KENNINGTON, Eric Henri. ‘El Zaagi’. Fordingbridge: Castle Hill Press, 1997.

Colour print with calligraphic manuscript title and limitation, and printed artist’s name and imprint below (338 x 257mm). Cardboard mount, as issued (500 x 400mm). A fine copy.

No. 60 of 225. El Zaagi – ‘a stiff man of normal officer cut’ – was the co- commander of Lawrence’s bodyguard, which had been formed after the Turks had placed a price of £20,000 (alive) or £10,000 (dead) on his head. Lawrence recorded that, recruited by El Zaagi and his co-commander, ‘a wonderful gang of experts grew about me. The British at Akaba called them cut-throats; but they cut throats only to my order. Perhaps in others’ eyes it was a fault that they would recognize no authority but mine. […] I paid my men six pounds a month, the standard army wage for a man and camel, but mounted them on my own animals, so that the money was clear income: this made the service enviable, and put the eager spirits of the camp at my disposal. […] They would travel day and night at my whim, and made it a point of honour never to mention fatigue. If a new man grumbled, the others would silence him, or change the current of his complaint, brutally. They fought like devils, when I wanted, and sometimes when I did not, especially with Turks or with outsiders. For one guardsman to strike another was the last offence. They expected extravagant reward and extravagant punishment. They made boast throughout the army of their pains and gains. By this unreason in each degree they were kept apt for any effort, any risk. Abdulla and the Zaagi ruled them, under my authority, with a savagery palliated only by the power of each man to quit the service if he wished. Yet we had but one resignation. The others, though adolescents full of carnal passion, tempted by this irregular life, well-fed, exercised, rich, seemed to sanctify their risk, to be fascinated by their suffering’ (Seven Pillars of Wisdom (London, 1935), pp. 464-466).


Click here to read the introduction to Eric Kennington’s Arab Portraits.

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