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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper
Syria ยป Masyaf

35.063734, 36.3416834

Wed 15. [15 March 1905] Delicious shining morning. I breakfasted at
7 photographed a little and was off at 8.30, my 3 friends riding with me
to 'Ain esh Shems. Our road lay over the tops of the hills and was half
washed away by the rains. We looked down into a valley in the top of
which was a remarkable rocky tell called Kle'a. They say there are
the remains of very old buildings on it and kabbu and rock cut
foundations. On top of every hill there was a Nosairieh mazar and on
the very highest a mazar in a great grove of trees. The dead are the
best protectors of the trees here. Wherever you see any you may be
sure there are tombs. A perfect harvest of flowers, white primroses,
crocuses, yellow and white and purple, a deep red alpine cyclamen
very small. Lower down, blue anemones many petalled, a green and
black orchid, purple orchis [sic], narcissus, red anemones, big scarlet
cups, a blue buttony thing like the alpine thing, irises and an
undergrowth of myrtle. My friends left me at 'Ain esh Shems. In the
valley there is a great mass of upcrop of rock, very bare and curious.
From there a descent over the worst path we have yet encountered.
Balut, juniper, some small firs. And so along the base of the hills to
Masyaf which we reached about 3. Camped just under the castle. It is
I think purely Saracen. There are Arabic inscriptions inside the
second gate, but much broken [Arabic characters] it seemed to be.
One on the roof of the vaulted passage [Arabic] and on the door near
the top along one in later letters which the Kaimakam tells me is quite
recent and was put up 100 years ago by the Ismailiyeh who used to
inhabit this district and who rebuilt the top of the castle. An outer wall
and an inner keep, no trace of church or mosque. Bits of old capitals
and columns in the gates evidently taken from classic buildings. A
very old man Mr Mustafa, took me round and told me his family had
inhabited the castle for 7 or 8 hundred years but were by origin from
Egypt. There is an old Arabic inscription on a bit of rock by the
roadside. All very bad work. A wall encloses the town which has
shrunk within it. I called on the Kaimakam who was a Turk and he
returned my visit. Grey and windy but better after sunset. There are
Arabic inscriptions high up over the windows of the W side of the
castle and they say there are 2 small old buildings on the top of the
hill 2 hours from here and the Kai. says there is a Roman road from
here to Hama [Hamah]. I ought to have seen Deir es Sleb on the
road from Masyat [Masyaf] I since hear there are 2 churches and a
small castle there. [Written at top of second page of entry:] They say
the castle at Abu Kbesh is not much - like Masyaf but smaller.

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