Gertrude Bell's 1907 work Syria, The Desert and the Sown is travel literature of the highest order. She wanted to tell the stories of the people she met on her tremendous adventure through an often-misunderstood land. She found the inhabitants of Syria diverse and incredibly accepting of such diversity. One man could walk down the street veiled, while another could be almost entirely unclothed, and neither would cause an uproar. Her observations are, perhaps, unbelievable to modern readers, making her book as much a window in time as it is a thrilling adventure.
Readers familiar with the history of T.E. Lawrence and his Arabian adventures will find Bell's tales of equal value and interest. Students of history will find her catalog of Syrian life and customs a valuable firsthand account.
British writer GERTRUDE LOWTHIAN BELL (1868-1926) was a powerful force in Arabia in the early 20th century. Along with T.E. Lawrence, she helped establish the Hashimite dynasty in Jordan and Iraq. She traveled widely, especially in the Middle East, and spoke a number of languages. During her life she published only a handful of books, including Persian Pictures (1894) and Hafiz Poems (1897).