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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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

28.9335416, 41.9196471

Sun Feb 15 [15 February 1914] We rode off early, but I did not get a
bearing back to Zabran till 11 - it was 283, therefore our forward
bearing must have been about 100. At 11 I took the forward bearing N
of J. Misma [Misma, Jibal] 87, but we by no means travelled direct, for
we had to avoid the great ga'r and tu'us. My other bearings at 11
were 221-231 Helwan [Halwan], 180-185 Dalma, 180 Abu Mughair, a
single point sticking up from behind, 171-176 Haza'il, 148-132 'Irnan,
116 Argub al Misma', 95-97 Misma'. Judging by the tells I had seen
when we started at 6.15, our camping place cannot be far off the first
line 100? but I shall be able to tell better when I see Misma and Zabran
again. At 12.15 we came to ard, ma'sum and Awwad was anxious to
camp, saying his camel was broken and he must go back or leave
her with Arabs here. We presently met a Sherari with his camels, rahil,
who gave us news of Arab ahead. At 1.30 2 of them overtook us and
we asked news. They replied that falsehood was not fit for man and
that the Kelab (who are of the Awaji) were ahead and the Swaib
beyond al Gulban. Also that Abdullah ibn al Jullul had passed by the
jellad road and they had not seen him. We camped in abundance of
nusi' and the Arabs came to see us. They are only shepherds here,
Sa'id knows them. Since 'Awwad could not persuade one of them to
go on with us he is obliged to accompany us himself till we meet
Shammar. The Nefud [Nafud, An] was much smoother today, or at
least there was always a good path by the bank tops. Some of the
ga'r have a whitish salt(?) over the bottom, as I saw at the bir. There
was lots of a slender little plant called Umm al Swait which the camels
love, but it is not yet green. The Sherarat says M al M [Muhammad al
Ma'rawi] never have {good} trustworthy news; they are not well
informed. The man we met today was pasturing his camels as he
went. His few goods were packed on one or two of them; one carried
his baby. The wife was sitting under an 'irta bush, the man walked.
The Nefud [Nafud, An], said Awwad when he advised us to take this
road, was good for those who feared. I asked 'Ali this morning
whether all the Arab disputes were over pasturage and camels. Yes
he said most of them. And women? said I. Yes he said, the beni
adam quarrel most over women, they are the cause of all disputes. A
man takes a wife and she leaves him and goes back to her people,
or he divorces her and they quarrel over her possessions. But the
customs of the Arabs are not good. A man will take a woman whose
husband has died or divorced her and marry her the very next day,
though she is with child by the first man. Disputes arise over the
parentage of the child, but the woman is the only arbiter. The da'a is
referred to her and she says He is the child of fulan. Some women
they will never let go; one brother will marry her after another till her
hair is white, to keep her wealth or because she comes of a good
stock and will bear manly sons. She is like a prisoner among them.
But some are not worth a nehaseh[?] and their children are no good.
Do they take the daughters of a gomani? said I. Yes, he said, and the
woman sides with her husband when he raids her family. The wife of
Nur Ibn Sha'lan was a daughter of [space left blank] She was married
first to Nuri's brother and he raided her family, killed her brother and
brought the mare home. When she saw her she knew her as the mare
of her brother. Where is my brother? she said. He is 'and ahlha,
saidla. No she said or you wd not lead in his mare - you have killed
him. When her husband died Nuri took her that she might remain in
the family. The maidens of the Arabs are fair, but their skin is dirty and
they are ill fed said Ali. I saw all these Awaji were small and ill
favoured (Salan, the neighbouring shaikh had been in our camp this
morning) and Ali replied that they were all dying of hunger and began
to sing the praises of the Muntefij who were like kings and their food
and their customs like those of the Ottomans. M. al M. said that
camels sometimes slipped and fell into the deep steep ga'r of the
Nefud. He had been on the way to Jof [Jawf, Al (Al Jauf)] and a camel
bearing a load of waterskins pushed against (dafa') a camel bearing
a load of dates. The latter fell over into a ga'r and broke her leg.
They hallal her and pulled the date load up with ropes. And the Lord
was to be thanked that it was not the water camel which had fallen; that
wd have been zahnech. There are 6 days from Jubbah across the
Nefud to near Jof without water, 5 nights and the 6th at water. He
would have 4 herds each with 2 'abid, 12 men and himself 13 and he
would take 8 or 9 loads of water. For in the summer a man wd drink a
girbeh wahdhu in a day. There was a cold wind all day but the sun
was hot, the temp 73? in the shade after we camped. All the Arabs
from Hayyil [Hail] to Taimah [Tayma'] pay ziqa to Ibn al Rashid, 1
real for every 10 beasts. But he no longer holds the country quiet as it
was in Mohammad's day, when the Hayyil authority stretched up to
the Sukhur. At this moment part of the Hetaim are foes with the
Annazeh and it is for fear of their raids that we have kept to the Nefud.
All the story Ghadi told me about Haizan [Bir Hayzan] is untrue.
Haizah was open as late as 4 years ago, and its water was better
than that of Haizan which is rather brackish. The Swaid and the Awaji
quarrelled and the Swaid filled up both Haizan and Haizah, but the
former ineffectually so that it could be opened again. The Awaji filled
up Awaid and it has not been opened again.

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