The Marsh Arabs

The Marsh Arabs During the years he spent among the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq long before they were almost completely wiped out by Saddam Hussein Wilfred Thesiger came to understand admire and share a way of lif

  • Title: The Marsh Arabs
  • Author: Wilfred Thesiger
  • ISBN: 9780140025736
  • Page: 302
  • Format: Paperback
  • During the years he spent among the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq long before they were almost completely wiped out by Saddam Hussein Wilfred Thesiger came to understand, admire, and share a way of life that had endured for many centuries Traveling from village to village by canoe, he won acceptance by dispensing medicine and treating the sick In this account of a nearlyDuring the years he spent among the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq long before they were almost completely wiped out by Saddam Hussein Wilfred Thesiger came to understand, admire, and share a way of life that had endured for many centuries Traveling from village to village by canoe, he won acceptance by dispensing medicine and treating the sick In this account of a nearly lost civilization, he pays tribute to the hospitality, loyalty, courage, and endurance of the people, and describes their impressive reed houses, the waterways and lakes teeming with wildlife, the herding of buffalo and hunting of wild boar, moments of tragedy, and moments of pure comedy in vivid, engaging detail.

    One thought on “The Marsh Arabs”

    1. I wonder if despite the draining of the marshes it might be easier for the way of life described here to return than that of the Bedouin in Arabian Sands?Thesiger spent a number of years in the early 1950s travelling around the marshes of southern Iraq. He wasn't as taken with the Marsh Arabs as he had been by the Bedouin (his travels with them are described in Arabian Sands). The way of life in the Iraqi marshes was too settled and lacked the extreme hardship of the Empty Quarter, and Thesiger [...]

    2. While I was reading this book, it felt as if it were written some 75 or 100 years ago instead of 1964. Wilfred Thesiger was writing about a way of life that vanished rather abruptly after Saddam Hussein decided to drain much of the marshland in which the Madans and other marsh Arabs lived. Their way of life was ancient, perhaps going back to the days of ancient Sumer -- but then so much of what was ancient has been wiped off the face of the Earth in the last few decades.Thesiger found himself we [...]

    3. There is no-one who does this kind of book better. No-one who can take you inside a vanishing Arab culture better than Wilfred Thesiger. He did it in the wonderful book Arabian Sands and he has done it here again with The Marsh Arabs.If you are familiar with Thesiger's books you will know that he has a passion for photography and he includes many photos in his books, more photos than you get in any non fiction published these days. The Marsh Arab was no exception. It had plentiful photos (all bl [...]

    4. It could be unfair to rate three stars, but I born and grew in the Marshes of Dhi Qar, so I guess I know more facts the the author knows. from one side this book looks like a novel in the way of his writing about the protagonists, overally I like this book and I guess this is the better book wrote about Iraqi Marshes.

    5. An account of the author’s extensive travels through the marshes at the confluence of Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The author boats where fancy takes him, no over-arching quest to guide him, just the spirit of exploration and the desire to experience a culture largely untouched by the modern world. Along the way he describes his environment and its wildlife; the people he meets; their stories, customs, rituals and rivalries; their architecture and material culture. With some loyal ind [...]

    6. I enjoyed Thesiger's book Arabian Sands better and debated about giving this one 4 stars. Once I finished this book though, I realized it deserved no less than 5 stars. Although I didn't find myself as absorbed in the stories of the Marsh Arabs as compared to the desert Arabians, I was nonetheless so impressed with Thesiger's ability to integrate himself fully into the lives of whatever culture he was living with, in this case the Marsh Arabs. He seemed to fully respect whichever culture he was [...]

    7. This book is a sort of time capsule, having captured and saved for posterity an intimate, detailed, clear-eyed and very personal description of an environment and an entire way of life that no longer exists. Regrettably, world politics, oil and despotism totally destroyed this unique world shortly after Thesiger's sojourn. A brutal dictatorship culminating in Saddam Hussein's folly saw to it that the iconic wetlands that had sustained life for thousands of years were drained, destroying not just [...]

    8. Curiously Thesiger made his reputation amongst the Marsh Arabs as an accomplished circumciser of local youths. The ability to do this without the accompanying hideous infections of badly performed procedures, or those undertaken with dirty instruments, was warmly welcomed. An elementary knowledge of medicine combined with a suitcase full of drugs etc enabled him to provide considerable assistance to the population in the marshes of southern Iraq in the 1950s. He seemed to cure everything from gu [...]

    9. Thesiger is so comfortable among the Marsh Arabs that his narrative has none of the wonder of a travel or adventure story, but all of the candor and naturalism of a social study, focused on the fading culture of the Madan and the compromised environment of the marshes themselves.Notes:Thesiger is unique in his simple, unadulterated curiosity about the lives of the Marsh Arabs. Thesiger's treatment of Iraqi geography and history is important reading for Americans, the new conquerors, to understan [...]

    10. i love reading thesinger, this one and 'arabian sands'. he was such an interesting person and had such fantastic approaches to the people he met and places he went. the photos in this one, like arabian sands, are amazing. what an incredible way of life the marsh arabs had in iraq, now of course gone for ever. i highly recommend this book if you are at all interested in explorers or learning about ways of life you never knew existed.

    11. One of the greatest and most interesting books I have ever read. What I love about Thesiger is that he draws you into a whole new world, and introduces every character so well that you remember them throughout the novel. I wish his works were more well known and read. This man is a truly underrated author.

    12. In order to truly appreciate Thesiger’s “The Marsh Arabs” it is imperative for the reader to take distance from the current preconceptions of race, gender, and cultural customs. Although not that old in body, the ideas and traditions of the Madan culture have been around for millennia, with little changes until Saddam Hussein drained the marshes. Having an open mind about how life existed and how cultural values and gender roles had a bigger impression of how a person should be and act as [...]

    13. Again, the things you find in thrift-stores.To be perfectly fair, this one was chosen by my partner - I ended up reading it because I had finished the books I had chosen. He probably enjoyed more than I did.The interesting thing about travel memoirs is that, invariably, they're seen through the eyes of the beholder (duh). And Thesiger makes for an entertaining narrator. On the one hand, his admiration for the Marsh Arabs, their customs and rituals and their lifestyles becomes quickly apparent. O [...]

    14. An excellent read; the writing style is both descriptive and engaging, and the story itself fascinating. The book includes over a hundred photographic plates which augment the story tremendously, especially for the amazing reed mudhifs which are frequently the setting. (The photos and more can be found in the Pitt Rivers Museum collection).I have not yet read Arabian Sands but reviews of that earlier work complained about Thesiger's primitivism and romanticization of the Bedouin - I didn't see m [...]

    15. Thesiger was one of that odd breed of Englishmen, from Sir Richard Burton to T.E. Lawrence to well, to this fellow who would take it into their heads to go out into a primitive culture and just live there. Thesiger had previously lived for five years among the Berbers; in this book he relates his long visits to the marshlands of the lower Tigris-Euphrates valley in Iraq. The writing is workmanlike, not at all poetic. He recounts incidents without a blink and only cursory personal reactions. Th [...]

    16. Enjoyable memoire and travelogue, if for anything, the exoticism of a time and place long past. Thesiger is a clear and precise writer with a keen observer's eye for custom, language, and manners. The book is of course dated, however, learning about the mores of the Marsh Arabs and the bits of historicism make this a worthy read.

    17. A fascinating and insightful book which seems to belong to a very different era. The writing didn't quite flow at times, but the content ensured that this didn't detract from the story. The inclusion of photos worked well, adding extra interest.

    18. Good book but I was hoping for another Arabian Sands . That book stays with you . This is excellent adventure & clearly a must read for fans of Author but lacks that magical touch of Arabian Sands . It become a chore to read rather than can't wait too.

    19. Fascinating portrayal of a way of life - great clarity to the writing, unsentimental but deeply committed to people and friendships.

    20. From a true titan of Arabian Exploration, Wilfred Thesiger introduces us to the Marsh Arabs of Iraq. Modern people often mistake all Iraqis as Arabs however, it is really a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religous country and though they've adopted some Arab norms which was a result of the Arab Conquest, genetically (the Marsh Arabs in particular) can trace their bloodline back to the Sumerian civilization (hence Iraq being known as the cradle of civilization). Some, as can be seen in th [...]

    21. Λίγες αράδες είχα διαβάσει στην οθόνη του κύριου Άρη Μπερλή, όταν το μετέφραζε. Δεν ήξερα το βιβλίο. Σκέφτηκα να διαβάσω το πρωτότυπο, αλλά επικράτησε η δεύτερη σκέψη: να μην έχει χαθεί η μαγεία της πρώτης ανάγνωσης όταν θα διαβάζω την ελληνική έκδοση. Η απόλαυση απέδειξε ότ [...]

    22. An excellent read; the writing style is both descriptive and engaging, and the story itself fascinating. The book includes over a hundred photographic plates which augment the story tremendously, especially for the amazing reed mudhifs which are frequently the setting. (The photos and more can be found in the Pitt Rivers Museum collection).I have not yet read Arabian Sands but reviews of that earlier work complained about Thesiger's primitivism and romanticization of the Bedouin - I didn't see m [...]

    23. I bought this in a used book store. I was drawn to it because of my reading Freya Stark. Like Stark, Thesiger loves the people and seldom makes judgements about their way of life. Women are not figured in this much - and, of course, I was disturbed by how easliy a women could be killed just by there being rumors of her behavior. (Theiger works very hard to save the life of his male traveling companion when a blood feud erupts.) But the book is about the men of the Marshes and I found it so inter [...]

    24. I'm not sure this is actually a 'travel' book per se such as the ones by Patrick Leigh Fermor [eg Mani and Roumeli:]which I'm reading but clearly, no one does discomfort like the Brits. You know 'ship me some where east of Suez where the best is like the worst' So far it's a good read, lacking the language and romance of Fermor, but who's to say. Early days yet.I've not given up yet, but Thesiger does not have the soul of a poet. In fact he's pretty pedestrian for some one who lived for adventur [...]

    25. Beautifully written, poetic and immersing. The sights, sounds, and smells of the marsh fill the pages. I felt part of an ancient tribe living a meager existence. I am fascinated by who the author is, living among the Arabs, in the sands and marsh, for so many years of his life. I didn't finish the book as I lost interest, even thought it was so lyrically written. I recommend it to anyone interested in tribal lives that have been wiped away my our modern expansion.

    26. Evoking a lost people and a lost epoch, Marsh Arabs is a masterpiece of immersive travel literature. Over the years Thesiger lived amongst the marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq, he come to love and be loved by this community on the edge of history. Secluded, excluded - and now exterminated courtesy of Saddam Hussein - this is a last look at a unique water-borne society. A classic.

    27. Material is interesting & there aren't many books on the Marsh Arabs, so in that sense it's valuable. However, as a 50s ethnography it's more than a little racist - from the assumption of white European male gaze as 'objective' or 'neutral' to some broad claims about the behavioral predispositions of a people. Overall, it's worth reading.

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