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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper

32.5672491, 43.4851474

Wed March 24 [24 March 1909] Hussein has had 20 children, 12 of
whom have died - not to his regret. The black Tertut only grows in
years of drought. The name of the horrible shrub that grows on the
sabkha is thelleth - camels won't eat much of it. Muhammad, Hussein
and I with a boy called Hussein as a guide set off at 6.30. At 7 we
crossed the stream that comes from the swamp. We went towards the
Mazar of Saiyyad Ahmed Ibn Hushim. Near it to the N are the
remains of a very large town. We followed for about 1/4 of a mile the
foundations of a huge wall 150 centimetres thick about. The whole
ground was strewn with tells and stones - in the days of rain the
people collect antiquities here. The valley with springs and a large
area of swampy sabkha ground lies to the S of the town. I rode back
to the Mazar which is quite a new building. The larger Mazar is that of
[space left blank] and the smaller of his brother. Then rode back and
joined the others and we rode on W to Ras el Ain where there is the
ruins of a castle called Murrat. I take it to be Abbasid or thereabouts.
It is square with round corner towers without any great projection and
one door with a pointed arch. Above the door is a square hole
running up through the mud wall like a badgir. To the right of it seems
to have been a square bastion of stone. The building is all of uncut
stones and unburnt brick. Muhammad and I had galloped on to the
castle; we were seen by some Amarat who were camping in the
valley unseen, they thought us robbers and were preparing to shoot
at us if the boy Hussein had not seen them and reassured them. We
rode for an hour eastwards along the valley the upper part of which
was full of springs of bad water like the Shefatheh [Shithathah] water.
At the place where we crossed the Shefatheh road (after 30 minutes)
there were traces of building, apparently an oblong fort. Muhammad
sang his ode to the motor and I God Save the King. Then we came to
Bardawil which I mapped. It is an oval tower on a high mound with 2
stories [sic] of rooms in it. The inner walls go up above the rooms.
The entrance is to the W and there may have been another to the E.
The rooms are barrel vaulted, the vaults set forward. At the end of the
central corridor there are squinches at either corner. The boy
Hussein went back from here and we rode on to the Shefatheh road,
Muhammad singing. Suddenly he stopped and said "There is a
horseman riding in haste." There were 3. Muhammad said "They
are Arban." We rode on to a mound and dismounted M. giving me
his mare. Hussein had previously taken his cane out of the barrel of
his rifle, M. had slipped a cartridge into his - I had drawn out my pistol.
When the 3 came near to, M. walking cautiously forward, they gave
the salaam and we knew all was well. If you come near enough to
give the salaam or receive it you cannot rob. If you cry Ya wahad alla
rakubtak it means you are only after the mare and if the man gives it
you you are bound to let him go. They were 3 men from Rahiliyyeh
[Rahhaliyah] come after the boy who was a stranger to make sure he
had not made off with the rifle. After they had gone M said "Fi ayyam
egh Ghazu I do not give my mare to the son of my uncle, or to my
brother lest they shd be the enemy and flee. But I gave her to you
because I know the hearts of the English are strong. They do not
flee." Half way to Shefatheh after 1/4 hour we came to a brackish
spring and lunched. Some palms were growing wild by it. Before
Shefatheh lies a wide stretch of {tamarisk with springs of bad water.
There are little towers by the springs for gazelle hunting. The springs
collect into large pools of rotting water and through them and the
palms we rode into Shefatheh. [Arabic characters] I went to the
house of the Mudir and drank tea with him while my tents} palms and
through these we rode into the town [Arabic] and found my tent
pitched before the serai. I walked off at once to the Kasr through
wonderful gardens of corn palms and pomegranates. There are 2
big springs in the town the water flows all through the gardens and is
finally lost in a salt tract called the Mahla. The willows were in leaf and
the pomegranate buds hanging on the trees. The Kasr is entirely
filled with houses. It's name is Sham'un. The colossal walls partly of
unburnt brick, partly of mud and stone stand best at the E side. To the
N there is a small arched door. Just inside the E wall I was shown
some underground vaults with the barrel vaults set forward. They
were this shape [sketch]. All through the village there are remains of
old foundations of the interior buildings. I heard there was an English
engineer camped near and went on to see him but his tents were too
far and I turned back. After tea he came to see me and proved to be
one of Sir W. Willcock's men, B.T. Watts by name.

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