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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper

34.802075, 38.996815

Wed March 3. [3 March 1909] Set off baggage and all at 7.15. Grey at
first but the sun came out after 2 hours; yesterday it was sunny and
bitter cold. At 8.15 we came to Hneida where there had been a large
town. Pottery like that at Tell Sha'ir (it is sometimes called Jubb Sha'ir
and there used to be Jubbs there which are now filled up -there a
good many Jubbs scattered through the desert) a broken
sarcophagus, squared stones, burnt brick walls etc. At 9 we passed
another low mound strewn with pottery. At 9.35 we got to Abu 'Alij, a
wide stretch of ruined foundations on a high bit of ground over the
river. Below it is an ancient bed of the Euphrates - a splendid site.
We passed down and had just crossed the Wadi Malik when a
soldier from Rakka [Ar Raqqah] overtook us with a telegram from
Catoni saying the Vali forbade my travelling by the Jezireh [Jazirah,
Al] on account of the danger. And the Kaimakam had ordered that if I
did not return my soldiers were to come back. So I sent them back
with regret and we went on alone. The river here flows in a deep and
narrow channel between hills, very beautiful. At 11.50 we were
opposite Halebiyyeh, a splendid stone fortress like a triangle, the top
being the castle and the towered walls coming down fan shaped to
the river. At the SE angle there had been a bridge. At 12.10 we got to
Zelebiyyeh where I lunched till 12.35. It is a fortress like Halebiyyeh, a
towered wall (the towers square) enclosing an oblong place[?] over a
steep high bank above the river - the river side is not walled. A gate
between two towers leads into it. On the inside there is an arched
niche on either side of the gate. The masonry is of big blocks but a
good deal of mortar and rubble is used between the faced sides.
Below, upstream, are ruins of a town. The road then left the
Euphrates, passed over a hill and down across a long bend. In the
middle of this we saw Tibuch on the other side. At 1.45 there was a
mound with foundations on it. At 2.10 we got to El Kubbar where there
is a Ziarah; then we crossed another wide bend and saw far off, on the
other side of a hill that came down to the Euphrates Kashla el
Mungara. We got there at 3.15, crossing over the hill, on the top of
which is Umm Reqeba. The Kashla has only been built 10 years and
is already falling into decay. It is occupied by 8 soldiers, 4 or 5 of
whom were present and received us with joy. No Baqqara tents
anywhere near. The Baqqara are said to be rogues and thieves.
They were friends of Ibrahim Pasha's and are Gom with the 'Anazeh.
We camped in a beautiful grassy place under the Kashla walls and
above the Euphrates. After tea I went up and inspected Umm
Reqeba. To the E there is a vast four square enclosure of which the
wall is quite distinct. To the W on the tell below the tombs (where we
saw columns and mills) there is a bit of circular brick wall and a white
mosaic pavement. Ma'lul gave me a long account of the way the
sheep tax is levied. The govt. send a man to levy it from a sheikh -
say 2000ps (the tax on each sheep is 4ps). He levies 4000 and gives
the govt 1800. Another man has to be sent to get the 200ps. The
sheikh levies another 1000 and gives 150 and so it goes on. As for
the tax on zara'[?], the owner gives the govt. official a bribe and he
estimates the produce at less than 1/2 of its real amount. All the lands
between Rakka and Der [Dayr az Zawr](Shammiyyeh) last year only
produced £T800 and the sheep tax in the Jezireh £T2000. The
Sheikhs greatly oppress the Arabs under them. They levy a large tax
on every tent and if the fellahin complain to the govt. the sheikh levies
war on them and kills them and they have no protection. An Arab was
riding with us loudly echoed his approval of this description.

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