Wilfred Thesiger was the toughest SOB to have ever put his wanderings to paper. In the 1940s and 50s Thesiger was willing to submit himself to extremely austere and dangerous circumstances that is beyond my ability and comprehension. His travel writings take us through the desert regions of Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, the Marshlands of Iraq, the mountains of Pakistan and Kurdistan and west Africa, he lived much of his life in these regions and much of this time travelling through areas of deprivation. There are no recollections of luxury hotels or grand meals.
He travelled by camel through the deserts of Southern Arabia sleeping in the open, depriving himself of food and relying upon scarce water saturated with camel urine. In the marshes of Iraq he moved about by canoe from town to town administering circumcisions to the young men of the villages. In the Danakil region of Ethiopia he risked have his testicles detached and shoved into his throat by tribal groups resistant to outsiders. In a famously recalled passage Thesiger referred to Eric Newby (himself a seasoned and rough traveller) as a ‘pansy’ when for using an air mattress in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, Thesiger would have none of these luxuries.
The writings of Thesiger provide us with accounts of people whose lives and way of lives were under assault and assimilation by forces greater than any defence they could provide. Often these lives were poor, nasty, brutish and short, it is the loss of their traditions that were lamented by Thesiger.