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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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

36.2021047, 37.1342603

Wed 29. [29 March 1905] Still very rainy. Shellun came at an ungodly
hour and at 9.30 we went to Muhammad Ali's. He is married to an
English wife, a nice little woman of Lord knows what provenance. Her
people live in London. This was very badly looked at by the govt and
he is consequently exiled here. NB Aleppo [Halab] is the home of all
exiled pashas. The climate is good but they very seriously lack
water. All the biara are brackish, the river runs dry in summer, the
drinking water comes from an immense distance and costs every
household in the town at least a piastre a day - ie a piastre a tanaka -
so the Clements, the family of the photographer told me. There are a
lot of families who claim to European origin, Italians mostly - being
descended from the merchants of the Levant Trading Co in the 16th
cent. At 11 Muhammad Ali and I went to the Vali who received me in
the Harim. Kiasim Pasha is his name; he was Mutaserrif in Jerusalem
[(El Quds esh Sherif, Yerushalayim)] and settled the disputes
between the churches there - the first thing he told me was that he was
the "..... pasha" who had brought peace there. He is a Circassian and
has a very beautiful Circassian wife. They both speak French well.
The Vali is a farceur I think. He wants Beyrout [Beyrouth (Beirut)] for
he wd have the society of European consuls more. Here his work
scarcely ever brings him up against them. He declared himself
Anglophile and asked what we wanted in Arabia. I said there were 2
places of importance there. "Yes" said he "Mecca [Makkah] and
Medina [Al Madinah]." I said those didn't matter to us at all, the two
places were Kowwait [Al Kuwayt (Kuwait)] and Aden [('Adan)]. Shellun
lunched with me. At 2 I went with Muhammad 'Ali to the citadel. The
gate is splendid with an inscription of Melek and Dhaher and 2 pairs
of iron doors decorated with horseshoes, the inner with an inscription
of the same and date 600 and something AH. All the work inside, the
windows and doors of the mejlis rooms, the carving on the let in
circles in the walls of the best Arab period. There is a small mosque
in the court of which Abraham milked his cow and distributed the milk
to the people. Native Xians do not enter the mosques in Aleppo but
one cd go with permission. There is a ruined and closed mosque
below the castle which looks about the same time as it and the
remains of a very fine bath near. Also I saw what looked like a very
beautiful Khan in the bazaar, striped and carved windows. All this
from the top of the minaret from which there is a very wonderful view
over the astonishingly bare country. They say when it is quite clear
you can see the Euphrates. Drove through the town by myself, very
picturesque and interesting streets, partly arched over with an
occasional beautiful minaret and mosque door. The bazaars roofed
over and quite oriental. So to Frau L¸tte's - he is the head of the
Zollinger branch - where I found a large working party going on and
drunk tea. These people all Swiss and very pleasant - from near the
Lake of Constance [Bodensee]. The Vali came to see me and talked
much of the new road to Alexandretta [Iskenderun (Alexandria ad
Issum)] he has just begun which is to shorten the journey there
considerably and do much benefit to Aleppo. He wants it to be
continued to Adana [(Seyhan, Ataniya)]. This does not look as if they
expected the railway to pass this way. When he left and just as I was
sending the good Shellun away came in Sururi and paid me an
endless visit till I made him go as I wanted to wash for dinner. After
dinner went to the Homsi's and stayed till 10.45. A brother and
another with their wives came in. Nicola is ...... and does nothing but
the brother is a banker and agent to William Foster. Very pleasant

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