A Reed Shaken by the Wind : Travels Among the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, Paperback

A Reed Shaken by the Wind : Travels Among the Marsh Arabs of Iraq Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


The Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq were one of the most isolated communities in the world.

Few outsiders, let alone Europeans, had been permitted to travel through their homeland, a mass of tiny islands lost in a wilderness of reeds and swamps in southern Iraq.

One of the few trusted outsiders was the legendary explorer, Wilfred Thesiger, who was Gavin Maxwell's guide to the intricate landscape, tribal customs and distinctive architecture of the Marsh Arabs.

Thesiger's skill with a medicine chest and rifle assured them a welcome in every hamlet, and Maxwell's training as a naturalist and writer has left an invaluable record of a unique community and a vanished way of life.

Published in 1983 as part of Penguin Books Travel Library.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 236 pages, Illustrations, maps, 1 port.
  • Publisher: Eland Publishing Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Travel writing
  • ISBN: 9780907871934



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Gavin Maxwell's 'Ring of Bright Water' has been on my bookshelf since 1968, but I've never opened it - out of the mistaken belief that it was some mawkishly sentimental story about otters. Well it may yet prove to be, but after reading this account of his travels among the Marsh Arabs of Iraq (and having previously read his 'Lords of the Atlas') I am persuaded that Maxwell is a hugely talented writer. And I finally understand his affection for otters, although how it arose in the waters of the Tigris/Euphrates was a complete surprise to me. Velvetink's review gives as good an account of the situation of the Marsh Arabs in as few a words as you'll find anywhere so I won't add to that. Suffice to add that Maxwell's descriptions of place and people are superb, he has that ability to make the sights and sounds (and discomforts) of travel immediately accessible to the reader, and all tied together with a reflective narrative that manages to find the happy balance between self-obsessed and opaque. His descriptions of wildlife and nature are sublime, being both beautifully economical and descriptive at the same time.Highly recommended as a travel book, but even more so for anyone interested in Maxwell and the history of his otter affection, or for those that would like a look at a very different Iraq. And for anyone who is interested in Wilfred Thesiger whose expedition this actually was, with Maxwell as the rather naive passenger along for the ride.

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