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Freya Stark
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The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  166 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
In 1935, Freya Stark landed on the coast of South Arabia, intent on being the first woman to venture alone into the country's interior by way of its ancient Incense Road.

She traveled close to the donkey, car and foot. She stayed in villages beset by poverty, and made her way through hostile tribes. She spoke the local dialects, adopted the customs, mixed with

Paperback, 327 pages
Published May 1st 1983 by Tarcher (first published 1936)
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Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Apr 05, 2009 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
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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 about Freya Stark...