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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 Al-Dana

36.2184032, 36.7684838

Thurs 23. [23 March 1905] Still stormy. I rode off about 7.30 with
Mahmud and Yunis to Dar Sanbil[?]. There is a church there with
Corinthian blown capitals and some very fine houses of the 8th [6th[?]]
cent. a mass of mouldings over windows and doors and columned
porticos. The tombs were mostly inscribed. At the back of the
houses brackets for verandahs. One street stands almost perfect.
Hyacinths everywhere. Uninhabited except for some casual people.
A great discussion between Yunis and the old man who walked round
with us about a murder that happened near here 2 or 3 days ago. A
man was attacked by 2 others who wished[?] to ... him[?]. A friend
came to his help and one was killed - the friend I think. Whereupon,
yesterday the people of his village raided the robbers' village El
Mshara and carried off all the cattle. Mahmud said they ought to have
put it into the hands of the govt but we finally came to the conclusion
that the way they took was simpler and surer. An impayable talk
about Yunis's family affairs. He has 2 wives each of whom bore him 4
sons and 2 daughters but his second wife cost him a great deal of
money for he took her from her husband. Mahmud was outraged
especially as she had children. He said it was the deed of a
Nosairiyeh or an Ismailiyah. Yunis explained that the man was his
enemy and besides he had paid him 1000 piastres and 1500 to the
judge. I asked if the woman had like being carried off. Ey Wallah! it
was her wish. The price of a wife among well to do people varies
from 3000 to 5000 piastres. The poor give a few head of sheep or a
cow. He rode with us to Benin which is being rebuilt by some Turks
and as we could see Ruweiha from here, left us. A wide landscape of
stones and 2 trees. One of them grows at Saghara by which we
passed. A thunderstorm chased us up to Ruweiha and we lunched in
the SE temple tomb, the most modern, raised on a high podium.
Capitals and decoration very poor. Rough dentils with leaves
between. Brackets on either side of the door not supporting anything.
The Bizzos church most beautiful, stilted arches, elaborate narthex,
rows of round topped windows in the aisle, 3 in the square apse and
huge arches down the nave (one still stands) supported on grouped
columns. NB no trace yet of columns on the apse outside.
Combination of Gothic and Classic forms most curious. Classic
ornament such as laurel wreaths. Bizzos dome a splendid piece of
work. No pendentives. A square temple tomb on the other side much
spoilt by the foot[?] of it being built up by the inhabitants. Splendid
houses with porticos sometimes on both sides of the court, one with a
stilted arch over the door. A rough Ionic capital in one. The S church
has Doric capitals some of them bracketed, an ugly plan. Charming
columned monument near it like a kubbeh in a Mosque court.
Asphodel all out. So away at 3, the sun out, over the stony hills.
Passed Kasr el Banat a charming house, with columned {portico}
verandah complete and a porch to the E with a gable roof. Reached
Dana in the sun - it looked most delightful with lovely tombs outside.
One in particular a pyramid with a portico of 4 columns, acanthus
capitals the 2 outer windblown - one of these has fallen - and an
exquisite running acanthus moulding. Hawwash gave me a delightful
description of the beauties of Haleb: "the Kanasil, each walking with
one in front clothed in a coat worth 500 piastres, and the Khanumat
with on their heads as it were flowers." NB the ancient safety of the
land. Kasr el Banat all by itself quite far away from the town, no walls
round the towns. The churches are enclosed in walls is [sic] if it were

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