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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

Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)] Dec 12 Dearest Mother. My camels should have got off today but we are plagued by a tiresome contretemps. Fattuh has an attack of malaria and I shall be obliged to wait another day or two - I still hope it may be only one day, for I am weary of kicking my heels here and besides it is expensive. It has rained almost incessantly and a day's delay may have the advantage of drying up the roads which are deep in mud. Good, please God! but oh how I hope to be off tomorrow! I am to sleep the last night with the excellent Mackinnons who have been and always are the kindest of friends. Dr M. has been every day to see Fattuh. He took me the other day to call on Abd al Rahman Pasha, the Amir al Hajj, who is the richest and most powerful person in Damascus. He was extremely polite; he had just come back from C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)] and talked much of politics, all in the most beautiful Arabic, as befits the leader of the Pilgrimage. I called on his wife too. And before we went there came in an enormous deputation of Arabs and Druzes, all armed to the teeth and very swell, whom the Pasha greeted with urbanity, while they showed him an extreme deference. It was an amusing scene. I dined that night in the native bazaar quarter, the Maidan, with my old guide, Muhammad al Ma'râwi. An enormous party was assembled to meet me, including the agent of Ibn al Rashid. The latter was a curious figure, young, very tall and slight, wrapped in gold embroidered cloak and his head crowned with an immense gold bound camels' hair rope which shadowed his crafty narrow face. He leant back among his cushions and scarcely lifted his eyes, talking in a soft slow voice the purest classical Arabic; but after a bit he became more interested in what we were saying, roused himself, and told marvellous tales of hidden treasure and ancient wealth and mysterious writings in central Arabia, of which you may believe as much as you please. The men on either side of me murmured from time to time "Ya Latîf! ya manjûd" Oh Beneficent! oh Ever Present! as they listened to this strange lore. Finally we eat together that bread and salt might be between us and then - why then we all came back together in the electric train! for the Maidan is a long way off and the streets were muddy.
I walked one morning with the Bruntons to the top of one of the hills above Damascus and had a great view of the beautiful town and the desert beyond, where I am going - soon Inshallah! I don't think it is worth your while to write to me here after Jan 16th and will you tell Smith and Sons not to send papers after that date. But from after the 16th they might send the papers to me at British Residency, Baghdad, via India and perhaps you would write to me occasionally there? just to give me some news if I ultimately turn up there, which I think is most probable. I shall be thankful to have papers and a few letters when I get there. But of course I should telegraph to you at once from wherever I arrive. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude

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