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Gertrude Bell, a Masterful Spy and Diplomat

Gertrude Bell attends a meeting of the Mesopotamia Commission at the Cairo Conference of 1921. Other members of the commission include Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence (visible in enlargement).
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Gertrude Bell attends a meeting of the Mesopotamia Commission at the Cairo Conference of 1921. Other members of the commission include Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence (visible in enlargement).

The extraordinary British diplomat and spy Gertrude Bell was buried 80 years ago today. After World War I, she was almost single-handedly responsible for the founding of modern Iraq, where her grave is still located.

Bell was the first woman to graduate with a history degree from Oxford and became one of the country's leading Arabists. She rode camels with the Bedouin in the Arabian desert and dined on sheep's eyes with tribal sheikhs.

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Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.