Princess Royal launches desert expedition to retrace British explorer's trek across Saudi Arabiatext_fields
London: British Royal Princess Anne has launched a daunting desert expedition to cross the Arabian Peninsula from coast to coast - her first public engagement since the funeral of her mother Queen Elizabeth II.
As per an Arab News report, the planned 1,300-km Heart of Arabia expedition aims to retrace the steps of a famous journey by a British explorer who served as an adviser to the first ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The expedition will honour the undertaking and achievement of adventurer, Arabist, and intelligence officer Harry St. John Philby, who traveled from the Gulf coast village of Al-Uqair to Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, on a mission in support of Ibn Saud, the Kingdom's first ruler.
The Heart of Arabia journey will set off in November, a century after Philby's crossing. It is led by veteran British explorer Mark Evans and the team, which will travel by foot and on camels, includes Philby's Saudi granddaughter, Reem.
After reaching Riyadh they will travel west on the final stage to Jeddah, which is likely to present the greatest challenge because of harsh winds and rough terrain, including sand and loose rock.
Philby was sent to Arabia during the First World War to assist T. E. Lawrence as part of the British efforts to foment an Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire, which at the time stretched across the Red Sea side of the Arabian Peninsula all the way to Yemen.
His journey led to groundbreaking cartographic and natural discoveries and resulted in significant changes to the political landscape of the Middle East.
Philby, who would later reside in Riyadh, developed a close relationship with Ibn Saud, who at the time was a significant tribal leader. Philby adopted local dress and customs and converted to Islam, which helped him play a key role in the events that led to the Arab Revolt and the creation of Saudi Arabia.