Lawrence: The Uncrowned King of Arabia
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"Lawrence of Arabia " began World War I as a map clerk and ended it as one of the great figures of the war. He altered the face of the Middle East, and almost single-handedly formulated many of the precepts of modern guerrilla warfare. Yet he refused any honors for his achievements and spent much of the rest of his life in the ranks of the army and the Royal Air Force, in near obscurity.
Lawrence deliberately turned his life into a conundrum and set out to mystify those who came after him-beginning with his own account of the Arab Revolt, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, in 1926-thereby assuring his place as a mythical cult-figure for posterity. He saw himself as an intellectual rather than a soldier, and a wanderer after sensations rather than a man of action. He wore an endless series of masks.
But who was the real man behind these disguises? Desert explorer and Arab scholar Michael Asher set out to solve this riddle of appearances. Retracing many of Lawrence's desert journeys, he gained startling new insights into his character. The result is a biography that captures the elusive man behind the myth.
from the Yarmuk-Minifir mission on the 12th, his stay would have amounted to just five nights. Yet, turning to his Seven Pillars description of his time at Azraq, I found strong hints that he was there for a far longer period. He ‘established himself in the southern gate-tower, he wrote, and settled down to have a ‘few days’ repose’ until the guests started coming in. When those few days were over, the guests began arriving ‘all day and every day’: ‘we sat down to enjoy these dregs of Autumn –
visited many other castles, including left, the Norman keep at Safita (this view from inside) and right, Harran, photographed on a subsequent visit in 1911. 8. Lawrence’s years at Carchemish were the happiest of his life. Here he worked with Leonard Woolley (right) over five seasons from 1912 until 1914. In this photograph they are standing on either side of a large Hittite slab. 9. Carchemish, a Hittite capital as early as 2500 BC, had been built on the intersection of two waterways and
As he stepped upon his native soil on that day in December 1908, the Sharif’s dreams ran far beyond the borders of the Hejaz. When the Prophet Mohammad died in AD 632, he left no male heirs and had made no provision for a ‘Successor’ or ‘Caliph’. For a moment the whole future of Islam hung in the balance. Mohammad had made it clear in his lifetime that he was ‘the Seal of the Prophets’ – the last in the line of God’s apostles which had begun with Father Adam and included Jesus Christ. For some
conversely, the Frenchman held himself up as an example to be imitated: rather than learn Arabic, he encouraged the Arab to learn French; rather than learn Arab customs and traditions, he encouraged the Arab to ape his own. The result of Lawrence’s style of colonialism would be a people with their own distinct cultural patterns, firmly but covertly under British dominion: the result of the French style, a ‘vulgarized’ and acculturated people who were unable to attain the heights of the European,
applied for him, like his own claim to have gone there of his own choosing, was spurious. He had been sent to the Hejaz by the Arab Bureau, and he had been sent with a particular – and vital – mission in mind. Lawrence knew that in order to make a proper appreciation he would have to visit Feisal on the Darb Sultani, and the thought did not attract him. He was well aware that the Hejaz was crawling with informers and Turkish sympathizers, and if captured he might be shot as a spy. Moreover, no