Request a high resolution copy

Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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

33.5138073, 36.2765279

Tues 28. [28 February 1905] Lovely morning but still frosty. Went to
see the Governor at 10. He has built himself a new house at the
extreme end of Salahieh and is busy making a fine garden up the
bare hillside. He was exceedingly amiable. After a little talk he took
me up to see his wife a Circassian (he had 2 but the favourite died last
year) and children, 4 girls and I think 2 boys the eldest of whom was at
school. Also his married sister. The ladies did not talk French or
Arabic and a bustling old Greek governess translated. The eldest
girl played me polkas on a tinkly piano, then 2 of them recited in
French. They were all in European clothes, the ladies in long cloth
gowns, the children in velvet frocks. They are extremely well brought
up. The Vali is very anxious they shd learn English but the difficulty of
getting an English lady who wd fit herself to Oriental conditions is too
great. They have a beautiful school room with foreign desks for each
child. Very bright cheerful rooms with the sun coming in and a great
view over Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)]. A black slave
boy stood at the door. He learns with the children. The Vali gave me
photographs of the MSS in the Kubbet el Khazaneh (which is now
closed for ever). We went downstairs and sat again and there came
in Mir 'Abdullah Pasha, the black son of 'Abd ul Kadir. As I left there
appeared Sheikh Hassan Naksh Pendi with whom I made
acquaintance. We then went to the house of 'Asadi, the old scribe.
He is 80. He lives in a most beautiful old Damascene house with a
big courtyard with a bahra and orange trees. All the rooms exquisitely
decorated. He showed us many examples of famous handwritings -
among others Mushkin Kalam and Muhammad 'Ali, and gave me 3
examples of his own. At the hotel I found a note from Mr Richards
asking me to lunch at 1.30, so I went. We had an interesting talk. I
said I thought we had gone up in the world since 5 years ago. He
said it was undoubted. He attributed it partly to the French difficulties
with the Pope, but I think it goes farther and give as causes: 1. The
defeat of Russia. 2. the effect produced by the prosperity of Egypt. 3.
Lord Curzon's policy on the Gulf, Afghanistan and Thibet [Tibet].
Anyhow the change exists, Dieu merci! He told me the 'Abdul Karins
had told him that if ever we happened to want 600 fighting men they cd
raise them in Damascus immediately. I took my camera and
wandered off by myself down the Suk el Yanani to the mosque. It was
the hour of the Salat el 'Asr and I photographed the people washing
and making the first prostrations in the court. Rather troubled by little
boys but I siezed one of their long green switches from them to defend
myself and a kind old party made himself a guard over me. (I
afterwards found that by order of the Vali I was always followed by a
policeman whenever I went alone here too.) Then I went into the
mosque and saw the prayers, some 2 or 300 men, all throwing
themselves down at the name of God. One in authority was inclined to
make a little fuss at my standing there but he was soon quieted down.
It's a rather disappointing place I always think, and the recent
restorations after the fire have taken away all its interest, but it's size is
fine and impressive. So home. Called on Mrs Mackinnon and talked
gardening. The doctor was out. There were 2 rather nice young
Englishmen, Mr Carruthers and another, in the hotel last night. They
left this morning for Karyatein [Al Qaryatayn] where they are going to
spend a month or 2 collecting specimens for the British Museum.

IIIF Manifest