Freya Stark began life as a self conscious and often shy person who developed into a tenacious and formidable lady explorer. She travelled unaccompanied through Turkey and the Middle East and became a highly respected and knowledgable expert on Arab culture and mentality.
Her upbringing was unconventional, living a secluded life in rural Italy with her artist parents. She immersed herself in books and developed a profound interest in discovering and understanding unknown cultures. This coupled with her aptitude for languages and thirst for knowledge, set her off on her travels in her mid thirties.
Before the First World War, Stark enrolled at Bedford College, London to read Oriental Studies. When War broke out, she returned to Italy, worked as a nurse and founded Freedom, an anti-Nazi activist group.
It was not until 1927 that she undertook her first major expedition to Lebanon and moving on to Damascus, Syria. Here she drew detailed maps that were previously simplistic as well as recording her travel experiences. A few years later she travelled from Damascus to Baghdad and onto Persia where she completed her book Passionate Nomads.
From being regarded initially as an eccentric English women, she became respected as authority on the Middle East, and during the Second World War worked for the British Ministry of Information.
She was a nomad through and through who never stopped wandering, absorbing and writing; she wrote over twenty books recording her travels. She was a fantastically formidable, courageous and energetic woman that firmly puts her in our Great Explorers list.