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The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut

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4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  153 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
In 1934, famed British traveler Freya Stark sailed down the Red Sea, alighting in Aden, located at the tip of the Arabian peninsula. From this backwater outpost, Stark set forth on what was to be her most unforgettable adventure: Following the ancient frankincense routes of the Hadhramaut Valley, the most fertile in Arabia, she sought to be the first Westerner to locate an ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 24th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 1936)
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Lauren
Aug 22, 2012 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Freya Stark was a remarkable woman who travelled throughout the Middle East in the 1930’s. She was fluent in Arabic and Arabian history and wrote many popular travel books at a time when women did not travel alone. When travelling through Yemen, she hired members of local Bedouin tribes to guide her to historical regions, old villages, and along the ancient spice routes. The Hadhramaut region of Yemen is the home of the rare Frankincense tree from the species Boswellia. This is a humorous and de ...more
Marieke
I think this pretty much says it all:
"On the occasion of the arrival of the free and respected one, and of her honouring the court of our excellent school, I rise to welcome her happy visit to the abode of the noble Sharifs, the country of Al Ahqaf, the place of residence of our venerated ancestors and that where our forebears were born. Her spirit and firm courage are show to us inasmuch as she is the first woman to visit the province of Hadhramaut alone, without any companion of her own sex or
...more
Roxanne
Apr 05, 2009 Roxanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir, travel
In the early 1930s, Stark, a single British woman, traveled through southern Arabia alone, visiting country that few other Europeans had seen, particularly few women. This might sound incredibly dangerous, and it probably was, but Stark was helped along by her passion for Arabic history and her genuine interest in the people she met (as well as near fluency in Arabic, as far as I can tell), as well as her poise, charm, humor, and sense of adventure. She befriends bedouins and sheiks alike, as we ...more
Tia Gonzales
I go for romantic imagery, none here. Just a matter-of-fact recounting of where she went, alone of course, because BROWN AND BLACK MEN ARE NOT HUMAN.I prefer 1 eloquent phrase to pages of 'and then I went here' and "I saw this'. The magic of the environment seemed to have escaped her, not unlike those today who race from place to place, photographing where they've been and posting it on Facebook. TE Lawrence described the desert in 7 Pillars of Wisdom which was also dull in part, but the magic o ...more
Karen
Dec 15, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-the-world
I learned of Freya Stark when I read Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Lawrence Durrell, when he was the Minister of Information in Cyprus. Stark was building a house in Cyprus, and was known to take off at a moments notice to parts unknown. So when I found this book, I knew I had to read it.
The Southern Gates of Arabia was published in 1936, and became an instant bestseller. Stark traveled to the Hadhramaut region (now part of Yemen) in 1934 to find the lost city of Shabwa, which is along the ancient
...more
Carole
Mar 13, 2017 Carole rated it it was amazing

A MUST READ
A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME!!!
Mimi
Feb 09, 2017 Mimi rated it really liked it
I don't think I could have read this travel description if I hadn't first read the biography of her by Jane Fletcher Geniesse also wrote the forward to this book. And also I had to read Wikipedia's entry on Yemen as my knowledge of the area was not much, and the names of many places she visits have changed. A few more footnotes would have helped. The writing by Stark is lovely and I envy her traveling in these parts in a time when a well-connected western woman traveling alone was so unusual tha ...more
Stuart
Jul 30, 2008 Stuart rated it really liked it
Later writers have snide things to say about her, but which other woman was riding about without a man to protect her in the back country east of Yemen back in the 1930's. And, she is a literate writer. Thus the 4 stars.

It's a quick read, but it is soooo personal, in contrast to all the geo-political tomes of today.
Yes, she heavily edited the friction out of this, but it's a great glimpse inside the closed society of the emirates area when significant remnants of the ancient economy and society
...more
Sarah
Oct 21, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
Maybe 3.5 stars, as I did feel my eyes glazing over from time to time, but generally I really enjoyed both her account, as well as the opportunity to read a description of a Middle Eastern region from a historical perspective.
Robert Zoltan
Apr 07, 2016 Robert Zoltan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-writers
Beautifully written, engrossing, and poignant, with great insights into life and human character. This book proves that violence is not required for a great adventure, and that the smallest details of life create a sweepingly romantic story.
Yrab
Feb 12, 2011 Yrab rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Especially suited to the 1980's in Manchester during a slow burning heroin habituation. Somehow nodding out didn't spoil a thing...
Juanita
Aug 31, 2009 Juanita rated it it was amazing
Another intrepid traveller
in Araby. I so love these
people and the luck of living
when they did and the worlds
they got to see.
Velvetink
Freya Stark was mentioned in To War with Whitaker
By Hermoine Ranfurly. They met during WW2.
Diana
Diana rated it it was amazing
Feb 09, 2008
Martin Howells
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Freya Stark was born in Paris, where her parents were studying art. Her mother, Flora, was an Italian of Polish/German descent; her father, Robert, an English painter from Devon.

In her lifetime she was famous for her experiences in the Middle East, her writing and her cartography. Freya Stark was not only one of the first Western women to travel through the Arabian deserts (Hadhramaut), she often
...more
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