Gertrude Bell was a writer, cartographer, archaeologist, and explorer who helped establish modern day Jordan and Iraq after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Both the British government and the Arab leaders claimed that she was valuable help thanks to her extensive knowledge and experience, yet she’s widely unknown.

After graduating from Oxford in 1892, Bell travelled to Persia to visit her uncle. She spent the next two decades travelling around the world, mountaineering in Switzerland, and developing a passion for archaeology and languages, becoming fluent in Arabic, Persian, French and German as well as also speaking Italian and Turkish.

She was buried at the British cemetery in Baghdad and her funeral was a major event, attended by large numbers of people including her colleagues, British officials and the King of Iraq.

“To wake in that desert dawn was like waking in the heart of an opal.”