Friday, March 16, 2007

Flash Flood: Oblivion in the Life and Death of Explorer Isabelle Eberhardt

Explorer, Isabelle Eberhardt, was born February 1877 in Geneva Switzerland and grew up to become one of the most remarkable women explorers of all times. Isabelle was well educated as a girl and became fluent in Arabic and several other languages. She was extremely liberated for a woman of her era and from childhood assumed the dress of a male, in order to secure freedom denied to women. In her male persona as Si Mahmoud Essadi, Isabelle gained access to a world denied women; mystical Islam and converted to the austere Wahabbi sect. Isabelle traveled extensively in Africa and eventually made Northern Algeria her base. During her travels she was initiated into a secret Sufi cult; the Qadiriyya.

Isabelle was delicate of feature and it was doubtful she actually passed for a man. We can only speculate on the personal charisma and particular fate that allowed her access to a world forbidden to women. In Algeria, Isabelle's explorations into the desert deepened her experience of Islamic mysticism and it is there that she often recorded her observations and daily life in her journals.

On a fateful day; October 21, 1904, twenty-seven year old Isabelle died in a flash flood in Ain Sefira, Algeria. Her clay house collapsed around her and she was undiscovered for days, with pages of her journal strewn around and beneath her. Paul Bowles has translated some of her work into English. "The "Oblivion Seekers" consists of thirteen pieces of what we would call flash fiction today.


moon said...

what an amazing woman, i never heard of her before Princess.
and i always like to read about exceptional human beings - who made their life so dedicated and special.

Feyzullah said...

Hello. I am looking for a citation from Isabelle Eberhardt. I cannot find her books, so I cannot find that sentence which I remember from her. It is an entry that has been written in Italy, I guess because as far as I remember she says "in this small sardinian town", and then finishes the sentence with a question: "where will I be, under which sky, and will I be alive?" Please, if you ever read that sentence or paragraph, please send it to me via email: Thank you very much in advance...