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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell written for Charles Doughty-Wylie

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper

27.5114102, 41.7208243

March 6. [6 March 1914] We have at last reached the end of the comedy - for a comedy it has after all proved to be. And what has been the underlying reason of it all I cannot tell, for who can look into their dark minds? On March 3 there appeared in the morning a certain eunuch slave Sa'id, who is a person of great importance and with him another, and informed me that I could not travel, neither could they give me any money, until a messenger had arrived from the Amir. I sent messages at once to 'Ali's uncles and the negotiations were taken up again with renewed vigour. Next day came word from the Amir's mother, Mudi, inviting me to visit them that evening. I went (riding solemnly through the silent moonlit streets of this strange place), and passed two hours taken straight from the Arabian Nights with the women of the palace. I imagine that there are few places left wherein you can see the unadulterated East in its habit as it has lived for centuries and centuries - of those few Hayyil [Hail] is one. There they were, those women - wrapped in Indian brocades, hung with jewels, served by slaves and there was not one single thing about them which betrayed the base existence of Europe or Europeans - except me! I was the blot. Some of the women of the shaikhly house were very beautiful. They pass from hand to hand - the victor takes them, with her power and the glory, and think of it! his hands are red with the blood of their husband and children. Mudi herself - she is still a young woman and very charming - has been the wife of 3 Amirs in turn. - Well, some day I will tell you what it is all like, but truly I still feel bewildered by it. I passed the next day in solitary confinement - I have been a prisoner, you understand, in this big house they gave me. Today came an invitation from two boys - cousins of the Amir's - to visit them in their garden. I went after the midday prayers and stayed till the 'asr. Again it was fantastically oriental and medieval. There were 5 very small children, all cousins, dressed in long gold embroidered robes, solemn and silent, staring at me with their painted eyes. And my hosts, who may have been 13 or 14 years old - one had a merry face like a real boy, the other was grave and impassive. But both were most hospitable. We sat in a garden house on carpets - like all the drawings in Persian picture books. Slaves and eunuchs served us with tea and coffee and fruits. Then we walked about the garden, the boys carefully telling me the names of all the trees. And then we sat again and drank more tea and coffee. Sa'id the eunuch was of the party and again I expressed my desire to depart from Hayyil and again was met by the same negative - Not till the Amir's messenger has come. Nor I nor anyone knows when the messenger will come, neither did I know whether there were more behind their answer. Sa'id came to us after the asr and I spoke to him with much vigour and ended the interview abruptly by rising and leaving him. I thought indeed that I had been too abrupt, but to tell you the truth I was bothered. An hour later came in my camels and after dark Sa'id again with a bag of gold and full permission to go where I liked and when I liked. And why they have now given way, or why they did not give way before, I cannot guess. But anyhow I am free and my heart is at rest - it is widened.

IIIF Manifest