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Wilfred Thesiger
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    (June 3, 1910-August 24, 2003)
    Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Military officer, traveler and author
    Best known for twice leading crossings of the ‘Empty Quarter’ of the Arabian Peninsula (October 1946-February, 1947; December, 1947-March, 1948)
    Also traveled in Ethiopia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Kenya, and Iran
    Wrote ‘Arabian Sands’ (1959), ‘The Marsh Arabs’ (1964), ‘The Last Nomad’ (1979) and ‘My Life and Travels’ (2002)
    Received the Founders Medal of the Royal Geographic Society (1948)
    Knighted (1995)
    Cousin of actor Ernest Thesiger
    During a mountaineering expedition in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush, he ran into two other climbers and got along great with them – until they started blowing up air mattresses before going to sleep, at which point he declared, ‘You must be a couple of pansies.’
    During one of his crossings of the Empty Quarter, he was arrested by Saudi authorities for entering the country without permission.
    He hated how the discovery of oil disrupted the traditional lifestyle of Bedouin nomads, but agreed to advise oil companies on where to drill to get financing for his travels.
    He was captain of the Oxford boxing team.
    He received a personal invitation from Haile Selassie to attend his coronation (1931).
    He received a Distinguished Service Order during World War II after bluffing the 2,500-strong garrison of an Italian fort into surrendering to his outnumbered force.
    He travelled tens of thousands of miles on foot or by traditional forms of transportation, such as camel, donkey or canoe.
    One of his companions in Arabia, Salim bin Ghabeisha, said, ‘He was loyal, generous, and afraid of nothing. He was a wonderful man to travel with.’

Credit: C. Fishel

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