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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell written for Charles Doughty-Wylie

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

23.885942, 45.079162

Mon. Feb. 9. [9 February 1914] On Saturday we had a prosperous
day, passing at times through very gardens of green shrubs and
flowering weeds. At night after I had gone to bed, there came to us a
guest, who proved to be a Howaiti who had been out hunting oryx.
His people were camped an hour or so away and we met them next
day moving tents. Their shaikh, a young man called Muhammad,
was very anxious that we should all stop and camp where we were,
together. He had been spending the winter with the Wadi Sulaiman
Arabs, who are a branch of the Fed'an, of the great 'Anazeh stock,
and he reported their shaikh to be some 5 hours to the East. Since it
was certain that he would hear, or had already heard, of our
presence, we decided that we should be well advised to go to him
and take a rafiq from him; accordingly we turned our course
somewhat to the east and reached his tents an hour or so after noon.
This man, Sayyah ibn Murted, is a rogue of the first water, cursed of
his two parents as we say. He is moreover one eyed - may God
deprive him of the other eye also! He received us with all show of
friendliness, but over the first coffee cup he was already questioning
me as to my knowledge of the country and my purpose in coming.
After I had eaten dates with him I went to my tents, where he presently
followed me and proceed to examine all my possessions. As ill luck
would have it his eye fell on my Zeiss glass and he fixed his affections
upon it instantly. He asked for everything he saw and I refused all. By
night fall it was agreed that I should give him a revolver and he would
send his nephew with us as rafiq. But in the morning he again
reverted to the glass and threatened to send us away companionless
and fall upon us in the night. This was not said to me, but to Fattuh and
Sa'id, with further declarations that no Christian woman had ever
travelled here, and none should travel. Whether these threats would
have been put into execution or not, I do not know - it is the sort of
doubt which one does not bring to the test if one can help it; but Sa'id,
who knows the Arabs well and knew this man also, whispered to
Fattuh that it were best to give way lest worse should befall, and it
ended in our being stripped of both glass and revolver. Our
Shammar fellow travellers fared, according to their state, no better, for
the Accursed mulcted them of 3 mejidies as the price of a safe permit.
I shall pay, of course. When at last we were free to depart - I had sat
apart, shivering in a bitter cold wind, while these negotiations
proceeded - we found ourselves with three rafiqs, Sayyah's {brother}
nephew Zayyid, and two men of the Faqir, Hamid, brother of a shaikh,
and Dahir. The Faqir are said to be still more accursed in their
ancestry than the Wadi Sulaiman and we feared to go without sureties
from them, lest the Shaikh, having seen us in Sayyah's tents, should
send after us and rob us. It would seem that we are now perfectly safe
- please God! - but there is yet a week between us and Nejd [Najd]
and the vicissitudes of the wilderness are many. Khair, inshallah!
Today's journey was very dull, rolling sand hills, stone sprinkled and
featurless. The only episode of any interest was that we crossed the
track of an ostrich. But we had had enough excitements in the
morning and were glad to drowse[?] along in peace. I asked the
Faqir shaikh, Muhammad ibn Fendi, if they remembered Khalil who
had been their guest in his father's day, and he replied yes, and that
he was a good man wallahi.

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