Gennem Wahhabiternes Land

Barclay Raunkiær


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Author: Raunkiær, Barclay

Title: “Gennem Wahhabiternes Land paa Kamelryg : Beretning om den af Det Kongelige Danske Geografiske Selskab planlagte og bekostede Forskningsrejse i Øst- og Centralarabien 1912.”


København/Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1913


Frontispiece, 304 pp., richly illustrated with author’s photographs and drawings, folding coloured map in pocket at rear, 8vo; first edition; in excelent condition; a rare and important book.



A rare and valuable book, with a fascinating travel account from a young Danish researcher, Barclay Raunkiær. In November 1911, he (only 22 years old) on behalf of the Danish Royal Geographical Society, embarked on a reconnaissance journey during the Northeastern Arabian Peninsula. An area which was not accustomed to foreigners, and which offered him many difficulties in terms of hostilities by the local people and of disease. But which also resulted in new knowledge about this sparsely studied area.


His itinerary to Arabia went from Constantinople through Anatolia to Aleppo in Syria, and from there on to Baghdad, where he spent much time trying to find an “honest, English-speaking, Arab servant”. After 2 weeks he left for Bashra (partly along the river Euphrates), where he was met by the local Vali, who “supported my plans with the strongest interest and almost fatherly care”. From Bashra he travelled on to reach Kuwait. Here he was received by the local Sheikh with much distrust, and  “lived [there] for twenty-six days, occupied with difficult patience-trying discussions concerning my further journey”. At the same time he had fallen ill, by what was later diagnosed as tuberculosis. Through help from the local British agent, Captain Shakespear, he finally managed to convince his host that he was not a political agent, and he was allowed to continue his journey through the desert to al-Hufuf.


On February 24th he left Kuwait with a mercant caravan of 100 camels. Due to local warfare he had to pass the desert via Buraydah and Riyadh through difficult landscape. Arriving in Buraydah after 19 days “a murdourous design against me was dicvovered at the last moment and the Emir himself […] received me in a very unamiable manner, starved me for two days and deprived me of my revolver and telscope”. The following route to Riyadh was also challenging, as the people hired to follow him for protection did not care about him.


In Riyadh he was received with kindness and hospitality by the Imam Abderrahman Ibn Sa’ud, but at the same time hold in close custody because of the hostile local people. After the short stay in Riyadh he went on with a caravan of 150 hostile pearl divers towards al-Hufuf, where he arrived on April 8th. On this part of the journey he was subjected to another attempt of murder by three local bedouins. In al-Hufuf he was received with hearty welcome by the Turkish authorities, but only stayed a short time. Because of illness and weakness he was eager to reach the cost, and enjoyed the privilege of being escorted to Adjer by 50 mounted Turkish soldiers. From here he sailed to Bahrein, and due to illness had to return to Denmark, via Bombay and Triest, and reached Copenhagen on June 2nd 1911. He died in 1915, only 25 years old.


Despite the dangerous and difficult curcumstances Raunkiær encounted during the expedition, he succeded in doing important topographical observations and descriptions on the way. T.E. Lawrence is said to have praised his account especially of Kuwait. He draw a route map, which is included as a large folding and coloured map at rear of the book. He also gathered much information about political questions, the caravan trade, and periodical wanderings of the nomads. Despite the suspicion and dangers he encounted from the local people and authorities, he also managed to take some photographs and do sketches on the way. The book is richly illustrated.