Thesiger's Journeys in Arabia - Salalah - Mughshin, Oman 1945

2004_130_210_1-O2004_130_210_1-OJourney dates: November 5, 1945 – January 7, 1946

In the autumn of 1945, Wilfred Thesiger arrived in the city of Salalah, Oman, to undertake a British Middle East Anti-Locust Unit (MEALU) expedition along the southern edge of the Empty Quarter (Rub' al Khali). The goal of the expedition was to identify locust populations and breeding grounds in the Empty Quarter, and to establish whether these grounds were the sources of locust outbreaks that had been plaguing the Middle East and East Africa.

Starting out from Salalah on November 5, Thesiger travelled with an escort party of Bayt Kathir Bedouin across the Jabal Qara mountains to reach the wide inland wadis of Haluf, Ghudun and Thu'ayt. After short rests at the wells of Ma' Shadid and Mudayy, the party continued on to the remote Qafa Oasis in Wadi 'Aydim. Heading east, the party rested for a short time in Mughshin Oasis before heading into the Empty Quarter. Riding along the southern edge of the desert, the party travelled across the Ghanim Sands and looped through Ramlat al Ghirbaniyat. Returning to Salalah, the party travelled through Wadi Dhahaban and Wadi Andhur, arriving in Salalah on the 7th of January, 1946.

The complete journey took the party just over two months, and while Thesiger did not find any outbreak centres, he did discover a deep connection with his Bedouin companions and a passion for the challenges of desert travel. On this expedition Thesiger met many of the men who would become his friends and loyal companions for his next five years of travel, including Musallim bin Al Kamam, Sultan bin Ahmad (known by Thesiger simply as 'Sultan'), and Salim bin Tamtaim. In Arabian Sands, Thesiger wrote, 'I was beginning to see the desert as the Bedu saw it, and to judge men as they judged them. I had come here looking for more than locusts, and was finding the life for which I sought' (Arabian Sands, p.51).

Locations: Wadi Haluf, Wadi Ghudun, Ma' Shadid, Wadi Thu'ayt, Mudayy (tombs), Wadi 'Aydim, Qafa, Shisr well, Wadi Umm al Hayt, Wadi al 'Arad, Mughshin Oasis, Matki, Al 'Ayn, Ramlat as Sahmah, Ghanim Sands, Wadi Katabit, Hanun, Wadi Andhur, Andhur, Shehara (cattle camp)

Named Individuals: Wilfred Patrick Thesiger, Sultan bin Ahmad, Sulaiman bin Said, Suhail bin Al Kuwait, Sultan bin Ahmad, Salim bin Tamtaim, Salim bin Mautlauq, Musallim bin Anauf, Muhammad bin Shuas

Represented Cultural Groups: Qara Region tribes (Arabian), Bayt Ibok (Qara Region Tribe), Bayt Kathir Bedouin, Rashid Bedouin, Mahra Bedouin.


Wilfred Thesiger, 1946. 'Rub' al Khali 1945-46', Personal Diary (Collection of Eton College Library).

Wilfred Thesiger, 1946. 'A New Journey in Southern Arabia', The Geographical Journal, Vol. 108, No. 4/6.

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