Lawrence of Arabia and Chitral

You may be wondering why I have the music from the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" playing in the background to some of my web pages concerning Chitral, Pakistan.

The answer is that the real person, "Lawrence of Arabia", was once in Chitral.

Several Chitralis have told me the story of how Lawrence of Arabia came to Chitral in 1928, passed himself off as an Arab, led the Friday Jumma prayer at the big mosque in Chitral and that several notable and prominent men prayed behind him.
Lawrence of Arabia

This caused great embarrassment to those notable and prominent men, when they later found out who Lawrence was and that Lawrence was not a Muslim at all.

When I first heard this story, I did not believe it. 'More typical nonsense and hogwash', I thought.

However, I later found in the history books that Lawrence actually was in Chitral in 1928.

The 1962 movie "Lawrence of Arabia" is widely regarded as the greatest movie ever made. In polls and surveys taken of movie buffs and experts, "Lawrence of Arabia" almost always comes first. "Bridge on the River Kwai" is generally regarded as the second best movie ever made.

Thomas Edward Lawrence was a minor British Intelligence Officer working in the map room in Cairo when, in 1916, he started off on the first of his self appointed adventures. He decided to try to bring about an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. The revolt was eventually successful, the Ottoman Empire fell and Lawrence, who like so many famous people became famous by writing about himself, took full credit for this.

The British were embarrassed by Lawrence's self promotion and he lost his job in the map room in Cairo. In the 1920s, Lawrence wandered over to what was then British India and got himself a job in the map room in Miranshah, 180 miles South of Chitral.

The British officers who gave Lawrence a job in the map room in Miranshah did not know who he was. They had no idea that he was the famous "Lawrence of Arabia".

They soon found out, however. Lawrence was completely fluent in the Arabic language, which is the language used in leading the prayer in every Islamic mosque in the world. As soon as he got time off from work, Lawrence took a side trip to Chitral. As a speaker of Arabic who was able to recite with great fluency the verses of the Koran used in Islamic prayer, Lawrence was quickly nominated to lead the big Friday prayer at the big mosque in Chitral.
Map of Nuristan and part of neighboring Chitral - Please be thankful for this map, because maps of this area were illegal to sell either in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Go up the Kunar River. When it crosses the red dotted line (very hard to see) you have gone from Afghanistan into Chitral. If you do not cross the dotted line but take the smaller river to the left, you reach the valleys of Nuristan.
If you want to go visit my wife, Honzagool, you cross the red dotted line, keep to the left (West) side of the river, and you will see two rivers branching West near the brown line which comes from the word MUMO. The first river is called Urtsun. The second river is called Jinjoret. Honzagool lives between the Urtsun and Jinjoret rivers, but much closer to Jinjoret. There is a small bend in the river < which is the exact spot where the house of Honzagool is located.
To reach Chitral town, where Lawrence of Arabia led the prayer in the mosque, you pass Shishi Kuh Valley which goes off to the right just above the word MUMO. The next stream to the left is Birir, which leads to Birir valley where exclusively Kalash live. The stream above that to the left is where Ayun is located. The stream branches into Bumboret and Rumbur valleys to the West. At the point above the word KATA where two rivers meet is Chitral town.
No doubt it was due to his job working in the map room in Miranshah that Lawrence of Arabia was able to get to this place, one of the most remote and difficult to reach areas of the world.
This is the first even remotely accurate map of the area that I have ever seen. This map is Copyright © 1997 by Richard F. Strand.

Nobody would have complained about this. All would have been happy, except for one thing: Lawrence was not really a Muslim. He was faking it.

Lawrence did not stay in Chitral long, probably not more than a few days. He went back to his job in Miranshah. However, before long, his superiors in Miranshah found out who he really was. Lawrence was fired from his job, and went back to England.

Ismail Sloan

UPDATE: Miles Scull wrote:

Hello Ismail

Thx for taking a moment to reply. The reason I was interested was that I too checked on Lawrence's movements in Peshawar some while ago (mainly because he at one time was blamed for scheming against the then Afghan gov.) I know he was stationed at Miranshaw, just outside the Afghan border. But Lawrence claimed that he never left that post. (& therefore, could not have side tripped to Chitral)

So, if you would please, can you tell me more exactly about the origination of the stories you heard? Who did you hear this from? How, in your view, trustworthy is the account? Did more than one source seen accurate, since you were there to hear this?

If there was definite evidence (proof) I would very much appreciate any leads or further information, since you were there!

Many thanks


I have been to Chitral many times and they still talk about this there.

I did not believe it at first until I read more about the history of Lawrence of Arabia and found out that he worked for the British in what is now Miranshah Pakistan.

Ismail Sloan

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