Letters from Syria

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Read Books, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 240 pages
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LETTERS FROM SYRIA JOHN MURRAY. CONTENTS PACE: i. FROM VENICE TO BEIRUT. LETTERS 112 j In the first of these letters Freya Stark has left her home at Asolo and has set out from Venice on a small cargo vessel for her first journey east of Italy and her first contact with the Near East. The s. s. Abbazia takes her as far as Rhodes, where she spends a few days before proceeding on s. s Diana to Beirut, The whole passage occupies three weeks. In the course of it she describes her first impressions of many famous places. 2. LEARNING ARABIC AT BRUMANA. LETTERS 13 63 23 The writer of these letters is now to spend three cold winter months at Brumana, a Syrian village on a slope of the Lebanon high above Beirut. She went with a recom mendation from the well-known orientalist Sir Thomas Arnold, and her object in settling there was to gain a command of fiuent Arabic. She had already received a grounding in this difficult tongue, first from an old Franciscan missionary friar at San Remo, then in 1926 from an Egyptian teacher in London, and finally in 1327 at the School of Oriental Studies. 3. FIRST VISIT TO DAMASCUS. LETTERS 6489 87 Telling of a month at Damascus, where the writer stayed in a native household in the Moslem quarter, and was much hampered by ill-health due to insanitary conditions. After three weeks convalescence in Brwnana she is joined by her friend Venetia Buddicom, whose acquaintance the reader has already made in the course of this correspondence. DAMASCUS AND THENCE TO LETTERS go 1 08 127 friends go by car to Baalbek and Damascus. Their next expedition is an unconventional and adventurous one, seeing that the Druse revolt of August, 1925, had continued until March, 1927, and that the French rulers of Syria were far from welcoming intruders. They are mounted on donkeys and with a Druse guide called Najm make a leisurely progress towards Palestine. At the end of eleven days they are at Bosra. There they dismiss their guide and take a car for Jericho and Jerusalem. 5. POSTSCRIPTS FROM ASOLO AND BRUMANA. LETTERS 109 in i 9 These letters re-introduce some persons and places already familiar to the reader, who will perhaps discern in the last sentence of all a link with the opening chapter of Baghdad Sketches. VI LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS From photographs by Miss Venetia Buddicom, except Frontispiece and those otherwise marked Freya Stark Frontispiece at end of book 1. Lindos, Rhodes Marine Photo Service, Colchester 2. Coastal hills of Syria 1 3. Asphodels over Syrian ruins 4. Flocks of the Beduin 4. Hawking in Syrian cornfields 5. Cutting the corn 6. Roman ruins at Baalbek 7. Great Mosque, Damascus Photo. P. 0. 8. In a Damascus bazaar 9. A cobbler at Damascus 10. Escort first seen 1 1 . Freya Stark, Najm and Arif 1 2. Groups at Deir All 13. Stone doors at Burdk 14. Freya Stark and Arifby the well at Redeme 14. Inside the guest room at Redeme vii 15. Beduin girl dancing near Shahba 15. Coffeepots 1 6 School children at Redeme 17. Miss Buddicom and French officers at Shahba 18. Circular temple at Kanawat 1 8. Little theatre in the ravine ig. Ruins at Kanawat 20. Ruins t Kanawat 20. Temple ruins below Sir 2 1 . The castle guard at Bosra 21. Children in gateway at Atyl 22. Mutib and his grandchildren at Resas 22. Making butter at Resas 23. MufiVs tent at Resas 23. Ruined mosque and minaret at Salhad 24. Bosra From photographs by the author Sketch map drawn by H. W. Hawes xi Vlll FOREWORD THESE letters, written on my first coming to Asia, were neatly and dreamlessly at rest in Sir John Murrays cup board when, between one blitz and another, the Pub lishers eye fell upon them. They were asked for and obtained the dislocation of war between me and the printer made the sending 6f proofs impracticable Sir Sydney Cockerell has most kindly edited them and seen them through the Press...

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