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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Gertrude Bell
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1 entry, paper

Sat 27. [27 December 1902] Off at 8 to Sikandra [Sikhandra], a very
magnificent place. We drove 6 miles and entered through a great
gateway into a spacious garden planted with trees and flowering
shrubs along the paths. 2 of the gateways are ruined and the
entrance door is the only perfect one. The tomb is 5 stories [sic] of
columns. Underneath you go through a long dark passage and
reach an enterior [sic] like a cave where in a simple tomb Akbar lies.
On either side of the door are other tombs, his daughter and others, all
of exquisite carved marble. Then up onto 3 platforms of Hindu
Columns with pavilions domed with marble with sandstone and with
green and yellow tiles and exquisite gateway pavilions of white
marble, and so at last to the top platform all of white marble, a
cloistered court open to the sky with Akbar's cenotaph in exquisite
marble and the carved column in which lay the Koh i noor. On the
Cenotaph are carved the names of God between wreaths of wild
roses. So home and after breakfast to the Jurna[?] Musjid a fine
severe pile with very little decoration, depending for its effect on its
great size and magnificent proportion, and then to the Fort where I met
H [Hugo] in the Pearl Mosque and where we wandered again through
the fairy palace. After lunch we c...... our nobilities into an ekka and
drove to the Taj. Underneath the cenotaph in the dark heart of the
tomb are the real graves of Shah Jehan and Mumtaz i Mahal, as
lovely as those above, with the 2 names of them who "have passed
from this fleeting world" Over the great doorway is the Koran verse
"Jesus said this world is a bridge." The screen round the cenotaphs
is the most perfect piece of openwork and pietra dura in the world. So
home and packed and sent off our luggage and at 8 left for the station
which we found a sea of natives sitting on their baggage. We meant
to catch the local - at 8.30 a train came in and we fought our way to a
carriage with one place[?] in it and then found we had got into the 7.1
express. So when we next slowed down I climbed with my luggage
into the neighbouring compartment where there was one woman and
so we peacefully slept all night (a very cold one) and got to Delhi at
6.30, being due at midnight. (Sun 28) [28 December 1902] Our
luggage arrived by the next portion of the mail. We drove straight to
Maiden's Hotel, installed ourselves in our most comfy tents and had
our Chota hazri talking to Mr Schuster. The Menpes[?] pair is just
opposite. At 10 I strolled along to breakfast which I eat with Lady
Clark. Then Sue appeared and she and Sibyl and I went to my tent
and then back to Sibyl's where Colonel Coxhead joined us and I
claimed acquaintance with him. Sibyl came to help me unpack and
about 1 Arthur appeared, looking a darling, but much older and
thinner. After lunch H and I drove round the camps and left cards - the
camps are a city and a most wonderful city. We found our way
through them successfully. Then to the Massed Bands at the Polo
Ground where I met the Muirs, Major Lee, Russells, Martin Morris,
Peels, Ampthills and some friends of Hugo's. Arthur helped us to find
our carriage and Colonel Olivier caught us up and came and drove
with us for a bit. Most boring dinner next Sir Alfred Haslam and early
to bed.

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