Back in Touch – Dr Keireine Canavan

My plan was, and still is, to write a new message each week, normally on Sundays.  

Due to lack of Internet connections for four whole days and a further 10 days of interrupted internet/ email access, when I was unwittingly sending emails into the unknown, (never to be seen again), I have not been able to write….. a world without internet and email is strangely welcomed, but is most peculiar and certainly very frustrating!

Being unleashed from technology has afforded me additional time to study, and I have been reading…. and listening to knowledgeable scholars, ….  meeting and networking …..  observing and absorbing ….. discussing and planning …… so much fascinating information gained, and yet so much to learn.    

Thesiger talks about a ‘freedom’ he found when travelling with the Bedu, during his first crossing of the Empty Quarters of Southern Arabia in 1946/7; a freedom, which he believed was ‘unobtainable in civilization,’ and was possible for the Bedu on a practicle level because of ‘a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance’.  

 I too have found a wonderful freedom here in Kuwait, to immerse myself into learning about Bedu culture and the region’s history and, of course, the beautiful hand-crafted textiles (pictures next time) Thesiger continues that he went to Arabia ‘with a belief in my own superiority, but in their (Bedu) tents I felt like an uncouth, inarticulate barbarian, an intruder from a shoddy and materialistic world. Yet from them I learnt how welcoming are the Arabs and how generous is their hospitality’ (1959).  


Having no television, I listen to the BBC World Service and Radio 4.  

Listening to Ray Mears on this week’s Excess Baggage programme (24.10.09) about his expedition to the ‘Northern Wilderness’ in Canada, expressing the vastness of the country and the humbling scale of the environment, reminded me of the enormity and scale of the never ending Arabian desert….. or so it seems as you travel through it.  There are miles upon miles of desert sand and dunes; sometimes the eye-line is broken and dotted with little herds of sheep, or deeper into the desert, groups of camels feeding.  In the winter months, villages of tents with large desert vehicles, spring out of nowhere, as families spend time reminiscing about their ancestral way of life, while in other areas huge scars of the oil industry prevail, evidencing the wealth and prosperity of modern day Kuwait. 

Mears talks about the expanding experience of the soul and spirit, as he explore Northern Canada and how the mind expands because of the scale of the country and the surrounding space.  Equally, the more I see and experience of this huge desert and its people at first-hand, and by reading about traditional Bedu lifestyle and the experience of early British explorers, the more I understand and empathise with what Mears is reporting.

Mears goes onto discuss capturing the knowledge before it disappears, and this is exactly what I am contributing to with my research about Sadu weaving; a passing or fading way of life, culture, knowledge and tradition.  ‘Bound up with culture and traditions are thousands of years of learning; and you’d be a fool not to want to drink from that well’ says Ray Mears.

Very poignant !



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