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Perspective: Suleiman Mousa on Akaba

Excerpt from Suleiman Mousa’s T.E. Lawrence: An Arab View, Oxford University Press, 1966

“Had it not been for Auda [Abu Tayi], the Akaba expedition, which opened wide the doors of fame for Lawrence, would never have taken place....

Information available from Arab sources indicates quite clearly that the plan for capturing Aqaba was devised by [Prince] Feisal and Auda in Wejh....The whole expedition was...planned with no reference to Lawrence, despite his post-war claims that he had been its leader and its inspiration. However, led by his love of adventure on one hand and by his dissatisfaction with his work on the other, Lawrence asked Feisal to let him go along with the party, saying that he could help in planting mines....

[On the crucial battle outside Akaba, at Aba el Lissan] What part did Lawrence play in this battle? He admitted that when he charged and started firing his revolver his camel fell down killed by one of his own bullets. He himself remained unconscious until the end of the battle. As for Auda, he emerged unscratched although his horse was killed under him and his clothes were riddle with shots in six different places.

It is to be noted that in his writings immediately following the occupation of Akaba, Lawrence did not claim that he was the leader of the expedition nor did he allege that he was the originator of the idea. In fact he stated more than once that Sherif Nassir was the leader of the expedition and that Auda Abu Tayi was the actual commander of the fighting force… No Arab can ever believe that a foreign officer could have led such an expedition. It is strange that Lawrence should have later claimed all credit for this, and that several American and British writers should have accepted this claim, added to it and influenced their many readers as well as public opinion in their countries. Lawrence was fortunate in that the Arab leaders of the Revolt did not leave detailed memoirs about these events and the part that foreign officers played in them.”