Letters

20 May 1911

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

Birejik [Birecik] Sat 20. [20 May 1911] We left Urfa [Sanliurfa (Edessa)] on Friday morning. Our way lay through rolling country, partly cultivated and of no very great interest. It was diversified by our meeting many caravans of Aleppine muleteers with whom my men exchanged greetings and finally by meeting Meissner Pasha, who is at the head of the Baghdad rly construction, with 6 engineers, all going down to Baghdad on rly business. I knew he was on the road and when we met I stopped and told him who I was and we had a little talk - I wish it had been longer for I became deeply attached to him on the spot. However we made an appointment in Baghdad two years hence and he asked me to go and see his wife, who is in Aleppo [Halab], which I shall do. It has become really hot and this morning we set out before sunrise, while it was still cool. But we did not avoid heat, and it is still, at 6 PM, 87¯ in the shade. I do not mind it but it makes the horses languid. Birejik is the Zeugma, one of the most famous of the Euphrates passages. Here Crassus passed over the river to his defeat at Harran [Altinbasak (Carrhae)]: the eagles of the 5th legion turned backwards from the bridge of boats, but he would not heed the omen. The castle stands upon a high ridge of rock, long and narrow like a sword; the town lies clustered at its foot along the steep river bank to the south - a splendid place it is. I have pitched tents on the right bank of the Euphrates, for we have crossed and are now in Syria again. Tomorrow I go to Carchemish [Barak (Karkamis)] in the hope of finding Mr Hogarth there. Reports are various: Meissner Pasha said he had left, but here they tell me he is still at work. Anyway it's not much off my road to Aleppo.



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