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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Chirol, Valentine
Berchem, Max van
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

33.5138073, 36.2765279

Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)] Feb 7 Dearest Mother Your letter of the 21st has just reached me. We have been blocked up by snow on all sides, all the rlys stopped, no posts, no nothing. At last the spring has come and we are off. I'm glad you did not send a photograph to the Daily Graphic. And very sorry about your cold. I was having one too so I can sympathise. Mine is gone, I hope yours is. I have had an interesting time, though too much of it. I've done some work at inscriptions for van Berchem and I've seen all the world. Specially the soldiers. The general, Sami Pasha, has been to see me several times; his chief of the staff, Salaheddin ditto (a very intelligent man); the Commandant of Damascus has talked to me to me of the political situation at length in fluent French - altogether I have got a good all round view of things from the native point of view. The best of all is the delightful old Arab sheikh who has helped me with my journey, Bassam is his name and his family is from the Yemen. They have houses in the Hejaz [Hijaz] and in Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)] and do a great trade with India, where he has been. He is a wonderful example of oriental simplicity and wisdom. He knows all the desert and everyone thence and he and his family have helped every traveller from Doughty downwards. I pay him calls at his house after sunset and find always some 20 or 30 people there from every corner of the Moslem world. One night I was sitting there as usual when he rose and said to the company "Will you pray?" It was the hour of the evening prayer. His great nephew brought out white felts from an inner room, spread them on the floor facing Mecca [Makkah] and all the guests stood up and prayed. He has at least 20 people to dinner every night. He has come to see me several times. He sits with me for an hour or more and after telling me all the news of the desert he asks me whether I think there are diamond mines there, and whether gold - questions difficult to answer.
You have told Smith to send my papers to Baghdad?

Sir F. Treves and his wife are here. I'm now going out to tea to meet them - at the Navilles. Naville is a nephew of van Berchem and a very nice man.

Fattuh sends you a 100000 salaams. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

Love to Eugénie.

IIIF Manifest