The journey that is described in this book was, in its modest way, the last of the classic journeys of the Arabian peninsula. It was attended by few of the hardships and dangers of its terrible camel-back predecessors, for it was undertaken by motor-convoy, led by a competent Arab prince entirely within his own domains, and serviced throughout by industrious slaves. But like the greater explorations of the Burtons, the Doughtys, the Philbys and the Thesigers, it opened a corner of Arabia to the scrutiny of the world, it set a travelers precedent, and it had its effect upon the course of Arabian history.
In 1955 the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was a truly mediaeval Islamic State, shuttered against all progress under the aegis, of its traditionalist and autocratic ruler. Few foreigners knew it, and nobody knew all of it, for its immense gravelly hinterland remained for the most part uninhabited and unvisited, and separated one part of the country absolutely from the rest. Our journey opened some windows into this momentous draughts: it was concerned essentially with oil, that irresistible agency of change, and its very accomplishment meant that the territory we were crossing for the first time was changed for ever.
The enterprise was also nearly the end of an imperial line, for in those days the British Government was still powerful in Arabia, and though I was the only European in those trucks, still the adventure smacked perceptibly of the open cockpits, Rolls-Royce armoured cars, proconsuls and spheres of influence of the Pax Britannica. The flag that flew above us was the red flag of Muscat: but the ghosts of Curzon and Gertrude Bell rode with us approvingly.
A book qualified for a place on the shelf not so far from those of the great Arabian travellers
'A wonderful read for anyone with an interest in Oman. It's 1955, the oil-driven winds of change are blowing through Arabia, and Morris accompanies Sultan Said (the present Sultan's father) on the first ever crossing of Oman by motor vehicle. Little had changed for centuries, and Morris' wonderful and sympathetic prose brings to vivid life a world of sheikhs and slaves, wazirs and warring tribes, cannons and muskets, bedouins and camel trains, and a political system dominated by late imperial Britain.' - Reader, Peter Cummins