Arabia Infelix, or the Turks in Yamen


Arabia infelix; or the Turks in Yamen is a history of Yemen and the southern Arabian Peninsula from earliest times to the eve of World War I. George Wyman Bury (1874‒1920) was an adventurer and sometime soldier who spent 16 years exploring the mountainous regions of Yemen. Arabia infelix covers all aspects of Yemen, which, until the end of the war, formed part of the Ottoman Empire. Chapters treat biblical and ancient history, flora and fauna, the manners and customs of its rural and urban population, as well as economic life, trade, and politics. In ancient times, the arid region stretching from Anatolia to Aden was divided roughly into three parts, Arabia Deserta (Deserted Arabia), Arabia Petra (the frontier of the Roman Empire), and Arabia Felix (Happy Arabia, or Yemen), so named because there was sufficient rainfall to support an agricultural economy. By entitling his book Arabia infelix (Unhappy Arabia), Bury signals his view that Turkish rule was an impediment to the prosperity and well-being of the country. G.W. Bury spent most of his life outside his native Britain, living in parts of Africa, in Yemen, and then in Egypt, where he served in the British army as a junior officer and military analyst. Chronic poor health harmed his career and shortened his life. He died in convalescence in Helwan, a health resort near Cairo.  His other works include The Land of Uz, a travel narrative written under the pen name Abdullah Mansur, and Pan-Islam, a post-war study of Turkish and German attempts to rally the Muslim world against the Allied powers in World War I. Bury’s writing was not always well reviewed, perhaps because it lacked the heft and gravitas of writings by other travelers. His style is almost conversational, as in this quip about insect life in Yemen: “The prevalent creepy-crawly in Yamen is certainly the millipede.” The book contains three maps and numerous photographs of landscapes, city views, and Yemeni people.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Macmillan and Company, Limited, London


Type of Item

Physical Description

213 pages : 3 maps ; 22 centimeters


  1. Eric Macro, “The Red Sea and Wyman Bury—The Last Seven Years, 1913‒1920,” in G. Rex Smith, J.R. Smart, and B.R. Pridham, editors, New Arabian Studies 4. (Exeter, U.K.: Exeter University Press, 1997).

Last updated: December 29, 2015