More than a traveller, Philby was a true scholar of Arabia, constantly curious of his surrounding landscape and its people. Even in the harshest of conditions, when exhausted due to hunger, thirst or exasperation Philby was never too tired to take notes and use his instruments to determine location, bearing and temperature.

Whilst his companions slept, Philby would work late into the night writing his meticulous records by lamplight. His original field diaries, stored both in Oxford and at The Royal Geographical Society in London make reference to every change of terrain, speed and direction, and each plant, rock type or artefact observed, enabling cartographers to draw and update detailed maps of the interior of Arabia.  

In line with Philby’s fascination with data collection and his determination to add to our understanding of Arabia, our own expedition will gather field data to support the work of three research projects with a focus on chiropterology, lithic artefacts and human performance and health in extreme environments.


The data and observations generated by The Heart of Arabia team will support the work of scientific specialists to advance human performance in extreme environments, our understanding of pre-islamic history, and of local biodiversity, specifically bats.

Extreme Environment/Remote Location Psychology

At a time when the lives of increasing numbers of people are involuntarily touched by extremes-be they floods, wildfires, pandemics or resource scarcity, the Drift project is working with those who currently work in extreme environments to design a tool to help people self-manage their behaviour, health and performance in challenging situations. As such, it has the potential to impact those involved in expeditions, space travel, defence, field scientists and remote aid workers.

Monitoring the distribution of Bats across Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, there are at least 30 species of bats but very little is known on the populations, distribution and ecology in Arabia. Three species of fruit bats occur in Saudi Arabia, and for thousands of years these bats have had a close association with planted fruit trees such as the date palm, a key agricultural crop in Arabia. The date palm itself has had such a significant impact on human activity in Arabia that it has been inscribed on UNESCO’s list as an example of cultural intangible heritage of humanity.

Green Arabia-recording lithic artefacts

The Green Arabia project, funded by the European Research Council, the Heritage Commission of the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Griffith University in Australia examines environmental change in the Arabian Desert over the last one million years. The project, headed by Michael Petraglia Director of the Australian Research Centre of Human Evolution is pioneering interdisciplinary archaeological research in Saudi Arabia to study the effect of environmental change.

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