Tag: Freya Stark

New Travel Book: ‘The Minaret of Djam’ by Freya Stark

The 1970 hardcover of this Freya Stark classic has been out of print for some time, but a new paperback edition is set to hit bookstores on Dec. 21.

The book recounts Stark’s journey in search of Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam; the 12th-century relic is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, though at the time Stark visited, it was a recently re-discovered archaeological find. The publisher’s description notes that “Djam is, even today, one of the most inaccessible and remote places in Afghanistan. When Freya Stark traveled there, few people in the world had ever laid eyes on it or managed to reach the desolate valley in which it lies.”

Three of Stark’s books appeared on our list of the 100 most celebrated travel books of all time.

Freya Stark: ‘The Greatest Woman Traveller of the 20th Century?’

Sara Wheeler says yes.

I think so, though Gertrude Bell, a fellow Arabist 25 years Stark’s senior, runs her a close second. (Stark considered Bell overrated, accusing her of never staying anywhere long enough to get to the heart of things.) “One can only really travel,” Stark once said, “if one lets oneself go.”

Bell landed on Julia Ross’s list of inspirational female travelers

Six Great Women Travelers in Asia


March is Women’s History Month, so this seems a good moment to call out a few of history’s great women travelers. Because so many 19th- and early 20th-century adventurers found themselves drawn to Asia, I’ve narrowed this list to women who made their mark on that continent, fording the Indus River or crossing the Tibetan Plateau, in defiance of social norms and often at great risk. These are the women I wish I’d been in another life. Herewith, my top-six list of the most intrepid Western female travelers to take Asia by foot, camel or donkey.

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No. 14: “Riding to the Tigris” by Freya Stark

To mark our five-year anniversary, we’re counting down the top 30 travel books of all time, adding a new title each day this month.
Published: 1959
Territory covered: Turkey
More than halfway through her 100 years on earth, Freya Stark, the “poet of travel,” headed alone on horseback across the Turkish plateaus to the Tigris River. By that time she had been traveling for decades, mostly in the Middle East, where she had learned Arabic as well as French, Latin, German, Italian and Persian. For her Turkish travels, she threw in Turkish. Stark always stayed in places long enough to write with an insider’s knowledge of a culture. Stark believed in the power of travel and of its capacity to open minds. She once wrote that, “Only with long experience and the opening of his wares on many beaches where his language is not spoken, will the merchant come to know the worth of what he carries.” Stark, who thought the world was divided into two kinds of people, the settled and the nomad, and who climbed Annapurna at 86, was fearless in her traveling. Early on, she abandoned the restrictions of her era for her love of the horizon, which she called “the eternal invitation to the spirit of man.” And while the collection, “Journey’s Echo,” might be a better introduction to her overall work, Riding to the Tigris is one of her finest and most reflective books.

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