Request a high resolution copy

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

Letter in which Bell discusses the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr and her visit to the King's farm. Bell also comments upon the completion of Hilton Young's report, on behalf of the Finance Commission, and reflects on its findings, whilst noting the ongoing conflict within the Iraq government, particularly in relation to Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji and the Kurdish situation.
Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Naji, Haji
Suwaydi, Naji al-
Dobbs, Henry
Wilson, J.M.
Clayton, Iltyd
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Clayton, Iltyd
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Ap 29. Baghdad Dearest Father. Nothing more from you so I'll pursue my tale. We had some emotions as to the beginning of the 'Id. On Thursday night no one knew whether the moon had been seen nor whether there was an 'Id and a levee and a departure to the King's farm (for me) next day. The A.V.M. and his wife and the Prescotts were dining with me and both had commissioned their staff to let them know what happened. At 11 p.m. the guns announced the 'Id, for they had managed to get the moon seen at sunset but it had taken the Qadhi all those hours to make sure that the witnesses had spoken true. After which the telephone rang uninterruptedly to tell us the news we already knew and I vowed I would never have another bigwig to dine on the eve of the 'Id.
I hopped up at 6 to get Zaya and my baggage off to the station and at 8 behold me at the King's Levee. I then in the course of an hour visited all the Ministers and the Naqib, went home and got into country clothes and at 10 was picked up by H.M. at the station near my house. We went up by trolley - the party was H.M., Naji Suwaidi, a Chamberlain (Safwat Pasha) and an ADC (Tahsin Beg). The King's farm is a little to the NW of Khanaqin. We got to the nearest point to his tents (there's no house yet) at 2, having had an excellent lunch in the trolley, found horses waiting and rode up through the fields to the tents, about 20 minutes away. It was so heavenly to be riding through grass and flowers - gardens of purple salvia and blue borrage and golden mullein, with scarlet ranunculus in between. After tea we went out for a walk though the crops, H.M. rejoicing over his splendid hemp and barley and wheat - they were splendid I must say. And then we sat in the pleasant dark till dinner, after which we all went to bed. Zaya had arrived by this time and I had all my camp furniture in an enormous tent - unfortunately I shared it with innumberable sand flies. Petra had come with me; she enjoyed herself enormously and behaved not too badly for one so young. She is going to be a nice little dog.

Next morning Iltyd Clayton arrived at 6 and Haji Naji who, hearing that I was to be there, had thought it a good opportunity to pay a visit to the farm and look at the fruit trees he had sent up to it. After a 7 o'clock breakfast (the King is an early riser) H.M. and I and Iltyd motored off in a crazy taxi (not so crazy as the roads through the farm) to Khanaqin and on to another bit of the estate to see the place where the King means to build a little house. It was lovely; a high mound about 4 miles W. of Khanaqin, running water at its foot and a wonderful view of the Persian hills, range behind range. We sat in an open tent where one of H.M.'s agents lives - Ahmad Muraiwid, a Syrian, who is I believe generally admitted to be the man who shot at Gouraud. After many peripeties he has come to anchor here and the King has at least placed him as far from Syria as possible. Iltyd and I sat contentedly and drank tea while they all talked - about the crops, nothing we shouldn't have heard! We got home for lunch - it was rather hot in tents in the middle of the day, but delicious again in the evening. Iltyd and I went for a walk. Next morning J.M. Wilson arrived, all joy at escaping from Baghdad. It was quite the house party and the King was so much gratified at being the successful host. He carries hospitality to a point. I afterwards found that Zaya had not been allowed to pay for any of our tickets. The A.D.C. nipped in and took them. We all rode after breakfast through the flowering meadows down to the bridge over the Alwand - the Khanaqin river - and up the bank, discussing where to make the main road through the estate. And after tea we rode to the river on the other side, the Diyala [(Sirwan)], and saw the peasants, at special command, catch fish. They held a line of small nets across the stream while a couple of boys beat the fish down into them. We caught a 6 pounder and had it for dinner. And we put up pig in the thickets; they were cleared by boys and dogs and fired at by H.M. with a policeman's rifle at far too long range. This sport was enhanced by a far away thunderstorm only the outmost skirts of which reached us, but it made the evening delightfully cool. We left after dinner, Iltyd, J.M. and I riding for half an hour to the station through black night on a path which plunged in and out of the irrigation canals. I had Petra on my saddle bow - she proved an excellent rider but it was fright rather than pleasure which kept her quiet I think. We succeeded in catching the train after missing our way several times and got safely to Baghdad next morning. It was a very nice 'Id.

Hilton Young has presented his report and gone. I read the report this morning. It's admirable. There are no miracles, just good sense and helpful advice to both Govts, but if it is followed we ought to get onto our feet in a year or two. There are several drastic cuts, one being in the Dept of Public Works, and this, though it's reasonable (you can't have public works without the money to pay for them) will I fear affect J.M. a good deal. It will mean marking time for several years and I am not sure that he will stay. (I privately know that he has had a good offer at home.) I should miss him very much.

Sir Henry is still on tour and Shaikh Mahmud is still troublesome and the Ministers are all quarreling with one another - I don't think the Cabinet will stand much longer. It has had a 9 months' life which is more than the average for Cabinets here.

Goodbye darling. This is a long silly letter for you to read on your ship. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

IIIF Manifest