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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper
Syria » Homs

34.7324273, 36.7136959

Fri 10. [10 March 1905] Up at 6.30, a delicious day, breakfasted and
went out sightseeing with my policeman who was from Hamah and
extremely nice. Went to the top of the castle and had a fine view of the
town. All that remains of building is Arabic as are also the town walls
and gates to the W. There is however outside the Tripoli gate a big
brick ruin which I take to be Roman? bath? The bricks are thin and the
layers of mortar as thick as they. Went into the town and passed by
the Turkman Jamia where there are a couple of Greek inscriptions on
the minaret and a sarcophagus with bulls' heads and garlands
serving as the basin of a fountain. The square stone minarets of this
town are very like Italian campaniles eg those of San Gimignano
delle belle torre. They are mostly built of blackish stone. Went into
the house of the Greek bishop where I was entertained on jam and
water and coffee and had a talk with his steward. He seemed to side
with the Russians in the war on account of their being Xians. Then to
the tomb of Mar Elias near the S outskirts of the town. There is a little
cemetery and a church with the tomb in it. The church is 60 years old
but the sarcophagus is older, marble, in 2 pieces, the coffin and the
lid, both adorned with crosses, long ones on the coffin and square
ones on the lid. Outside we met 'Abdul Wahhab[?] Beg whom I had
seen at the Serai. He invited me in to drink coffee and took me into
his harim - a fine house with 2 courts, the walls adorned with simple
patterns in black basalt, very effective and little bits of modern carved
marble set into the rooms. So to the house of Hassan Beg Na'y who
was a red haired man with a hard featured face like a Scotchman. He
took me into his harim which has been a very fine Arab house with
plaster cupolas over the rooms and over the liwan - all falling to bits.
There is a column built into one wall with an acanthus capital, and in
one room a big marble capital, very simple but good of its kind which
has been converted into a water basin, perhaps a font. The women
kind, his mother sister and wife were very friendly. Then by the black
basalt tower which is the oldest in the town I shd think. The mosque of
it is gone and the top has tumbled down. It is decorated with bands of
white stone. So home through the bazaars. In almost every house
one sees the people weaving at hand looms and stretching the yarns
in the streets. My soldier told me they are paid by the piece and earn
from 7 to 12 piastres a day. Living is cheap and the rent for a poor
man - one room ie - is 100 piastres a year. Most of the houses which
are built of the black tufa are finished off with plastered mud of which
the effect is not good. They also have overhanging wooden
shuttered balconies. After lunch rode down to the Marj by the 'Asy
which is the fashionable promenade in the spring and summer.
Charming place, green grass and daisies and willow with a mill and a
dam by the bridge and a Na'oura further down. We saw donkeys
bringing in black stones. They cost a metalik a piece the black
stones and the man carries in a day up to 10 piastres' worth. We rode
round the eastern wall and saw a bit of the old Arab wall resting on
older foundations and a big ditch. So home through the town. All the
water comes from the canal which leaves the lake at its northern end
below the dam. When I got back all Homs [Hims] was round about
my tent. There came to see me 'Abdul Hamid Pasha Drury [Arabic
characters] who is the richest man in Homs and owns Tell Mendel
and he brought with him the Kady Muhammad Sa'id Al Hkane[?]
[Arabic]. They were both delightful, specially the Pasha who was a
most charming old man. I went to see him afterwards in his fine new
house close at hand and found the Kady also. The heads of the
conversation were: archaeology ie Tell Mendel etc; politics, chiefly
the war in Japan the Pasha told me the news was that Mukden
[Shenyang] had fallen I asked about the Nosairieh - the Kady was of
opinion that they were not pleasant people. Some pretended to
worship 'Ali and some the sun. He asked if the religions of India and
China were not the same. I expounded Buddhism. He said the
Nosairieh believed in the transmigration of souls. He said the big
funeral I had seen today was that of an Afghan. There was a
renowned Afghan of great learning who was exiled and came to live
here. He is dead but his sons live here and receive from 10 to £15 a
month from the govt. They pretend to learning said the Pasha. We
talked of the Babis and the Kadi reminded me that there were 72 false
creeds and one true. I said I must have seen 50 of them. I said there
were things men cd not understand such as infinity. He replied that
there were 7 heavens. I said and what beyond the 7th? He said:
What comes before the number one? When you have answered that
I will tell you what comes after the 7th heaven. The Pasha asked what
the learned thought of thought reading and told a story of the finding of
a thief by a man from the Lebanon and an Arab woman from here who
was a medium. This had happened[?] to him. In the afternoon I had
a card from Hanna Khabbaz [Arabic] "the preacher of the protestant
church at Homs". He said: "Madam My wife and I are ready to do
every service you need by the name of {God} Christ and the
humanity. We should like to visit you if you kindly accept us. I am
your obedient servant." I sent back telling them to come and they
appeared about 6, nice friendly people. There were some 400
people round my tent all the afternoon and they followed me in a
dense crowd when I went to the Pasha's.

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