"There is, after Herodotus, little interest by the Western world towards the desert for hundreds of years."

Herodotus, known as the 'father of history', wrote his famous 'inquiries', better known as The Histories, as a way to explore the origins of the Greek and Persian wars. In doing so, he created the idea of recording history. 

However, Herodotus's history is not how we think of history today - he recorded myths, stories, heresay and information across Europe, Asia and Africa, including the desert regions discussed in The English Patient.

You can read Herodotus's The Histories here.

Listen to the first paragraph of Herodotus being read in Ancient Greek.

A wealth of information on Herodotus, including translations, essays and books can be found here.