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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother Florence Bell, written over the course of several days from the 21st of March to the 4th of April, 1911.

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Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Andrae, Walter
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Tuesday March 21 Dearest Mother. I wrote to Father on Saturday morning and gave him a long account of the rise and fall of Nazim Pasha. After breakfast I paid a protracted visit on my friend the Nakib and found him secretly rejoicing (he was too politic to give words to his whole thought) over the disgrace of the Pasha, of whom he stood in mortal fear. Then I went to leave a word of condolence on the Pasha himself, I, it being very well understood, belonging to no party. I found his house guarded by soldiers and was told by them that the Pasha was asleep. I feel sure he would have seen me if he had been allowed, for I had received a message from him through a common friend asking me to come. After lunch Mr Lorimer and I steamed up the river in the launch and called on Sir W. Willcocks whom we found in the highest spirits. Nazim had been a thorn in his flesh. He could not induce him to pay the money allocated to the survey, which had been spent by the Pasha on motor boats and other expensive luxuries; but he bore no malice though at one time he had thought he would have to give up the whole job, which is the apple of his eye. "He was a stout hearted old chap" said he "I don't know how they got over him. But I tell you when my report comes out I shall be able to say like the woman in the Bible 'A man child has been born into the world.' There is only one page left to write." Then he showed us his maps. "It just occurred to me last night that I might use the old cutting of the Nahrawan - yes, I've forgotten that: I may be able to work it in." (This addition, I must tell you, would probably cost another half million, but Sir William doesn't stick at trifles when he had an idea.) "I nearly gave it up in despair. I thought that stout hearted old chap was going to beat me. This was the book that carried me through. I used to read a page of it when I was nearly mad with vexation." And the book was God's Good Man! Have you got a picture of Sir William now? he is a 20th century Don Quixote, erratic, illusive, maddening - and entirely loveable; a streak of genius, a good slab of unreasonableness, a strong spice of ignorance, and the whole making as gallant a soul as ever you met. Good luck go with him, and may I never have to work with him. During the course of the day most of Nazim's friends and the greater part of his staff were arrested and cast into gaol - a fate which most of them heartily deserved. They were on the whole a bad lot and their hands were far from clean. As far as money goes, no charge of this kind can be brought against the Pasha. He has spent a great number of years in official positions and he remains a poor man. He leaves Baghdad in debt and it is more probable that the State owes him money than that he owes any to the State. But since he is completely ignorant of any form of accounts, no one but God will ever know how matters stand in this respect. I left Baghdad early on Sunday morning, Mr Lorimer riding out with me an hour upon my road. I do owe an immense debt of gratitude to the Lorimers. No two people could have been kinder. No sooner had he left me than my zaptiehs and Fattuh began to talk. Never, said Fattuh, had he seen such goings on; crowds, shouting, sending of telegrams to Stambul [Istanbul], and wallahi no one seemed to know what it was all about. Only he felt sure that all the poor people in Baghdad regretted Nazim and all the rich were glad he was disgraced. "By God and the Prophet" said the zaptieh "the Arabs will rejoice the most. Their hearts were weighed down by fear of Nazim Pasha. A fair government was his. Oh dame, he took away all their arms and the roads have become so safe that your Excellency could carry a sack of gold along them." His words have been repeated to me by every man in turn and whatever may have been Nazim's faults he had a trick of inspiring fear - and confidence. The road to Khanikin [Khanaqin] which I am now following, is the quickest way to the Persian frontier. It is very well policed: big guard houses every 3 hours, occasional small intermediate stations and plenty of zaptiehs in the little towns. I change my zaptiehs at every guard house; they are mostly Kurds, and all sing the praises of Nazim. Tranquillity is a new thing on this road: it is in fact about 7 months old. We had a journey of 11 hours the first day to Ba'kuba [Ba'qubah] (it is 35 miles from Baghdad) and very dull it was: absolutely flat, barren country, a waste of hard mud on which little or nothing grows. Moreover there was a strong wind. We reached Ba'kuba at nightfall and camped outside the village not far from the banks of the Diala [Diyala (Sirwan)] river. Next morning I rejoiced to see those banks set thick with blossoming fruit trees and when we had crossed the river, by a bridge of boats, and ridden through the town, we found the plain on the other side of it a great stretch of young springing wheat and the irrigation trenches deep in grass. So that day's ride, though the country was as flat as ever, was a great deal pleasanter. And it was only 9 hours. We camped in a grass field outside the village of Shahraban [Miqdadiyah, Al] - you realize that during our whole journey we have never yet seen grass covering the earth? Before us stretched the low range of the Hamrin [Hamrin, Jabal], nearer akin to real mountains than anything we have met since the Syrian snows dropped down Bellow the lip of the Hamad. Today we crossed the Hamrin; there were flowers in its dry watercourses; at noon we reached the village of Kesrabad (Kizil Robat the maps call it) and rode on another 3 hours into a second stretch of low hills wherein we camped by a big guard house. It is a delicious camp, all green with grass and flowering weeds. I have a cup full of yellow tulips on my dinner table. The soldiers at the guard house are delighted to see us and deeply thrilled at the news we bring. They had not heard of Nazim's overthrow. Tuesd. March 28. [28 March 1911] It rained like anything in the night and was still raining so heavily at 5 o'clock that I decided not to get up for another hour and went to sleep again till past 6. By that time the clouds had begun to lift and when we started the sun shone out upon a world which looked as if it had all been created afresh. The watercourses of our hills were brim full, the road glistened with little pools and when we got down into the plain of Khanikin [Khanaqin] it was all green and wonderful. Most wonderful of all were the mountains of Persia, range beyond range and white with snow. So we rode gaily along the broad road, scattered with tiny mud built huts where you can drink tea and buy bread and dates and hard boiled eggs, and towards noon we came to Khanikin which lies on either bank of the Helwan [Alwand] river. The storks had arrived before us; they were nesting on every house top, bless them. Sami Pasha's relations in Baghdad had given me a letter to a Kurdish chief of high repute, Mustafa Pasha, and to his house I went. For my intention was to cross the Persian frontier and go to Kasr i Shirin [Qasr-e-Shirin] and as I could not take Turkish zaptiehs into Persia I had to find some other escort. The last news I had had of Kasr i Shirin before I left Baghdad was that it was in a state of siege, but I thought I should be able to go anywhere if the Kurds gave me permission (they being the cause of all disturbances on the frontier) and Mr Lorimer was not the man to discourage me. Nor was Mustafa Pasha. He received me with the utmost cordiality and assured me that I could go anywhere I liked; only it must be tomorrow for I must spend that night under his roof, he would not think of letting me go earlier. I accepted his invitation - there was nothing else to be done - and was lodged in a tiny room at the top of the house side by side with a pair of storks. I had my own camp furniture. Mustafa Pasha is a one eyed old man who was kept practically a prisoner by Abdul Hamed for 13 years, first in Constantinople [Istanbul] and then in Baghdad - I make no doubt for a very good cause, for all Kurds are brigands and the Persian frontier Kurds are the worst devils of all. He was sitting in his reception room when I arrived, with a number of friends, hajjis, officials, Kurdish khans and aghas, sayyids - the usual oriental company. They were all very eager to hear the news of Baghdad and they were all rejoicing at Nazim's overthrow. They most of them spoke Arabic, but between themselves they spoke Kurdish, which bored me, for I wanted to hear what they were saying. We spent a couple of hours in this fashion, the Pasha transacting business from time to time and receiving innumerable letters. This is also typically Oriental. Every man would appear to carry on an unlimited correspondence with the other inhabitants of his town or village, which is the more surprising as they all seem to visit each other every day. I was beginning to feel rather hungry when fortunately the Pasha called out to his servants to bring food. Some 8 of us went into the next room where we found a table spread bountifully with a variety of meats and we eat from the dishes with our fingers as best we might. It was all very good, if messy. I nearly had a fou rire in the middle, when, looking round upon the party with which I lunched, I remembered Herbert's picture of me, so wonderfully exact was the likeness. After lunch I left my friends to spend the afternoon as they had spent the morning and went to my room to write my diary which was several days behindhand. When I came back I found the Pasha playing a curious game of draughts with an old Hajji whose turban, which he had pushed awry in his excitement, sat rakishly upon his respectable head. So I took a place on the floor beside them and watched the game, the Hajji explaining to me in voluble Kurdish the reasons for his moves. Though they were all so cordial, and though we eat out of the same dish, I noticed that they would not shake hands with me and if I gave them anything they carefully avoided touching my hand. Towards sunset the Pasha invited me to come into the haram and I spent some time with his two wives and his other female relatives. They were extremely pleasant and I don't doubt that they were glad to see me, for they never go out of the house. "We are imprisoned in the courtyard" they said. Their furthest excursion is to take the air on the roof. When the Pasha was exiled he left them behind and they spent all those years alone in Khanikin. Next day I was talking to one of my muleteers, a Moslem, and I told him how Mustafa Pasha's ladies never went beyond the courtyard. "Wallahi!" said he "that is how it should be." And then he told me that his mother (his father is also a muleteer) had never been outside their house in Aleppo [Halab] until last year when she went to Mecca [Makkah] with her husband. What a great adventure the Hajj must seem to them, who see the world for the first time! I dined with the gentlemen - it was much the same meal as lunch; and then I spent the evening with the ladies and very agreeable it was. We set off comparatively early next morning (the 23rd). It was a most delicious day and we rode for two hours through charming broken country till we came to the Turkish frontier post. Mustafa Pasha had sent a man with us with directions to see to our safety until we got out of Persia again, therefore I was not at all anxious when, soon after we had entered Persia, we saw a body of Kurdish horsemen galop [sic] up to the nearest hill top and sit down to watch us. Under the hill we came to the first Kurdish custom house - not an official custom house, but the Khans levy heavy dues on their own account on every animal that crosses the frontier. We escaped, of course, being under Mustafa Pasha's protection. I got off to photograph and the horsemen came galoping [sic] down to me - not to demand my money or my life, but because they were most anxious to be photographed too. It is a passion with them. I was eager to oblige for they were a fine set of ruffians, very handsome and bristling with arms. So we rode on for another hour till we came to another Kurdish fort, with another custom house attached, and here too I photographed the fort and the Khans, at their earnest request. About 1 o'clock we reached Kasr i Shirin which stands most beautifully on the river Helwan, a straggling street climbing the hill side, the great fort of Kerim Khan standing on the top, and behind all the splendid barrier of mountains. It was to Kerim Khan that I was specially recommended (he is, I Bellieve, the worst brigand of the whole frontier) and I took a short cut up to his fortress, forgetting that I ought to pass through the Persian custom house which is managed by a Bellgian. You see I had become so accustomed to neglecting custom houses. I interviewed the khans (there were a great many of them) and told them I was going to work in the ruins. They bade me very welcome and I galoped after my caravan. The ruins, I must tell you, are a couple of great Sassanian palaces and it was these that I had come all this way to see. De Morgan had planned and published them, but very insufficiently and I have always had it in my mind to come and work at them, Bellieving that they would furnish a great clue to Ukheidir [Ukhaydir]. I found my servants camping near the first palace, a little upset because two bullets had whizzed past their ears while they were riding up to it. However, I told them that Kerim Khan would look after us and after that I forgot all else in the excitement of working at the palace. De Morgan had given me no idea of what these buildings were really like, partly because he had entirely neglected to photograph any details. A good many people came out to see me in the course of the afternoon and they all assured me that we should be greatly troubled by thieves if we spent the night there. But I was too busy to listen much. At 5.30 Fattuh came to tell me that another couple of rifle bullets had dropped in between our horses and our tents. I was rather perplexed at this news and since I knew very little as to the state of affairs I said we had better move our camp to nearer the village. At this moment arrived a Persian boy who spoke a very little French and he gave me to understand that the head of the Custom house had sent him to see who we were and to advise us not to camp outside the town. And would I come and see him. I said I must go first to see Kerim Khan to settle about our camping ground; the boy seemed distressed and annoyed at this, but I was in a hurry, as it was near nightfall, and it was useless to try and make him understand what I was doing. So I rode down into the town telling Fattuh to pack up and follow me. On the way I met one of my muleteers coming up with corn and he said that as for the shooting it was nothing, they were just shooting at a mark, but as far as he could learn the place was infested with robbers. It was almost night when I rode up to Kerim Khan's fortress. A dozen or more of his cavaliers rushed out to hold my stirrup as I got off, and one, who talked Arabic, came with me to explain to Kerim Khan why I came. He said we could camp where we liked and he would give us as many guards as we wished, but undoubtedly near the town was safer. So I hurried back to tell my men where to go, but as I climbed the village street, three men came up and siezed my mare saying something about the head of the custom house. As I was trying to explain to them that I had to see to my caravan, up came a party in European uniform and also in a furious passion. He thought, you see, that I had been trying to evade the custom house with the connivance of the Kurds. As soon as this dawned upon me I expended myself in apologies and explanations and finally got him pacified and even very apologetic himself (for which there was really no reason, poor man) and then I turned back to find my caravan. But Fattuh, with his usual good sense, had pitched the tents in the courtyard of a large khan (an inn, not a prince this time - it is very confusing that the same word should stand for both!) and finding him established there I concluded that all was for the best. I remained sceptical as to thieves, but there was no doubt about the rifle bullets and it is almost as annoying to be shot by accident as on purpose. The last incident of this eventful evening was the arrival of a mild[?] looking man with a message from Kerim Khan. He said that the Serkar had heard that I had had some dispute with the head of the Custom House and desired to know whether I was in any difficulty, for he would be glad to settle it by having all the Custom House people shot. It was merely a complementary expression of good will, though so picturesquely couched. I sent back my salaams and thanks and said there was no need for extreme measures as I had made it up with the head of the Custom House. I worked for the next two days at the palaces without so much as turning round - the planning of them was a very big job, but I was rewarded by finding them much nearer to Ukheidir than you could guess from de Morgan's account of them, and this, I think, finally settles the date of Ukheidir and justifies me in placing it in the first 50 years of the Mohammadan period, for the Moslem palace is so closely related to the pre-Moslem that the interval between them cannot be great. I went out to the ruins at 6 AM and remained there till 5 PM and I never stopped for a moment drawing, measuring and photographing except when Fattuh sent or brought me lunch and tea. It is almost more than the human frame can bear when you have got to struggle through such an undertaking single handed and I wished several times that the Sasanians had never been born. In spite of my preoccupation I could see out of the corner of my eye what modern Persia is like and M. Villain, the custom house official, gave me a long account of the state of things when I went to call one evening on him and his wife (very nice people they were.) It is a complete anarchy. The fundamental evil is that everybody carries a rifle - as I could observe, for I always had a couple of Kerim Khan's people with me and for the first day a perpetual series of visitors, Khans and the sons of Khans with large bodies of mounted attendants, who came out to see what I was doing and stayed to be photographed. These horse men let off their rifles to right and left as they came galoping over the cornfields - sometimes the bullets sang over my head as I worked - and the men with me occupied their spare time (of which as Heine says, they had 24 hours in every day) in shooting at marks in the fields, heaps of stones or anything that took their fancy, quite regardless of the people walking in the roads or the caravans coming out of the town. Once I said to them, "Do be careful of the people on the road" and they replied "It is of no consequence" and continued their amusement. I wonder what is the total of the yearly casualties from rifle practice. The Kurds hold up everyone who passes along the road and levy their own taxes; official control over them is of the slightest, but it so happened that a couple of days before I arrived lawlessness had reached an unusual pass, and the new prime minister had sent word to the Governor of Kermanshah [Bakhtaran], Daoud Khan (also a Kurd) that if he did not restore order he should be stripped of all his offices. Daoud accordingly had come to Kasr i Shirin and spoken severely to Kerim Khan: the town was full of his horsemen who, according to Fattuh, were a wilder lot even than the horsemen of Kerim Khan. Daoud's little son came out to see me one afternoon with some 50 mounted (and armed) men in his train, a charming boy with rather autocratic manners - he was however very polite to me. The lull, born of Daoud's warnings will be, according to M. Villain, of very short duration and without money or soldiers it is difficult to see how the Government can make any permanent impression. For my part I enjoyed seeing it all and was much amused at hobnobbing with all these rogues but I have carried away a very distinct picture of Persian conditions and it leads me to a devout hope that we shall not, on any pretext, put our finger into that fire. For there is no way of extinguishing it without several army corps and an occupation, and no profit would result ever from measures such as those. Persia must work out her own salvation or, since I think that alternative is out of the question, let the Russians take the matter in hand - and the sooner the better. I wish them joy of it. That's my view, for what it's worth, and I should like to back it by observing that the Khanikin route is now said to be one of the safest in the country! On Sunday 26th I spent 3 more hours in the ruins and just as I had taken my last photograph I saw my caravan coming out of the town. So we rode off together through the hills, still guided by Mustafa Pasha's man, and came down to a village called Haoush Kuru where we found a brother of Kerim Khan's. Mejid Khan was very anxious that we should spend the night there and there were Sasanian ruins, but they were to much dilapidated for satisfactory work and I sent my caravan on, and after paying a short call on Mejid Khan's women folk, rode after it. The fact was that we were in sight of the Turkish frontier posts and greatly desired to get back into a country which, compared with Persia, is a sort of paradise of law and order. There can be no doubt that Nazim Pasha, whatever may be his faults, has conferred a signal benefit on the vilayet of Baghdad by disarming the people in the settled districts. A year ago the Turkish frontier was as bad as the Persian. So we rode through the Turkish lines and nearly fell on the neck of the friendly officer who bade us welcome back, and turned our backs with thankfulness on the wonderful Persian hills. I'm glad I've seen Kasr i Shirin; it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in and I shall never forget the exquisite look of it all as I worked from dawn till dusk, the snows[?] framed in ruined arches and the purple anemones starring the grass in the queens' courts. But I am bound to confess that it is inhabited exclusively by rogues. We camped at a village called Bin Kudra which belongs to a certain Sheikh Tabib who is a relation of Mustafa Pasha - he paid me a long dull call, the good man. Next morning we had a difficult job to tackle, the crossing of the Diala [Diyala (Sirwan)], bridgeless and in flood. We rode through the first arm of it; it was not very deep, up to a tall man's waist; but it was very swift. In the middle I heard shouting above the turmoil of the water and looking round caught the terrified eye of my donkey who had been swept off his feet and thought his last hour was come. One of the ferrymen with us rescued him as well as the muleteer whom he had spilt in mid stream, and they were both brought safely over. The second arm was too deep to ford. We crossed in a craft called a kelek, 19 inflated skins tied together and floored over with reeds. It looked very frail in those swift waters but it served our purposes and in 4 journeys took us and our loads over. The last kelek load was the donkey, bound hand and foot, with Fattuh sitting on his head and one of the muleteers on his tail. The horses had to swim. Two of the ferrymen stripped naked and got onto the 2 bare-backed mares - the others were driven in behind them and I watched, with my heart in my mouth, while the rushing water swept them down. May God be praised and exalted! they all clambered out safely on the other side. So we loaded again and rode by a wide shallow valley, green with corn to Kifri where we camped. I did not see much of it, for we got in at nightfall, having taken 3 hours to cross the Diala; but there is nothing to see. Today we had a peaceful march along the same valley, or rather plain, between two ranges of low bare hills. It is beautiful country, waterless, unfortunately, in summer, but now grass grown and covered with tents and herds. We came into camp at Tuz Khurmatli [Tuz Khurmatu] and I have just had a long visit from the Mudir, an intelligent Damascene. Ap. 1. [1 April 1911] We had a short day's ride (one of my pack horses being lame poor dear) to a place called Tauk [Daquq (Tauq)] which is now a mean village but was once a town of repute. The only witness to its former state is a very fine ruined brick minaret with mounds about it representing the mosque to which it belonged. I camped under it and spent a lazy afternoon for once. It was very cold in the night, frosty even, and when we started at dawn the temp. was 34, which is most extraordinary for this time of year, but very pleasant for travel. The days are warm and delicious. We rode over a charming broken country with occasional long stretches of corn land till at 1.30 we got to Kerkuk [Kirkuk] which stands very splendidly upon a high mound which was once fortified. The town has spread out into big suburbs Bellow the mound and through them we rode till we came to the river bed, in which we camped among stones, not seeing any better place, and were shortly surrounded by an immense crowd. I went off to the Serai with a Christian gentleman who had attached himself to my train on hearing from my servants that I was also of that persuasion. At the Serai I found a delightful and energetic head of police, a Baghdadi, who at once took measures to disperse the crowd and gave me an escort of police to take me through the town to an old church I wanted to see. He told me the news of the day, Turkish news with regard to Baghdad. So I went off in peace to the other side of the town where I found an extraordinarily interesting church of the 5th century and worked at it till past 5. It is dedicated to a Nestorian martyr who fell a victim to one of the Sassanian persecutions and it is the first really authentic church of that period (the authenticity is guaranteed by the architecture) which I have seen. So you may imagine my excitement. When I had drawn the plan I felt too tired to begin measurements, so I stopped work and went up into the citadel town to pay my respects on the Chaldaean bishop. I spent an agreeable half hour in his guest chamber; he and his priests all talked French, but so many notable Christians of the town dropped in to join the party that we had to continue the conversation in Arabic. The bp had spent 8 years in Rome [Roma] and we extolled the beauty of that city and the number of priests that are to be found there. It was night before I returned to my tents. Kerkuk is perhaps the dirtiest town I have ever seen. An open drain, smelly and disgusting, runs down the middle of each narrow street and the exiguous space on either side of it on which you walk is filthy beyond words. Next day I went out at dawn to the church and worked at it for 4 hours. I fear I have not made a very satisfactory job of it. It is almost windowless and so dark that we had to measure by the light of a candle. Moreover the builders steadily disregarded that valuable asset the right angle, and I do not think my photographs, taken with magnesium wire will be a success. When I had finished I went up again to the bp's house and a kind priest took me to see another old church, rÇduite en mosquÇe, as he said. "It has been a mosque for 1300 years" said one of my policemen (a Moslem) who gathered the gist of the conversation "we don't care what it was before that." It was a very simple basilica, rude and plain; I could not measure it because the hour of the Friday prayers was at hand. It is still called the Mosque of the Lady Mary. So I went down to my tents and told my servants to pack up. While they did so - an immense crowd watching them - I went off to my friend the head of the police and had a long and interesting talk with him. There is an excellent governor here. I did not see him because he had gone {off} to the Friday prayers, but I heard his praises sung on every hand. Two years ago all this country was in a state of anarchy. The Hamawand Kurds harried the villages and took toll from the caravans; they even broke into Kerkuk at times, robbing and murdering. Now it is as safe as England. The Hamawand have been driven back into the hills bordering Persia and everyone lives at ease and praises the new government. And the same is true pari passu of all the country I have been over this year. I notice a great difference in the people who are in authority. They are alert and smart: they stand up and speak like men, telling you what they have done and what they mean to do. Their methods are rather primitive, but the conditions are primitive, and you must see to the safety of your settled population before you send Kurans and medical comforts to the tribes. These new officers, civil and military (they are as a matter of fact nearly all soldiers) are immensely popular with their men. "He rides with us when we go out against the tribes; we have never seen him fear" said one, of my friend Hajji Na'muk Beg - and I had guessed him to be a gallant soldier. "He rides all day and wallah! he works all night." This was Yusef Pasha who was sent to Baghdad to take over when Nazim Pasha was dismissed. "He gives us his ear. He listens to us and understands" - this was the Governor of Kerkuk, 'Anullah Pasha. It is nothing short of miraculous, the change that has been brought about in the last two years, and I speak with knowledge, for I was fairly well acquainted with the old conditions. We left Kerkuk after midday and rode over rolling barren hills until we dropped down into a wide cornland beyond which the mountains rose and rose to the snows of the Kurdish alps. And here we camped by a little village, very peacefully and happily, rejoicing in the sight of the new moon, by which my muleteers set as much store as you do. I appreciate it immoderately, too, when I am living out of doors. Today we followed the same wide valley which brought us down to the Lesser Zab [Zab, Little (Zei Koya)] at Altun Keupri [Altin KîprÅ (Pirde)]. Here we crossed the Zab by a preposterously high-pitched bridge, changed zaptiehs and bought some necessary provisions, I spending the time first with the Mudir and then with the Rais el Baladiyyeh - mayor, you may call him - an exceedingly amiable old man. We rode off with our new zaptieh, but once outside the town I found that he was heading for Mosul [Mawsil, Al], whereas I wanted to go to Kal'at Shergat [Sharqat]. I protested and he declared that he knew no other road to K. Shergat. So I rode back to the mayor and with the aid of a very imperfect map (War Office!) explained that I did not wish to go a day's journey out of my way. He came with me, good man, to the Mudir, and I restated my case. The Mudir was much perplexed; one day more or less seemed to him a small matter to fuss about. He asked to see the map, but since he looked at it upside down we were not much further forward. He got more satisfaction out of my permit from Kerkuk which was the next thing he asked to see. It stated in the clearest language that I was to do anything I liked - the officials treat me with unparalled [sic] generosity and kindness - and that everyone was to help me to that end. I then suggested that I should take the zaptieh and add to him a man of the town as guide. The Mudir agreed with relief and told the mayor to find a guide. The mayor and I went down into the street and there met an aged party whom the mayor clapped on the back and taking him by the hand ticked off on his fingers all the places to which he was to lead me, ending with Shergat. The old man did not seem to be the least surprised - it is a two days' journey you must realize. He tucked up his skirts, made a suitable reply in Turkish, (that is the language they mostly talk hereabouts) and marched off down the street, I following: "In the peace of God! and give him two mejidehs (7/) when you get to Shergat" said the mayor. "Upon my head!" said I "We salute you" and rode triumphantly away. So it comes about that we are now travelling down the left bank of the Lesser Zab, through a delightful country of alternate hills and plains; but as there is nothing on the map I will not trouble you with the names of our camping grounds.

Sunday April 2. [2 April 1911] My old guide is a great source of satisfaction to me. His name is Ahmet, but we commonly address him as Hajji Baba. Hajji is only a courtesy title in his case; he is in fact a dervish and lives in the tekké at Altun Keupri. When he goes to Baghdad or Mosul [Mawsil, Al] he lodges in the dervish tekkés there. He has no visible means of support; he does any odd job that turns up and if someone happens to need a guide he is always ready to meet their wishes. "Khanum Effendi" (we talk Turkish) "I had not a penny left. And then you came. God is merciful, you came! There is no God but God!" When we began our march this morning he repeated the profession of faith uninterruptedly under his breath for an hour, and he never neglects the appointed hours for prayer, though he has to run with all his might to catch us up afterwards. I make the caravan go slowly while he prays, so that he has not to run so far. He has a wife and two small children. How they live is not stated, but God is merciful! We had a 9 hours' march today and it was hot, but he walked all the way with unceasing cheerfulness, except when my kind muleteers mounted him on their animals for an occasional half hour. He takes special pride in telling me the names of all the villages. "Khanum Effendi, that is so and so - write, write!" So I get out my map and put it in. We crossed the southern end of the Karachok Dagh [Qarachoq, Jabal] in the morning and came down into a wide plain, partly cultivated. The population, which is mixed Arab and Kurdish, live sometimes in tents, and sometimes in small mud built villages which are not, I think, more stable than the tents, for they are always falling down and being rebuilt on a new site. We have camped by 3 Kurdish tents, by the edge of a small watercourse, nearly dry now - the summer water supply is all from wells. The grass at my tent door is sprinkled over with little blue irises, and the nearest village is some way off, so that I have not many visitors.

Monday Ap 3. [3 April 1911] Safely arrived at Kal'at Shergat [Sharqat] where Dr Andrae and his colleagues have given me a very warm reception. They are sending off a post so I send this at once. Your affectionate daughter Gertrude Bell

IIIF Manifest