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The Danakil Diary Hardcover – 4 Nov 1996

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1996 First Edition edition (4 Nov. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000255710X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002557108
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,193,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘These diaries get us as close as we can now come to the camp fire around which Thesiger told his best stories’
Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

In 1930 Wilfred Thesiger attended the coronation of HIM Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa, at the Emperor's personal invitation. Afterwards he spent a month hunting alone in the hostile Danakil desert of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), a thrilling experience which led three years later to his successful exploration of the Awash River. Today he still regards this expedition as the most dangerous he ever undertook.

Aged only 23, Thesiger became the first European to travel through the fabled Sultanate of Aussa, a forbidding land where two Italian expeditions and an Egyptian army had previously been wiped out by Danakil tribesmen. Thesiger's remarkable journey solved one of Africa's last remaining geographical mysteries, and established the reputation of a man now considered by many to be the century's greatest living explorer.

A vivid, compelling narrative, 'The Danakil Diary' records how the young Thesiger surmounted overwhelming obstacles and survived 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. He portrays the often beautiful, savage landscapes; their varied wildlife; and the strange, sometimes cruel customs of the Danakil, never before observed in such intimate detail.

Interspersed with letters to his mother, Thesiger's diary is illustrated with original sketch-maps and drawings, and many of his previously unpublished photographs.

Besides giving early proof of Thesiger's descriptive genius, 'The Danakil Diary' reveals youthful evidence of his fierce motivation and uncompromising will – familiar hallmarks of his sixty years of travel among primitive peoples in some of the harshest and remotest areas of the world.

Wilfred Thesiger was born in 1910 at the British Legation in Addis Ababa, and spent his early years in Abyssinia. Educated at Eton and Oxford, where for four consecutive years he won his Blue for boxing, he joined the Sudan Political Service in 1935. During the next five years Thesiger visited little-known areas of the Sudan, Libya and the French Sahara. In the War, serving with the patriots under Orde Wingate in Abyssinia, he was awarded a DSO. He later served with the SOE (in Syria) and the SAS in the Western Desert.

From 1930, always using traditional means of transport, Thesiger travelled through remote areas of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. For over twenty years, until 1994, he lived mostly among the pastoral Samburu at Maralal in northern Kenya. He now lives permanently in London.

Thesiger's journeys have won him the Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, the Lawrence of Arabia Medal of the Royal Central Asian Society, the Livingstone Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the Burton Memorial Medal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

His writing has won him the Heinemann Award; Fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature; an Honorary D.Litt. from Leicester University and an Honorary D.Litt. from the University of Bath.

In 1968 he was made a CBE. He is Honorary Fellow of the British Academy and Honorary Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. He was honoured with a KBE in 1995.

Wilfred Thesiger's previous books include 'Arabian Sands, The Marsh Arabs, Desert, Marsh and Mountain, Visions of a Nomad, The Life of My Choice' and 'My Kenya Days.'

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Aug. 1999
Format: Paperback
Wilfred Thesiger is the last of the truly intrepid explorers. Born in Abyssinia he was familiar with the people of the region and undertook the first two journeys into completely unmapped areas in the 1930's. The two journeys described in this book shaped Thesiger's whole life. For those who have read other Thesiger books, this provides an intimate glimpse into his childhood and formative years and provides insights into his attitude to his exploring and adventures. The book is written from his diary which could make it boring, but his anecdotes, asides, letters to his mother, and observations of those around him transform it into a wonderful evocation of a time now sadly long past. A fascinating read recommended to all those hooked on travel books.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Nov. 1998
Format: Paperback
Thesiger, Britain's greatest modern day explorer, undertook a journey through the Danakil country of Abyssinian at the age of 22. The Danakil had killed and mutilated all members of the previous European expeditions to their tribal lands but this did not deter Thesiger, in fact it probably made him more keen to go. Thesiger completed his route through the Danakil country and this book contains the diary entries made during Thesiger's expedition. Thesiger and his entourage encountered some very hiary moments but these are dealt with in his usual modest way making the reader think that actually it must have been a bit of a breeze. Clearly it couldn't have been but therein lies the measure of the man. Any readers interested in Thesiger and his life should definitely read this book as Thesiger claims that it was this expedition that set him on his life of exploration.
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By Philip Poole on 23 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Early Thesiger but none the worse for that, diary form a little "highlights only" but does take you on the journey
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By Mrs. Isabelle Maggs on 14 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
terrific book, thank you
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Wild at Heart 27 Aug. 2010
By Paul - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An upcoming trip to Ethiopia sparked the recommendation of this book from friends who had read it. It was not easy to find, as it is out of print etc., but I located it through Amazon. It was a fascinating read primarily because, due to a childhood in post-colonial Addis Ababa, he enjoyed access to a culture and area at a time (pre-WW II) when this was virtually unheard of. His writing skills were limited (lots of "lists", but, after all, it IS a diary!), but the narrative voice was strong. Cultural and political situations were very revealing, keeping in mind that the author's upbringing and existence are British Empire personified. The black and white photographs are a documentary unto themselves, a testament to his skill and bravery. Overall, a very interesting glimpse into a part of the world that has remained largely wild and under the radar.
Great follow up to Nesbitt's Desert and Forest 11 May 2014
By John R Chewning - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another fine tale of exploration and adventure. Nesbitt was denied entry to the Arussa Sultanate and had to take the more dangerous route through the Burri Sultanate. His( Thesiger's} account of his life as a youth in Addis Ababa is worth the read as well. If you enjoyed Desert and Forest I recommend this work as well. It expands and clarifies some of Nesbitt's observations on the life and customs of the Danakil tribesmen.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
pedestrian 21 Jan. 2013
By brent hubbard - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At the risk of encountering serious bodily harm, the very young Thesiger manages to overcome many hardships and much opposition on his trek through the deserts of southern Abyssinia, but you have to read between the lines to get many thrills.
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