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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 Basufan

36.3396757, 36.8761485

Mon. 3. [3 April 1905] A miserable day, grey and cold with endless
high mists blowing up from the mountains - this was the more
annoying as to north and south I could see the world in sun and the
snow mountains glistening. Musa Nejib and I rode an hour to the N to
Kiefar. We were very near the extreme N of the Jebel Sim'an and saw
the valley below bounded by a great wall of snow mts. There are no
towns of this description beyond the Jebel Sim'an. There are 2
churches to the S and W of the village, only the apses standing like
great hoods. The S one has also the door of the W end which must
have been very lovely, a beautiful horseshoe relieving arch above
the lintel and the scroll round it exquisitely treated. Of the 4 piers
inside and outside the apse, 3 of the capitals were uncut Corinthian
and the 4th very elaborately cut. 2 inscriptions - one I did not attempt
to copy. Further to the N there are the remains of another bigger
church of which very little stands or lies. Near it there is a very
beautiful house with a liwan of columns and columns on the balcony
but these without capitals. The lower are Doric. In the middle of the
village a 4 square canopy tomb on 4 piers but not on a pediment. So
back to Barad and on to Kefr Nebu. Bitter cold I walked all the way.
Got there at 11 and lunched under the lee of the house on which there
is a Syriac inscription. This I copied in streaming rain. There is a very
large and perfect dated house and near it a charming little house with
a window arched between 2 columns. A Cufic tombstone on the
ground. I was too cold to look for more and we rode in to Basufan
getting in at 2. It is Musa's village. The sun came out and I measured
and photographed the big church, which judging by the engaged
capitals of the apse must have been of very good work. I also copied
tant bien que mal the Syriac inscription. The church has been at
some later time made into a burj with towers on the N S and E - or it
may possibly be that it began to fall down and that there are great
buttresses to keep it up. There are a few very big trees to the S of the
village and a huge graveyard - mostly Muslim. The people come
from miles around to bring their dead here. Conspicuous is the new
tomb of Musa's brother who was murdered by a blood enemy a few
months ago - probably by one of his bride's family for he took her
without their consent. In the village below there is a famous spring
which never runs dry. In rainless years the people come from all the
mts for water. At 3.30 Musa and I and his sherik[?] walked across the
stony hills to Burj Haida. There is a good burj which I photographed
but did not measure - that at Burj el Kas is 11 ft square and Barad 12.
3 churches. The W has only the two lines of columns standing, the
middle is one shipped, very perfect with a charming apse arch. To
the SE built askew against it is a long house with a court. The S is
very much ruined but judging by the engaged columns - which were
about all that was left - it was very poor in work. The clouds blew over
again and I left the rest of the town - there were some houses to the N
and walked across to Kefr Lab. On the way my 2 friends told me of the
Yezidis. A very learned sheikh who knows everything comes across
from Musil and collects tribute. There the Muslims and the Yezidis are
in bitter feud and the sheikh wonders why here where the Yezidis are
so few the Muslims do not murder them all. Here they serve in the
army in Musil not. Their books say that towards the end of the world
there will come Hadudmadud[?] who is Gogmagod I suppose for he
is a giant in in 7 days or months or years he will drink up the seas and
the rivers. Then a mighty worm will eat him. Before his time the race
of men will all have beome tiny. Then there will be a flood which will
last 7 days or months or years and the earth will all be washed clean.
Then will come the Mahdi and will summon the 4 clans of the
righteous, Yezidis, Xians, Muslims and Jews and appoint Yezidi,
Christ, Muhammad and Moses to assemble them together. Converts
will be tried by fire to find out which creed they really belong to. This is
the end of the world. The Yezidis like the Xians and the Jews but the
Muslims they consider swine. They told me many fairy stories of
people finding gold. One of a man who lost his goat and found him in
a cave full of gold coins. He closed it up and went home but when he
returned there was neither goat nor cave nor gold. Another of a boy
who at Kafr Lab dreamt he had found a great treasure and when he
woke his hands were stained red "with the dirt of gold." They used to
grow tobacco here of a famous kind, but when the Rejn[?] was
established it found them such miserable prices for their tobacco that
it was not worth the toil. Since then they are all poor. Kefr Lab has a
few houses and a one shipped church, very perfect but not interesting.
So we walked back across the fields to Basufan. It is a sort of health
resort in the summer for the Jews and Xians of Halab [(Aleppo)].
They come here and live in the Kurds houses while the Kurds take to
their tents. Musa's sister, Wardeh, brought me a gift of Kaimak {while}
and she and her niece Banafsheh sat with me for some time.

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