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Posted October 14, 2003
This book is not only a marvellous insight into an adventurous world that has so often been depicted in adventure thrillers and Hollywood films, but it is a thought provoking study of how the Europeans mismanaged the administration of the colonies and protectorates. There are lessons to be learned as the same mistakes are made over and over. The White Europeans considering themselves civilised and the native people to be uncivilised savages, brought their patronising form of rule and religion to Africa and tried to enforce a totally different culture on an unwilling population. They never understood why the native population was not grateful and was glad to see the back of them. When war broke out the native people were encouraged or coerced into joining a conflict that was not theirs. Despite being a member of the colonial administration, Sir Wilfred Thesiger leaves no doubt of where his sympathies lay. As a travel book, this is way above National Geographic's glossy photo journalism, as a history of modern Africa, it should be required reading of aspirants to the foreign service, especially those trying to grasp an understanding of the East African and South Arabian people. The question that goes though one's mind is whether the people would have been better left alone with their own culture and customs. As a pure adventure story, it is an all night page turner, even more fascinating because it is true. Wilfred Thesiger came from a famous and remarkable family, with an upper class education, yet he spent his long life living outside of the British Empire sharing the hardships and culture of the people he lived among. This is a man who attended Emporer Haile Selassie's coronation, served with Orde Wingate in East Africa and Palestine, lived with the Marsh Arabs in Iraq for seven years and crossed Arabia's empty quarter. Sir Wilfred's death this year at the age of 94 was the close of an era of self reliant explorers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.