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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 letter, paper

33.5138073, 36.2765279

Thursday 27th. Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)]. Dearest Mother. I came up here on Tuesday - a wonderful journey it is over the Lebanon. There was not a trace of snow on the mountain tops but they had good rains a month ago and I hope the grass will be beginning to grow in the desert which will help me and my animals greatly. It was late autumn on the side of Lebanon, gold and brown autumn, with yellow leaves still hanging on the poplars. I flew off before dinner to see the good Mackinnons, the missionary doctor and his wife who received me with open arms and gave me news of all my friends here. In my hotel I found a Mr Brunton and his wife, a nephew of Sir Lauder and an intelligent little man. He is in the Egyptian irrigation service. Also a Mr Bray and his wife; he is a soldier in India and is learning Arabic here. Quite nice too. So you see I have companions. I sent for letters from the Consulate and got one from you to my great joy. It was so nice to be welcomed by it. Of course open all my letters and don't bother to send me invitations or such things. Yesterday I sent round to Muhammad al Bassâm to tell him I was here and the good old thing came to see me at once and spent half the morning with me. He is my great support in all plans and arrangements and he promises to be as useful as ever. Moreover it looks as though I have fallen on an exceedingly lucky moment. Everyone is at peace. Tribes who have been at war for generations have come to terms and the desert is almost preternaturally quiet. Bassâm knows of some good desert camels, riding camels, going cheap in Damascus, an almost incredible stroke of good luck as I thought I should have to transport myself somehow into the wilds and haggle for camels there. In short I scarcely like to trust to all this good fortune as yet, but I hope it will turn out to be true. Muhammad has been away buying lands along the line of the Baghdad railway in expectation of a rise in prices and increased facilities for transporting produce. It is interesting to see how instantly a railway brings life and enterprise. It is the only hope for this country, that the building of railways should go forward. In the afternoon I paid a long call on one of the 'Abd al Qâdir nephews, the Amir Tâhir, who knows about desert politics and he too gave me the same encouraging accounts as those which I had received from Muhammad. I am not quite certain yet whether I shall go to the Druzes or to the 'Anazeh first. I shall have no difficulty in going to either but there may be some little complication in passing from one to the other; nothing, however, that cannot be overcome. Anyhow I shall be able to get letters, and to send them, through the Fathers at Madeba [Madaba] during the time I am working at the buildings east of the Hauran and east of the Hajj railway. I expect I shall be kept here 10 days - it is barely credible that our arrangements should not take as long as that, and difficulties are sure to crop up. Then I reckon that my work on the castles will take another month or 6 weeks. After that I don't know. Muhammad says that it is perfectly easy to go to Nejd [Najd] this year. If I found it so I should certainly go. I will let you know anyhow from Madeba - look for it on the map east of the north end of the Dead Sea [(Yam Hamelah, Bahret Lut)]. Go on writing here and I will keep in touch with you as long as possible.
Now Fattuh and I must go and see Muhammad and talk about camels. It's heavenly weather. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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