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Western Women in the Islamic World

Western Women in the Islamic World Shapero Rare Books

Inspired by the current exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society of British Women Explorers in Arabia, it seemed apposite to look at Western women travellers in the Islamic world.

Western Women in the Islamic World Shapero Rare Books
Mabel Bent | Southern Arabia | Shapero Rare Books Mabel Bent | Southern Arabia | Shapero Rare Books

Mabel Bent travelled through Southern Arabia between 1893 and 1897 together with her husband. Although it is usually Theodore who is thought of as the author, he died shortly after their return to England and it was Mabel who really wrote up the account of their journeys. She describes Muscat, the Hadramout, Sokotra and southern Sudan amongst other places. The work provided a valuable addition to western knowledge of Arabia at that time.

Lady Evelyn Cobbold | Shapero Rare Books Lady Evelyn Cobbold | Wayfareres in the Libyan Desert | Shapero Rare Books

Lady Evelyn Cobbold, one of the explorers featured in the RGS exhibition, was a convert to Islam and was the first British woman to make the Hajj. In 1911 she travelled with her friend Frances Alexander on a journey from Cairo through the Libyan Desert and back. They kept a diary of their travel together which was published as Wayfarers in the Libyan Desert, 1912. It was in North Africa that her interest in Islam developed, and it was shortly after this journey that she formally converted, taking the name Zainab.

Gertrude Bell | Shapero Rare Books
Gertrude Bell | Amurath to Amurath | Shapero Rare Books

Gertrude Bell was one of the most significant travellers in the Middle East. Fluent in Arabic and Farsi she was able to speak directly with the people she met. Bell is now probably best remembered as a major player in the political events unfolding with the collapse of Ottoman rule and the rise of Arab nationalism, however in her early years in the East she travelled widely with an observant eye. Her travels in Eastern Turkey along the Euphrates provided the material for one of her most perceptive books, Amurath to Amurath.  Originally published in 1911 in what is now a very scarce edition, we offer the second edition of 1924. 

Lady Wentworth | Shapero Rare Books
Lady Wentworth | The Authentic Arabian Horse | Shapero Rare Books
Lady Wentworth was not herself a traveller but had a profound influence on one part of the Islamic world as the leading breeder of Arab horses at her Crabbett Arabian Stud. It is thought that over 90 per cent of all Arab horses have lines to Crabbett bloodstock in their pedigrees. Lady Wentworth had pedigree stamped through her – the daughter of the poet Wilfred Blunt and the Arabian traveller Lady Anne Blunt, the grand-daughter of mathematician Ada Lovelace, and the great grand-daughter of Lord Byron. The stud survived all sorts of family and financial turmoil until it was undone by the building of the M25 (the London orbital motorway for those fortunate enough not to know it). Her definitive book is The Authentic Arabian Horse, 1945. Here a fine copy in the original dust-wrapper.
Susan Hillyard | Shapero Rare Books
Susan Hillyard | Before the Oil | Shapero Rare Books

Susan Hillyard was one of the first Western women to live in Abu Dhabi where her husband worked in the oil industry. The Hillyards became close personal friends of Sheik Zayid Al Nahayan who encouraged Susan to write this memoir of her time in Abu Dhabi. A Personal Memoir of Abu Dhabi 1954-1958, is really quite scarce, probably due to it being published in Bakewell, Derbyshire.

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Shapero Rare Books is an internationally renowned dealer in London, specialising in antiquarian & rare books and works on paper, with particular expertise in fine illustrated books from the 15th to the 20th century, travel & voyages, natural history, modern firsts, rare children’s books, guidebooks, Hebraica & Judaica, Eastern European, and Islamica

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