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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper
Syria ยป Safita

34.8190348, 36.1192307

Mon 13. [13 March 1905] It was streaming at dawn but it cleared and
turned into a lovely day. Off at 7.45 and rode down to the Deir Mar
Jirius where I visited the Abbot who turned out to be the same I had
seen 5 years ago at Ma'lula. Great joy! All the Deir is new except a
little chapel in the foundations which they say is 1200 years old. It has
a vaulted roof and on either side 2 pairs of marble columns broken off
just under the capitals and returned into the wall, a place more curious
than attractive. The capitals are like lily heads. By the altar screen
there are some very beautiful Persian tiles. We rode on through
charming shallow valleys full of flowers. The fruit trees coming out, big
balut trees, running streams. A pretty little blue campanula and later
the blue iris I force I forget its name. So we lunched at 12 and went
down to the ford of the Abrash but found the river far too swollen for the
mules to cross. One bridge is broken. We had to ride down an hour
and a half till we came to a very precarious little stone bridge called
the Jisr el Wad where we crossed. The country was full of
processions of Nosairiyeh who were going to the funeral feast of a
great sheikh. This takes place a few days after the burial. They eat
of the meats and each pays money according to his kind, from a lira
upwards. This is taken by the family of the holy man - it's as good as
insuring one's life to have a great reputation for piety. So we got to
Safitah [Burj Safita] at 4 and the mules came in a quarter of an hour
after or so - we had been 7 hours and they 8 and a half on the road.
We camped on the top of the ridge looking NE, a delightful situation if
the people had not been so boring. The castle tower stands up
splendidly - most of the wall has been taken down and turned into
houses. There is a very fine church in the square tower - I suppose
the tower must be oblong and the church has a round apse and 2
pilasters on either side carving a quite plain cornice, merely a
splayface, and supporting the groined roof. It's a very splendid effect
as one does not expect a church as one goes in. Above is a vaulted
room the roof supported on piers - groups of columns. This town is
Xian and most of them seem to be of the family of Bashur some of
whom are American citizens. I think there must be old foundations for
they brought me a Phoenician coin and figure. I had the most
charming chowwish, 'Abd ul Mejid. Gorgeous red afterglow with the
burj standing up against it. About 9 o'clock there appeared 2 officials
from Drekish [Ad Duraykish] sent up by the Kaimakam to visit me.
One was the Zabit. They were both very agreeable.

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