Freya Stark is most famous for her travels in Arabia at a time when very few men, let alone women, had fully explored its vast hinterlands. In 1934, she made her first journey to the Hadhramaut in what is now Yemen - the first woman to do so alone. Even though that journey ended in disappointment, sickness and a forced rescue, Stark, undeterred, returned to Yemen two years later. Starting in Mukalla and skirting the fringes of the legendary and unexplored Empty Quarter, she spent the winter searching for Shabwa - ancient capital of the Hadhramaut and a holy grail for generations of explorers. From within Stark's beautifully-crafted and deeply knowledgeable narrative emerges a rare and exquisitely-rendered portrait of the customs and cultures of the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. "A Winter in Arabia" is one of the most important pieces of literature on the region and a book that placed Freya Stark in the pantheon of great writers and explorers of the Arab World. To listen to her voice is to hear the rich echoes of a land whose 'nakedness is clothed in shreds of departed splendour'.
Freya Stark (1893-1993), 'the poet of travel', was the doyenne of Middle East travel writers and one of the most courageous and adventurous women travellers in history. She travelled extensively through Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Southern Arabia, where she became the first western woman to travel through the Hadhramaut. Usually solo, she ventured to places few Europeans had ever been. Her travels earned her the Founder's Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and she was created a Dame in 1975. She received huge public acclaim and her many, now classic, books include Traveller's Prelude, The Valleys of the Assassins, Ionia, The Southern Gates of Arabia, Alexander's Path, Dust in the Lion's Paw and East is West. 'She has written the best travel books of her generation and her name will survive as an artist in prose.' - The Observer