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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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

33.5138073, 36.2765279

Thurs 2. [2 March 1905] Grey and cold but it cleared and became
nice later. Went out early with Mikhail and photographed the Roman
arch by the mosque. Then bought biscuits and delicious sweetmeats
at Dmitri's and in the Suk es Sqhir[?]. Then with Salim Beg to
Muhammad Pasha Jerudi's but he was out. {So to} - no that was
yesterday. So to 'Abdullah's - he lives next door to 'Ali. Found there a
nephew in spectacles, Tahir, who travelled with Dussaud both
journeys. We discussed Nejd [Najd] at great length. He says 3
pistols and 3 guns for Ibn er Rashid ..... for Ibn Sa'oud, from 10 or 15
guns or pistols for other important sheikhs. Camels and 2 mares. I
said 8 or 10 camels. He said we shd have to take 5 to 10 men from
Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)] with us on whom we shd
rely and get Arabs on the way. We should take Abbayas and
mendils from Damascus. £1000 he says for 100 days. Then came in
a rich native of Hamah, Mustafa Pasha El Barazi. Then a famous
Algerian sheikh - le[?] sheilah remnant said S. Bey - Sheikh Tahir
[Arabic characters]. He had seen the Americans the day before and
we fell to discussing scripts. He gave me a paper of alphabets which
he had prepared and other documents. He was a very cheery soul
and most friendly. He's a great politician. We sat in a charming
oblong room upstairs looking out over the river and the garden.
Barazi knew Muhammad el Hasenneh and said he was in Damascus
recovering from a wound in the leg. He promised to bring him to me -
but he had left. He is not the chief of the tribe; a secondary sheikh.
We met in the street yesterday Sheikh Selim el Kuzbari - a son I think
[Arabic]. He talks the Arabic of the Kuran and is one of the most
notable of the learned men. On the way back Selim lunched and I eat
sweet meats at Dmitri's. Barazi came in and insisted on paying for us
both. Lunched with Mr Richards who is much surprised and interested
at my doings. Selim fetched me and after making anti chamber for
ever so long, we got permission to see the citadel. A very polite
young officer took us. It is a fine place. I photographed. Most of it is
Saracen but I found a bit of the old Roman wall by the big eastern
gate - a sort of cul de sac it is built of immense stones and with 3
fragments of frieze on it, corbels finely carved of the same date, I take
it, as the mosque arch. So back meeting Barazi and Mir Tahir whom I
carried back with me. Then came the Emir Shikib Arslan [Arabic] a
Druze of the great Lebanese family and a poet, who gave me an ode.
Then Sheikh Tahir with an immense party including Muhammad Kurd
Ali [Arabic] a learned man - they were all learned I was told. Sheikh
Tahir talked ceaselessly but mostly in Turkish to a relation of the
Vali's a young man who happened to be there. I gathered he was
accusing the govt of standing in his way when he wanted to make
acquaintance with interesting foreigners and impeding his studies. I
showed him the passage about the cat in the Mu'allkat but he was not
very illuminating. He says there is an older commentary than Tabrizi
or [space left blank] which is very rare but a copy exists in Baghdan
[sic] - in Damascus too I think he said. He is very anxious to have
copies of all the Arabic books printed in Europe. By the way the Mirs
know Doughty and spoke highly of his genius for Arabic. I also met a
Druze called Najib, from the Lebanon. He is private secretary to Izzet
Pasha, a very agreeable person, just[?] returning to C'ple [Istanbul
(Constantinople)]. Last night when we returned from Omar's there
came to see me the Procurator General, a charming learned Turk
who knew Baghdad well. He knew no Arabic so Selim had to
interpret. He told me the Bedouin law very closely resembles the
Turkish code - more than a mere similarity due to the S... I gathered.
Mr Richards came just before dinner. I have had to put off my journey
a day as Mikha'il's telegram about his wife has not yet come. NB a
native's telegram is very little likely to reach its destination. After
dinner I went with a Syrian engineer to a party at a corn merchant's in
the Meidan. The merchant is commercial agent for the Druzes of the
Hauran and they lodge with him whenever they come in. We found
some 6 corn merchants dressed in blue silk robes and embroidered
yellow liffehs round their tarbushes in a room empty of all but carpets
divan and brazier. Also Shekib with whom I had an interesting talk. It
was he who furnished Oppenheim with his information for the Druze
chapter. He spoke of "Our prophet" meaning Muhammad which
surprised me. He said he considered the evils of the Turkish regime
to be due chiefly to the foreign powers who refused to allow Turkey to
move in any direction. When she fights, as against Greece they take
away the fruits of her victories. Of what good is it for her to conquer the
rebellious and turbulent Albanian population? the Bulgarians alone
wd profit. Muslims wd not live under Bulgarian rule any more than they
wd live under Greek in Crete [Kriti]. (The Cretan colony by the way is
at Sulahieh.) He talks French and has been to London. He asked for
the Leiden catalogue.

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