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(1896 - 1918) Syria


Arab peasant boy


In Csrchemish, T. E. Lawrence fell in love with a 15-year-old Arab peasant boy, Salim (or Selim) Ahmed, the site's water boy, whom he called Dahoum ("little dark one") and taught him photography, to read and write, and to be his assistant. Later they moved in together, and Lawrence made a nude carving of Dahoum and put it on top of their house. Apparently Dahoum was also a wrestler. In the summer of 1913 Lawrence took Dahoum and Sheik Hamoudi (a wild character with whom he had become friends) on a trip to England. The trio got a lot of attention. After Lawrence's death, Hamoudi recalled the one time he was angry with his hero:

"When Dahoum and I went to Oxford many wished to photograph us as we sat with him in our customary Arab clothes. After they took a picture, they would come and speak to him and always he would say 'No, No.' One day I asked him why he was always saying 'No, No,' and he laughed and said 'I will tell you. These people wish to give you money. But for me you would now be rich.' And he smiled again. Then I grew angry. Indeed, I could not believe I heard right. 'Do you call yourself my friend,' I cried to him, 'and say thus calmly that you keep me from riches?' And the angrier I grew the more he laughed and I was very wrath at this treachery. At last he said when I had turned away and would no longer look at him, 'Yes, you might have been rich, richer than any in Jerablus. And I - what should I have been?' and he paused watching my face with his eyes. 'I should have been the showman of two monkeys.' And suddenly all my anger died down within me."

DahoumWhen war broke out, Lawrence was away in England. DahoumDahoum and Lawrence were inseparable until Dahoum disappeared in 1916. They never met again - Dahoum died of typhus in 1918. About his war experiences, Lawrence once said "I liked a particular Arab, and thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present." The poet loved Dahoum, and was inspired during the war to gain freedom for him. During the war, death never harmed Lawrence, but before the lovers could meet again, death took his beloved Dahoum.

Although there are others to whom the dedicatory poem "To S.A." in Seven Pillars of Wisdom could apply, it most clearly fits Dahoum, that is Salim Ahmed.

To S.A.

I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands and wrote my will across the sky in stars.
To gain you Freedom, the seven-pillared worthy house, that your eyes might be shining for me.
When we came.

Death was my servant on the road, till we came near and saw you waiting:
When you smiled, and in sorrowful envy he outran me and took you apart:
Into his quietness

So our love's earnings was your cast off body to be held one moment.
Before earth's soft hands would explore your face and the blind worms transmute.
Your failing substance.

Men prayed me to set my work, the inviolate house in memory of you.
But for fit monument I shattered it, unfinished: and now
The little things creep out to patch themselves hovels in the marred shadow
Of your gift.


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