Travels to Arabia: Pilgrimage to the Najd, Cradle of the Arab Race
Voyage en Arabie (Travels to Arabia) is an account by Lady Anne Blunt of the journey that she and her husband, the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, made to the Najd region of present-day Saudi Arabia in the winter of 1878–79. Lady Anne (1837–1917), daughter of the Earl of Lovelace and granddaughter of Lord Byron, is known as both an adventurous traveler to the Middle East and as the most accomplished horsewoman and breeder of Arabian stock of her era. The book was first published in London by John Murray and Sons in 1881 as A Pilgrimage to Nejd. It was written by Lady Anne and extensively edited by Wilfrid. Presented here is the French translation by Léopold Derôme (1833–89) published in Paris the following year. Derôme was a man of letters and bibliophile; this book is his only venture into travel writing. Although Derôme himself had never traveled to Arabia, he wrote a 68-page introduction to his translation in which he presumes to penetrate the deep psychology of the Bedouin of Arabia. Drawing heavily on the views of Lady Anne and Wilfrid Blunt, he writes that “The Arab of the desert is the exemplar of his race, the father and the superior of the town-Arab…that is to say, noble and pure blooded.” On their journey, the Blunts accompanied the nomadic tribes of the Najd of northern Arabia as far as Baghdad. They spent time with the al-Rashid tribe in their fortified capital, Hail. The al-Rashid were the traditional rivals of the Ibn Saʻud, supporters of the Wahhabi Islamic movement. Wilfrid Blunt at one point even offered his services to the al-Rashid emir as ambassador to Europe. At every stage of the journey, Lady Anne comments on the excellence of the horses she encounters and tests her mounts in hunting excursions. The book is illustrated by Gaston Vuillier (died 1915), a prolific artist-illustrator who worked for publishing houses and Parisian journals. He based his drawings on the sketches and descriptions of Lady Anne. Charles Barbant (died 1922), whose workshop was frequently used by leading French publishers, provided the engraved plates. The translation includes a map specially prepared for this edition, genealogical tables of the al-Rashid and al-Saʻud tribes, and appendices on the history of the Wahhabi sect and the geophysical conditions of north Arabia. It does not include Wilfrid Blunt’s comments in the end notes on the Euphrates valley railway or Lady Anne’s on “our Persian campaign” that are found in the original English edition.
Hachette & Company, Paris
Title in Original Language
Voyage en Arabie; pèlerinage au Nedjed, berceau de la race arabe
Type of Item
447 pages, including frontispiece, plates, folded map, genealology tables ; 25 centimeters
- Zahra Freeth and Victor Winstone, “A journey to Hail,” Aramco World 31, number 3 (May–June 1980).
Last updated: September 22, 2015