1909: Letter, dated May 18, from Gertrude Bell
Monday May 18. [18 May 1909] The monasteries haven't turned out very well so far. I've seen a great quantity today; they are not very old and all of them are entirely without architectural interest. The country is nice, however; a high upland, very sparsely populated. Round the few villages there are vineyards and corn fields and the rest of the world is oak wood through which you ride for hours between the little oaks without seeing a soul. I am camped tonight near a village called Sare in which there is a very curious stele, Parthian I should think, I have just been taking a rubbing of it. Sare appears to be the home of the principal agha of the district. He has just given me a red legged partridge which I propose to eat. He was entertaining guests who had come to pay a visit, the aghas of a neighbouring village, very splendid, with silver mounted daggers. Fortunately they talked a little Arabic - mostly I'm up against Kurdish or Syriac here. The church seemed to be old and interesting but I could not stay in it because it was alive with fleas. I had to rush out and tear off my stockings, which were covered with fleas, before they should get any further. The priest says they clear out the fleas on Sunday, but I don't believe it for a moment. However it probably doesn't interfere much with the devotions of the worshippers for they assured me that their houses were just as full of fleas, in proof of which I saw them hopping all over their white clothes.
1900-1999 A.D. Assyrian History Archives