This is an account of the two journeys Thesiger made into the Danakil country (in Abyssinia) in 1933-4 at the age of 24. In a number of ways these journeys were the most influential of his life, laying the foundations of the man considered by some to be the greatest living explorer.
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‘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
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to his mother, Thesiger's diary is illustrated with original sketch-maps and drawings, and many of his previously unpublished photographs.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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