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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper

33.5138073, 36.2765279

Fri. 3. [3 March 1905] Wrote letters and went into the Suk. Crowded
with people in their best it being Friday. I saw a splendid old one
eyed Arab in an embroidered Abbaya and a magnificent agal and
was told his name was Bussan, he is the greatest Arab[?] in
Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)], one of the beni Rashid.
Photographed in the Naksh Pendi Takkiya where I was invited to
Friday prayers. But I cd not go for it was lunch time. The muezzin was
chanting the call to prayers from the minaret all the time I was
photographing in the sunny[?] court. Took the painter lady to lunch at
Dmitri's. Came home to find Selim and Muhammad Jerudi, a fat old
man with a wall eye. He has been a rogue in his time but that is past.
His position is very difficult for he has to keep well both with the govt
and with the Bedouin, so that he often is obliged to shelter and
connive with brigands. But he is most hospitable to foreigners. He
has no children and a crowd of grasping nephews. He has recently
married a girl of 15 daughter of Fayyad of Karyatein [Al Qaryatayn],
who is now in Jerudi's old shoes as first brigand of the desert. But
Fayyad is really evil, says Selim. He carries off the Christian girls of
Karyatein. Jerudi is a gentleman. His grandfather was an 'Anaza and
he knows them all and in his time he had known the desert well. He
has celebrated mares. Mr Richards hates him, was horrified to hear I
had seen him, says he is the first rogue in Damascus and that he has
often begged the Vali to hang him. But the Vali always replies that he
is a useful man and I expect the Vali is right. He sometimes can use
his influence with the Bedouin to get them to accord with the govt. Mr
Richards knows nothing of the desert. He didn't know what an
'Anazeh was. Heard the following amusing tale: At the beginning of
the Druze war, Jerudi, who was an officer in the Turkish army was sent
in after the murder of the Turkish officer and his men at Orman
['Urman], with 30 or 40 men or less, as a sort of scout to see how the
land lay, the army following. At a village near Orman he alighted to
talk to the sheikh and as he was in the house he heard all the Druzes
discussing whether it wd be a good plan to kill him or not. He eagerly
desired to go away from that spot, but he cd not for according to
Druze custom a meal was preparing for him and it wd have been
worse than bad manners to have gone before it was ready. When it
came he made what haste he cd to despatch it, the discussion
continuing in lively tones, and rode away as fast as he cd. But he lost
his way between 'Uyan and Salkhad and while he and his men were
skulking in what hiding place they cd find in the rocks, he heard a
great shouting which was the first battle between the Druzes and the
Turks and seeing a very large Druze army in front of him he made
haste to disappear and took up a position to the rear of the Turks.
The Druzes made a poem about him to this effect: "Oh Muhammad
Pasha! go and tell the govt. that your soldiers have fled." He invited
me warmly to Jerud [Jayrud] and promised me mares, Palmyrene
stele and every hospitality. Sur ce came in Sheikh Hassan Naksh
Pendi. He has a very cute face, but wicked - the engineer man says
he is not clever, Selim says he is very smart and I shd think Selim was
right. He appropriated a ring from Selim saying it was to be a present
from me to his Khanum! We drove off, the 4 of us in the carriages of
the Pasha and the Sheikh to the Sheikh's house in Salahiyeh. A
delicious afternoon and the view over Damascus superb. He took
me to see his favourite wife (he has 3 others in different houses and
one divorced) a pretty woman shockingly untidy with a figure gone to
pieces with many children - 3 I think at very short intervals. There was
another woman in the room, not of the house I think, for she hid her
face under the counterpane whenever the Sheikh came in. Then
came in a Xian woman with a bit of stuff she had brought for the
Khanum - she went in and out between the men and us unveiled.
Selim and I went off to the Vali's - Jerudi cd not come being in bad
odour. Selim promised to put in a word for him. (He was imprisoned 3
years ago.) Selim himself was in disgrace a year or two ago owing,
he said, to Muslim intrigue against him as a Xian. He is a Maronite.
We found that the Commandant was with the Vali so we went up into
the garden where I photographed. The Commandant came out and
the Vali after him. The latter saw me and beckoned to me to come in.
We had an interesting talk and I asked him what he thought about the
war. He replied that officially he was quite neutral. I said "But entre
amis?" He said "Of course I am on the side of the Japanese"
(Everyone is here, except Selim who happens to know Serge and his
wife! Also Selim says he hates the English to be in Egypt but I don't
know if it's true.) We then discussed whether a reformed Russia wd
not be more dangerous than an unreformed - he thought it wd - and
the probability of the Caucasian and trans Caucasian provinces
revolting. He said "It is you who have profited." I said "We have had
the good luck to have Lord Curzon in India at this moment. But will you
not profit?" He said "We have not profited at all as yet. Not at all in
Albania." So I took my leave and went back to the Sheikh's where I
found the Khanum's brother Sheikh 'Abd un[?] Nur and another, all in
turbans. I photographed the Sheikh in his orders[?] and Jerudi. We
told Jerudi that I had said to the Pasha "I hoped to have found a chief
of brigands (shaki) and have met nothing but a man of peace." Selim
had also put in his word. So home, all 3 of us in Jerudi's carriage.
Almonds and apricots just coming into flower and this hill side is
warmer than Damascus. The Vali was very anxious to send a large
escort with me to Baalbek so I had to pretend I was going by train!
Called on Mr Richards. At dinner Dr Haidar came in and gave me
some hints as to the road. Mikha'il's telegram has come and is
satisfactory. (see also end of Saturday)

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