Freya Stark - Travels and Writings

Travels and Writings

One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one's own and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism. -Freya Stark

—Freya Stark

During World War I she worked as a nurse in Italy, where her mother had remained and taken a share in a business. Her sister Vera married the co-owner. In November 1927 she visited Asolo for the first time in years.

Later that month she boarded a ship for Beirut, where her travels in the East began. She stayed first at the home of James Elroy Flecker in Lebanon, then in Baghdad, Iraq (then a British protectorate), where she met the British high commissioner.

By 1931 she had completed three dangerous treks into the wilderness of western Iran, parts of which no Westerner had ever visited, and had located the long-fabled Valleys of the Assassins (Hashshashins). She described these explorations in The Valleys of the Assassins (1934).

In 1935 she travelled to the Hadhramaut, the hinterland of southern Arabia, where only a handful of Western explorers had previously ventured, never as far or as widely as she went. She published her account of the region in three books, The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut (1936), Seen In The Hadhramaut (1938) and A Winter in Arabia (1940).

During World War II she joined the British Ministry of Information, and contributed to the creation of the propaganda network Ikhwan al Hurriya ('Brotherhood of Freedom') aimed at persuading Arabs to support the Allies or at least remain neutral. These wartime experiences were described in her Letters from Syria (1942) and East is West (1945).

In 1947, at the age of 54, she married Stewart Perowne, a British administrator and historian. The couple did not have children, and separated in 1952 (but did not divorce). During these years she wrote nothing on travel and exploration, but published a volume of miscellaneous essays, Perseus in the Wind (1948) and three volumes of autobiography, Traveller's Prelude (1950), Beyond Euphrates. Autobiography 1928-1933 (1951) and The Coast of Incense. Autobiography 1933-1939 (1953). Stewart Perowne died in 1989.

Her first extensive travels after the war were in Turkey, which were the basis of her books Ionia a Quest (1954), The Lycian Shore (1956), Alexander's Path (1958) and Riding to the Tigris (1959).

After this she continued her memoirs with Dust in the Lion's Paw. Autobiography 1939-1946 (1961), and published a history of Rome on the Euphrates: The Story of a Frontier (1966) and another collection of essays, The Zodiac Arch (1968).

The last expedition of her old age was to Afghanistan; and in 1970 she published The Minaret of Djam: An Excursion into Afghanistan.

In her retirement at Asolo, apart from a short survey, Turkey: A Sketch of Turkish History (1971), she busied herself by putting together a new collection of essays, A Peak in Darien (1976), and preparing selections of her Letters (8 volumes, 1974-82; one volume, Over the rim of the world: selected letters, 1982) and of her travel writings, The Journey's Echo (1988).

She died at Asolo on 9 May 1993, a few months after her hundredth birthday.

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