The intrepid world traveller Freya Stark visted her fruit-farming father Robert Stark in the Kootenays in 1928 and described her visit in a travelogue that also recalls her experiences in Bagdad, living in a harem in Damascus, her journeys in Persia, a treasure hunt in Luristan, and visits to England, Italy and other parts of Canada. In British Columbia she discovered "none of the buoyancy of prosperity... Everyone is hard up and a little wistful." She described her father, who had gone out to the Kootenays to grow fruit prior to the First World War, as "an incarnation of leisure, for his business depended on the seasons, whose movements encouraged no feelings of hurry except at harvest-time... The Times came to him regularly, and he had a small shelf of books which he read over and over, admitting a newcomer now and then, after much deliberation."

Born in 1893 in Paris, Freya Stark was the daughter of two artists. "My parents treated Europe with extreme nonchalance as a place to run about in," she recalled. Stark and her younger sister Vera grew up multi-lingual, educated by governesses and nuns. She entered Bedford College in London at age 19 and served as a nurse during World War One, in England and Italy. When her parents separated, she and her mother lived in a small house on the Italian Riviera where Stark dedicated herself to learing Arabic and other languages. Her first book was Baghdad Sketches (1933). She consequently served in British intelligence during World War II. Her more than 30 books, most notably The Valleys of the Assassins (1934) and The Southern Gates of Arabia (1936), were mainly about the Middle East. Her last travel book was The Minaret of Djam (1970), about a journey into Afghanistan. She had a short-lived marriage to British Colonial administrator Stewart Perowne from 1947 to 1952. When Dame Freya Stark died in 1993, The Times of London described her as "the last of the Romantic Travellers." Former New York Times reporter Jane Fletcher Geniesse has written a biography, Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark.


Stark, Freya. Beyond Euphrates: Autobiography 1928-1933 (London: John Murray, 1951; London: Century Publishing, 1983; London: Century Hutchinson, 1989).

Stark, Freya. The Freya Stark Story: A Condensation in one Volume of Traveller's Prelude, Beyond Euphrates, and The Coast of Incense (New York: Cowan-McCann, 1953).

[BCBW 2006] "Transient"