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Wilfred Thesiger Books

Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger (1910 – 2003) was a British military officer, explorer and writer. He served during the war with the SAS and was awarded the DSO. He travelled in Southern Arabia, Kurdistan, Iraq, the Hindu Kush, the Karakorams, Morocco, Abyssinia, Kenya and Tanganyika. The Danakil journeys were Thesiger's first major expeditions.

Wilfred Thesiger
Wilfred Thesiger

The Danakil Diary: Journeys Through Abyssinia, 1930-34

The Danakil Diary: Journeys Through Abyssinia, 1930-34 by Wilfred Thesiger (1996) is the account from the author's diary of 2 journeys in the hostile Danakil desert of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, in 1930s. The first journey was spent hunting alone in the desert. The second expedition, three years later, was to explore the Awash river, following the river course to its end in the Aussa oasis. He was the first European to travel through the fabled Sultanate of Aussa, a land where two Italian expeditions and an Egyptian army had previously been wiped out by Danakil tribesmen. He always regarded this expedition as the most dangerous he ever undertook, surviving the constant threat of death and mutilation by the Danakil warriors, whose tribal status depended on the number of men they had killed and castrated. The account is interspersed with letters to his mother, and is illustrated with original sketch-maps, drawings and photographs.

My Kenya Days

My Kenya Days by Wilfred Thesiger (1994) is the account of the author's life in Kenya where he lived from 1960. He decided to live in the desolate Northern Province that borders Somalia, Abyssinia, the Sudan and Uganda, making some very long journeys on foot, unconcerned by the risk of raids from across the border which discouraged most people from travelling there. Later he spent many months among the Boran, the Turkana, the Samburu, and travelled among the Masai.

Arabian Sands

Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger (1959) was Thesiger's first book which recounts his crossing of the Empty Quarter or Rub' al Khali, the vast sand desert which covers most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. He travelled under the auspices of the Middle East Anti-Locust Unit, crossing the desert twice - first in 1946-1947, a 2000 mile journey that began and ended at Salala on the south coast, secondly setting out again in 1947, departing Manwakh well in Yemen to Liwa Oasis and then to Abu Dhabi town. Thesiger, who shunned to modern life, immersed himself in the country, made friends with the Arabs and travelled on foot and by camel.

The Marsh Arabs

The Marsh Arabs by Wilfred Thesiger (1964) is an account of the Arabs who lived in the marshes of southern Iraq. Thesiger stayed with them from 1951 to 1958 and describes his experience in the marshes, showing the people, their homes, boats, horses and common activities like fishing, preparing food and making homes out of water reeds. As Thesiger predicted, the inhabitants of the marshes were displaced when the wetlands were drained during the later political upheavals in Iraq, leading to the disappearance of a way of life that had lasted for thousands of years.

The Last Nomad

The Last Nomad: One Man's Forty Year Adventure In The World's Most Remote Deserts, Mountains And Marshes by Wilfred Thesiger (1980) "Recounting his extensive travels throughout Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Thesiger weaves fascinating descriptions of life in the Islamic world and of the people's strange customs, innate loyalty, and fierce tenacity". This book was first published as Desert, Marsh And Mountain: The World Of A Nomad in 1979.

Visions Of A Nomad

Visions Of A Nomad by Wilfred Thesiger (1987) features a retrospective of Thesiger's decades of work in Africa, Asia and the Arab World with autobiographical narrative by Thesiger about his life in photography.

Among The Mountains

Among The Mountains: Travels Through Asia by Wilfred Thesiger (1998) spans a period of over thirty years and draws on the author's diaries of his various journeys and his memories of them. The book is illustrated with around previously unpublished photographs of the stunning mountain scenery he saw and the people he encountered.

Crossing The Sands

Crossing The Sands by Wilfred Thesiger (1999) is a re-publication of 'Arabian Sands' with previously unpublished photographs taken by Thesiger and prefaced with a new introduction.

The Life Of My Choice

The Life Of My Choice by Wilfred Thesiger (1987) is Thesiger's autobiography, which describes his childhood in Abyssinia, his military service during World War II in Abyssinia under the command of Major General Orde Charles Wingate, and in the Western Desert under the command of David Stirling in the SAS, and his later travels. Thesiger's true character and motives have always been considered as an enigma. In this autobiography, he highlights the people who most profoundly influenced him and the events which enabled him to lead the life of his choice.

A Vanished World

A Vanished World by Wilfred Thesiger (2001) is a collection of portraits of tribal peoples have which earned Thesiger worldwide recognition as a photographer. Using a simple box camera which had belonged to his father, Thesiger began his photographic career during a hunting trip in Ethiopia in 1930 and used the same camera to photograph Danakil tribesmen when he returned three years later to explore the Awash river.

My Life And Travels

My Life And Travels by Wilfred Thesiger (2002) is an anthology of writings by Thesiger edited by his friend and biographer, Alexander Maitland, who has also contributed a biographical introduction.

Books About Wilfred Thesiger:

Alexander Maitland

Wilfred Thesiger: Life Of A Great Explorer

Wilfred Thesiger: Life Of A Great Explorer by Alexander Maitland (2006) is a biography had Thesiger’s support before he died in 2003. The author had full access to Thesiger's archive of his and his family's, diaries and notebooks. The author investigates Thesiger’s family influences, his wartime experiences, his philosophy as a hunter and conservationist, his development as a writer and photographer and his close friendships with the Arabs and Africans amongst whom he lived.

Michael Asher

Thesiger: A Biography

Thesiger: A Biography by Michael Asher (1994) is a biography written by the author as a tribute to Thesiger after he read 'Arabian Sands' which made him become a desert explorer. Much of the book is based on extended interviews with Thesinger, with the author also following in Thesinger's footsteps in the desert, interviewing many of his former travelling companions and throwing new light on the celebrated Arabian expeditions.

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