The Desert and the Sown: Travels in Palestine and Syria


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“To those bred under an elaborate social order few such moments of exhilaration can come as that which stands at the threshold of wild travel.”

In 1905 the Ottoman Empire’s rule in its chief province, greater Syria, was drawing precariously towards its close.

Remaining unfazed by hardship or convention, Gertrude Bell, the daughter of an industrialist and land owner, set off on her journey across the region’s interior.

During the months that followed, Bell grew to understand and respect the Arab peoples to a degree that few ever have, travelling further than any western woman before her.

Although in a place with gender roles so clearly defined, Bell was welcomed at the coffee hearth, like a male guest, able to engage with them on the matters that interested her most.

The Desert and the Sown is an account of those people Bell met or that accompanied her, showing what the world in which they lived was like and how it appeared to them, bringing to life the desert landscape and culture for a western world fascinated by the Orient.

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was an English writer, traveller, archaeologist, and political officer. In her lifetime she explored Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Persia. A contemporary of T. E. Lawrence, she worked for the Arab Bureau in Cairo during the First World War and became influential in British Imperial policy making, helping establish the Hashemite dynasties. To this day she is still remembered in Iraq.

The Desert and the Sown: Travels in Palestine and Syria


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