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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Sir Wilfred Thesiger: Your tributes
One of the 20th century's great explorers, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, has died in Surrey hospital aged 93.

The Oxford-educated adventurer spent much of his life roaming the most distant, desolate and inaccessible parts of the world.

He lived in northern Kenya, where he informally adopted a boy, Lawi, from the Samburu tribe, and his extended family.

Thesiger's most famous books were "Arabian Sands" about his travels with the Bedu people across the Empty Quarter of southern Arabia in the 1940s, and "The Marsh Arabs" the story of the Shiite marsh dwellers of southern Iraq.

His writings influenced a generation of travel writers including Colin Thubron and Paul Theroux.

Send us your tributes to Sir Wilfred Thesiger.


Thank you for your e-mails. This tribute page is now closed. Please read a selection of your comments below.

I first came across Thesiger's work in the museum in Salalah, Oman. That was 10 years ago and if anyone has the chance, it is well worth a visit.
Trygve Inda, Czech Republic

He will be warmly remembered
Neil Clegg, Wales
This man was totally focused in both his life and his fantastic photography and as a result has left the best view we have into 50s and 60s life in the remote parts of the world, which have since been swallowed up by 'progress'. He will be warmly remembered for all he has done to increase awareness of the lives of the Bedu and others far away from our 'civilised' world.
Neil Clegg, Wales

I was privileged to meet Sir Wilfred in his home in London three times in 1996/97. He was a wonderful old gentleman, so very friendly, warm and welcoming. He had such an amazing sense of history about him. His photography is so inspirational. Since discovering Thesiger in the later 1980s as a young anthropologist and keen photographer I have only taken black and white photos. On one of my visits to Sir Wilfred he had a pile of his own albums back from the Pitt Rivers Museum and he happily sat for ages with me next to him flicking through his photos telling me about them - a memory I shall always cherish.
Jon Salmon, England

A great influence on the life of my choice - he was privileged to have the opportunity to see so many worlds that have now disappeared, and certainly used the opportunities to their full! We live in a different time when travel is easier and safer, but he had the chance to see so many things that are now lost for ever.
Chris Barton, UK

His writing has a sparse purity
Dominic Johnson, Egypt
After reading his books 10 years ago they fired my enthusiasm for the region of the Middle East. His deep understanding and sympathy for the people and their way of life was astonishing. No gimmicks or glamour, his writing has a sparse purity that a lot of modern day travel writers would do well to consider.
Dominic Johnson, Egypt

I only recently read 'Arabian Sands' and found it easily one of the most mesmerising and enlightening books I have ever read; that it's referred to as a travel book is in many ways incidental. In recording the Bedu way of life Thesiger, for me, left a record in perpetuity of a remarkable, honourable and fearless race of people who would no-doubt have otherwise been forgotten already.
C. Griffin, UK

I have just read "Arabian Sands" and I find it a really brilliant book. A story which is both exciting and captivating, about a very exotic and remote corner of the world. Sir Wilfred made the desert and the people of the desert the Bedu very much alive in his stories.
Dennis Skrade, United States of America

I must admit, I had unfortunately never heard of Wilfred Thesiger until now. He's the kind of guy that I admire greatly as I'm sure I'd never have the tenacity to achieve what he has.
Michael Howarth, England

Reading Arabian Sands completely changed my view on life forever
John Allen, Japan
Reading Arabian Sands completely changed my view on life forever. People are far too materialistic today and forget that they don't have to be a slave to money and the demands of modern life. He highlighted the splendour of the simplistic lives led by nomadic tribes in the Middle East, Africa and central Asia; a world which for the most part is now gone forever due to the destruction by western lifestyle habits. I am only 22 years old but I am intent on holding his values to my heart and in some small way trying to replicate his ideals in my life.
John Allen, Japan

Unlike other great explorers and adventurers, you have truly inspired the meaning of adventure and exploration without the need for a goal or target at the end.
John Ferguson, UK

I remember him well and was immensely grateful for his anti-mosquito preparation when embarking on my VSO in Borneo. I was puzzled by his somewhat ascorbic opinion of Sir Laurens Van Der Post but came to understand him a bit better after he refused to endorse widely-held journalistic misconceptions about the marsh Arabs and turned down the opportunity to write a foreword for the MEED Practical Guide to Iraq. Glad to see he exceeded his self-estimated life expectancy by more than three years. He was truly a great one-off!
Nam, UK

I first read Thesiger's "The life of my choice" at the age of 16 and have revisited the book many times since. Thesiger's writings and the travel writing of others that I was subsequently led to read impressed upon me the beauty of leaving the well trodden path and the need to appreciate human diversity without the judgmental approach that the western observer is so often inclined to adopt. His times are past and he has gone to join them, the world is better for knowing both and the sadder for their parting.
Christian Jones, USA

Thesiger's books greatly influenced me as a young man to travel in the Middle East
Dev George, USA
Thesiger's books, particularly Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs, greatly influenced me as a young man to travel in the Middle East, to learn Arabic, to get to know and appreciate the Arab culture, and, of course, to learn to love the desert and its people, especially in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula. A further note: Thesiger would be horrified at the wholesale destruction wrought on the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq by both the Hussein regime and the present military occupation. A way of life has effectively disappeared.
Dev George, USA

At the time when Wilfred first crossed the Empty Quarter, camels where already transporting spare parts of the few automobiles then in existence in the area. When I first crossed the Empty Quarter the automobiles where already transporting the camels.
Jacques Jespers, Kingdom of Bahrain

The death of Sir William Thesiger is the end of an era.
Sian Morgan, UK

A gigantic figure in the annals of exploration, and an inspiration to adventurers and travellers around the world. My favourite portrait of him appears in the last chapter of Eric Newby's book A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. He will be sorely missed, but his spirit and vision of how and why to travel will continue to infuse future generations of explorers.
Graydon Hazenberg, Canada

Thesiger's passion for the land and people of Arabia and southern Iraq, as well as his mature, honest prose provide one a measure of global perspective and instil respect for the people who touched him.
Paul W. Smail, United States of America

At the time when Wilfred first crossed the Empty Quarter, camels where already transporting spare parts of the few automobiles then in existence in the area. When I first crossed the Empty Quarter the automobiles where already transporting the camels.
Jacques Jespers, Kingdom of Bahrain

I am mourning the loss of a man who wrote of a past I never knew and people and places I shall probably never see, but, thanks to him, I have a window on those worlds
S Davis, UK
I first read Wilfrid Thesiger's books as a child. He and Norman Lewis are my favourite travel writers. Their descriptions of life in southern Iraq, Kenya, Indonesia (to name a few) return to me whenever I read or hear news reports about them. I believe that Thesiger has not only influenced other fine travel writers, but also many, many people who might never have considered these parts of the world, but for him. A great writer and superb photographer. I'm sad that he had to end his days in this country rather than in one he truly loved. As with the death of Norman Lewis, I am mourning the loss of a man who wrote of a past I never knew and people and places I shall probably never see, but, thanks to him, I have a window on those worlds.
S Davis, UK

A truly great man, slightly and deliciously behind the times in attitude and outlook. An inspiration to a generation of travellers (and a few tourists), he will likely be remembered as the last of a breed: the Victorian Gentleman Explorer.

His cameo appearance at the end of Newby's "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush" is a classic - after their harrowing ordeal during a chance meeting on the trail, he accuses Newby and his fellow survivor of being "sissies" for using air mattresses to sleep on the rock-hard icy ground spiked with sharp stones. Obviously, a man in his element.
CALLAHAN, John S, Singapore




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