Author: Rosita Forbes (edited with an introduction by Margaret Bald)
Publisher: Axios Press, Mount Jackson, VA
ISBN: 978-1-60419-030-4

Click Here To Purchase From the Sahara to Samarkand: Selected Travel Writings of Rosita Forbes 1919-1937

It is somewhat ironical that Rosita Forbes is proudly and reproachfully informed by a daughter of the Hadramauti in Madi, that “I was born in this room [of the harem] and I have never left it! Women should be taken care of and given all that they can desire, but of what use is freedom?” Forbes was the archetypical adventurer in an age in which followers of the suffragette movement were still having militantly to assert their rights to female emancipation.

Often taking on the guise of a local or Muslim woman, she travelled extensively through Arabic/Islamic lands stretching from the legendary lost city of Kufara in the Sahara to Samarkand, the capital of Tamerlane in Central Asia. From the Sahara to Samarkand: Selected Travel Writings of Rosita Forbes, 1919–1937 also includes some of her travel writings from Java and Sumatra, as well as China. Her incredible courage, with her apparent implacability in the face of often daunting odds, including horrendous weather conditions and what often threatened to be the insurmountable curiosity, if not the blatant animosity, of the locals among whom she traveled has one spellbound from start to finish of this remarkable anthology.

Forbes’ writing is remarkably fluent for the era in which she wrote, with the major difference from that of contemporary writing being the exceptional
length of her sentences, which, however, in no way obscures the clarity of her meaning and the vividness of her descriptions. The sumptuousness of the settings into which she so often interjected herself evokes the exotic nature of her surrounds so lusciously that one can often imagine oneself immersed in a painting depicting the utmost luxury of finery and fabric. Her complete lack of pretentiousness is clearly evident in the way in which she occasionally admits being at a loss for the right word in one of the many languages which she mastered in her way across those areas of the world into which few women, at that stage in or history, were willing to venture. She also avoids name-dropping to such a degree that she puts other writers to shame, and is quite up to poking quiet fun at those westerners who were more biased in their colonial outlook on those races over whom they arrogantly thought that they reigned supreme at the time. One example of such is her encounter with Colonel Lawrence when she was dressed in traditional garb, who, being unaware that she was a Briton, stated to a companion that, despite her pleasing appearance, she was probably diseased, as were many tribal women.

The text is supplemented by a photographic album of a range of well-produced black-and-white photographs depicting Rosita Forbes and some of the vast array of characters whom she encountered on her travels, in settings ranging from that of a gate of Angkor-Thom in Cambodia to outside Buckingham Palace, after an audience with the royal couple in 1921.

An inspiring volume for modern-day travelers, whether of the armchair variety or of the more adventurous kind, this book is not to be missed. If you have a yen to explore foreign lands in a way that is hard to come by these days, do read these travel writings of a most remarkable woman, who was able to approach other cultures with an openness that is exceptional even for the modern day. She is a lesson to all of us who think that whatever is foreign to us is inevitably inferior.

Click Here To Purchase From the Sahara to Samarkand: Selected Travel Writings of Rosita Forbes 1919-1937