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1909: Letter, dated May 17, from Gertrude Bell
by The Gertrude Bell Archives - Robinson Library
Posted: Wednesday, August 30, 2000 02:38 pm CST

[17 May 1909] Sunday May 17. Azakh. Dearest Mother. I seem to have done a great deal these last two days without getting along very fast. The fact is there is so much to see in all this country; I'm at it all day without end. Yesterday I began by crossing the river and looking at Jezireh [Cizre] where there is an interesting castle and a very fine ruined bridge with most curious reliefs on it - Seljuk? Kurdish? I don't know. With all this we did not get off till 10 and then I rode up into a valley to see a Parthian relief. It was a most beautiful place - I've never seen anything more exquisite than these deep rocky valleys of the Kurdish hills and at this moment they are all one rosy mass of oleanders. I found my relief; it is a horseman and it is cut in a narrow defile where the rocks come down steeply into the river. There are remains of Kurdish fortresses on either side of the stream - all very wild and splendid. So I eat my lunch under the shade of the rocks in great content and talked to processions of delightful Kurdish women who were going up the valley on a two days' journey to see a famous sheikh who lives up in the hills. We made shift to understand one another in Turkish. Then we went down to the Tigris valley and rode up it through banks of oleander to Finik where I found the camp pitched in clover meadows by the river. The rocks here are extraordinarily bold and rugged, and on every point (so it seemed to me) there is a Kurdish fortress. There were 3 at Finik. I climbed up to the highest of them early this morning - a most attractive place, half rock cut and half built. And as for Finik itself, it's a troglodyte village in a deep, splendid gorge. I should think it looked much the same when Xenophon passed this way, though the Parthians had not in his time cut the stele in the rocks above which I went up to see. I had a Kurdish guide with me who insisted on giving me a meal of sour milk, omelet and bread before I left. So I sat under mulberry trees and eat mulberries till it was ready and then we went on our way through groves of flowering pomegranates back to the Tigris where we found the baggage being ferried over. So here I took leave of the rocky Kurdish hills and parted company with Xenophon, to my great regret: we have been travelling companions since the beginning of my journey. He went north through the mountains and I have turned west onto the great plateau which is called the Tur Abdin to see monasteries. I've a notion that some of the monasteries here are as old as any monasteries in the world and I expect thery are going to give me 10 days hard work.

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