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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Gertrude Bell
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Monday Feb 8. [8 February 1909] Horrid day. Went in the morning
with Mme Koch to see the Vali. His wife whom I did not see is a niece
of Hamdi's. Reshid Bey was Mutesarrif at Jerusalem [(El Quds esh
Sherif, Yerushalayim)] when he got into trouble over the selling of
lands to Jews. His story is that the Jews had paid for the lands and
they had not been given them till he handed them over. Other people
say he made large sums out of the transaction. The thing has still to
be looked into and the accusation hangs over him. He is a smallish
man with a brown beard - I shd say very intelligent. He said in his
eyes the first thing to be done was to reform the police, gendarmerie
and justice. The police and gendarmerie are too small in number.
Also they are too little paid. A zaptieh gets 120 ps per month. On this
he cannot live decently. But till the Budget comes out in March it is not
possible to augment the salaries or increase the number. The duty of
the police is to watch over the community, of the gendarmerie to arrest
and expedite punishment; the first is the intelligence the second the
force. The whole system of justice needs reorganisation. The judges
receive from 600 ps to 1000 ps a month. This is far too little - they
have to eke it out by taking bribes. The judicial system is
complicated and delicate. It is frequently not understood and rarely
carried out with any perfection. It should be simplified. As regards the
religious questions: it is obvious that as yet it wd be impossible to
have a Xian provincial governor. In C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)]
there are Xians in the ministry. The provinces wd not understand why
a majority of Moslems shd be governed by a Xian and they wd not
obey. Little by little it may become possible. The Xians will certainly
be called on to do military service. Xians are already being admitted
to the military college at C'ple. He thinks it wd be impossible as yet to
appoint Xians to a high place of command - after all that is much the
same distinction as that which we preserve between English and
natives in the Indian army. We then went to Kostaki Homsi who has a
most beautiful house in Salubi. I bought some Hittite cylinders from
him for £4. He has a curious small basalt plaque this shape [sketch]
with figures in low relief on it and an Assyrian inscrip. I am not sure that
it is genuine. A very fine small statue from Tell Lo, a seated woman
with the head turned to the left and a Babylonian inscrip. An
interesting book of marble carved in low relief with a boar's head and
other figures. Also some Rakha things, not I thought very good. So
home to lunch. Fattuh has bought 3 more horses for £T23 but without
saddles or packs. And a donkey for £T5 and a bit. After lunch Mme
K. M. Rouflart and I went out first to Bab el Hadid (built by Melek el
Ashraf ie Kait Beg) where Tamberlane made his entry. Near it in the
bazaar is a little mosque, much ruined inside, with two charming
doors. The time of one of the Mamluks - I think Melek ed Daher. Note
that the decoration of that time here is much less stylicised [sic] than it
wd be in Egypt. The rinceaux are more like Fatimid work. Then on to
the mosques and a bath near the citadel. Went in to Jami' et Turush -
quite ruined, a double arcade on one side, the columns and roof
fallen. An interesting sort of water basin with arms, cups and flagons.
In one small turbeh not far off Malek ed Daher is buried - we cd not get
in. We went into the Hammam and right down into the innermost
underground room where we found almost naked people making felt
mats in the dark! Then we went to the house of one Hajj 'Amr, an
antiquity dealer - a charming house, but he was out. Delightful
discreet stone work decoration and inside the big room charming
windows of coloured glass and painted and lacquered wood work.
So to the Murestan a beautiful place built by Malek ed Daher, a
courtyard with a mosque and a tank. Inside a long vaulted passage
with square chambers opening out of it, domed and lighted from the
top. Some 8 cells, quite dark except for the light from the top, in which
the madmen were chained up. They are criminal lunatics, they very
seldom recover and I don't wonder. So it has been ever since the
time of Malek ed Daher. Note in the court opposite the mosque and
in one of the cell chambers interesting oblong brick domes. So to the
Bab Kinnisrin a very splendid place, and walked along outside the
walls which are well preserved. 2 great bastions stand out into the
ditch. Turned off into the country near the Bab Antaki crossed the line
and up to a charming little mosque called Sheikh M'ssein. Just below
it on the hillside is Meshed Hussein. Near it outside is buried a
descendent of one of the companions of the prophet. The mosque
itself was built by Saif ed Dauleh and repaired by Melek ed Daher.
The decoration round the outer door and over the liwan is very bold,
an entrelac on a big scale over the liwan. There is somewhere the
stone on which is the drop of blood that fell from Hussein's head when
it was brought here from Kerbela [Karbala], but this the Sheikh wd not
show us. We saw in a small room a charming Kibla niche flanked by
two marble columns and rough uncut acanthus caps certainly pre
Arab. So back to the house of Hamid Bey with whom I had a long talk.
He was one of the candidates for Aleppo [Halab] but withdrew owing
to his not being a native of the town. He said the Xians certainly had
the right to expect one out of the 6 deputies of the vilayet to be a Xian
but the different sects cd not agree, they ran 7 or 8 candidates and
none got in in consequence. Moreover the Xian community is a large
minority and not one of the candidates proposed was sufficiently
distinguished for Moslems to vote for him. The same thing happened
at Marash where the Committee had declared there was to be a Xian
deputy. He thinks on the whole the Xians will make no difficulties as to
serving in the army - except in the districts where the relations
between Xians and Moslems are always bad. Much interest was
taken in the elections. The committee reorganised by envoys from
Salonica [Thessaloniki (Saloniki)] contains Jews and Xians. They
are in no way active. Their duty is merely supervision and they must
gradually disappear. 2 Clubs were started here - one which was
open failed for lack of members. The other was and is reserved for
the Committee but probably will be thrown open later. He says the
leading citizens of Aleppo and Catoni from Alexandretta [Iskenderun
(Alexandria ad Issum)] held a meeting to consider the rly question.
They pressed the govt to set at once about the Alexandretta rly. The
German concession gives the Germans first option if any rly to the
coast is to be constructed between Mersina [Mersin [IÁel)] and Tripoli
[Trablous]. They therefore suggested that the Germans shld be
asked to take it up, if they refused the meeting[?] decided to form a
company themselves and hope to get foreign capital to help. Messrs
Forbes, the liquorice trust people, offered to undertake it but they
asked for a concession of land on either side of the rly, a concession
which will not now be given. He says the Aidin [Aydin] rly has got the
concession to Bulghur [Buldur[?]]. He praised the way the rly there
was managed. The Angora [Ankara (Ancyra)] line can do without a
guarantee only in good seasons. They hope to make use of the
Albanians as a counter..... to their Bulgarian subjects in European
Turkey. He thinks but for the complications with Austria and Bulgaria
things wd have progressed much more rapidly. We talked of ruins.
He himself has property to the S. covered with the ruins of early Xian
villages. Even in the open country they find traces of long walls which
apparently divided the fields. The land must all have been taken up.
The Vali said at the beginning Hurriyet was very badly understood.
Much was talked of rights and little of duties. He was solemnly told
that England would give back Egypt and Crete [Kriti] and Austria
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Disillusion was bound to come for those
who held such exaggerated views as to what the Constitution meant.
[Written at the top of page:] The procureur gÈnÈral much overworked,
he has to look after some 20 kazas outside Aleppo - in consequence
the work not done. The Sultan has not given back nearly all his
chifliks but on those retained he now pays tithe amounting to £200000
to £300000 a year.

IIIF Manifest