Thesiger's Journeys in Arabia - Hejaz, Saudi Arabia 1947

2004_130_12693_1-O2004_130_12693_1-OJourney dates: (pictures date from) May 29 – July 25, 1947

From May to July 1947, Wilfred Thesiger travelled by camel throughout the southwest corner of Saudi Arabia, visiting the provinces of Makkah, Jizan, Najran, and Asir. Accompanied by his young Harb Bedouin guide Bil Ghaith, Thesiger travelled extensively through the region along the western Saudi/Yemeni border, especially in the area surrounding the Bani Malik and Jabal Fayfa mountains.

This journey marks a clear turning point in Thesiger's personal and creative life. Not only was it his last journey as a locust researcher for the British Middle East Anti-Locust Unit (MEALU), it was also his last journey as a paid employee of any organization; from this point on Thesiger lived solely on his personal income and the proceeds from his creative work.

Aside from these considerations, it appears that this trip may have been somewhat of a disappointment for Thesiger in comparison with the excitement and camaraderie of his previous journeys. In his book, Arabian Sands, Thesiger's description of this trip consists of just two lines: 'From Mukalla I went to the Hajaz, and travelled there for three months, going as far as Najran in the country of the Yam, on the north-western edge of the Empty Quarter. Then I returned to London.' (Arabian Sands, p.187)

Despite the lack of any textual account of this journey, Thesiger's photographs from this journey illustrate the wide variety of cultures and lifestyles in Saudi Arabia's rural southern regions, revealing lively weekly markets, daily village life, and the skilled craftsmanship of the region's traditional architecture.

Named Individuals: Bil Ghaith, Wilfred Patrick Thesiger

Represented Cultural Groups: Bani Hilal, Mutayr, Yam, Jewish, Al Thalid Bedouin, Bani Malik Bedouin, Harb Bedouin, Khawlan Bedouin, Qahtan Bedouin, Yam Bedouin

Locations: Wadi Amq, Al Birk, Al Qahmah, Ash Shuqaiq, Wadi Bayd, Umm al Khashab, Sabya, Wadi Damad, Jabal Fayfa, Suq 'Ayban, Suq as Sabt, Dhahran, Najran, Badr, Khamis Mushait, Abha, Jeddah, At Taif


Wilfred Thesiger, 1947. 'Hijaz & Najran 1947', Personal Diary (Collection of Eton College Library).

Wilfred Thesiger, 1960. Arabian Sands, Longmans, Green and Co Ltd: London.

Michael Asher. 1994. Thesiger: A Biography, The Penguin Group: London.