Ben's Reviews > Arabian Sands

Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
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's review
Nov 08, 2011

really liked it
Read from November 08 to December 05, 2011

Arabian Sands at its best, it is a look into a way of life of the desert that is unlike anything a person from a modern Westerner upbringing would know. That perspective, and the manner in which Thesiger's narration delivers it, is what makes the book a quite good read. At its worst, the travelogue becomes a bit matter-of-fact and a bit hard to follow; however, Thesiger's unique look at an "Arabia" that now no longer exists compensates for any failings of the narrative itself.

For example, when Thesiger describes - from his vantage point as an Englishman in the 1940s - the small "towns" of Dibai (i.e. Dubai) and Abu Dhabi on the edge of the desert, it is immediately apparent how much this perspective differs from what could be said in the present day of those places. Accompanying this is the manner of Thesiger's narrative which, though hard to describe precisely, often expresses both blunt opinions but is also objective in acknowledging what are his biases and points of view. Thesiger himself is also in many ways a perfect narrator for the subject matter. He is not the stereotyped Englishman of the 1940s. He is definitely a Christian foreigner in a Muslim land of vastly different culture, but he is one who wishes to be at home in this desert land more than in his native England. This position provides an apt bridge between the more well-known English culture from which he comes and the different-ness of the desert culture into which he longs to venture.

Truth be told, the book did feel a bit long at times, but frankly was also unlike anything else I've read. I recommend it.

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