Death Valley is a summer resort

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

After Dunlap went to Africa the long way around, he continued on up to Suez:

One night we had a spectacular show of lightning flashing on the horizon, which turned out to be the sea battle of Madagascar, between British and Free French units and the Vichy French ships based there.


About the time we headed into the Red Sea I ate something I shouldn’t — probably some of the fancy fruit stored in the hold for officers only — and came down with amoebic dysentery.


In a week I lost between 25 and 30 pounds.


[Suez] Didn’t look too bad, though the sight of all ages and both sexes using the banks and wharves as latrines very openly was rather startling.


On this numeral business, if we use the Arabic system, just what do the Arabs use? The one and the nine are written the same in both systems, but there similarity ends. Their two is a reversed seven, their zero is a dot, their five a zero, and so on.


As we pulled out of Suez, British soldiers ran alongside the train and handed up cans of beer. This, joyfully received, cemented international relations in the Middle East. The incident will also illustrate how desperate things were at the time and how welcome we were, because, for an English soldier to give away beer at any time — for any reason — and to an American, well it just is not possible to comprehend. Maybe they were so happy about Alamein going OK they were not responsible for their actions.


That desert is dead. There are no birds, no animals, no cactus, no vegetation; compared with it, Death Valley is a summer resort.


  1. Steve Sailer says:

    German tourists vacation in Death Valley, CA in the summer. They love getting their pictures taken in front of a giant thermometer in Death Valley reading 50 degrees Centigrade.

  2. Steve Johnson says:

    “On this numeral business, if we use the Arabic system, just what do the Arabs use?”

    Amusingly enough a few seconds of googling indicates that current Arabic uses “Eastern Arabic” numerals – derived from ancient Indian.

  3. Kirk says:

    Dunlap was writing in the 1940s, after an education in the US of the 1930s. He’s to be excused for not knowing the provenance of Arabic numerals, because that sort of “cultural sensitivity” was something which simply wasn’t taught, back then. Arguable if it’s worth a damn today, but there you are. Average American heard “Arabic numerals” all their life, never got exposed to the fact that actual numbers in Arabic are different, and hey, presto! He’s gonna document the confusion when he finds it.

    To be honest, with the state that Arab culture was in back then, it’s not surprising: They weren’t exactly publishing cutting edge science, and even now, their signal accomplishment and contribution to world civilization is basically an improved fanaticism and dedication to nihilistic terrorism. Although, TBH, I think the Sri Lankans got to suicide bombing before they did, and with more dedication and application.

    It is interesting to examine the roots of the Arab Islamic claim to ever having been civilized, or scientific. Nearly everything they had, in terms of “science” or what they sold as “civilization” was borrowed from conquered peoples, and rapidly extinguished under their rule. Persian poetry? Gone, along with much of the cultural attainments of Persian civilization. Same with the accomplishments of the Tigris/Euphrates river valleys and what was once the Eastern Roman Empire. Syria and the Levant was once known as a garden spot, with multitudinous cities and agriculture. After the Islamic conquest, it’s been a long, slow decline into wasteland, much like North Africa–Which used to feed a lot of the Roman Empire, and is now mostly barren wasteland peopled by savages.

    Same-same with Iberia; the Moorish legacy in Spanish civilization could be argued to have been a major factor in the crapfest that is the former Spanish empire around the world. Exploitation, not sustainment and husbandry–That’s the Arab-Islamic legacy.

  4. Kirk says:

    The Red Sea, I don’t know about personally, but I will attest to the fact that the Persian Gulf ain’t no picnic; even after many years living and working in the Mojave desert just to the southwest of Death Valley, I still had a distinct sense of “Holy shit, this is hot…” after spending a year in the frying pan of the Kuwaiti desert. Qualitatively, there’s a distinct difference between the two. The Mojave is a verdant paradise, by comparison–Especially in winter.

  5. Graham says:

    The Persians managed to take over Islamic civilization pretty substantially, at least from Mesopotamia eastward. The civil servant classes, scholarship, literary men, and top level ministers tended to be more Persian than not.

    Kind of like the Greeks in the Roman empire, only on a grander scale, perhaps because the Romans were themselves a bit more civilized, not recent barbarians. Even more, comparable to the Romans or Romanized types who filled the clerical and official ranks of the early Germanic kingdoms of Europe. Exceptions would be farther west, where the pre-invasion peoples of the Levant and Egypt did not go away, did not all become Muslim at once, and grafted their more urban and settled cultures onto their local versions of Arabized Islamic society.

    Then, when Turks showed up, they in turn played a role similar to the Germans in late Rome.

    Very quickly you had a civilization [by 1000 or so] with an Arab religion and sometimes still Arab rulers at various levels, practicing a Persian culture and with Turkish soldiers. The Turkish part prevailed west of Mesopotamia, too.

    They now remember their golden ages a little too fondly, but for the most part the Persians remember that they were the bulwark of these, and the Arabs and Turks know it too.

    Andalus is a good example, it was for its time a briefly very effective state with a high culture, even if it descended in civil war in fairly short order and ended up a vassal of North AFrican empires. And, of course, was a colonial society. Imagine if in a couple hundred years French people were remembering Algerie francaise this fondly.

  6. Ezra says:

    Mojave desert and Death Valley in summer no picnic. And IS OK in the winter. But that is a short winter.

  7. Steve Johnson says:

    “Dunlap was writing in the 1940s, after an education in the US of the 1930s. He’s to be excused for not knowing the provenance of Arabic numerals, because that sort of “cultural sensitivity” was something which simply wasn’t taught, back then. ”

    Of course — the amusing part to me is that the main Arabic contribution to daily life is that we use Arabic numerals — which aren’t even used by Arabs not that he didn’t know this obscure fact.

  8. Kirk says:

    I may have taken that wrong, Steve. I took it as a critical mockery of the provincial rube, Dunbar. If I remember right, the general American and English-speaking European attitude towards Arabs and Islam was pretty dismissive of the culture at the time, with zero emphasis being placed on anything about them. So, in that, Dunbar was a product of his times.

    Spend a few years immersed in the milieu, the way I did going through the piles of magazines and other materials my grandmother had accumulated (that woman never threw anything out, until it was utterly used up…) from the pre-WWII era and after, and you’ll gain an entirely different appreciation for American culture of the era, one that’s a lot different than usually projected back from today’s viewpoint.

  9. Sam J. says:

    I had a blast in the Mojave desert once. There used to be a big water park there. I think this is it but I’m not sure

    When I went there was no pool or canals. It was a big sand bottom pond with big sheet metal slides. You could rent or buy inflatable rafts and slide down on them. Lots of fun.

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