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Baghdad Sketches (Travel)

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3.91  ·  Rating details ·  115 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
In the fall of 1928, thirty-five year-old Freya Stark set out on her first journey to the Middle East. She spent most of the next four years in Iraq and Persia, visiting ancient and medieval sites, and traveling alone through some of the wilder corners of the region.
Paperback, 177 pages
Published December 4th 1996 by Marlboro Press (first published December 4th 1932)
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Jim
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
For over forty years (except for a brief interlude when she was married), Freya Stark spent some 40 years traveling by herself in the Middle East. I have just finished reading her first book, Baghdad Sketches (1932), consisting of columns written for the Baghdad Times plus some 8 pieces added later for the British edition.

I am amazed that she was able to not only survive traveling in a difficult part of the world roughly between 1928 and 1970, but she lived to the age of 100.

She is not the first
...more
Tereneh
Oct 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love Freya Stark. The essay "The Sentimental Traveler" is a masterpiece, it sheds a light on colonialism, post-colonialism and modernity vs traditions with as much depth as anything coming out in contemporary thought. What I discover is that I want to learn more about the places and history she writes about, she does not and does not try to provide the full picture, just her own thoughts and observations. Which are rich and worth reading.

Though like many writers of her time who travel you have
...more
Christopher
I really loved this charming book, written by one of my favorite authors. Freya Stark traveled to Iraq in the 1920s and 1930s, found an apartment in the Old Quarter of Baghdad and lived there for a time. This book is a sort of compilation of mini-stories and observations about everyday life in Iraq during that time. There is no narrative or overarching story, but rather more like a journal with witty, thoughtful insights. Her descriptions are fantastic, and you can't help but like her. She is ba ...more
Christina
Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Stark's experiences living as a single woman in Baghdad in 1928: a lost world, beautifully described. I rarely give a book 5 stars, but this one was a constant source of inspiration and delight.
Beverley
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
What a dreary book! Sand, filthy city hovels and streets, oppressed women hidden behind veils. Scanned forward, looking for something more interesting or important, to no avail.
Rrlgrrl
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've only read a handful of Freya Stark's travelogues, but this one is up there for beautiful writing. She describes many of the scenes and countryside in a vivid manner and you can see it with your imagination. Her adventures in Baghdad and trips around the country were great fun to read. It would be nice if my copy of the book had a map to show where she traveled, especially since the names of many of the cities had older spellings or used an older name rather than a modern one.

Some favorite l
...more
Nathaniel
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
A travel journal of a woman journeying in Iraq at the turn of the 20th century. Not only was she traveling in a British-controlled area (just a decade or two after the Victorian era) and not only was she doing it alone, but she was journeying through the Arab world. She did an excellent job portraying a time when the British (and Americans) were welcomed in Iraq and she displayed a beautiful and ancient culture that today's TV viewers would have difficulty believing.
Three takeaways:
1. You aren't
...more
Laura Bang
Baghdad Sketches was the first of Stark's writings to be published and presents a series of short essays on her experiences in and around Baghdad. Her writing is simply breathtaking, whether she is describing the landscape or the people, and she has such great respect for what she's writing about. She's definitely one of my heroes, both as a traveller and as a writer.
Jennifer
Jul 20, 2013 rated it liked it
This book made me feel very ignorant of Middle Eastern history (not a difficult task) It was interesting to read these little essays by an intrepid woman traveller from pre-WWII Iraq and thereabouts - to read Kuwait described as a village for example. I most enjoyed the accounts of her domestic life, renting homes in Baghdad.
Sue
Jun 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend. Baghdad 1938...can't lose track of the fact that this is an ancient city. I am now reading Three Cups of Tea, modern Pakistan, in which the travel and cultural issues are similar.
Ziad Alnaieb
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
really loved this charming book, written by one of my favorite authors. Freya Stark traveled to Iraq in the 1920s and 1930s, found an apartment in the Old Quarter of Baghdad and lived there for a time.
Hazel
Mar 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
still reading but so far very interesting portrayal of now war-torn places in the middle east that were once peaceful
Ahmad
Dec 14, 2015 rated it liked it
The writing style is not that easy to follow and I really don't like that orientalist tone but overall it draws sketches of Iraqis cities that I am sure are completely changed.
Velvetink
Freya Stark was mentioned in To War with Whitaker
By Hermoine Ranfurly. They met during WW2.
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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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“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. You have no idea of what is in store for you, but you will, if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes in the spirit in which the gods may offer it. For this reason your customary thoughts, all except the rarest of your friends, even most of your luggage - everything, in fact, which belongs to your everyday life, is merely a hindrance. The tourist travels in his own atmosphere like a snail in his shell and stands, as it were, on his own perambulating doorstep to look at the continents of the world. But if you discard all this, and sally forth with a leisurely and blank mind, there is no knowing what may not happen to you.” 36 likes
“What a strange revelation of self-esteem it is when people only love those who think and feel as they do - an extension of themselves, in fact! Even Christianity does not cure us, since one cannot feel right without assuming that the rest must be wrong. Personally I would rather feel wrong with everybody else than right all by myself: I like people different, and agree with the man who said that the worst of the human race is the number of duplicates.” 4 likes
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