British-born Gertrude Bell, also referred to as the female Lawrence of Arabia, was an adventurer, spy, archaeologist and powerful political force who travelled into the uncharted Arabian desert and was recruited by British Military Intelligence to help reshape the Middle East after World War I.
She drew the borders of Iraq, helped install its first king and established the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities which was infamously looted during the 2003 American invasion.
A true visionary, she advocated for Iraqi self-rule and openly criticized colonial policy.
Gertrude Bell images, courtesy of the Gertrude Bell Archives, Newcastle University
Gertrude Bell was astonishingly accomplished.
She was one of the most powerful women in the British Empire in the early twentieth century, yet she has been overlooked in much of the history written about this period.
As the first female British intelligence Officer and adviser on Arabian affairs to the British government,
Bell helped shape the geopolitical map of the world as it changed dramatically after World War I.
She was the only woman with a diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and the only woman invited by Winston Churchill to the Cairo Conference in 1921.
Newly married couple Aaron and Rivkeh will be alone together for the first time after their wedding ceremony.
Their marriage was arranged by their families. The 18-year-olds met once to confirm the choice; since then they have been prohibited to meet or even talk.
National Geographic Traveler Director of Photography Dan Westergren, one of this year’s judges, shares his thoughts on the second-place winner:
“Photography is a powerful tool for showing the ways that people around the world are clearly different but in many ways the same. The Orthodox fur hat and wedding dress are clues that this picture was taken in a very distinctive place. But the smile and laughter of the bride and groom indicate that these are teenagers reacting to a new situation”.
“When I look at the image I can’t help but think about the nature of love and marriage around the world. Here is a scene that in many parts of the world could be a young couple on their first date.
Because of the clothes they are wearing I know that this is not a lighthearted encounter but the beginning of a lifelong commitment.
Any photograph that can make me think that much deserves to be a winner.”
Oum al-Maa Lake, Ubari Sand Sea. Photo credit: unknown
The Ubari Sand Sea is a vast area of towering sand dunes in the Fezzan region of south-western Libya.
But 200,000 years ago, this was a wet and fertile region with plenty of rainfall and flowing rivers.
These rivers fed a vast lake, the size of Czech Republic, in the Fezzan basin called Lake Megafezzan. During humid periods the lake reached a maximum size of 120,000 square kilometers.
Oum al-Maa Lake. Photo credit: George Steinmetz
Climate change caused the region, a part of Sahara, to gradually dry up and between 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, the lake evaporated away into thin air. Traces of this great lake still exist today in the form of micro lakes scattered among the towering dunes like wet patches in the desert.
Currently there are about 20 lakes in the Ubari Sand Sea – beautiful palm-fringed oases that appear like anomalies in the harsh desert environment.