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The Marsh Arabs (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 25 Oct 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (25 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141442085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141442082
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

It is one thing to tell the story of an expedition . . . it is quite another to convey the atmosphere. . . . This is a richly rewarding book.
"The Observer," London
His voyage through desert waters will remain, like his "Arabian Sands," a classic of travel writing.
"The Times," London

aIt is one thing to tell the story of an expedition . . . it is quite another to convey the atmosphere. . . . This is a richly rewarding book.a
a"The Observer," London
aHis voyage through desert waters will remain, like his "Arabian Sands," a classic of travel writing.a
a"The Times," London

"It is one thing to tell the story of an expedition . . . it is quite another to convey the atmosphere. . . . This is a richly rewarding book."
-"The Observer," London
"His voyage through desert waters will remain, like his "Arabian Sands," a classic of travel writing."
-"The Times," London

From the Back Cover

Wilfred Thesiger lived among the Marsh Arabs for eight years, sharing a threatened way of life which had lasted for millennia.

There was hardly a village in the Central Marshes – an area covering some 6000 square miles around the junction of the Tigris an the Euphrates – which Thesiger did not visit, however small. This is a landscape of islands, some fo them floating, many of them man-made; of lakes and waterways; where the reed houses are of a unique an impressive architecture; where the economy of the inhabitants is based largely on their herds of water buffalo. They fish, shoot wildfowl and hunt the enormous and dangerous wild pigs that ravage their crops. Travelling from village to village with his medicine boxes and his team of canoemen, Wilfred Thesiger came to know these people and their way of life intimately.

There are times of excitement and hardship, accidents, blood feuds, there are episodes of tragedy and happiness and moments of pure comedy. Not only does Thesiger evoke with great beauty the landscape and its teeming wildlife, but he brings to vivid life the friends he made among the Marsh arabs – the sheikhs, his canoemen and their families. Few travel books have described an area and its inhabitants with such knowledge or such evident sympathy.

"A masterpiece."
H.D. ZIMAN, 'The Daily Telegraph'

"Here is the fascination of a strange land and the power to convey it."
THE TIMES

"The greatest of living explorers."
RAYMOND MORTIMER, 'Sunday Times'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
While soldiers from the UK occupy the southern territories of Iraq, there could be no more salutary book to read than this. This is one of Thesiger's most affectionate portraits of a people and their environment, almost on a par with his travels in the Empty Quarter. Thesiger was writing just as the oil companies were beginning to exploit the natural resources of the region and the growing heresy of non-Muslims on Arab lands was already a cause for distress, anger and humiliation among the Marsh Arabs. Thesiger was accepted (just) because of his great ability to empathise with and live alongside fiercely proud and intensely religious Arab peoples. Half a century out of date this is still the definite text for any student of human behaviour wishing to develop in-depth understanding of a culture and lifestyle that remains only as a fragmented cultural inheritance.
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Format: Paperback
Wilfred Thesiger led a remarkable life, and through his books has bequeathed an important legacy- the documentation of ways of life that are gone forever. His book, Arabian Sands (Penguin Classics) which describes his two crossings of the Rub al Khali (The Empty Quarter) in the late `40's is more famous, but this book, which documents his time with the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq, from 1951 to 1958 should command equal attention and respect. In terms of explorers, he is unique as the "Lone Ranger," traveling without Western colleagues, relying almost exclusively on the inhabitants of the remote and often desolate areas he chooses to explore. Whereas "Arabian Sands" details two epic journeys, in "The Marsh Arabs" Thesiger lives with the native inhabitants in their unique environment, and develops relationships which span the better part of a decade. While he is meticulous in describing the conditions of the natives, only occasionally does he reveal his true motives for such a life. An exception appears in "The Marsh Arabs": "My own tastes went, perhaps, too far to the other extreme. I loathed cars, aeroplanes, wireless and television, in fact most of our civilization's manifestations in the past fifty years, and was always happy, in Iraq or elsewhere, to share a smoke-filled hovel with a shepherd, his family and beasts. In such a household, everything was strange and different, their self-reliance put me at ease, and I was fascinated by the feeling of continuity with the past.Read more ›
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Thesiger was the last of the Victorian-era explorers, living amongst tribal peoples and sharing their hard, hard lives. It is an extraordinary experience to lounge in an armchair and read of the feuds and murders in the Marshes which have been going on there since the foundation of the City of Ur. You can take delight in the elegant shapes of the boats the despised Sabaean unbelievers make for the Muslims who formed the major population. The amazing architecture of the mudifs built of reeds with simple arches of the ubiquitous tall reeds stretches the eyes with their beauty. All against a backdrop of the heat, the flies, the hunger, and the blood-lusts of the dwellers in these unique marshes down at the delta of the twin rivers - the Tigris and the Euphrates - the Mesopotamia of the the beginnings of civilization.
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I borrowed this book from the British Council library in Baghdad in 1984. I could not put it down. Very realistic, genuine and true reflection of life in the marshes and its people that Saddam tried to destroy. Today it remains the best ever written on the subject although it reflects largely a personal experience.
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I'd never have read this book if I hadn't purchased it for my husband. I sat down one afternoon to scan through it, and 3 hours later found that I couldn't believe I'd read most of this fascinating book.
Since then I've bought more of Thesigers books, and learned much more about this man. How I'd love to hear his opinion of the current day Iraq, now that really would be worth reading.
For those interested, read Gavin Youngs 'Return to the Marshes'some 20 years later and many things had already changed.
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If you are looking for a diary of his day to day activities with in depth accounts of how they live their lives,with lots of Arabic names thrown in,this could be for you.
I must admit that while I initially found it interesting and absorbing,after two or three chapters it seemed to be more of the same and I had read enough to give me a feel of what life was like for the Marsh Arabs.
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It is fascinating to see how the Marsh Arabs lived for so many years. Their culture, reed architecture and history was truly peaceful. So sad that it has been destroyed in recent years.
This book has some amazing pictures of a way of life now gone forever and introduces us to some of the people who lived it.
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Thesiger is a "classic". And his kind observations of a People now forgotten is absolutely Worth Reading. A help to understand his wiews is to know a little of his background. As a person he was rather special, as a writer he is good, as an adventurer he was outstanding !!
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