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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Gertrude Bell
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Tues 27. [27 January 1903] Gorgeous day. Up at 7.30. H. [Hugo]
went off at 8 to interview people about Muni and set the police on. We
started about 9 in a tum tum with a pair, one in the shafts and one
hitched on at the side - driven by Nur Muhammad, best of men. Cold,
frost on the ground, but wonderful light. The hills capped with new
snow. Out to the right the snow hills of Kaffiristan [Kafiristan] which is
Afghan. Spanked along. Passed some Khyber Rifles on the way,
with (though we didn't realize it) Cap. Venour and Mr Musprat. Whom
accordingly we didn't find at {Ali Masjed} Jamrud. The fort and
barracks and a big serai stand out in the plain in the midst of a
desolate tract of stony desert. One sees walled and watchtowered
Afridi villages on the rolling ground at the foot of the hills. This we
soon entered and drove along a dry watercourse on the edge of
which were whole villages burrowed into the earth. All you saw of
them were the small cave like openings. The gate of the pass is
defended by a fort standing high up on a hill blocking the opening of
the valley. The road rose gradually in splendid zigzags. We passed
the enormous caravan going to Kabul. 2 caravans, one each way,
pass 2 days a week, Friday and Tuesday when the Khyber Rifles
guard the Pass. Our Rifles take then as far as Lundi Kand (?) 5 miles
beyond Lundi Kotal [Landi Kotal] (which is ten miles beyond Ali
Musjed) there they hand them over to a Kabuli guard. It takes 8 days
from Peshawar to Kabul. They carry all sorts of merchandize to Kabul
- we saw bales of muslin for instance. They bring back varied things.
We saw chiefly raisins but later they bring grapes. We got to the top
of the Pass and looked out to the left (south) over a big stretch of
rolling country backed by snow hills (which are Terah [Tirah].) The
road now dipped (we were about on a level with the Fort of Ali
Musjed) We passed a single village by a stream with a few green
corn fields round it. Bitter cold with a very strong wind. Got to Ali
Musjed about 12. The Fort stands high up at the entrance of a gorge
and the hill is fortified down to the gorge. A stream flows through, still
coming into India, so that we were not really at the top though the road
had run down. Found 2 French people having luncheon. Presently
the Miss Ramsays (2 absurd old sisters dressed just alike) came up
with the elder Dr Lankester and he got us all permission to go up to
the Fort; we ought to have provided ourselves with a pass from the
Fort and a sowar from Jumrud. However, we saw all we wanted to
see. There seem to be 2 valleys leading down here. The Pass is to
the left. Bitter cold. Came down and sat under a wall in the sun and
lunched. Several ravens came quite close to us and we fed them.
They were perfectly tame. Just about 1 the Kabuli caravan began to
pass and I stood photographing. The big Bactrians came by in
groups. The foremost one generally a great maned beast, led by a
man and often foaming at the mouth. Nur Muhammad said they were
very Shaitan. This caravan sleeps at the Jumrud serai where it will
arrive about 5.30. So we turned home about 1 and plunged through
the 2 caravans which met and crossed here and got down to Jumrud
about 2.15. There we found Capt. Venour and Mr Musprat and went
with them into the Fort where we had an excellent tea and a merry talk
mostly about globe trotters and the best chocolate toffee in the world.
There is a great view over the plains of India bounded on either side
by snow capped hills - you first catch sight of it as you reach the top of
the entrance of the Pass and begin to go down the zigzags. So home
leaving at 3.15 and getting in at 4.30 - 10 miles. We found that the theft
had practically been traced home to Muni but we cd not convict him of
it. Dined at 6 with the Aunt and Niece and 4 Americans (who came up
to Peshawar for one day to do the Pass) and off at 7. Very sorry to
leave. The Khyber Rifles look very smart in their khaki with dark
green kamarbands and green ........ to their khaki turbans - ......... they
call them here. For the first time in India we were thrown out of speech
- the Rifles talked only Pukhtu. Mr Waldegrave told us more knifing
tales: the house opposite them belongs to the man who is in charge of
the sanitary arrangements of the city and therefore unpopular. It was 3
times raided, the 3rd time several men were killed and an Afridi
wounded. He got off to a village near and came next day to the
hospital saying he had been wounded in a village row. Fortunately
he was known and promptly siezed. Bands of Afridis break into the
town and attack the houses of rich Hindus. The police stand by and
watch: they daren't lift a finger for they wd be knifed within 24 hours.
Capt. Venour told me that Dr Pennell is a wonderful master of Pukhtu;
he can almost pass as an Afridi. One of the native officers in the
Rifles came across him once when he was diguised and passing as
an Afridi and took him for one till he began to preach against Islam.
That gave him away. They all approve of the education the
missionaries give; they say Dr P's boys always rise in the world,
become Malehs or enter our service. But they don't like the
proselytising and they say no one is ever converted by conviction but
only for gain. Capt V. told me a tale of the Lankesters. An Afridi girl
came into hospital for an eye complaint, they cured her, converted her
and kept her on as a help in the hospital till her father claimed her
saying that he had sold her in marriage for 500 rupees and must fulfil
his contract. They had to let her go. She was married and the money
paid up and she lived with her husband for a year or two. Then the
Lankesters got hold of her induced her to leave him and took her
back to the hospital, the husband protested but said he was quite
willing to sell her for 500 rupees. But the missionaries said No, they
cdn't divert hospital funds nor take up a subscription and finally they
smuggled her off to their hospital at Amritsar and cheated the
husband of her. There's a special breed of Khyber dog - we saw him,
halfway between a colley [sic] and a St Bernard. NB the silence of
the caravans today. Only one bell and hardly any voices and the pad
pad of the camels.

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