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Julie Hope (Bennett) MA Human Geography of the Middle East and Mediterranean1976-77


If I remember correctly, the MA in Human Geography of the Middle East and Mediterraneanwas new and we were the first intake in September 1976. We shared taught courses with final year undergraduates over the academic year (our core text was the newly published "The Middle East" by Beaumont, Blake and Wagstaff)  but also had to produce a dissertation on an original piece of research for submission in September 1977 and ESRC funding required us to be present on site over the summer months. Our course director was Gerald Blake  but Richard Lawless, John Clarke and Howard Bowen-Jones amongst others, were involved in seminars and tutorials. Professor Fisher was a remote figure, but we were all invited to - and thoroughly enjoyed - his legendary Sunday lunchtime sherry parties. We also had to have a formal interview with him during the first term to obtain his approval for our research proposals. We were then assigned a research supervisor. As my research was related to Cyprus, Mike Drury was the inevitable choice!  We were based up in SkyLab which was an education in itself given the backgrounds and nationalities of our fellow postgrad students, including  Saudis, Egyptians,  Iranians and a charming Jordanian called Musa who introduced me to the delights of Arabic coffee spiced with cardamom. 


ulie Hope MA Course 1977. From left to right are Nick Beer, Liz Evans, Bob Jackson and Julie Bennett

The colour photo is a group photo of the above MA course. It was taken in summer 1977 outside the Geography building on the Science Site. From left to right are Nick Grill, Liz Evans, Bob Jackson and myself, then Julie Bennett ( denim was obviously obligatory!) There was a fifth member of the group, whose surname I'm afraid I have forgotten but his first name was Khadir. He was Algerian and took two years to complete the course, so may well have been home in Algeria whilst the rest of us were finishing our dissertations for submission. 

In December 1976 we joined the final year undergraduates on a field trip to Sousse, Tunisia and the second, black and white photo attached is the group photo, taken at the hotel we were staying in. Apart from Professor Clarke seated in the centre, other academics include Ian Simmons standing on the left hand side, in the cloak he bought in the souk and never took off the entire week ( he continued to wear it back in the department too, I seem to remember). Just along from him is Gerald Blake. Over on the right hand side, Dick Lawless can be seen, under the date palm, peering  over the shoulder of a very dapper student in shirt, tie and sports jacket. The older man just along from Dick wasn't connected with the university.  I think he was from the Durham local education authority and came along to see what we were doing. Khadir is in this photo - standing in the back row on the left, next to Bob Jackson. Both are pointing down at the unsuspecting heads of the two students in front of them. The camel in the foreground was our group mascot! Memories of this field trip include a rural land use transect when we gathered a huge following of young Tunisian boys as we went along, all intent on getting their hands on our pens and pencils by any method they could. Even Khadir shouting at them in choice Arabic didn't deter them! John Clarke led us on a memorable tour of Carthage and the village of Sidi bou Said which he obviously loved very much. And shopping for spices in the souk with Liz. We had no idea what we were buying, but the smell was incredible. We also bought huge bags of tangerines ( with leaves still attached. Very exotic!) to bring home for Christmas.

Julie Hope MA 1977 December 1976 we joined the final year undergraduates on a field trip to Sousse, Tunisia and the second, black and white photo attached is the group photo, taken at the hotel we were staying in


Another memory sparked by reading the History was of a  weekend spent up at Lanehead, the field centre in Weardale. It was a small group of us, the MA group and maybe a couple other PhD students with Gerald Blake,  Dick Lawless and Mike Drury, maybe Ian Simmons and his cloak?! And I can confirm that the Aga was indeed very temperamental.  There was no Mrs Milburn to cook for us. Liz and I did the cooking. The first night, it took us hours to produce spaghetti bolognaise - eventually serving up around 11pm - because the Aga kept going out. Interesting insight too into 1970's attitudes, in that it was just assumed that Liz and I, the only women in the group,  would do the cooking and we didn't think twice about it! We did lots of walking, and it was very cold and wet. Poor Khadir did not enjoy himself very much, I think.

Our course was a bit of an experiment and I don't think that it lasted very long - maybe  only a couple of years after us, if that. It was 45 years ago now and I suspect we are largely forgotten. Both Liz and I spent time doing research in the field over the Christmas holiday though hers was under considerably more luxurious conditions than mine. Her topic was the tourism industry in Jordan and she had written to the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism to ask for help. They responded by hosting her on a two week, all expenses paid trip to Jordan, visiting all the tourist sites in the country! The dissertations must still be around in the library, as I once came across one of my carefully drawn maps used (and acknowledged!) in a 1984 dissertation on Cyprus.

The last time the four of us saw each other was at graduation, which was November/December 1977. Then we went our separate ways. Nick, I think joined Ford as a graduate trainee  in HR. Bob joined a medical supplies company selling to Saudi Arabia? Liz , who was a teacher before the MA, went up to Scotland where she had connections. I eventually decided to turn down the offer of a PhD scholarship at ANU in Canberra and joined Shell (another HR graduate trainee). 

It was a great course and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Durham.  I remember wishing that I had done my undergraduate degree there so I could have had more time at the university. And the MA was a valuable addition to my CV. It certainly helped get me the job with Shell - though they never sent me out to the Middle East. The furthest I got was Aberdeen!