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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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

33.223191, 43.679291

Monday Ap 3 [3 April 1911] Off at 6. At 5.30 Temp 52 Bar 29.3. A little
rain then hot. We crossed a low rise which came down about 1/2 hour
from the Tigris which we reached opposite Shergat [Sharqat] at 11.15.
The ferry was 3/4 of an hour further up. I had left the baggage behind.
At the ferry I left F [Fattuh]. The baggage came up about 3/4 hour
later having come straight. Ahmet left them as soon as I gave him his
bakhshish, but subsequently had to come down to the river because
the zaptieh tried to take a mej. from him! I got to Shergat at 1.30, met
Andrae and Maresch coming out of the door. Jordan, Preusser, and
Bachmann also there. Andrae gave me lunch and they all made me
delightfully welcome. Then we went out to see the Assur temple
diggings. It goes back to 1800 BC and was rebuilt later on the same
plan - lengthways placed rooms. Under it is a prehistoric building not
on the same plan but very difficult to trace. Baggage got in at 3.30
when I came in washed and changed and had tea with Andrae who
showed me Hatra [Hadr, Al] pictures. They were there in Jan. with
Hassan Riza Beg, but were driven out by snow. Returned 3 weeks
ago and stayed a week. The Shammar expedition a complete
success. Its destination was unknown till the end. The Kaimmakam
was brought up from Samawa [Samawah, As] and when Riza set out it
was believed that he was going to curve round to Feluja [Fallujah, Al]
and so down to the Muntefiq. He never went to Mosul [Mawsil, Al] so
that there might be no news of him. The Shammar were quite
unprepared and thought a winter expedition out of the question. They
came in mildly when they saw the force he had brought (1500 men)
and the cannon. About {half} a third came in, 15000 men 5000 tents;
the others not because there was bloodfeud but Ferid Bey has now
gone to the Khabur to assess their flocks. Soon after Riza Beg
arrived at Hatra the snow fell. He had commandeered and paid for
(everything was paid for) a caravan of dates at Shergat, the provision
caravan from Mosul was held up at Hammam by the snow (they
made no attempt to push on) and for three weeks the soldiers lived on
dates and sheep. Riza eat nothing but what they eat and wd not put
on his great coat, to show them that the cold was bearable. He
looked after them ceaselessly, otherwise there wd have been a
tremendous fiasco. The Shammar had a real grievance. They had
been accustomed to protect the desert roads, levying a small toll
therefore from the caravans. This was recognised. Then at Deir
[Dayr az Zawr] a mule force was organised to protect the roads and
take the toll. The Shammar continued to take their own toll, robbing
the caravans to get it. Riza, though desert conditions were all new to
him, made careful enquiries and understood the whole business
which he promised to set right. He branded all the assessed camels
with an H. He took 4 camels in every hundred and about 5000 sheep,
all of which he sold at once realizing £20,000. His expenses, over and
above the ordinary keep of the soldiers were £2000, ie in loss of
animals and general wear and tear and carriage. He levied the tax
on 5 times as many sheep as had ever been taxed before and the
non declared sheep of rich Mosulis which he found in the desert he
siezed and sold. Finally 'Asi, Ferhan's eldest son, a very worthy and
respectable man, was made Sheikh esh Shuyukh and responsible
for the whole tribe. None of this has ever been possible before
because the Shammar were divided up into 3 parts, responsible to
Baghdad, Mosul and Deir and they always slipped out of one by
saying that they had satisfied the other. Riza speaks excellent
German and is most enlightened. He knows and understands
European soldiery but he adopts for Turkey only what is sensible. He
had one good lieutenant but only one. The Shammar were less
difficult to tackle than the Muntefiq who are far richer and more
powerful, but this expedition having been so successfully
accomplished, dealings with the Muntefiq will be much easier as they
will be afraid. Riza wanted to establish a permanent post here but he
left hurriedly, Nazim calling him back to Baghdad in his need. He
arrived however after Nazim's fall. The Muntefiq will be a far more
difficult business. They are extremely wealthy and have over 100000
armed men - all foot soldiers. Very merry dinner.

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