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crystal sage

Gertrude Bell

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crystal sage

A very Interesting Woman.....

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell (July 14, 1868 – July 12, 1926) was a British writer, traveler, political analyst, and administrator in Arabia. She was awarded the Order of the British Empire.

Bell and T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) are recognized as almost wholly responsible for creating the Hashimite dynasty and the modern state of Iraq. During her life, she was an unrecognised force behind the Arab revolt in World War I. At the conclusion of the war, she drew up borders within Mesopotamia to include the three vilayets which later became Iraq



The Papers

The Gertrude Bell papers consist of about 1,600 detailed and lively letters to her parents, of her 16 diaries, which she kept while she was travelling, and of c.40 packets of miscellaneous items. There are also about 7000 photographs, taken by her c.1900-1918. Those of Middle Eastern archaeological sites are of great value because they record structures which have since been eroded or, in some cases, have disappeared altogether, while those of the desert tribes are of considerable anthropological and ethnographical interest.

The letters and diaries, but not the miscellaneous material, were transcribed in automated form between 1982 and 1988, and a catalogue of the photographs was published in 1982, with a second edition in 1985.




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crystal sage

English archaeologist and antiquarian Gertrude Bell was a phenomenal force in Mesopotamian archaeology at a time when it was largely a man's game. With a degree in history from Oxford, Bell excavated at sites such as Birbinkilise in Turkey, at Byzantine monuments in Syria, and at the Abbasid Palace of Ukhaidir. She was the founder of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, and is considered the mother of modern Mesopotamian archaeology. She had an amazing life for any period, full of travel and adventure--and even espionage during World War I.



Edited by crystal sage

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crystal sage

YRIA, SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC (SOURIYA Al-jamhouriya al Arabia as-Souriya)



"What a country this is ! I fear I shall spend the rest of my life travelling in it. Race after race, one on top of the other, the whole land strewn with the mighty relics of them."

Gertrude Bell, Letter to Florence Lascelles, 9 April 1905

The Syrian tourism promotional slogan says, "every cultured man has two homelands : The first is his country of birth ; the second is Syria." This is hardly surprising, but indeed it is a little known fact that the ancient Syrians invented the first alphabets of the world. The cuneiform carvings of Ugarit in northern Syria were eventually adopted by the coastal Phoenicians and then by the Greeks, before the Romans spread it to Europe and the world beyond. The earliest organised settlements in the world began in Syria. Northern Syria was part of the Mesopotamian civilisation (- the bulk of it unfortunately lies in Iraq, which is inaccessible to tourism). And as the cross-roads of Europe, Asia and Africa, this land has always attracted invaders. The Egyptians came, and then came the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Islamic Army, the Turks, and the French. Civilisations came and went, leaving only ruins of their ancient glories. All of Syria is full of these. After years of struggle, Syria became independent in 1946, only to fall into a cycle of coups and counter-coups. This state of instability lasted till 1970 when General Hafiz al-Assad seized power and ever since, Syria was ruled with an iron arm. Despite defeat in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and heavy costs of sustaining its military and political intervention in Lebanon, Syria had undergone a period of relative peace and internal stability (apart from the 1982 Hama revolt).

But then, what exactly is Syria and where is it ?


Oct 10. [10 October 1925]

Oct 10. [10 October 1925] Everything has gone exactly as we wished. Nairn has given us a car which joins the Eastern Transport. We leave tomorrow morning at 6.30 am, see Baalbek en route and reach Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)] early in the afternoon (Sunday). On Monday early we start from Damascus, sleep that night at Palmyra [Tadmur], Tuesday night at Kubaisah [Kubaysah] and reach Baghdad on Wed. afternoon. I have telegraphed to you the date of our arrival. We found the Consul General (Mr Satow) just going on leave - in point of fact he was starting at 11 a.m. We telephoned to him and had 10 minutes talk with him at the Consulate. The Liason officer, Major Salisbury Jones, lunched with us and we are dining with him this evening. Things are going very badly in Syria. The French have subdued about a third of the Jabal Druze [Duruz, Jabal ad] and have no hope of subduing the rest. Meantime the whole country is riddled with robber bands, Druze and Arab, and every sect has joined hands with every other against the French mandate. I think the Palmyra route is much safer than that by 'Amman (so does Mr Satow) for the latter route skirts the southern end of Jabal Druze and is sure to be full of broken men bent on robbing. Also the first half of the 'Amman route is very difficult, sand and stones through which the cars go at 5 miles an hour. Nairn is in despair over the 'Amman route. He says he loses thousands of pounds in oil and petrol, but he is kept to it by Sir Henry who has some silly fear in his bonnet about an all red route. Naturally no one will travel by it if they can help it, as it is 16 hours longer from 'Amman to Baghdad than from Damascus, and Nairn sees ruin staring him in the face if Sir Henry persists in the order. I hope our example will do something to persuade him of his folly. I gather that we are escorted by French armoured cars, the French being mightily anxious to encourage people to travel by the Damascus route - naturally.

We are now feeling that the slow journey up the coast was more than worth the trouble, besides being much cheaper, and we are rather inclined to pat ourselves on the back!

Goodbye darling Father and Mother. I don't think I shall write from Damascus as I shall be so busy showing Sylvia sights and seeing the Consul, Mr Smart. The French C.G.S., Commandant Dentz, has telephoned to ask if he may come and see me at 6. I met him at Baghdad, a very intelligent, liberal minded man. Major S.J. says he is heartily opposed to French policy in Syria but dare not say so.

I am now going to see the Museum and afterwards to take Sylvia to the American College to see the view and if I can find him, call on the Principal, Professor Dodge. Ever your very loving daughter Gertrude

[Page 3 between letters of October 14 and 15 in album] Darling, I continue while waiting for the Commandant Dentz. We went to the American College - exquisite place. The Dodges were out, but I introduced myself to one of the professors and we ran to ground Sabah son of Nuri Pasha, who rushed to greet me as soon as he saw me and asked me to take a letter to his father. While I was waiting for the letter to be written, Sylvia went to see the hospital. Several other 'Iraq boys came and greeted me - one the nephew of the Naqib. They all came over ten days ago and the road is quite safe. Then we went to the Museum where I sent in my card to the Director. He came and showed us over and opened for us the safe which contains the famous golden treasure of Byblos - about 1300 BC. Most interesting, but what interested me more were the sarcophagi with Phoenician inscriptions said to date from the 4th millenium BC. That's as early as our earliest inscriptions from Ur.


Edited by crystal sage

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Wow, what an amazing person.

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