The Marsh Arabs by Wilfred Thesiger. Hardcover book published 1977.
Wilfred Thesiger, explorer, travel writer, legend. They don’t make em like this guy any more. Born in Ethiopia, he returned there in 1930 after Emperor Haile Selassie personally invited him to attend his coronation (Selassie’s, not Thesiger’s) and then returned to Ethiopia a few years later to do a bit of exploring… he was 23 years of age. War service, some more exploring etc etc and then in 1951 he went to Southern Iraq and lived in the marshlands with The Marsh Arabs keeping himself busy by performing the occasional circumcision (he did do other stuff as well).
I don’t always write about books that I have read, but in this instance, I have, and it was a rip snorter and yes it did lead me to other books written by Thesiger and I even own a biography of the guy… which at this point in time I still haven’t read (I will get around to it… one day). He’s a very interesting man and from memory he’s very straight to the point, there’s no mucking around with Wilfred. The Marsh Arabs is a bona fide classic travel/history book and it is a title that I would recommend as a great read to anyone interested in “a great read”. The big question is, are people still interested in “a great read” …about Southern Iraq …and the occasional circumcision (…other stuff as well)?
I’ve just had a look around on the www to see if there is any more recent information about Southern Iraq and the Marsh Arabs. Apparently Saddam (you know… that guy) decided that it would be a good idea to drain the area and turn it into profitable agricultural land. Profitable for whom…? Anyway, there’s also lots of politics surrounding this area and its people and Saddam wasn’t very nice to them. Post Saddam things are looking better and it looks like water and people are getting back to where and how they once were. It’s a pity Wilfred isn’t there to lend a hand … with the occasional circumcision (…other stuff as well).