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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Naqib, Talib al-
Cox, Percy
Wilson, A.T.
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Churchill, Winston
Cox, Louisa Belle
Haldane, Aylmer
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Sunday June 20. Dearest Father. Ramadhan ended, thank God or the Prophet, on Thursday night. There had been continuous meetings in the mosques, but no disturbances, and partly I think (if I may say so to you) to my urgent persuasion to Frank, no arrests of agitators. That's what I was really afraid of, for owing to the fever pitch which feeling had reached, it must almost certainly have led to conflict of some kind or other. On Friday morning I rode out before breakfast round the suburbs of Baghdad where I knew people would congregate, and saw the whole world making merry over the great feast of Islam, 'Id al Fitr, the festival of fast breaking. There were numberless booths of sweetmeat sellers, merry go rounds with children swinging in them (much to the annoyance of my pony) groups of women all in their best clothes, and the whole as little revolutionary as anything you can imagine. The East making holiday - nothing more. One rubbed one's eyes and wondered at the nightmare of the proceeding days. Frank paid a round of 'Id calls - as is the custom - including all the recent leaders in the wild movement against us, and was received everywhere with friendly courtesy. He picked me up at 10 o'clock and we went together to the Naqib, I having been always accustomed to call on him to congratulate him on the termination of the fast. It was blazing hot by that time, a fiery wind, dust-laden. We were ushered into his cool sardab (the underground room) where we sat for a few minutes conversing with other visitors, Moslems and Jews. Presently the Naqib tottered down the steps, in his summer robes of white, looking much enfeebled by the fast, and doubtless also by the fact that he had been receiving guests since the dawn prayer. We had a jejune but cordial talk in the course of which Frank told him that Sir Percy was expected next day - this was news to me also. The Naqib charged me to let him know as soon as Sir Percy arrived, which I did. As for A.T. [Wilson] nothing has been said about the scene I told you about last week. He sends me the usual papers for comment and we meet at lunch as if nothing had passed. I don't however go personally into his room with anything, for I will not again risk finding him in an insane passion. Frank confided to me that he had had an interview with him in the evening of the day on which he made me the scene and that he had exhibited the same violence that he did to me, only this time about someone else. Frank thought him momentarily not responsible for his actions. On Sat. morning when I got to the office, Shallal (head Qawas, you remember) met me with beaming smiles and told me Sir Percy had come. I went to the Mess and found him breakfasting with Lady Cox and , and I felt as if a load of care had been lifted. I saw them both at lunch but we only had general talk that day. I dined with Sir Aylmer, who has been recalled by a sharp telegram from Winston Churchill, but vows that he intends to return to Sar i Mil (Karind [Karand]) as soon as possible. Amazing man! There was a little party, including Generals Hambro and Stewart, and I had the opportunity of giving both Sir A. and General Stewart (he is CGS, you know) the real and not the official account of what has been happening lately. Today, according to my custom, I didn't go to the office. Sir Percy sent me a note in the afternoon saying that he wanted to come and have a talk. He came after tea and I gave him what I believe to be the correct view of the whole situation - I mean the Arab situation - and how badly it has been handled for the last 8 months. He was most understanding. We talked a great deal about how to bridge over the next 4 crucial months till he comes back. H.M.G. have telegraphed to him to return to England at once and he leaves tomorrow. Though of course I hate his going, I'm thankful that he will be there to appeal to. For I can write everything to him as I can do to no one else, he being my real Chief, and he will be able to take direct action. At 7 he went to see the Naqib, taking me with him. It was touching to see the Naqib's joy. We sat in the courtyard - it was fearfully hot and stuffy - and had an hour's talk. The Naqib maeandered about a good deal but some of the things he said were very valuable as they enforced, entirely without collusion, the things I had been saying. Being with Sir Percy has felt like getting onto a rock, after the wild upheavals of the last fortnight. It has been such an infinite comfort to be able to talk of public affairs here without committing an indiscretion, as I can to him. I didn't however tell him about the scene with AT as I regard that as sheer lunacy. Lady Cox also has been most friendly and affectionate. I'm going to keep the parrot (it isn't dead!) while she is away. Marie is delighted with the idea but I should feel easier in my mind if I were quite sure Rishan wouldn't look upon it as a species of chicken and eat it. However - good, please God! Capt. Clayton is our great resource. He is getting some sense drummed into A.T. about Faisal and the Syrians generally. He often comes back with me to tea and we compare the events of the day, to our mutual profit - at any rate it's to mine. I told you about him last week, didn't I? He is Sir Bertie Clayton's brother and was P.O. at Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)] when I passed through in Oct. He has got what I think is exactly the right atmosphere. June 21. [21 June 1920] I enclose a copy of the statement issued today. I don't think myself that it will do any good - it's just another promise added to all the rest - and followed by a threat. I send you also a copy of a note I made for Sir Percy; no one has seen it but he so please treat it as private. It's the gist of our talk yesterday, only in talking I was a little more explicit. Now let me end by two cheerful tales told me by Mustafa Pasha - as I predicted his wife had her way and they stayed over Ramadhan. The first sign of disturbance here was a big meeting in a mosque in New St. There was an immense crowd and Frank sent out 2 armoured cars to patrol the street. One of the drivers had a stone thrown at him and he fired a shot into the air, whereat everyone fled - so fast that they all left their shoes in the mosque. "500 pairs of shoes" said the Pasha. "Effendim, shoes are dear now. Rs 25 a pair. And my servant came in and said 'I got two pairs!'" The second tale was à propos of the vaunted and wholly illusory union between Sunnis and Shi'ahs which was the feature of Ramadhan. "I got up at a gathering" said Mustafa Pasha "if the Prophet, God give him salvation, and the Khalifs Umar and Abu Bakr and the rest were here now, they'ld [sic] be on the side of the English." "How is that?" asked the company. "Because the English have united Islam." "You have no religion" they cried. But though meant as a compliment to us, or a gibe to them I don't know that we can get much satisfaction out of it. And now I wonder what's going to happen next. Your affectionate daughter Gertrude I have Mother's delightful long letter of May 18. Please show all this to Domnul.

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