I have always been drawn to the story of Gertrude Bell. A woman who went against all odds, all forms of conformity. Driven by passion she found herself in the Middle East, learning Arabic and crossing the harsh deserts of Arabia by horse, accompanied solely by her trusted guardian Futouh.
She was completely absorbed and enamored by the Arab culture, their sense of hospitality, their Worldliness, their warmth and wisdom. Sheikhs whose paths she would cross on her voyages fell for her charm and appreciated her sense of adventure. They trusted her, discussed the turbulence of the region with her in detail and respected that she would listen, intently, not trying to control or persuade them with her own political agenda. She worked with them, and not against them. Or so she believed at the time.
People were in awe, confused and scared of her. She had no fear.
‘A wonderful person, not very like a woman’, is apparently T.E Lawrence’s opinion of her. One of her best friend’s describes her as a mad creature whom she first came across in Constantinople, Bell had apparently arrived straight out of the desert with all her evening dresses, cutlery and napery she insisted she needed on her wanderings.
A peculiar and brave creature, marginalized by other influence- seekers, put aside and forgotten after her untimely and strange death. Buried in Baghdad, Gertrude managed to stay where her heartfelt content, in the Arabian Desert.
(Images courtesy of Penguin and Google Images)