as one of them among the tribes. Along with
Marsh Arabs and the first part of his autobiography, My Life, My Choice, he paints what is best described as a human but often
sterotypical picture of the Arab world. While he is quick to dismiss many of the myths associated with the Arabs, he still uses the
harshness of the desert to keep impressing upon you the hardships and the bleakness of the terrain and how he still manages to survive
it all despite terrible and grating thrist.
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am 11. Dezember 1998
Thesiger's background and his detestation of the modern world (just after the end of the Second World War) made him uniquely suited to live and travel with the Bedu. It is astonishing that so few Westerners should have traveled to some of the places that Thesiger visited, until one reads of the difficulties that he had to overcome. I found his book to be a thoroughly enjoyable description of a fascinating people and an intruiging part of the world.
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am 23. Januar 2014
Man merkt sofort, dass der Autor kein Schriftsteller, sondern Abenteurer ist. Was er schreibt ist wirklich interessant, aber so trocken und ohne jeglichen Witz und Spannungsbogen beschrieben, dass man kämpfen muss dran zu bleiben.
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am 10. August 1999
What an interesting book! I even dreamt about it. Before this book I had never imagined feeling compelled to visit a desert! Now my only regret is that the World that Thesiger describes has vanished!
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am 1. September 1998
Wilfred Thesiger spends 5 years in the desert of Arabia in the company of the Bedu. This book is very well written and gives us a glance into a life that doesn't exist anymore. The Marsh Arabs is equally interesting, A life of my choice a little bit less. If you like Thesiger try also The lost world of the Kalahari by Laurens van der Post.
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