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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 Dehes

34.802075, 38.996815

Tues 4. [4 April 1905] Musa brought me excellent shirak in the
morning on which I breakfasted. I then visited his father and eat more
shirak with cream and sugar - most delicious. I also visited Musa and
photographed the whole family. Off at 8, the mules not ready. Musa
came with us. The road very stony till Deir Izzet, worst of all near the
town. It is quite large 300 to 400 houses, Muslimin. Here Musa left us
and we rode on down the hill - we had skirted the whole side of Jebel
Sheik Barakat, and so into the beautiful plain of Dana with its ring of
mts round. Half of it deep in corn and lentil, the other half resting. Got
of [sic] Dana at 12 and lunched in the necropolis. I photographed the
lovely tomb there and looked about in the cave tombs but not in the
town which is entirely rebuilt and reinhabited. At 1 the mules came up
and I left them with Mikhail as a guide and rode off with Nejib to the
Bab el Hawa. We saw the solitary Sermeda column to our left. Bab
el Hawa very striking at the entrance of the valley a fine place for a
great gate. We rode on along the valley between the rocky hills and
by a ruined church struck up a valley to the left which brought us to the
top of the hill at Babiska. Ksejeda was a little to our left on the edge of
the hill. There were some Arab tents at Babiska and by force we
induced an unwilling person to show us the way to Bakirha. The
country most enchanting all hill top, open rocky ground with the ruined
towns scattered about. We had to go down then climb up to a little
ruined place called Kefr something. Then we saw Bakirha high up on
the hill before us. Our guide left us and we scrambled on till the rocky
hillside became quite impossible for horses. I left Najib with the tired
beasts and climbed up alone some quarter of an hour. The town has
the most exquisite situation I have seen, on the north side of the Jebel
Barisha and looking out over a great plain bounded by snow mts
which were slightly veiled in a warm soft mist. The temple lies above
it all, at the head of 2 rocky valleys one leading down to the N plain
the other to Sermeda and the plain beyond. Below the temple is a
lovely church with a fine west door and a narthex. And near it on the
hillside some beautiful houses, the columns of the courtyards with
elaborate capitals and the slabs of the balconies all carved. I cd not
stay as I feared we might be kept too late but I hastily photographed
what I could. There were no people in sight but one shepherd boy
sitting far off on a rock on the edge of the steep N valley. It was
exquisite. The rocky hill tops rose behind the temple. So I scrambled
back to Nejib and we climbed down a very steep path which led us to
some shepherds' huts in a branch of the Sermeda plain a narrow river
of cultivation between the hills. The contrast between the bare rock of
the hills and the fertile plains most curious. All round on the rocks
there were ruins of towers and great houses. We turned up a valley to
the S - that to Sermeda lay E - and passing over very rocky ground
came to a more open part in which lay a large rebuilt village, Kefr
[space left blank] in groves of olives. Most delicious. Mehes or
Dehes or whatever its name is was about an hour further on in the
valley, rather less. We got in at 6.10 and found the camp pitched in
front of the beautiful ruins of a church with a baptistery. No people,
most enchanting. Fine and pleasant evening but the wind rose after
dinner. The mules took from 31/2 to 4 hours from Dana.

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