• Carrie Mitchell

Freya Stark

"To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure."


Dame Freya Madeline Stark DBE (1893-1993), was an Anglo-Italian explorer and travel writer. She wrote more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan as well as several autobiographical works and essays. She was one of the first non-Arabs to travel through the southern Arabian Desert.


Stark had no formal education as a child, but she moved about with her artist parents and learned French, German, and Italian before she entered the University of London in 1912. After working as a nurse in Italy during World War I, she returned to London to attend the School of Oriental Studies. In her first major book, The Valleys of the Assassins (1934), Stark established her style, combining practical travel tips with an entertaining commentary on the people, places, customs, and history of Persia (now Iran). Thereafter, she traveled extensively in the Middle East, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, where she made her home. During World War II she worked for the British Ministry of Information in Aden, Baghdad, and Cairo, where she founded the anti-Nazi Brotherhood of Freedom. She later visited Asia, notably Afghanistan and Nepal. Stark’s other books include The Southern Gates of Arabia (1936), Letters from Syria (1942), Alexander’s Path (1958), The Minaret of Djam (1970), several volumes of collected letters, and four volumes of memoirs. She was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1972.

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