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Freya Stark

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The Southern Gates of Arabia : A Journey in the Hadhramaut
by Freya Stark
In 1934, a 42-year-old Englishwoman named Freya Stark arrived in the British-governed Protectorate of Aden on a singular mission: to locate the fabled, long-lost city of Shabwa.

Located on the high Hadramaut plateau in what is now Yemen, Shabwa was renowned in antiquity as the source of frankincense. Little visited even then, it was also thought to be a particularly forbidding place; Genesis mentions it as the "enclosure of death," and the Roman geographer Pliny reported that it contained 60 great temples and wealth beyond measure. That was good enough for Stark, who, having not long before made a difficult passage across the badlands of Iran, thrived on improbable adventures. And so, by burro and whatever mechanical conveyances she could find, she ascended the high mountains into a world that was sometimes perilous, but that also sometimes approached fairy-tale dimensions, as when, climbing the Hadramaut, she writes, "The path kept high and open, until gradually the valley clefts narrowed again upon us, and shut us in walls whose luxuriant green made a romantic landscape of the kind usually only invented in pictures."

Stark never reached Shabwa; laid low by measles, she had to be evacuated from territory overrun in any event by warring religious factions and gangs of bandits. Though cut short, her time in the Yemeni highlands yielded this superb travel narrative, full of uncommon vistas and milieus (harems, bazaars, and Bedouin camps among them). Anyone who values tales of adventure well told will find Stark's body of work--and this book in particular--to be full of treasures. --Gregory McNamee - Amazon.com
Paperback - 368 pages (July 24, )
Modern Library; ISBN: 0375757546


The Valleys of the Assassins
by Freya Stark
First published in 1934, Freya Stark's classic tale of her travels through Persia has been reprinted once again and is just as much a gem now as when first published. At the age of 37, Stark shocked her fellow Brits by moving to Baghdad, befriending the locals, studying Arabic and the Koran, and then setting out on expeditions to remote and uncharted areas of the Islamic world by foot, donkey, camel, and car. With her fascination for secret Islamic societies, she resolved to travel to the former home of the Cult of the Assassins and locate an ancient fortress described by Marco Polo. (The founder of the cult inspired his recruits to murder through the use of hashish, hence their name Hashishin, from which we get assassin.) There was only one problem: she couldn't find the valley on her map. Intrepid and indefatigable, she found a guide to lead her across the empty Persian plains and crested mountain ranges (Stark leaping like a mountain goat while her guide huffed behind) into the practically impregnable valley. There she found the castle ruins covered with wild tulips and surrounded by breathtaking views of the Elbruz Mountains. While there, Stark charted the first accurate maps of the region. Stark also used her charm and her understanding of Persian ways to infiltrate Luristan, a dangerous and forbidden place where she hunted for Neolithic bronzes (by persuading the chief of police to help her loot graves) and searched for buried treasure. The Lurs, a mountainous tribe, were infamous for murder and thievery, but she found them "as cheerful a lot of villains as you can wish to meet, and delighted with us for being, as they said, brave enough to come among them." The Lurs were consistently generous hosts, but thought nothing of raiding her luggage while she slept (stealing being their national pastime and hence nothing to get upset about). While Stark began as an obscure and idiosyncratic adventurer, she was ultimately backed by the Royal Geographic Society, was considered one of the best adventure writers of the century, and even was knighted by the queen of England. With her lively voice and natural perceptiveness she painted a picture of a fascinating world inhabited by charming bandits and armed tribesman now largely gone. While she did it for her own pleasure, in the end, the pleasure is ours. --Lesley Reed - Amazon.com
Paperback: 352 pages
Modern Library; ISBN: 0375757538; (July 24, )

Baghdad Sketches
by Freya Stark, Barbara Kreiger (Introduction)
Paperback: Marlboro Pr
ISBN: 0810160234; (December )

Alexander's Path
by Freya Stark
Book Description This is the story of back-country Turkey, an area that even in the 20th century remains stubbornly tied to antiquity. The author traveled through it by truck and horseback, often alone. She reached places little visited and never written about. The country people welcomed her with generosity unrelated to their meager resources. 

She was traveling in time as well, and found significance in recalling the life of Alexander the Great. Twenty-two centuries ago he was the first to dream of a united world. "Magnificent...a brilliant and inspiring account of her journey along the coastline of Turkey and back into time." (The Observer) 

"Her books have as their obvious destiny inclusion in the aristocracy of letters." (The Evening Standard)
Paperback: Overlook Press
ISBN: 0879513403; Reprint edition (March 1990)

Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark
by Jane Fletcher Geniesse
Never mind that upon her death in 1993, the then 100-year-old Dame Freya Stark rated a three-column obit in The New York Times. Mention her name to most Americans, and it will elicit a "Freya who?" The tales and travails of this romantic traveler, who marched alone into the Middle East from Persia to Yemen, discovering lost cities and creating an anti-Nazi intelligence system along the way, are captured in this compelling biography by former New York Times reporter Jane Fletcher Geniesse. 

The author unveils not the fearless wanderer whose mappings and 30 books brought Stark awards from the likes of the Royal Geographical Society and made her a darling of British society. Instead Stark is seen as humble, insecure, and forever caught in the role of perpetual alien--be it when the English-born child grows up in Italy, where her mother lives in scandal, or when she plunges alone into the East, a feat never before accomplished by a Westerner. 

An unwilling iconoclast whose love of travel, she would say, began as an infant when her father carried her in a basket over the Dolomites, Stark longed for the social security of the times: marriage and children. Proposals fell through, on occasion her beloved was married, or the romantic emotions she felt went unrequited--and besides, as a friend later pointed out, marriage would have spoiled her with its confinements. Rising above depression, self-imposed ostracism, and her numerous illnesses, Stark learned Arabic and how to climb mountains, map, partake in geographical digs, and find a niche in strange cultures. 

Initially ridiculed for her passionate fondness of the Middle East, her writings ultimately generated vast interest for that mysterious part of the world, where she was surprisingly embraced, made privy to political movements closed to most foreigners, and even shown precious Islamic documents. At times a nurse, a war correspondent, a negotiator, Stark was a one-woman revolution of her time. Geniesse's intoxicating documentation of her life not only serves to stir up new interest in Stark's many books; it also ensures that the name Freya Stark will live on long after her obituary is but a scrap of yellowed, crackling newsprint. --Melissa Rossi - Amazon.com
Paperback: 448 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.93 x 8.06 x 5.14 
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; (July 24, ) 
ISBN: 0375757465 

Freya Stark in Iraq & Kuwait (The Freya Stark Archives Series)
by Malise Ruthven (Editor), et al
Hardcover: 104 pages
Garnet Pub Ltd; ISBN: 1859640044; 1 Ed edition (September )

Freya Stark in South Arabia
by Freya Stark, et al
(Hardcover)
 
 

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