Louisa (Jebb) Mrs. Roland Wilkins. Wilkins.

By desert ways to Baghdad online

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wonder?" I inquired. X asked him.

"It is quite usual in my country not to wear a
coat in hot weather," he said ; " my coat is old and
dirty, and my shirt is new and clean : why should I
wear my coat ? "


And he rarely put it on again.

He loved to see us in nice clothes, and took great
delight in wandering about the bazaars with us buying
presents for the M twenty-nine friends " in England.
But we used to sigh over the good old camping

" Hebsi bitdi " (all is over), he would say dolefully,
when anything particularly brought them back to
our thoughts.

We rode down Palestine and took him over to
Egypt with us. Evading with difficulty the impor-
tunities of Cook, and the rush of tourists on the
beaten track, we tried to steal days which brought
back a sense of our old free-and-easy times.

But there came a day when there was an end
to it all, an end to the long silent rides, an end to
the quiet smokes in desert places, an end to the
little daily jokes, an end to the serious talks and
the foolish quarrels, an end to the Kallabalaks and
the Keyfs.

We stood on the steamer which was to take
Hassan back to his old life in the forests of the

" You will soon be going a long journey with
some one else," said X cheeringly.

Hassan shook his head.

" No, indeed," he said ; " I should take care not
to go with two ladies again, and I shall not go with
a man, for no man would be so much of a fool as to
wish to go such a mad journey."

The steamer c^ive vent to its first hideous whistle.
We put our fingers to our ears.


" Good-bight, little Padishah," he said, as we
clasped hands for the last time ; " good-bight. Go
home to your friend in England ; he will be glad to
see you looking so fat."

11 Silly man," I said with a lump in my throat.

" Silliman yok," he answered.

The whistle blew again, we turned and went our
different ways. If there had been a stone he would
have thrown it after me ; as it was, when I turned he
made a face and shouted, " Istemen, istemen ! "

And now, looking back on those days, there rises
invariably before us the memory of this companion
in our many adventures — the memory of a simple-
minded, honourable man, a trusted friend, a pleasant
companion and a devoted servant, who, whether
he was sharing the discomforts and dangers of winter
travel in a wild and lawless country, or experiencing
the joyous freedom of the roaming desert life we
loved so well, or enduring the terrors of critical and
carping civilisation, invariably put us in the foremost
place, and, without swerving an inch from the tradi-
tions of his race, never offended the susceptibilities
of ours.



LAST night we were dirty, isolated, and free,
to-night we are clean, sociable, and trammelled.

Last night the setting sun's final message written
in flaming signs of gold was burnt into us, and the
starry heights carried our thoughts heavenward
and made them free as themselves. To-niorht the
sunset passed all unheeded and we gaze, as we
retire from the busy rush of the trivial day, at a never-
ending, twisting, twirling pattern on the four walls
that imprison us, oppressed by the confining ceiling of
our room in the Damascus Palace Hotel.

We are no longer princesses whose hands and
feet are kissed, whose word is law, sharing the
simple hospitality of proud and dignified wayfarers in
desert kingdoms. Our word is law according to the
depth of our purses, our hands and feet are kissed
according to the height of our floor in the hotel.
We are no longer in a land where men and women
are judged by their capacities for being men and
women : the cost of our raiment apportions our

We are now no longer amongst people to whom



we say what we mean and are silent when we have
nothing - to say. We are in surroundings where to
say what you mean is an offence, where silence is
not understood and looked upon askance as an
uncanny visitor. The less we have to say, the
more we make an effort to say it ; and the more we
have to say, the greater the effort to suppress it.

Everything seems unreal or unnecessary, every-
thing is dressed up.

All these people moving about, sitting still, in a
hurry, catching trains, eating long dinners, dressing
themselves, looking at each other dressed — what
does it all mean ? Was all this soing on when we
were in that other world which we have just left,
that great silent world where everything was itself
and big, and not confused by accessories ? Was
all this din and bustle goinor on? It is strange that
we should have had no inkling of it, for it seems
of so much importance to all these people, idle with
a great restlessness ; it seems essential to them.

It is hard, too, to realise that that other world
still exists out there in the distance, and that it
would be quite possible to reach it by merely riding
out on a camel. Can it indeed be true that the
same sun which lights all these moving streets, these
buyers and sellers, these catchers of trains, is lighting
the desert out there as imperturbably as it lit us,
journeying on after it day after day in the silent
places ; did it see all these people from its in-
accessible height, and, sharing its gifts equally with
them and with us, give us no hint of what it was
looking down upon? It showed then no more


favour to us than to these dwellers in towns, and
yet was it not more to us ? Were we not more
conscious of its innumerable gifts ; and did we not
receive more from it as a result of our greater appre-
ciation ? No bars of windows, no roofy outlines,
no sleepy oblivion hid the glory of its first appearance
for us. As far as its rays could range, so far, and
further, could we see. Not a pale silver thread or
wiry line of gold, or faint reflection of its glowing
colours on the opposite horizon, was lost to our
vision ; and, as we rode through the chilly morning
air, were we not conscious of every separate ray of
warmth as it grew and grew until we were bathed in
its delicious heat, and all day it served as our sole
guide, indicating direction in boundless space and
hour in limitless time. No finger-posts, no winding
up of clocks ; only this sun with its fixed and unalter-
able decrees.

The sun, then, we share, although apparently in
divers degrees. But was not the moon more for us
alone ? For they can shut it out from their lives
altogether. It, too, looked down upon this city, but
not on the noise and chaos of it. As far as it was
concerned all the bustlers were dead, buried away
in their roofed houses behind their shuttered windows.
The silence of night is the moon's heritage, and it
exercises its autocratic sway to the full ; it admits
no disturbing rush or unseemly hurry beneath its
gaze. What do they know of you, who pull down
blinds and light up the gas and dwell in curtained
rooms ? Accident may cause a benighted traveller
to look at you with a passing sense of rest, a casual


tossing sleeper may be half conscious of your charm,
the weary toiler at the end of a long day may
momentarily bless your soothing light, and in so far
as they take hold of you they make themselves akin
with us out there. But you are not a part of them,
as you are a part of us ; you do not enter into the
very heart of their existence and carry their minds
up, night after night, to the realms where you live
serene and calm, making us forget the saddle rubs,
the parching thirst, the driven sand, the fire that
would not light, the kettle that would not boil — all
the little near things, the things which matter so much
in the day, and which you remind us do not matter at
night. But here they matter so much more at night,
all shut up with us inside these confining walls — inside
these muslin curtains. The darkness and the enclosed
space make them assume exaggerated dimensions ;
all the little trivialities in the room accentuate their
importance. We see them cropping up again and again
in that blue flower on the wall paper, or running round
and round the red coils on the dado. We raise
our eyes to heaven and encounter the fixed, inane
smile of a painted lady with a wand, seated in a
wreath of flowers. We shut our eyes, determined
to forget her, but a terrible fascination makes us
peep again and again, and always that same inane
smile ; and when at last the kindly shades of night
hide it altogether in darkness, we are still conscious
of her only, smiling away there, looking at us
while we cannot see her. And all the time out-
side the steadfast moon and the stars eternally
twinkling are telling the same tale that they told out


in that other world, but we have shut them out and
will not listen to their silent teaching.

In vain the Prophet of the Desert has said :
"And we have adorned the lower heaven with
lamps and set them to pelt the devils with ... we
touched the heavens, and found them filled with a
mighty guard and shooting stars, and we did sit
in certain seats thereof to listen ; but who so of
us listens now finds a shooting star for him on

Emblems of all the oreat abiding truths have been
set up on high, where, one would have thought,
every poor, striving mortal could not fail to see
them ; vastness and distance is displayed as a rest
to those wearied with the smallness and nearness of
things ; solidity and eternity are there to comfort the
grievers over passing men and disappointed hopes ;
the kindly darkness which hides us intermittently
from our fellows is pierced with points of guiding
light. And yet we do not habitually, and as a
matter of course, accept these gifts for which no
price is asked ; we go blundering on, intensifying the
grim blackness of night by shutting ourselves up
with it, surrounded with all the small things of earth,
and this when we might forget them by reason of
their very smallness in the vast distances of the
vaulted heavens. It almost seems as though we
would deliberately wish to hide from ourselves and
each other the few simple sufficient laws of existence,
for in this as in other things we not only avoid the
truth but appear ashamed of it, and dress it up in
every possible accessory of human invention.



We dress everything up — our bodies, our minds,
our food. I look down this long table dlwle, and
what do I see? I see a crowd of people dressed up,
exchanging dressed up commonplaces, eating dressed-
up food.

I feel that nothing is real.

But this unreality is so real that I ask :

" Have, then, the unrealities, the non-essentials of
existence become the realities, and have we, emerging
from a world where only the essentials of existence
concerned us, given them an undue importance ?
Coming out of a state of primitive civilisation, are we
unable to appreciate the true meaning of our surround-
ings ? These people wear the burdens of fashion so
lightly, they talk these complicated nothings so simply,
they toil so contentedly discontented through these
endless disguised dishes : what is it behind it all that
our minds cannot grasp ? " I look again : I talk to
them and they answer me ; I eat another dressed-
up dish. Here I feel a weary heart, there I touch a
bored mind ; now one gets a flash of intellect, now a
gleam of soul, all alike so carefully wrapped up, and
yet with a longing to be out. Why this unnatural
dread of truth and simplicity ? I am getting positively
affected by it. I sit here amongst these smart people
in my travelling clothes, and I confess to a new
strange sense of discomfort in consequence. I feel
ashamed of my old clothes. Opposite to me is a lady
with a kindly face and a comfortable look about her ;
her mauve dress gives a pleasing sense of colour, but
as she moves two beaded flaps keep jumping about,
which detracts from the sense of repose suggested by


her comfortable look ; when she leans back an array
of stitched beads catches on the carved projection of
the chair, and she has to be disengaged by the waiter.
Her sleeves drooping gracefully from the elbow require
elaborate gymnastics to prevent them dipping into
her plate as she eats, and twice they caught in the
pepper-pot and overturned its contents on the floor.
But she bore it all with a pleasant apologetic smile
which called out my admiration for such a display of
schooled temper under these trying circumstances.
Then, with an unconscious transition of thought, I
found myself comparing her to the Arab woman who
brought the bowl of youart off which we supped last
night. I recalled how I envied her the dignified
carriage of her free unfettered form, the natural grace
of her untrammelled manners. I recalled the simple
graceful folds of her clinorinQ- single garment, so much
a part of herself that she was quite unconscious of it,
and I compare this lady trying to adapt herself to the
elaborate creation in which she is enthralled. Long
custom prevents her from realising how her form
and movements are rendered artificial and ungraceful.
As the Chinese lady, unconscious of her deformity in
feet, would resent or wonder at our pity for her
enslaved by the idea of a barbarous custom, so would
my neighbour resent or wonder should I feel pity for
her at this moment, equally a slave to a Western

I glanced at my battered old coat and was pervaded
with a sense of remorse at having been ashamed
of it.


Here, in the middle of this bewildering appearance
of unreality, it was telling me of so many solid facts.
How often had it not covered the aching pangs of
hunger, and the satisfied sense of that hunger
appeased ; it had felt the thumping of my heart stirred
by danger, or hastened by exhilarating motion ; it
had known the long-drawn breaths of quiet enjoyment
at a peaceful scene. That tear was made on the rocks
the day we climbed to the " written stone " at the top
of the Boulghar Mountains, and I mended it one long
quiet evening by the Euphrates. I lost this button
the night we scrambled up to the castle at Palmyra,
my little friend Maydi pulled me up a rock by it and
it broke. That burnt mark was made by Mahmet,
who dropped the live charcoal with which I was
lighting my cigarette in the shaykh's hut at Harran.
All this and more is what my coat says to me. . . .
I am no longer ashamed of it. I feel sure if the kind
lady opposite realised all this she would not regard
me as an outcast, for there is something very honest
about the coat.

But I had got no further away from the feeling of
unreality. I tried to recall what it had felt like to
live in civilisation, but all I could remember was how
difficult it had been to disentangle ourselves from it.
While we were still in it, we had not known what we
should want outside it. But, once outside, all these
difficulties had disappeared : everything at once
seemed to happen naturally ; we missed nothing of
the things we had left behind. And as it had been
difficult while we were still in it to get disentangled
from it, so now we experienced a difficulty in entering


it again — a difficulty in once more taking up and
using the things we had discarded for a time. It was
as if we had never used them, so strange did they
seem, and so little did we understand their meaning.
Entering it differed, moreover, in this way from our
entrance into the new life outside it ; once in it
nothing seemed to happen naturally. This was the
more disconcerting since civilisation was not alto-
gether a new world to us, in the sense that the other
had been. We had spent many long years in it, and
yet on returning we found it all strange and in-

We rose and left the table. Hassan joined us at
the door, and we all sat down on a red plush settee.
Waiters hurried past us with trays of coffee and
stronger drinks ; ladies in bright colours rustled about
the passage, and in the corners men in evening dress
lounged and smoked. Hassan stroked the settee
gingerly. " It is very soft," he said, "but the sand
was better." Then he looked round and paused.
11 What are all these people doing ? " he asked
irritably; "why can't they sit down and be quiet.
There is no quiet here ; the sand was better." Earlier
in the day he had been pleased with the bright colours
and the sense of movement, but now they seemed to
vex him.

"Why do they keep on looking at us? " he went on ;
"is it because you are great Pashas ? "

" No," I answered, "they have no idea that we are
^reat Pashas."

" My countrymen in the desert looked at you


because you were strangers from another country
and they had not seen women like you before ;
but these are your own countrymen : why do they
stare at you ? "

" It is because we are not dressed like them," I
said; "we have not got our beautiful clothes yet;
when these come they will no longer look at us."

" But can they not see that you are travelling ? " he
said. " The people of my country, the Valis and the
Kaimakams who prepared feasts for us, knew that
you also had beautiful clothes in your own country."

" Yes, but our travelling clothes are not quite the
same as those worn by our countrymen here," I
explained, " so they do not understand us."

" But why," persisted Hassan, " should that cause
them not to understand you ? "

" We all do alike in our country," I explained ;
" if one person wears no pockets and big sleeves, then
we all do the same."

" Who is this person then ? " said Hassan ; " he
must be a very great Pasha."

" We none of us know who he is," I said ; " in fact,
he is not any one particular person ; it is more like a
sort of jinn who spreads about an unwritten law."

Hassan looked perplexed.

"And are there no written words," he said, "to
tell you the meaning of this law ? "

" Yes," I said ; " the people in our land who have
the most money write out the meaning of the law."

" And if you do not follow the law, what then ? "

" Your fellow-creatures are rather afraid of you ;
they do not ask you to their feasts, neither do they


give you places of command, however capable you
may be."

" Is it this jinn that makes your men wear the hard
black hats and the ti^ht black clothes ? "

I nodded assent.

"And it is not only our clothes," I added; "the jinn
says we may not think differently from other people,
or if we do, we must hide it."

" Is it a sin that your country has committed that
it is thus condemned," he went on, "or is the jinn an
evil spirit under whose curse it lies?"

" We do not know," I said. " There are some of
the younger men who are trying to discover ; they do
not do as the jinn says, and so they do not live
happily amongst others ; many of them live apart,
and we call them cranks and are afraid of them."

" Are they wicked men, then ? "

II No, they are good men as a rule, but in our
country we do not understand the people who do not
do what others do."

"But if you all do the same," said Hassan, "how
can you progress ? We in the East have not changed
our customs, so we do not progress. Do you never
change then either, you in the West ? "

"We change very slowly," I answered, "because
we tend to the thought that if a thing has always
been, then it is good."

" Aman, aman," said Hassan.





Baghdad Railway I | | ) I I I






Konia to Tarsus.
Teh ay m.
Ulu Kishla.
Boulghar Maden.
Ak Kupru.
Gulek Boghaz.
A Khan.

(These stages are from 5 to 8 hours.)

Adana to Diarbekr. (18 stages.)


Missis 4 Small village with khan.

Hamidieh 4^ Cotton-mills and town.





Small Kurdish village.









Village with khan.



Small Kurdish village. No khan.






Village with khan.



Town. Ferry across Euphrates.

Abermor ...


Kurdish huts.



Kurdish huts.









Large khan.




Kaimach ...


Large khan.



Small Kurdish village.



hdad to Damascus.






No village.



Village on Euphrates.



Village on Euphrates.



Town on Euphrates.



Ruined water-mill on Euphrates.



Village on Euphrates.



Large khan on Euphrates.



Town on Euphrates.



Guard-house on Euphrates.

Gayyim ...


Guard-house on Euphrates.

Abu Kamal


Village on Euphrates.



Khan with a few Arab huts.

Micardin ...








Pools of brackish

water ...

.. 2*


8 Well of bad water.

Bir Jeddid

.. 8 Well of bad water.


9 Village with hot sulphur springs


.. 8 J Village.

Tadmor ...

6 = Palmyra.


6 Khan with bad water.


.. 16

Karietein ...
Kutayfah ...




(Camping-place half-way, where
water is found early in the





Abraham, journey of, in

Adana, 96

Aintab, 99, 102

Ak Kupru, 83

American Mission Board, 94,

Anatolia, 64

Anatolian Railway, 33, 49, 61
Arten, 277 ; engaging, 99

Babel, 252
Babylon, 246, 249
Baghdad, 237
Baghdad Railway, 46, 62
Birejik, 103
Brigands, 30, 158
Boulghar Dagh, 74
Boulghar Maden, 75
Bozanti, 83
Brusa, 21, 25, 26

Calphopolos, 24, 31, 34, 58
Chiftc Khan, 80
Constantin, 21, 22, 99

Damascus, 301
Desert, silence of, 261

Desert, Syrian, 259
Diarbekr, 141

Eregli, 70
Eskishehr, 49, 51, 52
Euphrates, 103, 251

Ferid Pasha, 58

Goufa, 263
Gulek Boghaz, 87

Hamidieh Cotton Mills, 99
Hamidieh Kurds, 121, 178;

Irregular Troops, 154, 162
Harran, in, 286
Hassan, meeting with, 51 ;

character of, 286 ; parting

with, 300
Hittitc inscriptions, 71, 79

Ibrahim, 24, 58
Ibrahim Pasha, 121, 155
Isnik, 37, 40
Ivriz, 71

Jenishehr, 35



Kalek, 167

Samarah, 126, 229

Karahissar, 57

Severek, 123

Karaman, 66

Silence of the Desert, 261

Kerbela, 246, 248

Sun, Temple of the, 269

Khorsabad, 195

Sun-god, 246

Konia, 58, 61

Syrian Desert, 257

Koyunjik, 195

Kurdish brigands, 158 ;


Tadmor, 268, 273

ding, 101 ; women.

101 ;

Tarsus, 94

village, 105

Taurus Mountains, 72
Tekreet, 225

Mekidje, 33, 49

Temple of the Sun, 269

Mesopotamia, 123

Tigris, 142

Mosul, 194

Turkish wedding, 55

Muavin, 59

Ulu Kishla, 74

Niosa, 33, 38

Ur of the Chaldees, no, i

Nineveh, 196

Urfa, 106

Palmyra, 269 ; approach to,
271 ; history of, 273 ; decay
of, 274

Persian Gulf, 271

Raft, our, 142, 144 ; manu-
facture of, 199 ; end of, 239

Vali, of Adana, 96 ; of Urfa,

Wedding, Kurdish, 101 ; Turk-
ish, 55

Zenobia, 274

"Cbe Orcsbam press,


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Online LibraryLouisa (Jebb) Mrs. Roland Wilkins. WilkinsBy desert ways to Baghdad → online text (page 18 of 18)