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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
Syria ยป Tarin

34.7710157, 36.5094507

Fri. 24. [24 March 1905] We had a short day, 5 hours' riding, to Tarutin
- across rolling plain with shallow valleys, ....... asphodel and some
cultivation. Crossed the Haleb road and passed several mud
villages with domed roofs, all of them on ancient sites, judging by the
stones and the subterranean tombs and all inhabited by half settled
Arabs of the Muwali tribe. They and the Beni Turk (to which my
second soldier Kasim, belongs) are the great tribes hereabouts. The
Hadidieh and the Hasseneh (who are foes to the Muwali) also come
in. This winter there was a great raid by a tribe hitherto unknown in
these parts who came from east of Baghdad, the Beni Awajeh Some
200 crossed the desert marduf on camels and carried off all the cattle
killing many people. Mahmud gave me an extraordinary account of a
kasr on the Hajj road halfway between Medain Saleh [Mada'in Salih]
and Medineh [Al Madinah (Medina)] and of how the Kasrji sees
nothing all the year round, except at the time the Hajj passes, "but the
earth and God." They guard the Hajj wells. Whenever they see
Arabs coming they go in and lock the doors. Mahmud once saw a
ghazu come up, stop for water and food (which was thrown out to them
from above) and be overtaken by a ghazu of the hostile tribe. (The
first were I think the 'Atiyeh.) The battle took place before their eyes
and next morning when they ventured to open the doors, they picked
up 36 dead whom they buried hastily. Mahmud was detained there
by reason of his horse falling sick. He was one of the Hajj guard.
"Like a prison, wallahi!" he said. He described how the tribes come
down for their yearly pay, stand on the hills by the side of the road and
cry "Give us our dues oh 'Abd ur Rahman Pasha!" They get them
partly in money and partly in kind. 'Abd ur R.'s father and I think his
grandfather were also Emir ul Hajj but the dignity does not
necessarily go from father to son. He was quite a young man when
he became Emir. 10 days from Ma'an to Medain Saleh, 10 to Medina,
10 to Mecca [Makkah] and the last is the most dangerous bit on
account of the Sherif of Mecca's constantly intriguing with the Arabs.
He goes shares with them in what they steal from the pilgrims. The
marches vary in length but are often 15 to 20 hours and the last into
Mecca is 30. Tarutin is an immense site. Muwali arabs partly in tents
partly in the ruins. They do not move about at all. "We are Fellahin"
said their Sheikh Saleh - a charming man with a preposterous little
figure of a son, a red handkerchief tied round its absurd[?] head. Half
an hour after me Mr Butler's camp came in. Great rejoicing. I went out
to copy inscriptions and when I came back found Dr Littman who had
come on with Mr Norris who was ill. Later Mr Butler and Mr Prentice
turned up.

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