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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper

34.802075, 38.996815

Sykes, Mark

Thurs Feb 25. [25 February 1909] Clear beautiful day. Off at 7.15 with Ibrahim a yong man of the Sheikh's house as guide. He was a most pleasant companion. After we had ridden ..... hour he said there was a ruin in the hills to the E about 11/2 hours away called Mudawwarah, but we did not go to it. We left the road and galloped up to the hills where there was a good rock cut tomb called Mahall es Safsah. I planned it 10.15-10.45. Then straight down to the river to Tell el Efra'i. At 10.45 got to an immense dyke that runs round it from the Euphrates enclosing a big space. The Tell is very large. We saw big stones, some squared, washed out of it. [plan] The readings are taken from the W. end of the Tell to the tower of Neshaba and the minaret of K. Ja'bar. Tell 11-11.20. Neshaba 12 (foot of hill) -12.30. Kal'at Ja'bar 1-3. Neshaba is a tower of uncut stones laid in much mortar. All the facing stones have fallen. The door is about 15 ft from the ground and I cd see a vaulted and plastered stair (?) inside it. Possibly a room, below the door was a vaulted niche. I cd hear or see nothing of Kiepert's Mazar of Sultan 'Abdullah, but ther is a small Mazar of Sultan Selim between Neshaba and Kal'at Ja'bar, nearer the latter, in the plain. It was rebuilt by Jemil Pasha and contains nothing old. The towers of Abu Herera stood up on the opposite side of the river a little above us. So to Kal'at Ja'bar where I lunched. It is a very fine place in a chalk rock which is breaking away. Mostly of brick with delightful brick string courses and decorative diamonds of open work; some stone in the entrance wall and one tower half of stone. The entrance is by a long covered passage hewn in the rock. There is a large vaulted hall inside the enceinte - a mosque? - and a good large building of many rooms all of brick and variously vaulted. I noticed barrel vaults carried up in courses lengthways - no doubt uncentred - and only the top of the curve set in voussoirs. Also some half lengthways and half longways like Byz. vaulting. In the centre is a fine brick minaret with an inscription round the top which I make out to be Maimun ([Arabic characters]) I hope this is so but I rather doubt whether in his time the letters wd not have been Cufic? Beyond it a vaulted cistern. On the NW side the hill is not very steep and there are 2 rings of brick towers. On the SE side it is precipitous and there is little or no fortification. Below the top on the level of the entrance of the vaulted passage, there is a large brick {passage} chamber built against the face of the cliff. We left at 3 and at 3.30 rode under a Tell called Chahf ez Zaqq, said to have ruins on it. At 3.45 we got to the tents of Sheikh Hamri and found the mules arrived but not camped. Fattuh, Hajj M. and Selim had gone off for tibu and corn and had not yet come. So we pitched tents before the delighted gaze of the tribe and Fattuh came in loaded with tibu. Then I went to the Sheikh's tent for coffee. He is a cheerful talkative old man, full of gossip of Nejd [Najd] and elsewhere, uncle to Mabruk. Mark Sykes was here for 2 days and went to Khirbet Hadh[?]. Hamri: "Freedom! there can't be freedom under Islam. Shall I take wives contrary to the law of Islam and call it Freedom?" Very hot today; a long hard day. I reckon it was 73/4 hours for the animals, but they went slowly.

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