Wilfred Thesiger – Across the Empty Quarter

It is characteristic of Bedu to do things by extremes, to be either wildly generous or unbelievably mean, very patient or almost hysterically excitable, to be incredibly brave or to panic for no apparent reason. Ascetic by nature, they derive satisfaction from the bare simplicity of their lives and scorn the amenities which others would judge essential. Although, on the rare occasions that offer, they eat enormously, I have never met a Bedu who was greedy. …. Bedu set great score by human dignity, and most of them would prefer to watch a man die rather than see him humiliated.

Always reserved in front of strangers and accustomed on formal occasions to sit for hours motionless and in silence, they are a garrulous, lighthearted race. But … they can become uncompromisingly puritanical, quick to frown on all amusement, regarding song and music as a sin and laughter as unseemly. Probably no other people, either as a race or as individuals, combine so many conflicting qualities in such an extreme degree

Across the Empty Quarter – Wilfred Thesiger, 2007, Penguin.p.46-7. This short book consists of extracts from the novel: Arabian sands, 1959

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