Baha'i Library Online

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COLLECTIONBook excerpts
TITLEFreya Stark: A Biography
AUTHOR 1Molly Izzard
PUB_THISHodder and Stoughton
ABSTRACTThree passing mentions of the Faith in a book about a British explorer and travel writer. Includes excerpt from Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark by J. F. Geniesse.

1. Text, from Izzard's book

[page 61]

... Arrived in Baghdad, Freya put up at the Zia Hotel at fifteen shillings a day, and immediately threw herself into her adventure with a search for somewhere cheaper to live. This she found while wandering about the immediate locality. It was a small mud house in a warren of narrow alleyways off the town's main thoroughfare, Rashidi Street. Her Arabic was sufficient to read the notice that it was empty, and on her own initiative she decided to take it. She negotiated a lease with the help of one of her Syrian introductions, a young member of the Bahá'í sect employed in the Government Irrigation Department, and a few days later called at the Education Ministry, and left a note and her address for the British Adviser there, Lionel Smith, a friend of the Ker family, to whom she had an introduction. ...

[page 63]

... Looked at askance by her fellow-nationals, Freya's bold assertion of her individuality fell rather flat. It produced feelings of mortification and of rejection unsuspected by her new acquaintances, and in this perhaps were sown the seeds of her future overbearingly dismissive attitude to mere wives, and her distancing of herself from the preoccupations of the local resident community. As her only 'respectable' connections in British official society, Lionel Smith and Stefana Drower worked conscientiously to promote Freya's acceptability to their colleagues. Slowly, she made up the ground she had lost on arrival, when her association with the American missionaries, and her handful of introductions to worthy but unglamorous middle-class Iraqis, members of the Bahá'í sect, did not commend her socially to her compatriots.


Her treks in 1927 and 1928 in Lebanon and Syria had the protective influence of the Protestant mission community behind them. Similarly in Persia in May 1930, when she set out alone from Iraq in quest of the Assassins' lairs, it was Bahá'í introductions in Baghdad who put her in contact with a local landowner in Qasvin; he consigned her to the care of one of his tenants in the Alamut and held him responsible for her well-being. ...

2. Text, from Geniesse's book

Note: the following excerpt is from Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark, by Jane Fletcher Geniesse (Random House, 1999), online at Google Books. It is included here because it seemed too short to warrant its own post:

... An Arab friend in Damascus had put Freya in touch with a local member of the Bahá'í movement, an enlightened and rationalist religious sect from Persia, who helped her find three rooms up a steep staircase and behind a stout door that had to be opened with a foot-long latchkey. ...

3. Image scans of Izzard's book (click image for full-size version)

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