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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 Salqin

36.1407888, 36.4553727

Wed 5. [5 April 1905] We started at 7.30, Mikhail Najib and I and rode
straight up the hill, intolerable stony. At the top we came to a beautiful
bit of plateau, much broken with rocks but full of flowers, delicious .. -
iris ranunculus and many more. Here we took a very taciturn guide
who led us down into a valley with a lake in it by a most awful rocky
path. Lovely however in the matter of vegetation - bay tree in
abundance, daphne flowering everywhere. The Jebel el 'Ala rose
straight ahead like a wall. We took a bee line up - I never saw such a
path. When we got to the top it began to rain and we rode through the
olive gardens to Kalb Lozeh getting there at 10.30. We had come
straight West from Mahes. Most exquisite place. Great wealth of
ornament. This I think must be the true place to see the Antioch
school, here and hereabouts. The people living here were Druzes,
as I found out when one of them came with me to show me the way.
Great recognitions - I told them of Shibly's death. They do not
announce their religion here but pretend to be Muslim. There are
about 200 houses of them altogether. It rained hard as we
descended - past Kfer. Wonderfully beautiful with the leaves just
budding. Daphne everywhere. My guide left us at the top of the hill
where we looked down into the Orontes ['Asi] valley and we
scrambled down to Harim where I found we ought really to have
camped for our mules subsequently passed that way. There is a big
ruined castle on a mound guarding the entrance to the hills. But we
turned SE and rode all along the foothills a garden of olives, almonds
and wild flowers - gorse and lovely things - to Salkin [Salqin] where
we got in long before our tents. As we were waiting in the cemetary
there arrived one whom I found to be Muhammad Ali Agha, son to
Rustum Agha, and carried me off to his house at the entrance of the
village - where there are 2 cypress trees. There he fed me. His wife
is sister to Reshid Agha Kachya (Kat Khoda Zadeh, he is by origin a
Circassian from Hamadan) who is the great swell of these parts. He
was staying with Rustum at the time and I sat with him under the
cypresses, an evil looking person with a squint. I heard much ill of him
afterwards. He oppresses the unfortunate peasants, claims the use
of every man's wife if she happens to be good looking, robs and
murders, 3 years ago he spent a year in prison on a murder charge. It
was his grandfather who came from Hamadan. Rustum Agha was a
servant in his house who gathered a little money. When his masters
saw him becoming well to do they gave his son one of their
daughters. My camp came in about 6 and I got in and had dinner at 8.
Muhammad Ali and his brother came up to call, bringing their hubble
bubble. They sent me a big jar of olives. Rustum is a very old man
on a couch - like Amfortas. Salkin was a Seleucia the summer place
of the Selucid's M. Ali said. The Greek town was on the site of the
cemetary [sic]. I came down today from the mts into spring - even the
fig trees are budding.

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