The Empty Quarter.


by Alastair Humphreys

“I knew instinctively that it was the very hardness of life in the desert which drew me back there – it was the same pull which takes men back to the polar ice, to high mountains, and to the sea.” – Wilfred Thesiger

Wilfred Thesiger was one of my heroes. It was his books who inspired me to join (very briefly!) his old Boxing Club at university. They encouraged me to think ambitiously but simply about making big journeys. And when he died (I was cycling through South America at the time), I felt sad that I never had the opportunity to meet him.

Thesiger pushed himself hard to test himself. He lived ascetically, and scorned modern convenience, speed and luxury. The harder the life, he believed, the finer the person. His prose is simple and measured, thoughtful and honest. His photography was superb, particularly when you consider that he took fewer photographs in an entire expedition than I do on a single day. Thesiger “had the man’s courage to live out the boy’s dream.” And ever since I read Arabian Sands, I have dreamed of one day making a journey in Thesiger’s footsteps.

So Leon McCarron and I walked 1000 miles across the Arabian Peninsula, across Oman and the United Arab Emirates, inspired by the spirit of Thesiger’s own expeditions in the Rub ‘al Khali desert, the Empty Quarter.

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