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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper

41.0082376, 28.9783589

Fri. 26. [26 May 1905] Went to the Selamlik in the morning. It is really
a fine, impressive sight, aided by the setting, the wonderful view of
water the the [sic] Suleimanyeh behind the white and yellow mosque.
The road was lined with soldiers in their summer uniforms, marines
and a regiment with a triple green aghal on their heads. The generals
and great people stood in their uniforms by the gates. Then arrived
an imam - the Sheikh ul Klain? - in a black cloak and yellow slippers,
much welcomed and salaamed. Two or 3 carriages with women or
little princes, these surrounded by black palace slaves in frock coats.
These palace ladies are the only ones I have seen who still wear the
white muslin veil above and below the eyes. It used to be common 15
years ago and is very pretty. As the Sultan appeared at the top of the
slope the muezzin on the minaret began his chants. It sounded above
the bands wierd and sad and the bands left off .... that strange
melancholy note of worship alone to welcome him. He came in a
carriage drawn by 2 huge chestnuts with a man in front of him riding
the largest chestnut Arab I have ever seen. A crowd of officials and
slaves ran behind. An old fat man sat in front of him. His face is very
deeply lined, sad, with an air of watchfulness. As he went in at the
mosque I saw a white robed imam making him low salaams. When
he came out he got into a carriage drawn by 2 huge greys with cream
white tails and manes and yellow saddle clothes. He drove himself at
a foot's pace and passed in silence, a worn[?], watchful phantom of
royalty. (As he came the troops had cheered him.) Then they all went
away as they had come. There was one very swell negro in a long
gold embroidered cloak whom all the slave boys greeted, kissing his
hand. I think he must have been the Abyssinian envoy - or the head of
the Eunuchs. Got in at 1.30, lunched and went with Mr Clulow whom I
met this morning, to Stambul. We went by kaik, against a strong wind
to Eiran Serai, then got out and walked into a corner of the walls where
there is a great tower and a little turbeh in a garden, {Abu} Sa'id el
Khudri I think its name. There were red roses growing in the tiny
garden among the graves and eagles and kites in the towers above.
So down to Toklu Dede Jami, St Thecla, which stands in a street and
has an apse with a niched outside. Then up to Khoja Mustafa Jamisi
(SS Peter and Mark) which is very old and has a fine font lying
outside, a trefoil. We couldn't get in for it has just been done up and is
not yet open. So up the hill to the Palace of Porphyrigenitus, a
splendid place, and alongs the walls to the Gul Jami, the outside of
which I photgraphed. It began to rain and we hurried down to the
Chora (Kahriyeh) and stayed a long time looking at the mosaics. It is
a splendid place. Curious example of Mariolatry - all the life of the
Virgin or a good deal of it, the Virgin with Christ in the inner narthex,
and on one side of the apse while He is at the other, but she has a
carved canopy to boot. In the side church frescoes and decorations
of marble, pretty late I shd think - they look almost Renaissance. So
back. The rain stopped but all the town was grey. Dined with Mr
Clulow at the Pera Palace. He told me queer tales of spies and of
how everyone of any note has a regular dossier from day to day
made by the police. There is always a spy or two living at the Pera
palace - once she was a woman, now it is a Syrian with a most
unhappy face, a Xian from Baalbek. I talked to him after dinner in
Arabic and also to the Abyssinian envoy who has come on a mission
to beg a church at Jerusalem [(El Quds esh Sherif, Yerushalayim)].
He has not got the church but he has received a very high order by
reason of his indignation at being given one less in rank than that of
the servant[?] who preceeded him. He went to Yildiz and refused to
accept it! Also talked to a couple of Greeks and a strange Levantine
woman, Mrs Ogilvy.

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