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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper

40.7704809, 29.428568

Wed May {20} 19. [19 May 1909] Left at 6 and rode up through the oak woods to Der Mar Augen just over the lip of the hills. Iris Susiana in flower in the woods, most lovely. Mar Augen is the mother house of this district. We got to it after about 2 hours succeeding in pulling our horses down over the rocks. There are 10 monks; they live mostly in caves some of which have upper chambers. I do not doubt that this is the real primitive monasticism. The bp, an old man, has shut himself up in a cave, walled in and almost inaccessible above the monastery and intends to spend the rest of his days in silence. He eats once a day; the food is hoisted[?] up to him in a basket - burghul, bread, lentils and oil - none of the monks eat anything else. The rais entertained me and told me how they were oppressed by the Kurds. He took me up to Mar Augen's cell in the rocks above the monastery to the W. The kitchen is a half open cave with a big cave behind it as storehouse - skins of burghul in it. Several of the monks wd not look at a woman and were carefully sent into their caves. The rais made an exception in my favour. The monastery owns lands and vinyards [sic] but only so much of the produce is assigned to it by the church at large as is necessary for the livelihood of the monks. Rather heated discussion as to whether all Moslems go to Hell, a propos of the Sultan! The Rais gave me lunch in his cell, omelet, burghul and raisins. He proposes, if allowed, to spend the rest of his days at Mar Augen. His native place is Mardin. We sent the horses up to the wine press which we had passed in the woods on our way (it was for dibs the Kas of Usedere said) and walked on over the hills to Mar Yuhanna about 1/2 an hour away. Less interesting but the same brick arches in the sanctuary and bricks used in the high vault. The door arch between ante chamber and nave set back, the arches over the niches in the anti chamber wall set forward. The anti chamber covered with a fine brick dome on squinches. There is a modern (I think) small chapel below the church. In the N wall of the church is the tomb of Mar Yuhanna and that of his mother in the S. wall. There are 4 monks here; also a bp. They live in a sort of tower and caves at the very top of all. We offended the old rais mortally by refusing to eat. So back to the dibs press. There are 2 caves and in front of one a number of rock cut cavities with rock cut channels for the dibs to run out of the cave into the cavities. So home and into camp at 4.

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