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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his family


[On S.S. Royal George]

End of March, 1916

We are in the Straits now. - Bab el Mandeb - with a splendid Arabia on one side, and a dull damp Persia on the other. I wonder why Arabia is the best-looking land, however you see it. I suppose it is the name that does it.

We have been about ten days at sea, and have perhaps two more, I suppose. A comfortable-going ship, where they leave one alone, and easy water. Rather cold some days, but generally mild and pleasant. There hasn't been much to see. A long-continued line of Arabian hills on the left, some Red Sea Islands, no more than rocks, and Aden, which is a jagged rim of coloured cliffs sticking up out of the water... no beach, no flat land, but very beautifully coloured, and striated, with deep polished ravines. From the sea it was splendid, but it would be hot to live in on the sheltered side, where the little port is.

Flying fish are little things like minnows, that splash off the water like a flung stone. They look pretty at night, when it is phosphorescent, for then they leap away from the ship in jagged flights, splashing out constellations of stars.

I won't write to you from Basra I expect. I will be very busy ashore, and will make my way back probably by the boat which would carry the mail. Unless I have fortune to return at the same time as the flagship, in which case I will go twice as fast. We will take about twelve or thirteen days this trip.

I hope Bob is better. Diphtheria seems to be a very unpleasant ailment: however you will not be sorry to have him sitting at home for a bit.

Tell Arnie that Heredia (in my house) is a man who paints pictures in words as perfectly as ever they have been done in colour.  Let him get fond of Hypnos. There is more in that little head in the bronze room than came out of Phigaleia. If the Ashmolean is still open let him try and understand those broken heads by Scopas. It is an education which takes time.

I expect Mr. Hogarth is in Egypt now. I want to bring Gertrude [Bell] back with me, and our Arabian office will be complete.

N.

Source: HL 316-7
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 2 January 2006


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