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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper
Syria ยป Qal'at al-Hisn

34.787109, 36.272121

Sun 12. [12 March 1905] It rained a great deal in the night and was
very stormy this morning. At 8 I went out and saw the castle. An
immense place. We went all over the inner castle. It has a large
Gothic hall of assembly and a mosque which must I think have been
the church but it is of less good building. The assembly room has a
lower entrance gallery on the E side with Gothic windows round
arches with a rosette in the tympanum. There are round towers round
the keep and on the S side a building of a different style, the stones
sharply raised in the middle and a couple of lions carved over the
door. There are 3 stories in this part of the castle, the two lower being
vaulted substructures, the upper rooms. In one of the S towers their is
a circular vaulted chamber which they call the church, a four fold vault.
In the next there is a fine vaulted room with carved windows looking
out onto the court. All the decoration poor - only rosettes. The
mouldings also poorish and few of them. There is a stone on a roof
with an inscription of which I could read no more than this:
[transcription] it is broken off on the left side and the bottom line is b......
in the roof. The outer wall of the mosque is also built of stones raised
in the middle. The Kaimakam's eldest son was killed a week ago by
a school fellow at Tripoli [Trablous] - shot with a pistol for no reason at
all. The son of the old woman who was here last night was also shot
in the mountains a few months ago. She kept saying "God! there is no
other but thou! Murder is like the drinking of milk here, like the drinking
of water." "Al Katil mithl shirbet al moy." The chapel has a
semicircular apse - 3 bays with a plain double arch in them thus
[sketch] a moulding runs over the top of the pilasters round the church,
no other decoration. Outside to the N there is a [sic] outerfacing to the
wall for the purpose of dropping down things into the inner ..... I
suppose. In the refectory the corbels are roughly carved and on the
corner ones which are square there is a carving of ivy leaves. The
same leaves decorate the capitals of the piers between the windows
outside. After a lunch of eggs and leben and rice I went down with the
Sitt Ferideh to her house where I had an interesting talk with her
husband and another Xian who is Sahib es Sanduk of the govt. The
first told me that no one dies of hunger here, though the fellahin have
no money. The poorest 1000 piastres a year to 1500. They only
need money for the taxes and to buy themselves off serving in the
army. They can almost live on food they get for nothing from ground
that belongs to noone. Beggars can always live. The old and sick
are looked after by their families. Very few of the fellahin have land of
their own. They serve for hire to rich landowners. The landlords here
about are a family Al Danadisheh [Arabic characters]. He said too
that the Muslim population as a whole hated the govt and the Turks
and wd infinitely prefer the English and that the English rule in Egypt
had made a deep impression. There live in the castle the mushaih[?]
Al Za'bieh[?] [Arabic]. Their father was sheikh [Arabic] and they have
been here for about 200 years. I dined with the Kaimakam and his
wife and we had a pleasant talk, about Arabic literature chiefly. He
also read me one of his poems.

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