Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lawrence meets Feisal for the first time, October 23, 1916

While we've been looking at the Punitive Expedition, momentous occurrences have been going on in the Middle East and more were about to occur.

It was on this date, October 23, 1916, that T. E. Lawrence, then a Captain in the British Army, first met  Emir Feisal, son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca.  As recounted by Lawrence in Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
He led me to an inner court, on whose further side, framed between the uprights of a black doorway, stood a white figure waiting tensely for me. I felt at first glance that this was the man I had come to Arabia to seek – the leader who would bring the Arab Revolt to full glory. Feisal looked very tall and pillar-like, very slender, in his long white silk robes and his brown head-cloth bound with a brilliant scarlet and gold cord. His eyelids were dropped; and his black beard and colourless face were like a mask against the strange, still watchfulness of his body. His hands were crossed in front of him on his dagger.I greeted him. He made way for me into the room, and sat down on his carpet near the door. As my eyes grew accustomed to the shade, they saw that the little room held many silent figures, looking at me or at Feisal steadily. He remained staring down at his hands, which were twisting slowly about his dagger. At last he inquired softly how I had found the journey. I spoke of the heat and he asked how long from Rabegh, commenting that I had ridden fast for the season.
"And do you like our place here in Wadi Safra?"
"Well; but it is far from Damascus."
The word had fallen like a sword in their midst. There was a quiver. Then everybody present stiffened where he sat, and held his breath for a silent minute. Some, perhaps, were dreaming of far off success: others may have thought it a reflection on their late defeat. Feisal at length lifted his eyes, smiling at me, and said, "Praise be to God, there are Turks nearer us than that". We all smiled with him; and I rose and excused myself for the moment.

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