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  • Louise Sommer

Gertrude Bell; An Extraordinary Life

Yes, Gertrude Bell was indeed an Extraordinary Woman with An Extraordinary Life and Janet Wallach has done a marvellous job in her book Desert Queen; The extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1996)


Photos: Gertrude Bell. Shutterstock/Public domain


Gertrude Bell was born in England in 1868 and died in Iraq, in 1926. She is buried at the British cemetery in Baghdad.


Gertrude was a diplomat, travel writer, archaeologist, adventurer, advisor to kings and friend of Lawrence of Arabia. I bet your history books didn't teach you any of this. To me, the book Desert Queen, The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell by Janet Wallach is a brilliant portrayal of one of the most courageous and inspirational women of our times.



This is a little known, but real story, of a woman who neglected her own safety to explore the world of middle eastern politics around the time of the first world war.


She was friends with Lawrence of Arabia and was considered an equal in a totally male dominated era, and was considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire.


Her exploits were breathtaking and I found it difficult to put the book down. Once again I asked myself why I had never heard of this famous woman before? I have no doubt, that had she been a man, Gertrude Bell would be a household name all over the world; deeply respected and looked up to.


I would strongly recommend this book as a great read as well as offering a huge amount of insight into how the Allies got it so wrong when they tried to carve up the middle East following the war. This is a legacy we are still paying for today.


Apple tea and fresh dates on a colourful blanket.
Cairo. Photo: Unsplash

Janet Wallach, the author of this book, has performed an incredibly in depth research for this book and remained loyal to the legacy of Gertrude Bell.


Thank you, Janet!! It was such a pleasure reading your book.


If you are intrigued, and are curious to know more about Gertrude Bell, I would like to suggest this wonderful documentary about Gertrude voiced and produced by Oscar-winning acress, Thilda Swinton. Click here to watch documentary


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