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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper

35.1408881, 36.7551993

Fri. 17. [17 March 1905] At 8 o'clock came the stationmaster - his name is Mr Kbes - and we went down to the town together. First to the big mosque which has 2 minarets. It is without doubt a Xian church. There is in the court an interesting kubbeh supported on Corinthian columns, on one of the capitals the leaves are blown round as if by the wind. There are many other capitals in this same court, all interesting. The doorway is made of striped black and white and on the keystone of the arch there is a cup in a sort of rough mosaic. For all that I think the door is Arab. At the W end is the top of the original door, half hidden by a lean to outbuilding. It has a moulding and on either side if I remember right, are 2 small windows. The foundations of the W minaret are also old to judge by the great size of the stones and the fine sort of building. On the S wall there is also a bit of the old church with a small moulded window. But the columns of the Kubbeh may be classical. The E minaret is a very lovely black and white spire, the W is a square tower. In a wall in the street near are 2 circular stones built in, on which are carved the cup with a scimitar like sword across the middle, in this way [sketch]. The town is most attractive. Down by the river there are arched passages like kabbu and the Tekkiya Killanieh stands with its foundations in the water - a huge Naoura opposite. There is a charming bridge here and beyond it a vaulted street with a fine Arab door. Next this door is the door of the Tekkiyeh and under the arch are 2 very curious capitals with a sort of crown on them thus [sketch]. Kbes was persuaded they were Hittite. We met two of the Killanis - enormously tall youths - and went into the Tekkiyeh. I saw the mausoleum where 3 of their ancestors are buried, the oldest I think dating from some 150 years. There are charming rooms beyond on the river. The family hails originally from Baghdad. So on to the house of Khalid Beg Azam - we met many of the Azam Zadeh in the street, there was an election of the head of the municipality going on and they were all in council. We found Khalid Beg sitting in his reception room by the door with lots of people. He was most gracious and took us up into his house which is most beautiful. 2 rooms I saw all decorated with exquisite Persian work 150 years old. A fountain - dry - in the middle of the big room. There is a similar house belonging to the same family in Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)]. He and his brother Jamil Beg share this one. Beautiful stone work on the arches and over the windows in the court and tanakers of ranunculus and narcissus. Their women folk are supposed to be the lovliest in Hamah. So on to the Muteserrif, [space left blank] who is centuries old and talks nothing but Turkish. He served under Midhat Pasha in Baghdad. He too was very friendly. So home, looking into the bazaars on the way. They are entirely oriental, a narrow long vaulted street with square holes at the top through which come shafts of sun. Just before lunch there appeared an aged Afghan, Derwish Effendi who sat outside my tent and talked a little with me in Persian while Kbes and I eat. Kbes regaled me with tales of which 2 of the Azam Zadeh. There were formerly very great people, rulers of Hamah and the district and are still of the 4 leading Muslim families, the others being Barady, Teifur, and Killani. Quite recently someone stole an immense quantity of onions from one of the shops belonging to them in the town. The onions were stored in the house of one in the quarter just below where I was camping. Came the servants of 'Abd ul Kadir el 'Atham[?], the greatest of them, to the house of the sheikh of the quarter and demanded the onions. He knew nothing of them. They dragged him and his son from their house, wounded the son in the hand with a bullet, took them down to the river and stripped them and beat them near to death. The government is powerless to punish them. This tale from older times: there was an Azam who desired a certain garden. The owner refused to sell. The Atham caused one of his new[?] slaves to be killed and buried in the garden. Then he sent to the owner and said he wished to come and drink coffee with him in his garden. He insisted on sitting on the spot where the slave was buried. Presently he complained of the curious smell and ordered his servants to search for the cause. The slave's body was discovered, tableau, the Atham seized the garden in revenge. We had also been to the top of the great kala'ah mound. All the stones have been taken away and built into Hamah houses. The area is immense. I think the mound had been divided artificially from the jutting headland to the S of which it evidently formed a part. But the cutting is immensely wide. After lunch came the Mufti Muhammad Effendi bringing with him one from Bosra el Harir[?] who had travelled much to Stambul and Cyprus. The Mufti was an interesting man and told me curious things about Yemen where he had been sent some years ago to restore peace with the revolting Arabs. He says they believe the Khalifate to be with the Beni Hashim and in some respects resemble[?] to Shiahs more than the Sunnis. The coast climate is tremendously hot, hotter in winter than in summer - 3 days journey inland there are mountains covered with trees and then there is always rain, summer and winter. Fruit of all kinds and the grapes enormous. The towns are big and have fine buildings. He was in Sana' - it has an immense wall of sundried brick, turab he said, 1000 years old and quite perfect; but the houses are of stone. The Arabs are settled, they do not migrate. They are very hostile to the govt. He talked much of the antiquities of Hamah and said that wherever they dug they found foundations, even below the level of the river. Then came my friend the Post Office Zaptieh, my travelling companion of yesterday and bringing with him a ma'amur of the p. office, then the Muteserrif and at 4 I drove with him and Kbes as far as the Serai and on in his carriage - which was a very old cab - and with his 2 khiyyal who were very smart to the Mosque of El Hayyat. We passed through the quarter called Hadir which is all bazaars, but poor ones and frequented by the Arabs. It is the part of Hamah which keeps in touch with the Arabs. There are here and all over this district very curious houses with mud pointed domes, like the pictures of an African village. The mosque is said to be Seljuk. It is much out of repair. It contains the tomb of Abulfedu a marble sarcophagus with a fine inscription giving the date 720 something if I remember right. The mosque itself consists of plain vaults with pillars and inscriptions in a fine cutting running round. It is low. There is a window divided into 2 by a pair of columns consisting each of 4 twisted snakes. The capitals insignificant and poor. From these columns the mosque derives it's name. We then called on a rich Xian in the Xian quarter, Murshid Beg is his name. I think I saw only his sons and family. They were very pleasant. All Greek church. Then on the doctor Salum to whom Brazy[?] had given me a letter. A very nice man speaking excellent English. He was educated at the Collieh. So to the house of [space left blank] where I cashed a cheque and so home. After dinner appeared Salum and his brother, Kbes and finally the Greek priest and we all talked till 9.15, an amusing evening. The priest related how today as he had been walking through the streets some Muslim women had thrown stones at him from a housetop crying "Christian priest!" On the whole however I don't think there is much anti Xian feeling. The Xian community is small and not very well to do. The rich Muslims have about £6000 a year, all from land. They own villages. There is no trade at all in Hamah, about 1000 weavers in all. Kbes says that prices have gone up immensely since he came 2 years ago by reason of the railway. He used to pay a franc for a sheep now he pays 10.

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