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INTRODUCED BY MONISHA RAJESH, award-winning author of Around the World in 80 Trains If I were asked to enumerate the pleasures of travel, this would be one of the greatest among them - that so often and so unexpectedly you meet the best in human nature. Growing up in near-poverty and denied a formal education, Freya Stark had nurtured a fascination for the Middle East since reading Arabian Nights as a child. But it wasn t until she was in her thirties that she was able to leave Europe. Boarding a cargo ship to Beirut in 1927, she went on to became one of her generation s most intrepid explorers - her adventures would take her to remote areas in Turkey, the Middle East and Asia. The Valleys of the Assassins chronicles Stark s treks into the wilderness of western Iran on the hunt for treasure and in an attempt to locate the long-fabled Assassins in Alumut, an ancient Persian sect. Entering Luristan on a mule, draped in native clothing, Freya bluffs her way past border guards and sets off into uncharted territory; places where few Europeans, and no European women, had ventured. Stark was a woman of indefatigable energy, who often travelled with only a single guide and on a shoestring budget, and who was undeterred by discomfort and danger. Hailed as a classic upon its first publication in 1934, The Valleys of the Assassins is an absorbing account of people and place. Full of wit and rich in detail - and also in humanity - her writing brings to vivid life the stories of the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East.

About the Author

Freya Stark (1893-1993) was an Anglo-Italian explorer and travel writer. She wrote more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan, as well as several autobiographical works and essays. She was one of the first Europeans to travel through the southern Arabian Desert. During World War II she worked for the British Ministry of Information in Aden, Baghdad, and Cairo, where she founded the anti-Nazi Brotherhood of Freedom. She was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1972. Monisha Rajesh is a British journalist whose writing has appeared in Time magazine, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph. Winner of the National Geographic Traveller Book of the Year, she was shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award 2020. Monisha was born in rfolk and mostly raised in Yorkshire - with a brief stint in Madras. She currently lives in London with her husband and two daughters.

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