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Wilfred Thesiger (Wilfred Patrick Thesiger) Biography

(1910–2003), (Wilfred Patrick Thesiger), Arabian Sands, The Marsh Arabs, Desert, Marsh and Mountain

desert ethiopia southern kenya

British travel writer, born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where his father was British Minister, educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1933 he travelled to the interior of the Danakil Desert in Ethiopia, becoming the first European to gain the confidence of the region's inhabitants. He was attached to the Sudan Political Service till 1940, when he began his distinguished military career, winning the DSO for his part in the Desert Campaigns. After the war he travelled with the Bedouin in remote parts of Southern Arabia for five years, a period recounted in his first book, Arabian Sands (1959). The Marsh Arabs (1964) describes the eight years he spent from 1950 onward living in Southern Iraq. He subsequently continued to travel widely and settled for some years with the Samburu in Kenya. In addition to their sensitive evocations of the human and natural characters of the places experienced, the books are informed by the critique of modernity which emerges from Thesiger's dismissal of contemporary society's mechanistic conceptions of progress. The vigour and forthrightness of his prose reflects similar qualities in the works of Kipling, Buchan, and Churchill, whom he has identified as stylistic models. His photographic records of his journeys are contained in Desert, Marsh and Mountain (1979) and Visions of a Nomad (1987). A Life of My Choice (1987) and My Kenya Days (1994) are autobiographical works. See Thesiger: A Biography (1994) by Michael Asher.

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