February 1985, fifty years after T. E. Lawrence was killed in a motor
bicycle accident in Dorset, Captain Charles Blackmore and three others of
the Royal Green Jackets Regiment set out to retrace Lawrence’s exploits in
the Arab Revolt during the First World War.
Using Lawrence’s classic account, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” as their guide,
the members of this expedition spent twenty-nine days with meagre supplies
and under extreme conditions, riding and walking to the source of the
Lawrence legend. What the young men discovered about Lawrence and the legend
was matched only by what they discovered about themselves.
Blackmore insisted on living as Lawrence did: as a true Bedouin. But it did
not take long for the romantic images to vanish. Extreme heat, cold,
virtually no food and little water, an inability to communicate with the
Arabs and a growing realisation of their lack of preparation, all combined
to turn their thoughts and fears to conspiracy.
The author bases his account on a diary he kept of the expedition. As we
explore and sometimes test the legend of “Lawrence of Arabia,” we begin to
understand that this was a commemorative venture in the best sense: in
modern Jordan it is unlikely ever to be repeated.
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