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Christine and the Hat

What a great title for a book! And this is a famous hat - quite old for a piece of millinery, this hat has been on the road for decades, and its many adventures even include one with Her Majesty the Queen!

‘I was looking everywhere for your blue hat,’ said the Queen to Christine at the great Nizwa souq in Oman.

Ethiopia, Morocco and Yemen are other exotic places visited by the Australian nurse-turned-photojournalist during a lifetime of travels in Africa and the Arab World.

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TRAVELS WITH MY HAT is the personal memoir of an Australian nurse who through skill and determination, switched careers to become an award-winning travel writer and photographer. It is a colourful record of her experiences defined by travel, undertaken on her own initiative, often without official help and frequently against all odds. "We don't know who you are," she was told by the travel editor of the Daily Telegraph on arriving in London in 1974. "To get a name here, you need to write a book." Which is exactly what she did.

Publication of The Gulf States and Oman in 1977 brought a deluge of commissions on the Middle East. Books followed on Jordan and Pakistan. Christine was invited to visit Iraq by the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein. Since visas were not issued to British journalists, she returned home and obtained clearance from the Iraqi Vice-Consul in - of all places - Bondi! Her journeys to Iraq, Ethiopia, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan and Morocco are rounded off with letters to her mother who had never left Australia.

We join Christine foiling bandits in Yemen, diving in the Red Sea, and dining with Arab sheikhs in a racy account of 40 years of travels when only one of a thousand and one problems, was being a young, western woman working in a man's world.


Christine 41st Birthday


It was at an American Independence Day party in 1976 that I first met the author and significantly, the word independence is a clue to the nature of this expatriate Australian.

Fiercely independent, she has photographed and written books about countries as diverse as Tahiti and Oman. I occasionally met up with her and witnessed the mix of guts and perseverance, interspersed with the odd tear of frustration, and a hint of the memsahib that seemed to overcome all obstacles. Once, on point of arrest for some minor infringement over photography with a Pakistani army officer, she suggested they have tea first which they both drank, exchanged pleasantries, and Osborne was allowed to go on her way.

Her fondness of small creatures—birds and fish—often manifested itself. A sock was used as a nest to nurture chickens found in a rubbish heap in Beirut. Tiny fish caught in a mountain stream in the Yemen, were carried home to survive for seven years in her fish tank with other exotics in her London flat.

A girl’s own adventure story, Travels with My Hat will put a spring in the step of anyone seeking excitement. It is Christine Osborne’s unique life—from scrubbing bedpans, to becoming a successful travel writer and photographer who would accompany Her Majesty the Queen on her riches-laden tour of Arabia.

Aileen Aitken: Cabin Crew Selection Officer, British Airways (ret 1983)

Ethipian Tribesmen

Tribesmen from all over Ethiopia had been trucked into Addis Ababa to mark the anniversary of the overthrow of the Emperor Haile Selassie, September 1975

Yemen - chewing qat

Poor men were slumped in shop doorways with their bundles of leaves. Only the juice is swallowed and stored in the cheek, a wad of masticated qat is an ugly sight, almost like a facial tumour.

Aren't you afraid of snakes?

"Aren't you afraid of snakes?" said the Nawab of Tajpur. "No," I replied. "I'm Australian. I grew up with snakes."


Chapter 1: Ticket to Addis Ababa

...'We also like raw meat in this division of Ethiopia,' said a waiter in a crushed white dinner jacket, smiling broadly as he sliced a steak off a side of cow, suspended on a hat stand behind the buffet table. I tried it with some berbere sauce, another hot delicacy popular with cooks in Dire Dawa, but although I love a well-made steak tartare, I found the taste too primitive, even for my well-travelled palate...'

Chapter 2: Red Sea Adventure

...A school of eight squid, my favourite marine creature, jetted through the water like a team of Red Arrows. When I swam after them, they flushed brown, then green, and the last animal squirted a puff of sepia-coloured ink. Surfacing for air, I was brushed by a soft, turquoise-trimmed nudibranch: Egyptians call it a badia for its undulating movements resembling those of a belly dancer...

Chapter 3: Member of the Royal Press Corps

...When a black Rolls Royce drew up at the palace steps, attention shifted from me to the Queen. Her Majesty, trained not to flinch, passed me with only a brief look of surprise. Had I gone completely native? Trailing behind her, the Duchess and Lady Susan looked perturbed. Could Buckingham Palace have erred? Should they also be veiled...

Chapter 4: Middle East Nightmares

...Then picked out by a shaft of sunlight, I saw the lyre, encrusted with lapis lazuli and with the gold-bearded bull representing Shamash, the Sun God. Hopeless at anything musical myself, I shivered with excitement as I imagined Sumerian fingers plucking its strings some 5,000 years ago. My thoughts were interrupted by the minder creeping up behind me. In order to reach Hatra before dusk, he indicated, we had to leave. 'Now!'

Chapter 5: No Mocha in Mocha

...The boy sat in silence with his gun between his knees and studying his lean, sardonic features in the mirror, I decided he made me feel ill at ease. Instead of helping with directions, he had ignored us. Was he leading us into a trap? So far, Bedouin had only pilfered vehicles and equipment, but I did not fancy becoming another Madame Claustre: the French archaeologist kidnapped by rebels in Chad and held hostage for seventeen months in the desert...

Chapter 6: May you never be Tired

...Boarding at Jamrud, I was swept along in an arsenal of Pathans waving guns and hawkers brandishing cigarettes, sugar-cane and hard-boiled eggs. Chickens, even a cow, were bundled on board as the Mail pulled out of the station with me seated in the LADIES ONLY carriage pretending I was Lauren Bacall and Habib riding with the driver in the front locomotive...

Chapter 7: The Marabout from Taroudant

...The Café Lemsid looked like a giant sweet that had fallen off a desert transport. Caramel and raspberry red, it sat by the roadside surrounded by the detritus of civilization: burst tyres, perished fan-belts, broken fish-traps and empty port-a-gas cylinders. A blanket was stuffed in a hole in the wall to keep out windblown sand. To nomads, however, it was the Sainsbury's of the Sahara...

Chapter 8: Letters to Mother

...I would repair to the nearest café to devour her news. Of how the seeds I'd sent home from Seychelles had grown into a tree, and of feeding bits of chicken to a blue-tongue lizard living under the house. In Dubai, I once miraculously received an envelope in her neat handwriting, addressed simply:
Christine Osborne c/- InterContinental Hotel, Trucial States.



All I can say is - bravo! It brings back the spirit of adventure that first lured many on their travels.
Gaythorne Silvester, editor UK

I like the thoroughly exotic tone and the jolly and wide-ranging jaunt through the Yemen.
Tim Mackintosh-Smith, author 'Travels in Dictionary Land'

The chapter on the Royal Tour could almost stand alone.
John Ruler, Member of the British Guild of Travel Writers

Christine gets deep under the skin of the country [Ethiopia] and uses her experiences to good effect. Super descriptive writing!
Hilary Bradt MBE, Founder & Chairman Bradt Travel Guides


Christine Osborne Press Pass CO second left with friends at RNSH  1963 Bedouin Marib
BW ADhabi_Sheikh_Zayed_1976_BWUAE009 Bedouin women shopping in Ibra market Oman  OM14522 BW Sisay Bonke of Arba Minch 1975 C1 001
Ethiopia_giant_nile_perch Lake Chamo_ETH-114-06 1979_Queen _arrives_Saudi_King_Khalid_SDA001 EG-113-D-10_Girl_buffalo_Egypt
MUSLIM women_ NWFP Pakistan PAK 115B2 Letters to my mother Taree 1991 Aileen Aitken, BOAC


The Gulf States and Oman 1977 001 COsborne and Masai Kenya 1976 001 PAKISTAN  by Christine Osborne
ISLAM beggar woman and prayer beads Pakistan IS119C14 ChristineOsborne_Salalah_incense_souq_Oman ISLAM Minaret of the Great Mosque, Samarra IS001A13
BW The Giant of Sehwan Pakistan C7 001 Pakistan_women_water_canal_PAK119B13 BW Ethiopia famine Ogaden 1975 001
MOROCCO COLLINS by Christine Osborne QATAR  fishing boats  QT1175 Adnan_Khairalla_L_Min_Def_General_Shenshal_Chief-_Staffe_Arm.jpg


Woman weaving Dhofar DUBAI  rounding up the camel herd  UAE1364 Pakistan Hunza Baltit Fort male costume
MOROCCO jewellery with Hand of Fatima Marrakesh MC15811 OMAN fisherman in Taqa, Dhofar Province OM11710 OMAN frankincense burner, Dhofar OM117E16
INDIA  planting rice, Tamil Nadu  IDA124C5 ETH11118 Dergue Menghistu Teferi Bentre 1975 Bali trapping fish INO-118-01
YEMEN  view of Sana'a, old town YM1145 ETHIOPIA THE TIMES  29 September 1975 Christine Osborne
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