Request a high resolution copy

Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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

36.2742015, 43.3774224

Wed May 5. [5 May 1909] Off at 6 and at 8.15 reached Kara Kosh
where the people were reaping barley to the sound of bagpipes. The
wheat still all green and acres of it. There are 7 churches here, 3
outside the town belonging to the Jacobites and all old; one ditto
belonging to the Syrian Catholics and 3 of theirs inside the town, 2 new
and one being rebuilt. A charming young priest of the latter Kas Yusef
showed me round and I lunched afterwards in the house of his uncle
who gave me coffee. Left at 11.10. At 11.30 reached the ruined church
of Mar Johanna Deleimoyyo or Mukartayya a mound by it where we
stayed till 12. Rode on through corn to Bartollah [Bartallah] (1 o'clock)
where there is a new church. Saw Baasheikha at the foot of the hills.
Delicious getting into the rising ground - green corn, grass, streams
and flowers. Jusef complimented 'Abdallah on the excellence of
Mosul [Mawsil, Al] figs and bread. The former come from the J. Sinjar
[Sinjar, Jabal]. "However many places there may be in the world"
said Abdallah "there is none where the bread is so good. If you take
tobacco from Mosul to Baghdad it rots there - the air of B. is not like
the air of Mosul." Having climbed the hill we crossed a little stream
lined with flowering oleanders and reached our camp above Mar Geh
at 4 940 ft above Behnan. I had tea and at 5 climbed up to Mar Mattai
in 35 min. A lovely campanula flowering among the rocks and
actually a few trees. The whole monastery has been rebuilt and the
only old thing that remains is the tombstone of Mar Mattai and the
cave cells in the rock. I did not go in because of the fleas. Also the
charming old bp and his wife are antiques. I sat in his high chamber
and he told me legends. Senkerib the king had a son called Behnan
who was out hunting. He lost his gazelle and night came on and he
fell asleep at the spring where Mar Behnam now stands. An angel
appeared in the night and told him to hearken to the man he shd meet
next day. He went on his way and met Mar Mattai who asked him why
he worshipped idols that had eyes that cd not see, ears that cd not
hear and a tongue that cd not speak instead of the living god who
made heaven and earth al ins wa al jins wa al jami'a. Behnan asked
for a sign that Matti shd heal his sister who was ill but he dared not
bring her to him for fear of his people. So they went together towards
Nineveh but at Bartolla Matti was tired and wd go no further - "If I make
a spring gush out of the rock" he said "will you believe?" Behnan
said he wd and the spring gushed forth and he was converted. So he
returned to Nineveh and refused to worship idols who had eyes etc,
or yet the moon or the sun or the stars or anything but the living god
who created etc. "Sahih" said Abdallah. So Senkerib put him and his
sister to death. Then he fell sick and as he had no son to inherit he
was afraid. So he asked Matti to cure him and Matti did it on condition
he shd build him the monastery. Mar Behnan was built by Ishak the
merchant who was travelling to Baghdad with his son when the latter
fell ill. Behnan appeared and promised to cure him if Ishak wd build
the monastery. And the Assyrians were idolators but they came to
know the true god, so the world changes. The bp grew rather
confused here for he cd not say the Assyrians became Xians. We
went to see a spring in the rock called Mar Nakot [Arabic characters]
and got back to camp at 7. Abdallah thinks nothing of the Yezid
because they have not got a book. Ali Beg he says is of the Beni Tai.
He says the villages in the plain are mostly inhabited by the Jereisat
and by the Shabak which latter are not proper Moslems more like
Shiahs. He thinks they came in with the Persian conquerors and
remained. They intermarry with Moslems of the cities and some
Arabs and they have a language of their own.

IIIF Manifest