Wilfred Thesiger is one of those intriguing people who seem genuinely to have been born out of their time. The Arabian journeys described in his wonderful book could easily have taken place in the late 19th century or, at the very least, in the golden years of Edwardian exploration. They have a timeless quality: the hard slog across the sands; the knife-edge between life and death; the absence of any luxuries or comforts; and only the company of camels and a few trusted men. And yet these journeys, pressing into one of the last great wildernesses of the world, were undertaken between 1946 and 1950: within living memory. Thesiger only died in 2003, but although he is tantalisingly close in time, his spirit is very much that of another age.