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100 Years Ago: May 1923

This is the one-hundredth entry in my ongoing series of reviews of National Geographic Magazines on the centennial of their publication.



The first article listed on the cover of this month’s issue is entitled “At the Tomb of Tutankhamen” and was written by Maynard Owen Williams, Staff Correspondent of the National Geographic Magazine, and author of “Through the Heart of Hindustan,” “Syria: the Land Link of History’s Chain,” “Adventures with a Camera in Many Lands,” etc. in the National Geographic Magazine.  The article has the internal subtitle, “An Account of the Opening of the Royal Egyptian Sepulcher Which Contained the Most Remarkable Funeral Treasure Unearthed in Historic Times.”  It contains thirty-seven black-and-white photographs, of which ten are full-page in size.  The article also contains a sketch map of the region of Egypt around Thebes with an inset of the Tomb of the Kings (East Valley) on page 467.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

Probably no greater graveyard occupied so unusual a site as the Tomb of the Egyptian Kings at Thebes.  Across the Nile from the Temple of Karnak the western skyline was broken by rough limestone cliffs whose color varied from hour to hour.  The monotony of rich fields so familiar in the flat delta of Lower Egypt there gave way to the barren waste where tomb robbers and scientists had sought so long the hiding places of the Pharaohs.  Ten thousand tourists had tramped above the spot where the latest find had just been made [in 1922].  A pile of empty water bottles, just across the narrow road, marked the spot where Theodore M. Davis and Arthur Weigall, after discovering the tomb of Queen Tiyi, stopped work.  [See: “American Discoveries in Egypt” December 1907; “Reconstructing Egypt’s History,” “The Resurrection of Ancient Egypt,” and “The Sacred Ibis Cemetery and Jackal Catacombs at Abydos” September 1913 in the National Geographic Magazine.]  Almost in a straight line beyond was the tomb of Horemheb, successor to Tutankhamen.  The American excavator, Mr. Davis, “bracketed” the tomb which held the center of the stage in 1923.  Tutankhamen was the king who came back to the fold of Ammon, god of Thebes, and reestablished the royal residence there, after his father-in-law, Akhenaton IV moved his capital to Tell-el-Amarna.  In gratitude for that return King Tutankhamen was sent out on his journey through the underworld equipped with such funeral vessels and mortuary implements as had never before been discovered.  It was unlikely that the comparatively small tomb itself would have more than a passing interest; but the rich store of rare and valuable funeral furniture with which the hiding place of Tutankhamen was packed contained such wonders from the distant past as had never been seen by modern man.

On February 17, 1923, the author arrived in Luxor, crossed the river, and set out on foot for the Tomb of the Kings.  It was nearly eleven years since he last visited them.  This time he did not hasten toward his goal.  He wanted to take his time and soak in his surroundings.  The morning freshness was still in the air.  Gangs of prisoners were grading and watering the road which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of Belgium would use on the morrow, when she came to pay the first royal visit to Tutankhamen in more than thirty centuries.  But the author did not keep to the winding way, made smooth for automobiles.  Beyond green fields, he saw the Colossi of Memnon and he made for them.  He wanted to pass the many lesser gaping tomb-mouths before he finally came to the royal tombs behind the limestone ridge.  As he passed through a mud-walled village, a girl of ten or so stopped stripping sugar cane with her teeth to wish that his day be blessed and to offer to share her store.  Across the narrow opening of the street an inky form glided by with a water-jar upon her head.  A turtledove sat on the wall and cooed.  A child leaped into a square of light then faded away into the shadow.  Lying prone in the thick dust of the road, a dog diverted the traffic of the day.  Mr. Williams stopped for lunch at the rest-house near the temple, which was built by Hatshepsut, the sister, wife, and queen of Thothmes II.  In the valley a sting of tip-cars was dumping rubbish down a steep slope.  On the side of the wall which formed a thin partition between that ravine and the amphitheater of the Kings’ Tombs hundreds of men and boys were working for the Metropolitan Museum of New York.  They stopped to eat their meager lunches amid the piles of dirt where they had toiled.  In the courtyard of the rest-house a clever sleight-of-hand artist worked his magic and astonished his spectators.

The noonday sun was hot and getting hotter. The author shouldered his heavy camera and started up the steep path.  He felt that one should approach that hell-hole in the hills where the greatest Pharaohs hid themselves and where not more than two or three still lied undisturbed by modern man.  As he passed the tomb of Seth I and turned toward the lower entrance of the valley, he saw below him a small white tent, a wooden shelter for the armed guard, the clutter of lumber which archeologist used, and the new wall of irregular stones which hid the entrance to Tutankhamen’s mausoleum.  Two correspondents sat there and another roamed about waiting for news.  A press photographer was there, wearing a tarboosh to render himself less conspicuous among Muslim crowds.  Those were the men who were trying to give the news of this great discovery to the world.  That superheated graveyard, which was to become a picnic ground and levee for royalty on the morrow, was a silent place.  The correspondents spoke in whispers.  One of the bosses quietly called two white-robed natives, who removed the curtain and wooden hatch-work which closed the outer portal and carried two limp boards down into the shadowy depths.  Conjecture at once began.  It was late when the author left, and the third correspondent rode beside him as he walked.  The other two men and the photographer hung there hoping that some secret would yet be revealed that day.  After dinner, he sat in the lobby of the big tourist hotel at Luxor and watched the serio-comedy of the eve of the official opening.  Gaiety was combined with a tenseness that was evident to all.  The tenseness was not all on the side of the reporters; for they had beaten even the diggers in telling the world that the wall into the inner chamber had been pierced the day before and the hoped-for sarcophagus had been seen.  Now and then, someone went to speak to Lord Carnarvon and his charming daughter.

Early Sunday morning, Mr. Williams rode out to the scene of the official opening.  There were only a few visitors as of yet, but the stage was set for the big event of the day.  To the left was the tomb of Rameses IX, in whose shady corridor the Sultana and the Egyptian officials would later await the coming of the Belgian Queen.  Just beyond, a steep stairway led to the unimportant tomb to which the mummy of the heretic king Akhenaton, whom Manetho refused to mention, was brought from Tell-el-Amarna.  His tomb was being used as a darkroom for the official photographer.  Overhanging the new entrance was the tomb of Rameses VI, one of those weak rulers of the XXth dynasty under whom the priests of Ammon seized an increasing amount of temporal power.  As the day grew hot, small companies of visitors arrived; but the crowd could never have numbered more than 200.  About noon there arrived a squad of camels laden with food and drink for the distinguished guests.  None of that feast was eaten by the guests, for the train which brought Her Majesty and Lord and Lady Allenby to Luxor was so late that lunching out in the graveyard of royalty was not to be thought of.  Those who came early had already eaten their lunches in the tunnel leading to the tomb of Amenmesse.  The age-old walls of stone echoed to the rattle of the portable typewriter operated by a press association man.  Then came Lord Allenby in his motorcar, to wait near the barrier to welcome the Queen.  A motor rolled up; a white-clad figure alighted; there were numerous introductions, and the Queen, with Mr. Carter leading the way, with Lord Carnarvon on her left and with Lord Carnarvon’s daughter just behind, went down the incline that led to the tomb’s mouth.  Within a moment Her Majesty had entered the shadowy portal behind which Tutankhamen silently awaited her coming.  Lord Allenby came out about a half hour later with dust on his back.  The sarcophagus filled the inner chamber so tightly that he brushed the wall to get by the corner.

On Monday, the day after the official opening, the author entered the tomb, together with the first small group of correspondents.  There were those among them who were able to understand much from what we observed; but the author’s study of Egyptian treasures had been made hurriedly more than ten years before.  This is what he saw:  Steep steps led down to an incline which ended at a new iron gate, beyond which there was a strong light.  Several of the tombs had been lighted for the convenience of visitors.  Just behind the light, which was shielded by a rough board, there was a nearly life-size figures of the king, guarding the tomb, a mace in one hand and a staff in the other.  Its twin was on the other side of the door.  Facing each other across the space to which they were supposed to form a barrier, those statues had a far-away look.  Between those two statues was the entrance to the inner chamber, blocked by new timber, so that one could not pass into the chamber itself.  The distance between the huge sarcophagus and the rough walls was so small that one would have to pass with care.  New boards separated from the sarcophagus by soft buffers protected this corner of the huge case in which it was hoped Tutankhamen reposed.  Words could not give any impression of the decorations of that great box, which only one corner could be seen.  The structure appeared to be wood, covered with gold leaf or thicker gold, and had across it a fine frieze of lapis lazuli or faience enamel.  It appeared to be about nine feet high and eighteen to twenty feet long.  Its breath could only be judged by the size of the chamber, but might have been eleven feet.  On the right-hand wall of the inner chamber was a brightly colored mural decoration.

The chamber in which they stood was disappointing.  The great mass of treasure which had packed that chamber had been removed, leaving it almost bare.  At the right were the two guardian statues, and at the left were a few treasures including two alabaster vases.  Near the lower left corner of the back wall, a small barrier of thin boards shut off all view of the chamber beyond, which rumor said was filled to the roof with funeral offerings.  Mr. Williams reluctantly departed and he went out into the blinding sunlight.  Later he visited the tomb of Amenophis II, who ruled only about 70 years before Tutankhamen’s seven years of power.  The sad faced mummy had been flooded by electric lights for many years.  Perhaps that was what Tutankhamen had ahead of him.  The author had lunch in the Western Valley where there was a score of little hollows surrounded by round columns of shale.  Carrying a candle, he followed his guide into the dark depths of the tomb of Amenophis III.  The floors were cluttered with sharp stones.  Many of the mural decorations had been chipped away by vandals.  The top of the violated sarcophagus lied broken in its sanctuary.  As they passed through the last doorway, something brushed the author’s face, and he turned to find a solid mass of bats clinging to the wall.  The candlelight got them squeaking.  He stepped aside into the empty chamber, with its broken floor and ruined walls; and he blew out his candle so that he could stay for a moment in the dark and feel, rather than see, what a tomb was like.  The bats had stopped their squeaking.  There was not a sound in that formless chamber crowded with darkness.  He stayed for a minute or two.  His guide might as well had been a mile away.  He seemed alone there in that massive mausoleum of the hills.

Back he rode toward Luxor.  The ghaffirs, who yesterday stood so straight when the Queen went by, now squatted in the dust.  The camels, who were so picturesque, were no longer to be seen.  A train of sugar cane whistled its departure for Armant; and the very girl who two days ago who offered to share her sugar cane now came out begging.  Up the Nile there swept an ugly hull with butterfly sails of purest white.  The shrubbery across the water, a vivid mass of purple against the yellow walls of the big hotel contrasted with the dusty colonnades of the Temple of Luxor across the river.  As he came to the boat landing, the author could smell the coffee which the donkey-drivers were making.  They crossed the Nile in a slanting fashion and came in the glory of late afternoon to the gray bund of Luxor, alive with tourist from the big hotels and from the three steamers which had just arrived.  He stepped into a shop to leave his film and overheard a woman hoping to get a pass to see the mummy.  But the mummy of Tutankhamen, if it be waiting there, staring with sightless eyes at the lid which would soon be removed, had not yet been released from the bondage of the tomb to which he was carried by his friends for the preservation of the body and for protection from the world.


At the bottom of the last page of the first article is an announcement that a more detailed account of the findings by Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Howard Carter, together with an article on the Tombs of Ancient Egypt, with especial reference to the Tutankhamen relics, by Rev. James Baikie, would appear in an early number of The Geographic.  Dr. Baikie is the author of the articles “The Sea-Kings of Crete” January 1912, “The Resurrection of Ancient Egypt” September 1913, and “The Cradle of Civilization” February 1916, in The Geographic.


The second item listed on the cover of this month’s issue is entitled “Egypt, Past and Present” and has no byline.  It is not an article, but a set of “16 Full-Page Illustrations in Duotone”.  These duotones, formerly called photogravures, are made using acid-etched metal plates to transfer a special ink to the paper.  The ink in this batch of photo-engravings is just a little off-black.  Some of these photos are referenced in the first article, and one of the images references the map in the article.

A list of the caption titles to these sixteen duotones is as follows:

  • “One of the Life-Size Statues of King Tutankhamen Guarding the Doorway of His Sepulchral Sanctuary”
  • “The Scene of Excavation Operations in the East Valley of the Tombs of the Kings”
  • “The Portrait Statues of Rameses II at Luxor”
  • “The Four Colossi of Rameses II Before the Great Temple of Abu Simbel”
  • “Portion of the Sculptured Wall of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos”
  • “The Central Aisle of the Great Hypostyle Hall of the Temple at Karnak”
  • “The Great Sphinx at Gizeh, Monarch of the Desert”
  • “Revealing the Splendors of Ancient Thebes at Deir-el-Bahri (See Map, Page 467)”
  • “The Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahri”
  • “The Temple of Kom Ombo, on the Road Between Edfu and Assuan (Aswan)”
  • “Young Egypt has a Well-Developed sweet Tooth”
  • “The Head of One of the Typhonic Animals of the Royal Couch Found in the First Chamber of Tutankhamen’s Tomb”
  • ‘One of the Great Pylons of the Temple to Isis on the Island of Phile”
  • “The Secret of the Inner Chamber of the Tomb of Tutankhamen Revealed”
  • “Treasure-Finders: Egyptian Donkey Drivers Who are Reaping a Harvest from the Tourists Who Visit Tutankhamen’s Tomb”
  • “Egyptian Minstrels Playing by the Roadside for Passing Tourists”



The second article in this month’s issue is entitled “East of Constantinople” and was written by Melville Chater, author of “The Land of Stalking Death” in the National Geographic Magazine.  It has the internal subtitle, “Glimpses of Village Life in Anatolia, the Battleground of East and West, Where Turks Reorganized Their Forces After the World War.”  The article contains twenty-six black-and-white photographs, seven of which are full-page in size.  It also contains an almost full-page sketch map of the Near East, showing Egypt, Anatolia, and the three Arab Kingdoms of Hedjaz, Transjordan, and Iraq, with an inset of the Holy Lands, on Page 534.  The map references all three articles in this issue.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

The author and his party took a 400-mile trip into the interior of Anatolia.  After steaming two days up the Black Sea, they anchored under Samsun’s smiling hills and were ferried ashore in one of the sheep-lighters.  Their baggage, together with tins of gasoline and lubricating oil, came through customs after stiff payments.  They applied for their travel permits, then went for a stroll in the town.  Though rather battered and insignificant at first sight, Samsun still boasted a commercial importance, well established since ancient times.  It was the receiving post for the camel-trains which were constantly moving northward or southward the 500 miles of naked country lying between the Black Sea and the Euphrates.  Camels, donkeys, oxen, as well as representatives of half a dozen Anatolian peoples, thronged its cobbled ways.  Among other things, Samsun contained an American hospital, a Turkish swamp, and much malaria.  Next day they loaded a motor-truck with their equipment and set out over Samsun’s memorably muddy hills.  While the land still showed patches of green tobacco, most of the crop had been gathered, and every wayside cottage wall was garlanded with strings of brown leaves, drying in the sun.  In 1913 the Black Sea coast of Anatolia had 30,000 tobacco planters, with farms averaging more than an acre, and an output of 15,000 tons.  Of that, one-third was from Samsun.  Two-thirds of Samsun’s annual crop went into American cigarettes.  They passed the tobacco belt and climbed the first of the three mountain ridges which laid between them and Merzivan, 70 miles distant.  Magnificent, though treeless, valleys, the domain of soaring eagles, dropped from their road’s brink.  Upon them pressed a tidal wave of white fleece, 1,000 head of splendid Anatolian sheep, bringing their car to a standstill.

Mile by mile the ascending track revealed some tiny, minaret-circling village; some lonely, cypress-shaded graveyard; some awkward squad of Kemalists at drill; and a continuous stream of bullock and donkey trains bearing produce toward Samsun.  The author’s party slid down into a treeless plain which displayed Anatolia’s peculiar road system, to wit, the ancient, execrable highway, empty of vehicles and paralleled on each side by wheel-ruts in the soft soil.  At one of the wayside heaps of stone, which they passed from time to time, an old Turk descended from his cart, tossed a pebble on top of the pile, then resumed his way.  The author was told it was to ward off evil spirits, who were given to laming horses.  Then came the Anatolian fast freight!  It was a string of 100 grain-ladened camels stalking through that locomotive-less land.  The author took a snapshot of the train as it passed.  In passing through the village of Kavak, they glimpsed a blanched ox-skull nailed on a tree-trunk in an orchard.  The skull constituted the Turkish proprietor’s charm against the Evil Eye.  From time to time, they were solicited for lifts, and once, the author’s friend had to push a too-insistent Turk off the running-board.  Twenty-five miles farther on they dropped down into the vast, mountain-ringed plain of Merzivan, with the vineyard-encircled city slowly looming up against the west.  It was sunset when they entered the narrow, mud-walled streets.  Fifteen minutes later they were floundering about in the darkness in search of their friends at the American Mission.  Public lighting and public amusement did not exist in Anatolian towns.  Streets that were crowded during the day were deserted at night.  Early next morning they were off again.  Crossing the plain, they entered a rocky defile and climbed the mountains toward Amasia.  The poplar-bordered Tersakan Su kept them company, its banks dotted with mud-walled farmhouses, its waters tapped by irrigation ditches.

Then abruptly the road swerved and they came upon Amasia – a terraced, cliff-girt town, sentineled by naked crags whose heights displayed the remains of Persian and Roman walls, the citadel of Mithradates, and the tombs of the Pontic Kings.  It was a sudden contrast.  For 100 miles they had traveled a country so scant of people and landmarks that it had seemed devoid of history; and now, in those sheer crags, they beheld the monuments of half a dozen successive empires.  Asia Minor, with its lack of navigable rivers and its obstructive mountain ridges, had, instead of a commercial history, one of incessant warfare.  It was the battleground where East and West had timelessly waged their struggle for supremacy.  Boghaz Keui spoke of that long-vanished empire of the Mongol Hittites, which succumbed to an Aryan influx of Phrygians.  The later were engulfed by northern tribes, the Cimmerians, whose name still lingered in the mythology of their conquerors, the early Greeks.  The East’s turn came again in the Persian’s 200-year domination.  Then the western wave rolled in afresh with Alexander the Great’s conquests, and still later, with the establishment of Anatolia as a Roman province.  Once again, the Asiatic hordes swept in – the Seljuks, the Mongols, the Tatars, the Ottoman Turks, overthrowing one another’s brief empires.  That by 1914 the West was once more becoming dominant in Asia Minor was shown by the long lines of German military trucks, which still lied abandoned on Anatolian roads [in 1923].  And only recently Greek and Turk were warring on the same soil where millenniums ago Greek and Trojan strove at Ilium.  That cinema-like fade-out or warring hosts and brief, successive empires – such was the story of Anatolia, the battleground of East and West.

 Beyond Amasia they skited the low-banked Yeshil Irmak, where slowly revolving water-wheels dumped their filled buckets into the irrigation ditches of abutting farms.  Along the valley, ten miles apart, laid prosperous villages – prosperous in the Anatolian sense – each consisting of a dozen two-storied mud houses where families lived in the attic and their farm animals in the parlor.  Peppers and Squash were dried on the flat mud roofs, and sometimes grass grew on them.  Every well-regulated home in Anatolia contained a small stone roller wherewith the proprietor rolled his roof to keep the weeds down.  Field after field displayed the same sight – black earth gridironed with irrigation ditches, awaiting the spring rains.  To jog along for ten hours over a monotonously treeless plain, then suddenly spy some white town tucked in a crease of the valley, its minarets lifting from among green meadow and luxuriant poplar groves – such was typical of travel in wide Anatolia, with its unexpected oases of charm.  It was thus that they sighted Tokat; then sped all too quickly through its orchard-girdled streets.  Then for another 70 miles they forged ahead, climbing up a range of mountains and coasting down into the valley where laid Sivas.  Before they gained the mountain summit, the author heard the weirdest sound wafting and seemingly from miles away.  Upon reaching the mountain top he saw that it was oxcarts, a half-mile stretch of them, proceeding across the plain.  The sound grew deafening as they overtook them.  The noise was produced by the solid wooden wheels grinding upon the ungreased wooden axles.  There were 135 carts and every driver laid curled up and sound asleep on a pile of grain sacks, over which was carefully thrown a rug.  The “Anatolian symphony,” as it might well have been called, died away behind them, and half an hour later they sighted the citadel mound and the Seljuk mosques of Sivas.

Ever since one of the later Armenian kings retreated before the westward sweep of the Seljuk Turks by bartering his province for Sivas, the city had been preponderantly Armenian in population, a refuge for that Christian people fleeing from the Moslem terror.  Nine hundred years had passed, yet in 1923 Sivas was still a refuge, sought by those Armenian girls who had escaped from the Moslem harems into which they were forced during the war.  Mr. Chater visited a rescue home founded for such girls and witnessed a curious pantomime on the theme of polygamy.  Though the Seljuk emperors of Rum – that is, Anatolia – had been dust for seven centuries, their glory still lived in those magnificent mosques and mosque-colleges which were found in half a dozen Anatolian towns, and in the vast crumbling khans which dotted the surrounding plains.  Not to the Ottoman Turks, but to their predecessors, the Seljuks, must one turn for a glimpse of Islam’s early glories.  Of all the world’s great monuments, the Seljuk mosques were, in 1923, perhaps, the most neglected and forlorn.  One of them had become a grain depot, another a shelter for beggars, a third a prison.  Who were those master-builders of Islam?  Early in the eleventh century the Seljuk Turks migrated westward through Bokhara to Bagdad, embraced Mohammedanism, and within 40 years had founded an empire stretching from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean.  After only 70 years’ duration, their empire was engulfed in the tidal wave of Mongolian invasion.  During that brief span the splendid sultans of Rum gathered at their Anatolian court the flower of Persian and Arabian genius – architects, poets, scholars, and mystics alike fleeing before the savage Mongol – and fathered a brief renaissance of Moslem art.  It was during the reign of a single sultan that the most beautiful of the Seljuk mosques appeared – Ala-ud-din Kaikobad I, at whose command majestic piles sprang out of the plain.

Their route from Sivas to Kaisariye laid over the mountains and across 125 miles of plain which yielded many glimpses of Seljuk remains intermingled with Turkish peasant life.  Along the excellent highroad, and placed at distances of a day’s march between, rose those crumbling masses of masonry, the Seljuk khans, erected by Ala-un-din Kaikobad – a veritable chain of hotels under one royal management, intended to accommodate traveling embassies, personages of the reigning house, and the sultan’s own caravans.  They stopped long enough to dispatch some hard-boiled eggs in the shadow of a cavernous ruin set amid the scorching plain.  It was high noon.  Two draft buffalo were wallowing in the Kizil Irmak as the author’s party skirted the stream, while on the plain knelt a solitary teamster, facing toward Mecca with his prayer.  At the next village, where a fire was raging, their passage was delayed while the local priest cut a lamb’s throat in mid-road, scattering the blood up and down – a rite which was supposed to prevent the flames from crossing.  Animal sacrifice was still common in Anatolia.  Tree-worship, also, persisted in a modified form, and during that day they passed more than one low tree, standing solitary in the plain, aflutter with strips of travelers’ garments hung thereon as votive offerings.  The ziyaret, or holy place, was usually a tree-crowned hillock near running water.  It was charming, but was it Islam?  Decidedly, the Anatolian peasant’s religion was streaked with primitive paganism.  After four more hours of travel, throughout which the snowy pear of Mt. Argaeus beckoned from across the plain, they reached Kaisariye and skirted the mountain’s base to the vineyard-terraced town of Talas.  They were greeted warmly by the American relief unit there.  The unit was even happier to see the large tin of “axle grease;” and they had paid $50,000 for it.

Just as Sivas had long been an Armenian center, so Kaisariye had been predominantly Greek.  Greek vineyards still clothed the flanks of Mt. Argaeus and Greek donkey-trains still transported gum Arabic across the mountains to Kaisariye.  As a shopkeeper, the Greek so excelled the Turk that the latter, by boycott and terrorism, had driven his rival from the bazaar.  More than any other Anatolian town, Kaisariye breathed of an olden distinction as a trade center and the seat of kings.  Under the shadow of its Seljuk mosques and Seljuk castle walls, the big bazaar hummed with the babel of half a dozen tongues.  Persian, Jewish, and Syrian merchants discussed prices and politics, as from the backs of their kneeling camels tumbled bales of Bokhara rugs and Damascus silks.  Next to an American stock exchange, the bazaar was the greatest talkfest in the world.  And it was distinctly a man’s talkfest.  No woman’s voice was heard and but few women were to be seen.  The husband made the household marketing his own particular affair.  The suppressed wife had her revenge whenever she went forth to draw water.  The Turkish husband said, “I heard it at the bazaar” and his wife said “I heard it at the public fountain.”  Kaisariya’s long succession of kings and conquerors extended far back of Seljuks and Romans into the mists of 2000 B. C., when the Hittites ruled.  Lying on a direct line between Boghaz Keui and Djerablus, the excavated strongholds of the Hittite empire, Kaiseriye’s plain, with its towering tumuli, might one day yield further knowledge of those early people.  Occasionally, a foundation-digger turned up a Hittite clay tablet which he sold to some dealer in the bazaar.  One of those clay tablets caused trouble when the author was leaving the country.  Military regulations stated that no written documents could be taken out of Anatolia.  The author objected, “But it’s two thousand years old!”  But they were adamant.  The author had to see the commandant who inspected the tablet to make sure it was not some secret Greek code and let the author off with a warning.

Upon their arrival at Kaisariye they had been politely requested by the military governor to lodge their travel permits with him.  When they were ready to leave, they were informed that the documents had been mislaid, and that they must prolong their stay.  They discovered that their permits were not lost, but military orders had just been received forbidding foreigners from traveling in any part of Anatolia.  It was suggested by a clerk that they write an appeal to Angora.  They sought out a public scribe in the bazaar.  Over tea, the scribe penned a diplomatically framed appeal to Angora.  A fortnight went by without any response.  It was easier, it seemed, to get into Anatolia than to get out again.  Just when they had given up hope, a general had his car break down there while enroute to the Black Sea.  Since they were the only reliable mechanics in town, they figured that they would fix his car, or, if it was irreparable, to offer to chauffeur him in their truck.  Next day the Pasha’s car was towed into their garage.  That night, after several attempts to revive it, the car was pronounced dead.  The melancholy news was conveyed to the Pasha; whereupon, as theirs was the only other car in town, he accepted their proposal.  Permissionless, but not without protection, they set out for the seaboard.  All permit-examining sentries were disposed of by the Pasha, who roared his august name at them as they sped past.  Three days later they were out of the Kemalist and were steaming Europeward across the Black Sea.



The third and final article in this month’s issue is entitled “A Visit to Three Arab Kingdoms” and was written by Junius B. Wood, author of “Yap and Other Pacific Islands under Japanese Mandate” and “The Far Eastern Republic,” in the National Geographic Magazine.  The article has the internal subtitle: “Transjordania, Iraq, and the Hedjaz Present Many Problems to European Powers.”  It contains thirty black-and-white photographs, of which eleven are full-page in size.

Transjordania [sic] was a new country – a mere fleck of desert and trouble on the world map.  It was so new that few people more than 500 miles from its borders knew where or what the kingdom was.  The Versailles pastry-makers, like many cooks, had some dough left over after the world molds were filled and that was one of the odd cookies.  Theoretically, it was an independent Arab kingdom.  Actually, it belonged in Britain’s pantry.  The Arabs could call it theirs, but they must not nibble on it or permit any other nation to do so.  It had been rechristened both Transjordania and Kerak, the former to give Western ears an inkling of its location, and the latter to soothe Mohammedan tastes.  The kingdom served a purpose.  Lying just east of the Jordan River, only a few miles from Jerusalem, it was a buffer between the British mandate in Palestine and the Arabs of the desert, and at the same time an irritant to the French mandate in Syria.  It was molded with the confidence of enduring for ages (see map, page 534).  Amman was the capital of the new kingdom.  It had been a capital for ages.  The Ammonites, descendants of Lot, called it Rabbath Ammon when they ruled there.  Centuries later that city was the capital of one of the Greek republics of Decapolis; Ptolemy Philadelphus built an acropolis and renamed the place Philadelphia.  The Romans and Crusaders came and it was one of their capitals.  Others followed, until, in 1923, it had new rulers.  Amman resembled Bisbee, Arizona – a creek in the valley with houses, shops, and footpaths struggling up the hillsides.  The main street wound around the base of the big hill which once was crowned by a massive Greek citadel; in 1923 it was a pile of ruined walls, fallen columns, and broken facades.  In the center of town, near the mosque, itself a ruin of the past, was the proscenium and arch of the later Roman theater.  Farther along, the road curved across the stone bridge, past the broken stone benches of the old Roman amphitheater and disappeared into the solitude of the desert.

Emir Abdullah Ibn Hussein was the nominal ruler of Transjordania.  His court was the same as that of his forefathers – a cluster of tents in the desert, which he moved with the seasons.  By automobile it was only five hours from Jerusalem to Amman, but it was a change from the West to the East, and there were not many travelers on the road.  Visitors were not generally welcomed in Transjordania.  It was the threshold of Arabia, and once across its borders the law and authority of Europe were of the flimsiest.  An automobile could coast almost the entire distance from Jerusalem, along the steep hillsides, down into the valley of the Jordan.  There was a glimpse of the Dead Sea on the right, and the road turned straight across the valley, 1,200 feet below sea level, to Jericho.  The farther end of the iron bridge across the Jordan was barricaded and a guard of soldiers stopped and inspected the car.  From the river the road climbed out of the broiling valley to the higher fertile plain.  In winter Abdullah moved his tents and royal court there, near the Jordan.  To hold his people, he played the role of the desert Arab.  Caravans of camels, sniffing in alarm at the automobile, jogged along the road.  One train stampeded wildly, the drivers hanging on the running-board of the machine during a frantic pursuit around curves and over dry creek beds to overtake the terrified leader.  Every man carried a long, black-barreled rifle on his back – camel-drivers, peasants working the fields, and even boys tending goats in the hills.  Transjordania was of the desert, where everybody was his own policeman.  Workmen were leisurely clearing away the rubbish from the Roman amphitheater.  Similar excavations would be made in the even larger ruins of Meshetta, a few miles from Amman.  Other workmen were widening the streets and building roads in the country.

Amman was a station on the Hedjaz Railroad, much used between Damascus and the south.  However, the country had few funds for internal improvements, and the eternal conflict with the desert was hopeless.  Its area was only 16,000 square miles, with a population of 400,000, exclusive of nomads.  The annual budget amounted to $1,040,000 against a revenue of $500,000.  Great Britain made up the difference, one of the many donations toward maintaining an Arab policy.  Transjordania was a haven for exiles and fugitives from all nearby territories.  Amman and the larger city of El-Salt were full of men who had cheated the already-overcrowded French prisons.  Some secured passports and continued into Palestine and Egypt, others were given government appointments and remained in the desert kingdom.  That was a fertile country and Abdullah, himself a strange mixture of desert and city, might make it prosper.  The flag of many colors, which flew in the Arab kingdoms, but was seldom unfurled in the mandate territories, was a symbol of unity of creeds in the new nationalism.  It was called the flag of a united Syria.  The same flag, with slight variation, flew in Transjordania, Hedjaz, and Mesopotamia.  The three countries were ruled by Sherifian Arabs, backed by Great Britain.  Hussein Ibn Ali, the aged king of Hedjaz, a direct descendant of Hassan, eldest son of Fatima, favorite daughter of Mohammed, was the sheriff, or guardian, of Mecca and Medina, the most holy cities in the Arab world.  Feisal, the third son of King Hussein and picturesque leader of Arab forces with the Allies during the war, was appointed king of Mesopotamia, or Iraq, after the French army ousted him as ruler of Syria.  Abdullah, prince of Transjordania, was the second son.  Both had common ties of race and religion with their subjects, but both were to a large extent strangers in a strange land.  Feisal showed a religious tolerance which was unusual for those countries of many beliefs.

When the Turks exercised suzerainty over those lands, the Arabs schemed against them, though not with the same enthusiasm which they now [in 1923] showed against their more tolerant European rulers.  Few Arab tribes recognized the Sultan of Turkey as the Caliph, or supreme ruler of the Mohammedan Church.  King Hussein, Serif of Mecca, might have logically held that high office.  However, temporal power also seemed necessary, and even with the assistance of his two sons, both of whom depended on British support to maintain their positions in their countries, King Hussein did not have the necessary fighting strength.  King Hussein’s standing in the Mohammedan religious world was one reason the British diplomats picked the rulers for the richest lands of Arabia from one family.  Nobody could appreciate a hotel until he had experience with those Mesopotamian villages along the Euphrates.  The traveler arrived permeated with dust from head to toe.  The hotel was a compound, a rectangular one-story building with a flat roof, surrounding a courtyard.  Everything, except mosquitoes and flies, entered through one gate.  A boy bought a pail of water, the stranger got out his towel and soup, and, with the boy pouring water over his hands and head, the stranger recalled distant memories of “every room with a bath.”  Soon the villagers arrived, some to look and ask questions, others to sell flat bread, milk, live chickens, or kicking sheep.  Meals were strictly buffet-luncheon style.  There were no knives and forks.  Using hand only, a roast sheep was picked to the bone.  Before dark the courtyard was filled with braying mules and creaking carts.  Some travelers slept on the bare, flat roof, spreading out their blankets as soon as the sun dropped.  After dark the breeze became chilly and increased to a gale.  At one of those hotels the proprietor was both deaf and blind, with a patriarchal beard and a voice fitted either for calling trains or grand opera.

During the afternoon the men of Deir ez Zor sat in the shade, below the coffee-house, on the banks of the Euphrates, and watched the steady stream of women, heavy pigskins full of water strapped to their heads, clambering up its steep embankment and disappearing down the narrow, dusty streets of the town.  An island was in midstream, covered with walled gardens and surrounded by irrigation pumps – an endless line of buckets on an immense wooden cog-wheel and a blindfolded ox or mule walking in a little circle, just like in Egypt.  On the other side of the island was a rickety pontoon bridge.  Beyond that the desert started.  Clouds of dust-like smoke from a burning sugar plantation covered the desert.  One day by automobile through nature’s sandblast, and the Tigris at Mosul, the center of the Mesopotamia and southern Kurdistan oil fields, was reached.  Four or five hours more to Kalaat Shergat and a bi-weekly train to Bagdad.  Map showed the Berlin-Bagdad Railroad as a continuous curving line, but anyone who tried to follow it found dangerous gaps in the actual road – gaps which, now that the country had been divided among Britain, France, Turkey, Arabs, and Kurds, might never be closed.  Mosul was one of the surface-markers on that underground stratum of oil which stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.  The statesmen, busy with their academic mapmaking, penciled the northern boundaries of Mesopotamia to include the Mosul oil fields.  Naturally, the Turks were not consulted about the new boundary, and said so at Lausanne.  The Turks contended that the Mosul fields did not belong to either Syria or Mesopotamia.  Least of all were the Kurds consulted.  Ethnographic maps showed that the oil fields, except for a scattering of Chaldaeans around Mosul city, was solidly settled by Kurds.  In the past the Turks held only the loosest control over those fierce fighters.  When the new rulers came, the Kurds fought back.  For the integrity of that new Mesopotamia, the British air force was used against them.

The desert tribes between Deir ez Zor and Mosul were neither hostile nor friendly.  They did not murder or rob travelers, but merely levied a head tax of $5.  French authorities said they had no right to do it.  However, three separate sheiks collected that local octroi, or likin, for passage across their stretch of desert.  Another route to Bagdad roughly followed the west bank of the Euphrates.  Between Deir ez Zor and Abulkemal were the ruins of Salahiya.  Compared to the gigantic remains of Babylon, Nineveh, Palmyra, Ctesiophon, and others scattered through that same valley of two rivers, those ruins were small and insignificant, but wind and war recently uncovered one of the interior courts there, and on the walls the heroic-sized figures still were visible.  For eight miles beyond Abulkemal, “No Man’s Land” stretched without a settled boundary between British Mesopotamia and French Syria.  It was peopled, according to wild rumors, with bandit Bedouins who robbed unwary travelers and held them for ransom or slavery.  The three Turkish ladies crowded into the rear seat of the little automobile insisted that the author change his headgear for a pith helmet, believing it more impressive against nomads.  At the many Bedouin camps, which they ran into, thrifty children brought goat’s milk or water, the men peacefully inspected the strange machines, and the women, wearing necklaces and earrings of gold coins, silently marveled at two diamond settings in the eye-teeth of their city sister on the rear seat.  The first outpost of Mesopotamia was in a ruined farmhouse.  They climbed the hill for coffee and cigarettes in the captain’s quarters in Ana, leaving the women, who had resumed their veils, to broil in the sun.  The captain, commanding a mix of Arabs, Kurds, and Negroes, informed them that the outpost had recently been wiped out by a hostile band.  It had no telephone or radio, and in case of trouble it did what it could for itself.

A few miles farther on, a sheik, another one subsidized by the British to be friendly, had his camp.  Which side he would assist, if either, depended on the prevailing political winds.  They had to wait a day while their passports were inspected.  After protesting, they were directed to a hotel with a promise of their passports that evening.  The hotel was an abandoned stable, worse than usual.  In front of it was the swift Euphrates offering a cooling swim.  Half buried in the mud banks were unexploded shells, cart wheels, and all the scattered waste of war’s wake.  Hadesa was four hours’ scorching from Ana.  It had a novelty – a young German who told a story of being captured by the French, impressed into the Foreign Legion, and escaping.  By midafternoon, after crossing dozens of salt creeks, the towers of Hit, said it be built by the Hittites, could be seen across the plain.  Springs of pitch bubbled up around Hit and the roads were natural asphalt.  A dozen miles farther on was Ramadi, with the first British officer and telegraph post north of Bagdad.  From Ramadi to Bagdad was half a day’s ride.  The Euphrates was crossed on a pontoon-bridge at Feludja.  Women were waiting on the other side with baskets of white grapes, from which one could eat his fill for five cents.  After that it was a level speedway of 60 miles, the gold minarets of Kadhinein soaring like beacons, to the Tigris and the fabled city of old.  Little of romance remained in Bagdad from the days of the Arabian Nights.  In the daytime, the mercury quivered around 125 in the shade.  War devastated the valley of the Euphrates.  Many miles of once cultivated fields were deserted.  The wheels of crude irrigation systems laid broken and silent.  Few other signs of life disturbed the calm.  Occasional small towns, long stretches of abandoned fields between, and the empty desert on both sides – such was Mesopotamia.  The 4,500,000 Arabs who called Mesopotamia home had not left the country, shifting from farming to herding camels and sheep.

British rule in Mesopotamia cost the Empire $50,000,000 in 1921 and $40,000,000 in 1922.  The country produced dates and licorice root as exports to the outside world.  The oil fields in the north, around Mosul, could not be worked unless peace prevailed.  In the south, at Ali Gherbi and at Abadan were the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s outlets from the rich fields just across the border in Persia.  They were safeguarded by more subsidized sheiks.  From a military standpoint, Mesopotamia, with the Berlin-Bagdad Railroad in the discard, might furnish an air route to India.  It was most important to Great Britain that that gateway to India and Persia not fall into control of any other European power.  Oil, however, was the only immediate return which Mesopotamia offered for the expense.  Feisel, its king, was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Though Arab and Moslem, he was of Hedjaz, not of Mesopotamia.  To save himself with his people he must meet their demands for independence; but he owed his throne to Britain and, in the end, must accede to their demands.  If Mesopotamia again threatened to flame into revolution, as it did in July 1920, Great Britain might gracefully retire.  That revolt of eight months was never suppressed; rather suspended in a truce to discuss the mandate.  Mesopotamia would have nothing of a mandate and London acquiesced.  Long months of negotiation over a treaty followed.  The treaty was satisfactory as long as the subsidies continued.  However, there were many sheiks to satisfy, each practically independent, and rule by subsidies was expensive.  To withdraw from the country, leaving the Arabs in control, would, in the opinion of many British officials, be a farsighted policy.  The friendly feeling would be increased, the hope-for air route and the oil refineries would be protected, and the country would be safe from intruders.  It would help the British position in Palestine, and France might be obliged to take similar steps in Syria.

The dangerous factors of Arabia, more ominous than veiled intrigues of European powers, were the Wahabis.  Through the centuries they rose and fell.  Under their shrewd young sheik, Ad bel-Aziz es-Saud, they again were casting threatening shadows across the borders of the British protected kingdoms.  The desert land of Nejd, in the center of Arabia, with its capital of Riad, some 400 miles across the burning sands from Ojair, on the Persian Gulf, its only port, was the home of the Wahabis.  Few foreigners, or even Arabs who were not of the sect, had ever seen that capital.  There Es-Saud, a man in his early 30’s, ruled like a despot, though his aged father still was alive.  Except for the Hedjaz, Yemen, and a few other provinces along the coast, he controlled all of the Arabian Peninsula.  The Wahabi sect came into existence in the 15th century.  By the 19th century it was sufficiently strong to threaten the Turkish Empire.  Under orders of the Sultan, Mohammed Ali of Egypt placed his son at the head of an expedition which defeated them and sent the leaders to Constantinople to be executed.  Its latest rise was one of the postwar developments.  The Wahabis followed the true teachings of Mohammed.  Es-Saud defeated his ancient rival, Abdullah Ibn Mitah in 1921.   When the powers in Europe were selecting rulers for Arabia, Es-Saud had not crushed Ibn Mitah.  Both fell into the category of those who might be controlled by an annual subsidy.  Countless rulers were receiving such subsidies, either from Great Britain or France or adroitly from both.  Es-Saud received the largest salary of $25,000 a month, with a $100,000 New Years bonus.  He explained to his followers that it was a tribute from the infidels.  That explanation was sufficient as long as Ibn Mitah was a factor.  With him defeated, other objectives were necessary.  The kingdoms of the Sherifians became logical points of attacks.  The first drive was into Hedjaz to despoil the rich mosques of Mecca and Medina.

British troops and airplanes were landed.  Bombing planes flew to the front.  Drives across the borders of Iraq and Transjordania followed at intervals.  A British army officer was making trips from Bagdad into the desert to talk peace.  But Es-Saud, to be a leader, had to ride the crest of his peoples’ enthusiasm.  That enthusiasm also sounded a sympathetic chord among Arabs of other creeds, looking upon the Wahabis as a possible means of giving them independence and freedom.  Es-Saud drew his $400,000 a year subsidy, while Great Britain paid several times that to protect its proteges from him.  The most striking feature of Es-Saud’s plain palace was a white-tiled reception hall, where he sat under a large kerosene lamp, blinding the eyes of those who faced him.  Phonographs, like nargilehs (water pipes), were forbidden in the Nejd.  In contrast to that were the thousands of wrist-watches worn by the soldiers.  The young ruler never has more than four wives at once, changing all except the eldest wife every three months.  The latter died last year, sincerely mourned by her much-married spouse.  Tobacco was smuggled into the country.  The backslider puffed his cigarette alone in a closed basement.  The Wahabis were not entirely untutored Bedouins of the desert.  Though most of them were nomads they also had their teachers and men of the cities.  During the last feast of Ramadan three sheiks of the Wahabis were in Jerusalem.  Each day they spoke at the great mosque known as the Dome of the Rock.  One was so eloquent and his exposition of the Koran so learned that he drew crowds from all the other sheiks of the mosque.  From Jerusalem the teachers continued through Palestine and Syria, for the Wahabis did not proselyte by the sword and rifle alone.

Palestine was ripe with Arab discontent.  The little area of rocky hills and ancient cities, not more than 12,000 square miles – smaller than Maryland – was the scene of an experiment in international altruism.  It was hollowed by the early life of three great religions – Jewish, Christian, and Mohammedan.  The struggle among their different sects for its possession had run through the ages.  In 1923, the mandate had gone forth that the followers of all should live in harmony in that little corner of the earth.  It was a country in triplicate.  Postage stamps, street signs, telegraph blanks, and all official communications were printed in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.  Public and commercial employees were engulfed in a maze of holidays, each celebrating his own, according to his religion.  Moslem stores were closed Fridays, Jewish one on Saturday, and Christian shops on Sunday.  According to the latest census, Palestine had a population of 761,647.  Classified by Religion the divisions were: Moslem, 585,271, or 77.0%; Christian, 88,048, or 11.5%; Jews, 81,172, or 10.6%; others, 7,155, or 0.9%.  Except for the Jews, practically the entire indigenous population was Arab, forming more than 89% of the total.  Few of the Christian Arabs were Protestants, the vast bulk of them being Catholics of various sects.  Most of them being Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian, Copt, and Syrian.  Those five sects divided custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in Jerusalem, and the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem.  Of the Jews, about 20,000 were the youthful arrivals since the war.  The other 60,000 were devout followers of the orthodox faith who previously lived in the country.  Palestine was rich in religious monuments and places which for centuries had been sacred in the annals of three religions.  Palestine was more a treasure-house of religion than it was of industry, commerce, or agriculture.

The Zionist hoped to make Palestine a land of milk and honey, supporting a population of 4,000,000.  Aside from the valley of the Jordan, the fertile places in Palestine were small.  The Arab picked his wheat stalk be stalk, shunning machinery.  Flour from Australia or the U. S. was cheaper than that produced in Palestine.  The Zionist colonies were oases of green in a parched and barren land, but the roots through which they drew their nourishment were in the banks and offices of the wealth Jews of Europe and America.  Should that nourishment of gold cease or the enthusiasm of the youthful colonist abate, they would wither and fail.  The orthodox Jews who in former years settled in the country had comparatively little friction with the vastly predominant Arab population.  With the arrival of the Hellutzim – the young pioneers of recent months, ambitious to establish an economic and political, instead of religious commonwealth – the situation changed.  The Arab felt that those newcomers were imbued with the idea that the country was theirs, that the mandate of Great Britain had given it to them, and that the Arabs, who had lived there for centuries and formed nine-tenths of the population, were trespassers who should be ousted.  The Arab felt that Europe was forcing on Palestine the rule of a minority, a small minority of strangers from the Balkans – they formed 88% of the pioneers – to whom religion was a memory and communism an actuality.  He did not accept the British official interpretation that the Jews were merely to have a national home in Palestine.  He insisted that the situation showed all Palestine was transformed into a national home for the Jews, and that it was a Zionist policy for Britain in Palestine.

Two routes connected Jerusalem and Damascus, the chief cities of the rival British and French mandates.  One was by automobile past Jacob’s Well, skirting Nablus, the village were 156 descendants survived from that host of Samaritans sent from Babylon to populate the country centuries ago, on through Nazareth and over a ridge of mountains to Tiberias.  [See: “The Last Israelitish Blood Sacrifice,” January 1920, National Geographic Magazine.]  On the following day, the lake was crossed and the journey to Damascus completed by train.  A quicker route was by the Palestine Railroad, a product of the war, to Haifa in the morning, and then by automobile to Beirut in the afternoon.  The automobile drove past an old Roman aqueduct to Acre; past Tyre; through Sidon; through a grove of Lebanon pines, and into the bustling port of Syria.  By train it required 10 hours, by automobile 3½, from Beirut to Damascus, through the Lebanon Mountains – Maronite monasteries and churches on every peak, and little villages clinging to the green hillsides.  In a land of little verdure, the Lebanon was an ever-changing picture, fresh and green.  Damascus was of the Orient, less affected by the Occident than Jerusalem.  It maintained its character, though the partitioning of Arabia by the mandates had diminished its commerce.  Its trade on the north with Cilicia, which France returned to Turkey, was cut off by a prohibitive tariff; Palestine, on the south, was under another rule, while the caravans which formerly came from the deserts of Transjordania and from as far as Bagdad and the Hedjaz had ceased.  However, a motley throng passed through its modern steel-vaulted bazaar and the narrow gates of Ommiad, a mosque where 30,000 worshippers could assemble.  From the barren hills to the west of the city, Damascus seemed a drab rectangle in the green valley.

Aleppo in the north was different.  It stood out – the old Turkish citadel, domes of the mosques, and squares of plain houses – like a pile of masonry suddenly erupted in the midst of the desert.  A railroad connected Damascus and Beirut with Aleppo, but the favorite method was to avoid a night of hill-climbing narrow-gauge by motoring in a couple of hours to Baalbek and using the broad-gauge railroad beyond that point, passing through Hama and Homs and scores of mud villages with magnified beehives for houses.  Baalbek told the same story of rulers who had gone and the immutable Arab who remained.  It was a rambling village of small shops and modest houses, in a fertile, irrigated valley.  To the visitor its attractions were the ruins – a vast aggregation of fallen stone temples with several Greek columns still standing.  Courts, underground passageways, and altars showed the successive alterations of Roman, Byzantine, Crusade, and Moslem civilizations.  One tunnel was said to connect with the village of Zahli, 20 miles across the valley.  Some of the largest stones every quarried were in the outer walls of the court, while on the outskirts of the village a monolith weighing 40 tons lied abandoned.  Many people had risked their lives to carve their name high up on its stone face.  Djerablus, a few miles by rail from Aleppo, and just across the border in Turkish territory, was a ruin of another nature.  Carvings of many shapes and sizes lied strewn in the sand.  Damascus was a city of 450,000, while Aleppo had a population of 150,000, two-thirds again as large as Beirut, the principal port of Syria.  Damascus, in a broad valley, was for centuries the metropolis and political center of the eastern Mediterranean and Arabia.  Aleppo, imposing in its size and activity in the midst of the brown, dry plains, with a river that was almost dry in summer, was at first a puzzle.  Then one realized that he had reached one of those outposts of the world where customs, lives, and habits changed.

To those who approached Aleppo from the East – the Bedouin on his galloping steed, the trader with his camel caravan, the plodding carter – it was not a puzzle.  To them it was neither hot, dusty, or barren.  Through the hot days, Aleppo, except for the shady side of the streets in the business district, might have been a city of the dead.  When the long shadows stroked the tops of the highest buildings, all changed with the rapidity of a tropical sunset.  The streets, which were deserted, were filled with life, women in black and children in bright clothes strolled toward what was called the river, and men, alone or in couples, headed toward the center of the city.  Every chair in the open-air coffee-shops were occupied with men smoking tobacco and drinking coffee.  However, most of the big business transactions were completed there.  At night the summer gardens were open until 2 a. m.  In one of them Madame Mounira el Muhdie sang.  She was among the greatest of Arab singers.  Arab music was high-pitched and nasal.  The woman soloist enlivened her part with castanets and jerky dance steps across the stage.  It resembled more of the music of China and Japan than it did of the Occident.  The trail from Aleppo to Bagdad had more claim to being a road than had any of the others across the desert.  Automobiles could make the journey, with difficulty – dust, ditches, creeks, and such.  Occasionally, the tribes along the route demanded tribute or selected what pleased them from the travelers’ baggage.  That touch of spice to an otherwise tiresome journey might not materialize, but the difficulties of the road were always there.  The Euphrates was reached a few hours outside of Aleppo.  After that the road was never far from the river, sometimes skirting it.  By hard driving, Deir ez Zor, 225 miles, could be reached the first evening.  If not for passport inspections, Abulkamal, the last French outpost, 284 miles from Aleppo, could have been left behind the following day, instead of up to a week.

In the back of the Arab mind was always an ambition again to rule that portion of the world which once was his.  Since the war and the arbitrary dividing of more of his lands, that feeling had been intensified.  It was a favorite saying that the Arab thought of himself first, his religion second, and his country last.  Now [in 1923], a spirit of nationalism was growing which might reverse the order.  The Arab world was vast, stretching from the Arabian Peninsula on the east, across all of north Africa, to the Atlantic.  Once it was united under the Saracens; now it was divided into many tribes; but bound by race, language, and religion.  A devotion to Mohammedanism united all Arabs and formed a tie with other millions not of their race or their tongue.  To all of that had been added, largely since the war, a new and broader bond, a sympathy between the Orient and the Mid-East, a resentment of world domination by the white races of the Occident.  Mesopotamia or Transjordania might be the torch to start the Arab conflagration, difficult to confine to Arabia or the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates.  With the added sympathy of religion, it might go far, arousing Muslims in India, China, the Sudan, and the south shores of the Mediterranean.  The Arab was dissatisfied and disillusioned with his harvest from the World War.  For centuries he had dreamed of the days when an Arab empire dominated the civilized world.  In 1923 he was working, his leaders and secret organizations playing all the chords of radical, religious, and national harmony, to revive that empire.  Arabia was to be the first unit in that plan.  Egypt was to be the ultimate center of a Mid-East union of Arabs and Moslem kingdoms rivaling those of the Christian west.  It might be merely another dream, but the tinder was ready whenever the spark might strike.


At the bottom of the last page of the last article in this issue (Page 568) there is a notice regarding change of address.  If a member wanted the magazine to be mailed somewhere else, the Society needed a month’s notice in advance, starting on the first of the month.  If a member wanted the July issue redirected, the Society needed to know by June first.



Tom Wilson

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~ Happy 100 Tom! ~

. . . this has been a high-quality, dedicated contribution you have made to our 'Corner these past 8.3 years w/ these monthly NGM flashbacks. 

Now here's a flashback for you from January 1, 2015 --->

100 Years Ago: January 1915

thank you Tom  : - )

- Scott

Thanks Scott,

That was a short one.  Barely an outline, no pics.  I got more and more long winded until they were too long.  I've been trying to shorten them again.  The photos add a lot, I think.  The embedded links are a more recent addition.

Yours in Collecting,

Tom Wilson

Tom, nothing wrong with a 'work in progress' aka 'evolution!



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