"Are we the same, I wonder, when all our surroundings, association, acquaintances are changed? I conclude that it is not the person who danced with you at Mansfield St who writes to you today from Persia. Yet there are dregs, English sediment at the bottom of my sherbet, and perhaps they flavour it more than I think. I write to you of Persia: I am not me, that is my only excuse. I am only I am merely pouring out for you some of what I have received in the last two months." When Gertrude Bell's uncle was appointed Minister in Tehran in 1891, she declared that the great ambition of her life was to visit Persia. Several months later, she did. And so began a lifetime of travel and a lifelong enchantment with what she saw as the romance of the East, which evolved into a deep understanding of its cultures and people. This vivid and impressionistic series of sketches, her first foray into writing, is an evocative meditation that moves between Persia's heroic past and its long decline; the public face of Tehran and the otherworldly 'secret, mysterious life of the East', the lives of its women, its lush, enclosed gardens; from the bustling cities to the lonely wastelands of Khorasan.
Gertrude Bell, CBE (1868 - 1926) was a writer, traveller, political officer, archaeologist and spy who travelled extensively throughout Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Arabia. Along with T. E. Lawrence, Bell helped establish the Hashemite dynasties in what is today Jordan and Iraq. She played a major role in the birth of the modern state of Iraq, using the perspective gained from her travels and relations with tribal leaders in the Middle East. "In British diplomatic group photographs of the early 20th-century Middle East, amid the plumes and uniforms and the calm paraphernalia of an empire going to hell in a bucket, there is often a solitary female. The woman is slim, with a head of luxuriant hair, and neatly dressed in billowing muslins or in the pencil silhouette and cloche hats of jazz-age Baghdad. The woman is Gertrude Bell." James Buchan, Guardian.