Abstract: In 1938, Alan Villiers travelled through the Arabian Gulf on Kuwaiti dhows. His year-long journey began in the port of Aden and ended in Kuwait, and included stops in Zanzibar, Lamu, Mogadishu, Haifun, Mukalla, Sur, Muscat, Bahrain, and Basra. His book Sons of Sinbad is an account of his travels and an important and unique travel narrative. Yet Sons of Sinbad and Alan Villiers do not feature in any travel literature on the region, and are not considered in any scholarly work on travel writing in the Middle East or as travel writing of the modernist, postcolonial period.
Sea Change: Alan Villiers and the Subversion of the Arabian Travel Narrative highlights the important contribution Villiers made – in his historical documentation of the Arabian Gulf as a travel writer of the early half of the 20th century, and also to the genre of travel writing in general. It draws on Sons of Sinbad and Villiers’ previously unpublished Arabian journals, comparing them with the work of other travel writers visiting the region and beyond during this period. Various analyses of travel writing and cultural theory as well as aspects of identity and the relationship between empire and its subordinate peripheries are explored. In doing this, Sea Change demonstrates how Villiers’ contribution subverts the associations between travel writing, Orientalism, and the politics of colonialism, ensuring that the literary, historical, political, social, and cultural significance of Villiers’ writing is no longer overlooked.