Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Expedition Arabia, Face 1, intitial research

I almost love the research before an Expedition as much as the journey itself. And I know, it has to be thorough, professional and open-minded, because a lot of the success of any serious Expedition has to do with the amount of good research an explorer puts in. For me who love books, maps and since the Internet appeared as a research tool, unfortunately meaning the death of the libraries, this period is a big journey in itself. You almost have to become a scholar. Even though I will only remember a few percent of what I learn now and put into use on the expedition in itself, it will, still, most of it, be there in the back of my head, when the Expedition is over and it is time to do something with all the collected material. Like writing a book, doing a film or preparing for lectures. And it will put you in the right frame of mind already now, even though I am in reality holed up in a small, dusty little apartment in a dark and boring suburb to Stockholm. But already now, I will for example remember, knowledge gained from just the couple of days of research that I have done now, whilst doing research on Westerners Travelling in Rub Al-Khali or The Empty Quarter -well, the Bedu have travelled there for thousand of years of course, something the white West tends to forget, but they have no written material left behind, unfortunately- that one of the legends of the area is Bertram Thomas.

The Empty Quarter, or Rub Al-Khali, was often referred to in the first part of the 20th Century as one of the few remaining genuinely unexplored regions of the world, on the same scale as the South and North Pole. Therefore many explorers wanted to do the first crossing of this vast sandy desert, 650 000 square kilometres in size, like putting Belgium, Holland and France together, but first of all gold digging explorers to catch this price -forgetting the local Bedu who lived here- turned out to be a simple civil servant from Bristol in the UK, Bertram Thomas. He crossed the Empty Quarter together with local Bedu 1930-31 and wrote an excellent book called Arabia Fenix. Amazingly enough his book can be read on the Internet!

At this stage when I have decided on where to go, understanding the objective of the expedition, all effort has to be put into finding the right contacts and background material. Both tasks filled with joy. Communicating with experts on the area is half the fun. And so far almost everyone I have contacted have been very helpful, showing a camaraderie unknown between people in the same business as me here in grey Sweden. One of them is the Grand Old Dame of desert and Camel travel, Arita Baijeens. And as always, you come across people associated with other things and other dreams you have had. Today, by pure coincidence during my research, I came across an old acquaintance of mine, Dan Mazur, and remembered that I had told him a few years ago, that I of pure interest after reading Hillary´s account of his conquest of Everest, wanted to make an attempt on Hillary´s and Tenzing´s original route. Dan Mazur, like me using Facebook, so I contact him and said, I am still interested. He advised me to go for it, if prepared, april 2010. Why not then….life is short.

Second task is to put an enormous effort into getting a picture as big and broad as possible regarding the area. What I have to learn and try to understand in a very short time, 10 months or so, is a gigantic task. Even though I have already had quite a lot of insight into Islam, Arabs, the Middle East and desert travel from earlier travels, I know almost nothing about the Gulf, camels or, most important, their original inhabitants, the Bedu. And I need to learn Arabic, in shallah.

At the same time I have to try to support myself, find sponsors, set up the media kit, keep extremely fit, eat the right food, be relatively happy, have a social life, but still spend most of the time studying, no easy thing. Gee, there is some sacrifice indeed! It is at the same time, one of the best moments of an explorers life, but also the worst in some ways, because you love it more than other parts of your life. But it is the same thing before every Expedition. Most people who are close to you, genuinely fear and hate it! This is what a true explorer want to do more than anything else in life! travel, be it through books or in reality. I do look forward to this Expedition more than ever before!

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