“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark
About Freya Stark
Dame Freya Madeline Stark, Mrs Perowne, DBE (31 January 1893 – 9 May 1993) was a British – 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-Arabians to travel through the southern Arabian Deserts.
Stark was born on 31 January 1893 in Paris, where her parents were studying art.
For her ninth birthday Freya received a copy of One Thousand and One Nights, and became fascinated with the Orient. She was often ill while young and confined to the house, so she found an outlet in reading. She delighted in reading French, in particular Dumas, and taught herself Latin. When she was 13 she had an accident in a factory in Italy, when her hair got caught in a machine, and she had to spend four months getting skin grafts in hospital, which left her face disfigured. She later learned Arabic and Persian, and studied history at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.
During World War I, Stark trained as a VAD and served initially with G. M. Trevelyan’s British Red Cross ambulance unit, based at the Villa Trento near Udine.
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.
y 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) and received the Royal Geographical Society’s Back Award in 1933.
Stark’s 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 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.
(Source – Wikipedia)