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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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

27.5114102, 41.7208243

Wed Feb 25. [25 February 1914] We got off about 6.30 and rode towards Hayyil [Hail]. The men were visibly anxious. After we had ridden about 3/4 of an hour we saw a company approaching, 3 men on a camel and presently Ali emerged from them (he was the camel rider) came hurrying up to us and said "Kulshi ala kaifna." They had seen Ibrahim who had been most gracious and had said I was welcome. The 2 faris who had dismounted behind, now got onto their horses and came to us. They were 'abid and one carried a lance. They greeted me with much friendliness. Later we were joined by another faris who proved to be Hasan el Da'aifi. We had now passed through the outlying mounds of the Samra, we climbed up between the low hills and saw Hayyil before us, its low mud walls, lately built, set with machicolated towers and tall towers rising from the houses of the town. Palm trees waved green over the walls. A very flat reddish granite grit plain stretches round it. There is a white washed masalla to the S of the town. We skirted round the walls and came in by the Gofar or Medinah gate. Within the gate stretched before us a wide empty street. Immediately to the left I found M al M [Muhammad al Ma'rawi] waiting before the door of a house. I dismounted and was led in by a long passage, sloping up to a roof court and so to a large hall, the palm wood roof carried on whitewashed palm trunks, the walls whitewashed and decorated with pious sayings set in a band of red and blue painted entrelacs; round the walls were carpets and divan cushions. There are very small windows, in 2 rows one above the other. Here I sat down in a corner on the cushions. It is the outer palace of Muhammad ibn al Rashid, where he used to come and watch the Hajj gathered in the plain outside. In it are lodged important persons who come on a visit. When the men went out to see to the pitching of our tents in the big sammah I climbed up a wooden ladder to the roof and looked over Hayyil. I was called down by a slave boy, {'Abdallah} Atullah, and there came to me in the roshan an old woman, dressed in a red cotton under robe with a black abbaya over her head. She was followed by another, gaily clad in red and purple cotton under robes an Egyptian gold embroidered scarf over her head, strings and strings of rough pearls with a few emeralds and rubies round her neck; the same strings fell perpendicularly from the neck collar down onto her breast. Her hands were covered with heavy gold rings, some having diamonds set in them. She was Turkiyyeh a Circassian, (so called because of her Turkish origin, her real name is [space left blank]) She lived in C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)] in her childhood, was sent to the Sherif and lived at Mecca [Makkah] for 2 years, in what capacity I do not know, possibly to learn Arabic, and so came here to 'Abd al Aziz. She had forgotton nearly all her Turkish but she told me that Ibrahim sent her to welcome me in case I did not know Arabic. She showed me all the house. The women were sitting in a court which had an inner and outer coffee room. It was formerly used for the reception of Arab shaikhs of importance. Within was another court with small rooms round it wherein were lodged Muhammad's women when he came here, each in a room to herself. Beyond is another small open court, the hosh, in which are planted a sweet lemon, a quince and an apple tree. In the walls of the big roshan are niches, in one of them a telescope, in another a tattered qur'an. The rising passage is open on one side and the roof carried on that side by palm trunk columns. Turkiyyeh talked much of C'ple, the tramvai, the faitunat[?], the arabanat, the food. Here however al hamdalillah the meat was good and cheap and the dates! of them she said Ya hatha al Stambul! if only there were the dates of Hayyil there. And the semneh was cheap here. But look she had grown like an Arab, dressed like an Arab, bare foot and her hair parted in long plats. And she eat with her fingers, handfuls of meat and rice and drank leben and look at her batu! But here was her home and she wished to die here and never go back. Later she asked me to take her with me to Stambul and she wd look after herself there. Abd al Hamid sent 4 Circassians to Muhammad. 2 returned after his death, one besides Turkiyyeh is still here and one is married to [space left blank] and lives at Samawa [Samawah, As]. As soon as the coast was clear of Hayyil people, Salim came and told me and Turkiyyeh and came down to see my tents. A lot of slender Abd girls followed. Turkiyyeh showed them all the t....., table and chairs and cooking utensils, and explained their uses, fingering them delicately. She has a merry tongue if sometimes less than honest. "I came here all the way from Stambul to find a rijl" said she "and you have none." is caretaker here - she and her husband were here in the time of Muhammad and have stayed on. He husband was killed with Abd al Aziz. With her is a slave woman and her son {Abdallah} Atullah the boy. We have a slave door keeper Sa'id. He was taken kesb from the 'Ataiba. They take the slaves like the mares and camels, put the ill favoured ones to the hewing of wood and drawing of water and the well favoured they arm and take into their houses. They have also eunuchs brought from Stambul or Mecca - Tawashi. There is also a citizen of Hayyil, Salih, as watchman. After lunch Turkiyyeh sent for me and I went and sat with her. The harem never go outside the qasr. She was here when Abd al Aziz was killed and spoke of the wailing that followed. An'abdah came and sat with us. Said she "I have not prayed the d...." "Go and pray, go and pray" said T. It was then more then an hour after noon. Ibrahim was then announced - he did not let me go to him because of the murmuring of the 'ulama. I went to the Roshan and sat down. A tall slave came before Ibrahim and stood in the door, then he entered. He wore on his head a purple and red khuffa with a gold bound agal, was wrapped in a gold embroidered abba and carried a silver mounted sword. Heavily scented with attar of roses. His face is long and thin with a scanty beard and imperial; discoloured teeth and kohl blackened shifting eyes. We talked of the Blunts, Enting[?] and Doughty. Then of affairs to the S. Boraida [Buraydah] now belongs to Ibn al Sa'ud; Anayza ['Unayzah] is under her independent amir and Ibn al S. does not take zaqat from her. The 'Ataiba are partly with the Rashids and partly with the Sa'uds but some of them are gomani to both. Turkiyyeh and came to me while I was having tea and T. chatted much as before. She calls the Amir, al Sultan, Allah yasa'idhu. Ali and Sa'ud, sons of Hamud and Salih ibn Subhan, sent us 4 big black Nejd [Najd] sheep and a bag of rice. Turkiyyeh went back to the qasr with her slave girl at dusk. The slave girl always answered Lubbaiki when she spoke to her. T. said she had not walked so far for years and her legs ached. I walked in the dusk through the wide empty enclosures of our dir. Long mud wall beyond long mud wall with an occasional ruined room or two and the immensely deep sinking of a well - but all the wells are madfun and there is no cultivation in the courts. The long mud walls sometimes run parallel to one another with only a few yards between - great waste of building.

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