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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Gertrude Bell
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Tues. Feb 16. [16 February 1909] I got up at 5.45 but a heavy shower
delayed loading and the baggage was not off till 7.50. We left at 8
and got in to Bumbuj at 3.15; the baggage came in at 4.45, a long day.
We rode across the sort of valley there is at El Bab [Al Bab] and onto
rising uplands all cultivated. The barometer went up 250ft at the
highest part of the road but dropped again to the same point as at El
Bab when we got to Bumbuj. It may however have varied a little by
reason of the strong wind we had during the day. There was a little
rain but not much. About an hour after leaving El Bab we were joined
by a charming Circassian from Bumbuj, Mahmud Agha. His father
came from Russia but he was born at Bumbuj. They went first from the
Caucasus [Bol'shoy Kavkaz] to Roumeli where they settled down and
built houses; then the Russians took that land also and they again left
all and came here where they are well content. But if the Russians
came again wallahi he didn't know where they wd go. We reached
Arime in 31/2 hours. There I saw the inscrip. on the column copied by
Mr Hogarth and in a house a large stone with an inscrip. of Melek ez
Zaher [Arabic characters] that was all I cd read. Also above this
place a fragment of a bas relief with a pair of feet and one single foot,
in shoes not pointed and not I shd think of any period before Rome.
Mahmud Agha told me that all the Arab fellahin in the villages had no
votes because they wd not register themselves. If they but thought
they were "written down" in the books of the Govt. they would all take
to flight at once. At Bumbuj and round about there are only 1000
voters out of a much larger possible number. He had a vote and
knew the names of all the Aleppo [Halab] vilayet deputies. He also
told me that now all people were equal, all were to have equal justice
and none were to wait for months before the Seraya cd be got to
attend to them - and then only with bribes. He saw no difficulty as to
Xians serving in the army but thought they cd not rise very high in the
service. Fattuh was away when the election took place. He is not
inscribed. Before we reached Bumbuj we saw a great kanat on either
side. Mahmud said they came in to the town from all sides but the E
(where the water runs down to the Euphrates) and still bring water.
There is a large and very deep pond just inside the ruined line of the
walls at Bumbuj, fed by an underground spring. We put up at a khan
and I went out and photographed the sacred pond and walked half
round the line of the walls till I came to the site of the theatre. The
Circassians have dug down into the walls and taken out the stones.
There is a great open space within them scattered over with
featureless ruins. Then I visited a little mosque with a Ziyara of Sheikh
'Akil. He was living in Bumbuj, Mahmud told me, when Timur Long
beseiged the city. He sent me a message to the Sheikh who had a
great reputation saying he intended to take the town. The Sheikh
asked him to wait 3 days and on his advice during those days the
inhabitants themselves ruined the city. Whereupon Timur passed it
by. Near the khan is a new mosque built by the Sultan on the site of a
mosque of Melek ez Zaher's. Nothing was left of the latter but a ruined
minaret (I doubt whether Murray is right in speaking of an inscrip. of
Salah ed Din - the 3 now remaining are all of M. ez Zaher) this was
pulled down and the new and very ugly mosque built. Below its
pavement they found another which they say belonged to a Xian
church. There were a good many columns about and one cap. but it
was antique not Xian. When the mules came in I watched them being
watered in the sacred pool. The cold wind dropped and my room is
large and comfortable with my own furniture, but the double door won't
shut by a good inch and more. Tomorrow the Euphrates and plans of
Carchemish [Barak (Karkemis)] and of joining my camp at Tell Ahmar
[Tall al Ahmar] in the evening having been stopped by Hajj
Muhammad: "Oh my brother! it is the Euphrates." Remember a
greeting from an old man with a donkey and a rifle: "Whither going in
peace?" "To Carchemish." How often must that have been said!

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