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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence, Diary 12 July-12 August 1911

[12 July 1911]

On a Wednesday about July 12 I left Tell Ahmar, and walked about an hour: then, feeling thirsty I went to some Kurdish tents, in which the villagers of some houses close by were staying, and got leben and barley bread; no money accepted.

Then walked on three hours till I came to the Khan, which was deserted: met a villager or two, however - one Shirkub invited me to his tent. We had milk and barley pottage and bread, and then slept quite well: saw women grinding in hand-mill. Day hot: bright moon all night.

Next day, Thursday
[13 July 1911]

Up before sunrise, and out before feeding for Ras el Ain 4 hours: stopped a little before and ate bread and leben in Kurdish tent: chief more hospitable: gave him a hejub to work at Tell Hamra if the English came: money refused. Went on to Ras el Ain (½ hr.) and stayed there 1½ hrs. drinking and washing: very pleasant spot and good water. In afternoon walked through liquorice and thick dust to Seruj. Took room at Khan and enquired fruitlessly about camera: met Nouri Effendi. Rice and Bahmia with bread. A little feverish.

Hejub -authorisation.
Tell Hamra - Tell Ahmar
Bahmia - Lady's fingers

T. E. Lawrence, Diary 12 July-12 August 1911

Friday [14 July 1911]

Up and out for Urfa by carriage (1 med.) after giving ¼ to Khanji: slow drive: saw nothing: Urfa about mid-day (7 hrs.). Took room in great Khan:- then went out about 4 P.M. to photograph Castle. Took it from the due West showing the double gates and the line of walls from the πυργοκάστελλος to the extreme end. Warm, beautiful evening, with a little breeze. Rice and bahmia with bread and was then kept awake half the night by a cheap theatre in the café over the street. Police asked for my papers.

Med. - Medjidie, Turkish coin.
Khanji - innkeeper.
πυργοκάστελλος - castle keep

Saturday [, 15 July 1911]

Up late (about 6 A.M.) and went out to the castle. Photographed the castle at the S.E. angle: where the moat turns, and above which is one of the very few Crusader walls in existence here. It is patched in front (to R.) with Arab wall, but is very fine. A wide-angle photo. Then measured the E. side of the moat, and, photographed the E. half of the S. side, by wide angle from the bottom of the moat. This makes complete my photographs of the moat, all but the N. side. Then measured this E. half of the S. side, and went and had some Mead. Later I called on Gracie and had lunch with him: he mended my Antinous release, and my plummet. .After lunch went back to the Castle and measured till 5 P.m. Decided the, N. Side moat did not deserve a photo: average depth of moat about 40 feet. Greatest present depth 60 feet, but much filled in. Crusade work is to be found in patches in the entrance gateways, at the S.E. Angle tower, and in a piece of the N. wall. On coming down took a photo of the castle from a little street that runs N.E. This view of the N.E. angle of the castle and the back of the gate-towers looked pretty on account of the amount of green about. In the. Khan I found the chief of police and a follower, who remonstrated with me for going about alone. " Boys might throw stones" etc. He insists on a zaptieh to-morrow. Would have slept excellently but for my wisdom tooth. This had me up two or three times. Drank some iced rose-leaf sherbet which quieted it.

Grade - Dr Gracey, a missionary at Urfa
Zaptieh - escort

Sunday [, 16 July 1911]

Up late (8 A.M.) and had a great wash found police waiting for me all round the khan; went up the castle with one little man. He complained of .the heat, so I sat him under an arch with some snow and a bowl of water and tobacco, and he was happy.

Measured the interior etc. A fresh morning with a cool west breeze. Took a photo of the interior of the castle from the tall beaked tower at the W. end: breeze rather troublesome, but could not get the tripod up: climb rather difficult. The angle tower is altogether Arabic. Later on photographed the great gateway (also Arabic) from the top of a tower. Decided that almost everything in the place was Arabic except the moat, some straight pieces of wall, and the S.W. angle tower: with the two Roman pillars. Offered my little man (about I PM. in the khan) a ½-medjidie tip: he took it with thanks, but came back with it in half an hour, saying he was afraid the chief of police might hear. Rested till three, then walked out to .the vineyard and had tea and supper .with the Gracie's : very kind both of them, but nothing new. Got back about 9 P.M.

Monday, July 17 [1911]

Up about four, but was a long time getting on the road. The tooth rather worse: an abscess and face painfully one-sided. Bought a metallik of bread, and went over to the castle. Town wall 9-10 feet thick. About 6 started for Harran. No incidents, country everywhere as flat as possible: only huge tells about every two miles: crossed one small stream soon after mid-way. Much mirage: tried to photograph one pool, but failed: nothing showed on the ground-glass. The tower of Harran cathedral was in sight for four hours: all elongated by the mirage, it becked and bobbed in the most fantastic way, now shivering from top to bottom, now bowing to right or left, now a deep curtsey forward. Day very hot: drank five bottles of water between 6 and 2.30: did not stop anywhere on the way. The people rough and unmannerly, half-Turkish spoken, and dressed in rags; children mostly naked. Many camels. Plain all wet, and very fertile. Dhurra, Liquorice, barley, and corn. No springs. Afternoon cloudy:- was in shade for some moments. Soles of feet very tired. Camera case got very wetted, and back and hinge moulded all out of shape. Fortunately little damp leaked through, apparently. Village people all called me "Sheikh." Stopped outside Harran walls for a short rest, then climbed through a gap into the town. The main part of the village lay to the S.E. of the old site, around the castle. Going there I met a Turkish captain, who spoke French wildly. He was leaving after regulating some recruit business with the Sheikh. I found the Sheikh in the castle, which he has made his house. There was a huge stone vaulted polygonal tower, with deep embrasures and an earth floor. In this he with seven or eight others was reclining, discussing the loss of a key. When I came in he greeted me, and called for rugs and cushions, and then I sat down. He was a young man, perhaps eighteen, with a sharp, rather rapacious and mobile face, and dark curling hair: very broad and tall; of course thin. He had been sheikh only one year, since his father died. We talked a variety of things (they were astonished that I was there so early from Urfa) and he rather strained my Arabic by asking for a description of English local- government, and our marriage customs. He was also curious as to the dignity. of sheikh in England. His manners were excellent; very, unlike the common people, for he did not snatch at my things, but waited (eagerly) for me to show them him. Some of his men had heard of Jerabis (or Gerabis as they said). They were interested in the coming of the railway. At sundown he brought me food with his own hands: cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, and excellent wheatbread, while his men, dined near us off boiled mulberries and bread. We had some of each. After dinner we talked a little, and then I went out to sleep. He brought me his best quilts, and I slept most perfectly, with his retainers in a heap around me. When I woke in the morning there was an old Turkey cock sitting on a low wall by my head, and many horses in the yard. I was lying on a low platform.

Metallik - a copper coin
Tell - mound
Dhurra - Indian corn or millet
Harran cathedral - the great mosque
Jerabis - Arabic for Jerablus

Tuesday, July 18

Up by daybreak, and round the outside of the castle. The inside I had explored with the Sheikh the afternoon before. Feet very tired, tooth much worse. Side of face all sore and swollen. The castle built at several periods: part of it quite late; none apparently pre-Arab: mostly of rusticated blocks: there was no ornament anywhere. Huge polygonal towers flank the outer wall, and there is a sort of keep, of smooth stone, with shallow buttress-towers at the comers: inside this is vaulted on two square pillars in one room, others have plain barrel vaults: The castle has had a moat round it: perhaps a wet one: It has been a big strong place, but riot over-interesting. The vaulting though is good. Then went and drank coffee (four cups) with the sheikh and his men: about 30 or 40 at the drinking. They spoke uninterestingly. Later walked over to the mosque, and looked for Miss Bell's column-capitals. Took a photo of a lion bas-relief in basalt=5' 2 ins. long, 3' 6" high, 1 foot thick: broken in two pieces: rude work. Muzzle broken: lying just outside the East angle of the town wall. A boy behind. Was found on the surface of the ground. Then took .a photo of the S. front of the castle, not of the whole of it, but of the eastern half this showed one small polygonal tower, and a line of walls, with the "donjon" in the centre. Then walked round and took a photo of the great broken tower. Looking into it one could see the floors and the central pier, and the rest of the works of the place. This tower stands on the W. side of the castle, . defending one side looking towards the town. The former (S) side looks towards the open desert. Then went across again to the great mosque: could not turn over the other great capital, and found the little ones much damaged underneath: that is, the two I partially cleared. Not very interesting, these little ones.

Then started out seriously to take the Sheikh. Had taken him on horseback with his brother before the S. front of the Castle, and now took him with a friend of his before the tower-room. Also took a photo of his brother etc. Have promised to send him copies of these to Mr. Gracie at Urfa, for distribution: Gracey knows him, and his men come into the town every week.

Then we fed, about 9 A.M., on stewed mulberries, bread, cucumbers, and green-stuff: very satisfactorily: wound up with grapes. Worked at the castle after lunch: measuring etc. Then walked across to Rebekah's well. I came in past it yesterday, resting near it half an hour, and the women as they came out to draw water came and looked at me, singing. Some offered me water from their wooden pails. The well is down steps and very .deep, cold, clean water. There are camel troughs near it, possible those that Eleazar used, for such things do not soon wear out. Good water. Drank again to-day. They call it Bir Yakub, and are very proud of it. It is the only well outside the walls. I saw also the Aleppo gate, a poor Arab thing, more ornamental than defensive: in fact the walls of Harran are slight defences: it is certainly not fortified for a siege, with its long, thin curtains, and shallow towers, all square-angled. The castle is the only fortress. There was a moat, probably wet, all round the town, and between it and the castle. There are no surface signs of pre-Byzantine occupation. The Sheikh is beginning to thaw out: he called me his brother today, which is condescension in a Moslem: but I increased his prestige by holding a sort of levee in his liwan in the morning and answering all questions of all local gentry. The great admiration of my little telephoto tape has led to its disappearance. I went over the castle again, and decided it was all fairly late: post-Saladin at least, possibly post-Crusade. No more photogra needed. The great broken tower is about 60 feet high. It appears from our evening talk that the Sheikh here is only deputy for his elder brother, whom the Government likes in Urfa. They are old régime and Ibrahim Pasha men, with 2500 houses under them. This means a force of 10 to 12 thousand men. A long talk on all subjects in the evening, especially politics the Sheikh ended by going to sleep with his head on my knee! Ate of bread, grapes and eggs slept badly with tooth trouble and sand-flies.


Gertrude Bell mentioned the column-capitals in The Desert and the Sown
Lion bas-relief - local Hittite work
Rebekah's Well - Genesis, ch 29
Bir Yakub - Jacob's Well
Liwan - reception-room


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Source: OA 5-
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 27 February 2016


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