10 JULY 1936, Page 28

The Land of FrankincenSe

Miss STARK is a small woman (five feet two, she tail us) but she is a great explorer. She has all the requisites for the job. She can eat rotten shark or boiled marmot. She likes travelling without a servant. She neither smokes nor drinks and never speaks of Mohammad without saying "praise be upon him." Above all she enjoys everything she sees and gets on with everybody she meets without affectation or fear.

Thus it is that, alone except for a slave-soldier whom she found an encumbrance much more than 'a help, she was able last year to travel over a great part of the Hadhramaut, that corner of Arabia east of Yemen, where not a dozen Europeans have been at all and where no European woman has ever' been alone. • ' ' • " ' . Miss Stark had set out for Shabwa, the unvisited capital of old Arabia Felix, whence the ancients satisfied their vast appetite for frankincense. She had hoped to follow thence the " single narrow road " across the old empires of the Himyarites and Sabaeans and Mineans to Main in Nejran. Measles and heart trouble prevented her from trying her luck and changed the nature of her book. She writes modestly that " the valleys of Hadhramaut and the inland cities . . . tempt by the strangeness of their beauty to some record, even if it is mostly a record of failure." If this be a failure, let us have more failures. Miss Stark did not achieve her main object but she saw and makes us see a great deal of the strange little world which still lingers on in these remote upland valleys of southern Arabia. She fell in love with it and who can wonder ?

" The honour they did me, their courtesy and kindness Were such that I thought them my kindred."

Miss Stark nearly died twice, while she was in the Hadh-

ramaut, but she could not be rude to her hostess's friends when they prevented her from sleeping or to her servant when he used a hypodermic syringe on her as though it was a meat-skewer. All these people, who very nearly killed her with kindness, captured her heart with their charm.

Alone of travellers in the Hadhramaut she never met with violence, though several times she needed all her spirit and wits to get out of a nasty corner. She too captured hearts. The testimonial which two Sayyids gave her runs as follows :

" This is a certificate to Miss Freya Stark, English, a traveller in Hadhramaut, that she is conversant with laws and guided by religion, and of an honourable house, and is the first woman to travel from England to Hadhramaut alone—and is mistress of endurance and fortitude in travel and in the suffering of terrors and danger. We thank her greatly, very greatly."

We, too, thank her greatly. IGOR VINOGRADOFF.