From the Sahara to Samarkand: Selected writings of Rosita Forbes 1919–1937.
Reviewed by Deborah Manley

From the Sahara to Samarkand: Selected writings of Rosita Forbes 1919–1937.
Edited and introduced by Margaret Bald. Axios Press, 2010, ISBN 978-60419-030-4, p/b $15. 00

Living women explorer-travellers support this book with great enthusiasm. It brings together a collection of Rosita Forbes’ writings. ‘Once,’ wrote Rosita Forbes (1893– 1967), ‘I couldn’t even wash my hands for seventeen days. Often I have not had a bath for months.’ That is serious travelling!

She was renowned for her travels in the 1920s and 1930s—often in ASTENE areas. She explored the Libyan Desert, sailed to Yemen, trekked in remote Abyssinia, travelled from Turkey to Persia and on other continents on both sides of the Atlantic. She wrote 19 travel books and 11 novels set along the routes of her travels. This book is an anthology from her writings.

Of particular interest to ASTENE are the early chapters: The Secrets of the Sahara with the Egyptian traveller Hassanein Bey—who wrote his own book of the venture (recently reissued by American University In Cairo Press); her interrupted pilgrimage to Mecca (unlike the convert to Islam, Lady Evelyn Cobbold, she did not succeed). The following year Rosita Forbes was off to Yemen, a year later to Morocco. In 1925 she trekked through Abyssinia. Then there was a pause until in 1931 when she crossed from Turkey to Persia and saw much of Kurdistan. The last journey she wrote about was from Kabul to Samarkand in 1937.

With Rosita Forbes’ books long out of print, Margaret Bald has done a great service, to her and to us, in bringing out this book. Many of us will need to take to the second-hand bookshops or our libraries to search out her other books once we have absorbed this excellent starter.

Deborah Manley