Lawrence of Arabia and His Hatred of Camels


The British Officer who helped to lead the Arab revolt against the Turks in the First World War not only had his first taste of desert life on the expedition to the Wilderness of Zin, a desolate area that later became Israel, but he also learned how easily he could escape detection when he and a colleague got lost. The mission in 1913-1914 was an archaeological venture run by the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), but their involvement was simply a distraction to deter the Turks away from its true purpose: to survey a triangle of desert that Allied forces would need to cross in the impending war.

Sam Moorhead, an archaeological expert at the British Museum said that documents held by the PEF show Lawrence coming of age, “It took him a while to get used to living in the desert. He didn’t like it initially”. Moorhead claims that Lawrence’s character has become mythologised as he was in fact, a dishonest man. This dishonesty was revealed after an unauthorised visit to a Crusader castle on Pharaoh’s Island. Moorhead said “We’re told he was frogmarched out of the region, taken out by an officer and half a company of soldiers, so that’s about 35 soldiers”. It later turned out to be just one policeman. He also failed to pay his bar bill at Baron Hotel in Aleppo, despite having had 66 gold sovereigns in his pocket.

A letter by Lawrence to his friend E.T Leeds, showed what he really thought of desert life. “Over the consequences of riding much camels, I draw thick veils, but take it as a summoning up that we are very unhappy”. However, the moment that Lawrence and his colleague Woolley got separated from each other in the desert proved monumental. When nobody was able to find them, Lawrence wrote in one of his most famous letters “It shows how easy it is in an absolutely deserted country to defy a government”.