We invite you to enjoy part 1 of the 12 part Distant Arabia video series. The majority of the film clips are comprised of films taken in Saudi Arabia between 1937 and 1940 by Tom Barger, Les Snyder and Jerry Harriss. They are among the few moving pictures that record that critical and brief moment in the country's history when an ancient pastoral way of life was coming to an abrupt end, to be replaced by an industrial society. Many of the Bedouin depicted had never seen an automobile let alone a movie camera before these men arrived. The herds of camels, once the lifeblood of Bedouin life, would become irrelevant. The dhows of the Gulf replaced by motor launches, the date oases, the very anchor of the Al Hasa economy, would become all but insignificant. All that remains of those days are these flickering images from a time before oil.

Distant Arabia part 1 - Desert Explorers Produced from footage shot by Tom Barger, this episode shows the life of a geological field party in the Rub Al-Khali in 1938. Driving Ford pickup trucks and sedans, supported by a big six-wheel truck, they roamed through the desert. They carried live chickens and ducks for food, so in the beginning footage, they gather bags of locusts to feed their poultry. At 1:15 Shauby the Hejazi driver dips into the bag to demonstrate the fine art of locust eating. At 1:30 Jerry Harriss shows off a hedgehog. At 1:50 the field parties have joined up at the colossal dune of Ain Muhibbi to begin a trip to the southernmost edge of the concession. The party is assembled and at 2:55 the close-ups show in order of appearance Max Steineke, Floyd Meeker, Khamis bin Rimthan, the Awamir guide Salim Abu Ar’Rus, the Murra guide Abdul Hadi bin Jithina and the cook Ibrahim. At 3:32 the explorers met up with three Awamir Bedouin to discuss the best way to their destination, the Liwa oasis. Unable to drive anymore the geologist set out on foot for the oasis that is literally surrounded by a sea of dunes. At 4:32 Max sits with Jerry and Floyd for a lunch of sardines.

Leaving the Rub Al-Khali, the six-wheel truck is stuck and then the station wagon. Driving the pickup truck Shauby demonstrates the proper procedure for retrieving stuck vehicles. It is good to remember that before the advent of four-wheel drive this process was repeated often, as many as ten times a day. Finally, they reach the Bay of Selwa where the larger equipment and excess supplies are loaded on a dhow for return to Dhahran.

More Stories – Tim Barger
ISBN: 978-0988205017
246 pages, $14.95

part 2