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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to D. G. Hogarth


Dec. 16. [1911]

I hope you got my letter from Aleppo. I set off just after that, taking Haj Wahid with me as an afterthought that there might be buying to be done.

The arrival was a great success. The German works broke up with a yell, and rushed down the path to meet me. The poor engineers looked as though the Jehad had arrived. We put up with the Hoja, and had a most glorious night. All the village dropped in, and I heard all about the Germans; they put on airs - they are ignorant of antikas - not recognising a Hittite inscription; they know no language; they say sacral mento, and when we ask what they want shut, they only say it again - they drink raki all night, to two mejidies - we work seven days a week - they do no work with their hands, but sit in the tents - we may not smoke: there is no bakshish - we may not speak to them, they say it is adibsis - they cannot swim - they make a bargain and break it - Oh God the pigs, they eat crabs - and tortoises.

After this the talk drifted naturally to demons and ginns. The Hoja and the rest told tale after tale, each more ghastly than the last: till all, glancing furtively into the darkness, refused with one voice to go home. So we slept there happily, the Hoja, his wives, his four children, the Haj, Dahum, myself, and fifteen others, in a house about the size of your room. I had a most royal heap of quilts, all wonderful to say, nearly deserted. It was one of the best nights I've had, and yet the Hoja told Thompson there were no local demons: why, one tore in half the brother of Khallaf Khalifa, another stole some halawi from Hasan Agha, another so bereft Hamman of his wits for a year and six months! The great mound is full of them, and all begged me for a few of my experiences.

It's a splendid place, but I suppose I must be serious. There are four or five Germans here: about 20 tents, and mud houses building: everything in between the Kalaat and the village. Their chief told me that the latest (and last) change of plan takes the railway outside the walls, right to the river: not a sod or a stone of the site is to be touched. This is splendid: for unless under direction of one of us I feel sure no stone could have been removed with safety. The bridge is to be S. of the site. I'm sorry though that some beast (or fanatic for the really inspired in art) has bruised the eyes of the basalt charioteers. I have sworn for the offender when discovered flaying alive, and rolling in salt, and then a grill before a slow fire of quotations from Dickens. The chief engineer supports the idea warmly: says he has never seen it done.

About buying the site: it will possibly be worth it, but not yet. Hassan Agha wants £100: in two months it will be worth £20. Old Salem is fairly going it, but everything is so confused that we should (and can) wait till after the expropriations.

About antikas: all gone: to a former band of Germs. their dragoman, and an antikaji from Birajik. I got a view of the highest priced: it was rotten - an amulet possibly Syrian - and the ass gave a mejidi for it. I bought a few poor things: Kenyon and yourself will not scramble for them: also I am sending such a mass of pottery chips: it took me two days to gather them. I must apologise for their plainness - but so is the pottery, and the box of fine pieces, the select ones of last year, which I left with the zaptiehs, is still* locked up: they put it in the storeroom for safety, and Sahib effendi with the key is in Birijik. It's rather good that the commissaire should be guarding my thefts in all innocence. I needn't talk here of the seals and chips, since I will send a note with each.

About halawi - I hope you remember the particularly sticky sweetmeat of which Thompson and myself used to eat pounds last year. It has struck Haj Wahid as an excellent idea that he should send a mass of it as a present to Billy. He says he is just the age for it. I am encouraging him as far as possible, so some day you may find it arrived, and for weeks you will find tangles of it on the chairs and tables, and door-handles and floors and walls and papers and books. Halawi is such affectionate stuff, and yet so wholesome.

Salaamat kethir to you from Haj Wahid: he sends a seal; which shall be labelled. It's a family relic, and is not meant as a tip-drawer. He had no idea you liked them. The village, which is admiring the writing of this letter, and interrupting vilely, also sends salaams in a body. It is looking forward very much to Gregori.

I have found an incised inscription, short, at Yarymja; and a couple of fragments from Yunus.

There is a new oath in the village - b'is-sait el khowaja - by the aid of myself: so I have thrust down the prophet from his place. I shall grow a beard.

The Germans are not after the Yusuf Beg stone, so I will leave it till the summer.

I hope while building the house that I may be able to wander about a bit and buy some seals and things. At present I am rather a crock: to the extent of being glad to have Haj Wahid with me. [38 lines omitted]

* Everything is in store still, and no talk of Constantinople. Touma ainé wants rent for the store room: if not will I buy contents for half a lira, as he wants the space? I will if I have half a chance.

'sacral mento' - sakrament, German oath
'b'is-sait el khowaja' - by the aid of the gentleman


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Source: DG 127-30
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 29 January 2006


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