p.115 ]



March 18—March 30

    HISTORY in retrospect suffers an atmospheric distortion. We look upon a past civilization and see it, not as it was, but charged with the significance of that through which we gaze, as down the centuries shadow overlies shadow, some dim, some luminous, and some so strongly coloured that all the age behind is tinged with a borrowed hue. So it is that the great revolutions, "predestined unto us and we predestined," take on a double power; not only do they turn the current of human action, but to the later comer they seem to modify that which was irrevocably fixed and past. We lend to the dwellers of an earlier day something of our own knowledge; we watch them labouring towards the ineluctable hour, and credit them with a prescience of change not given to man. At no time does this sense of inevitable doom hang more darkly than over the years that preceded the rise of Islâm; yet no generation had less data for prophecy than the generation of Mohammad. The Greek and the Persian disputed the possession of western Asia in profitless and exhausting warfare, both harassed from time to time by the predatory expeditions of the nomads on their frontiers, both content to enter into alliance with this tribe or with that, and to set up an Arab satrap over the desert marshes. Thus it happened that the Benî Ghassân served the emperor of the Byzantines, and the Benî Lakhm fought in the ranks of the Sassanian armies. But neither to Justin II nor to Chosroes the Great came the news that in Mecca a child was born of the Kureish who was to found a military state as formidable as any that the world had seen, and nothing could have exceeded the fantastic improbability of such intelligence.
p.116 /
     I had determined to journey back behind this great dividing line, to search through regions now desolate for evidences of a past that has left little historic record, calling upon the shades to take form again upon the very ground whereon, substantial, they had played their part. So on a brilliant morning Fattûh and I saw the caravan start out in the direction of Baghdâd, not without inner heart-searchings as to where and how we should meet it again, and having loaded three donkeys with all that was left to us of worldy goods, we turned our faces towards the wilderness. I looked back upon the ancient mound of Hît, the palm-groves, and the dense smoke of the pitch fires rising into the clear air, and as I looked our zaptieh came out to join us — a welcome sight, for the Mudîr might well have repented at the eleventh hour. Now no one rides into the desert, however uncertain the adventure, without a keen sense of exhilaration. The bright morning sun, the wide clean levels, the knowledge that the problems of existence are reduced on a sudden to their simplest expression, your own wit and endurance being the sole determining factors — all these things brace and quicken the spirit. The spell of the waste seized us as we passed beyond the sulphur marshes; Hussein Onbâshî held his head higher, and we gave each other the salaam anew, as if we had stepped out into another world that called for a fresh greeting.
     "At Hît," said he, and his words went far to explain the lightness of his heart, "I have left three wives in the house."
     "Mâshallah!" said Fattûh, "you must be deaf with the gir-gir-gir of them."
     "Eh billah!" assented Hussein, "I shut my ears. Three wives, two sons and six daughters, of whom but two married. Twenty children I have had, and seven wives; three of these died and one left me and returned to her own people. But I shall take another bride this year, please God."
     "We Christians," observed Fattûh, "find one enough."
     "You may be right," answered Hussein politely; "yet I would take a new wife every year if I had the means."
     "We will find you a bride in Kebeisah," said I.
KEBEISAH   p.117 /
     Hussein weighed this suggestion.
     "The maidens of Kebeisah are fair but wilful. There is one among them, her name is Shemsah — wallah, a picture! a picture she is! — she has had seven husbands."
     "And the maidens of Hît?" I asked. "How are they?"
     "Not so fair, but they are the better wives. That is why I choose to remain in Hît," explained Hussein. "The bimbâshî would have sent me to Baghdâd, but I said, 'No, let me stay here; the maidens of Hît do not expect much.' Your Excellency may laugh, but a poor man must think of these things."
     We rode on through the aromatic scrub until the black masses of the Kebeisah palm-groves resolved into tall trunks and feathery fronds.1

   1 Yâkût mentions Kebeisah as the oasis four miles from Hît upon the desert road. There are, he says, a number of villages there, the inhabitants of which live in the extreme of poverty and misery, by reason of the aridity of the surrounding waste.

The sun stood high as we passed under the village gate and down the dusty street that led to the Mudîr's compound. We tied our mares to some mangers in his courtyard and were ourselves ushered into his reception-room, there to drink coffee and set forth our purpose. The leading citizens of Kebeisah dropped in one by one, and the talk was of the desert and of the dwellers therein. The men of Kebeisah are not 'Arab, Bedouin; they hold their mud-walled village and their 50,000 palm-trees against the tribes, but they know the laws of the desert as well as the nomads themselves, and carry on an uneasy commerce with them in dates and other commodities, with which even the wilderness cannot dispense, the accredited methods of the merchant alternating with those of the raider and the avenger of raids. There was no lack of guides to take me to Khubbâz, for the ruin is the first stage upon the post-road to Damascus, and half the male population was acquainted with that perilous way.
     "It is the road of death," said Hussein Onbâshî, suffing tobacco into the cup of his narghileh.
     "Eh billah!" said one who laid the glowing charcoal atop.
p.118 /
     "Eight days' ride, and the government, look you, pays no more than fifteen mejîdehs from Hît and back again."
     An old man, wrapped in a brown cloak edged with gold, took up the tale.
     "The government reckons fifteen mejîdehs to be the price of a man's life. Wallah! if the water-skins leak between water and water, or if the camel fall lame, the rider perishes."
     "By the truth, it is the road of death," repeated Hussein. "Twice last year the Deleim robbed the mail and killed the bearer of it."
     I had by this time spread out Kiepert.
     "Inform me," said I, "concerning the water."
     "Oh lady," said the old man, "I rode with the mail for twenty years. An hour and a half from Kebeisah there is water at 'Ain Za'zu', and in four hours more there is water in the tank of Khubbâz after the winter, but this year there is none, by reason of the lack of rain. Twelve hours from Khubbâz you shall reach Kasr 'Amej, which is another fortress like Khubbâz, but more ruined; and there is no water there. But eighteen hours farther you find water in the Wâdî Haurân, at Muheiwir."
     "Is there not a castle there?" I asked. Keipert calls it the castle of 'Airwir.
     "There is nought but rijm," said he. (Rijm are the heaps of stones which the Arabs pile together for landmarks.) "And after nine hours more there is water at Ga'rah, and then no more till Dumeir, nine hours from Damascus."
     If this account is exact, there must be four days of waterless desert on the road of death.
     The springs in Kebeisah are strongly charged with sulphur, but half-way between the town and the shrine of Sheikh Khudr, that lifts a conical spire out of the wilderness, there is a well less bitter, to which come the fair and wilful maidens night and morning, bearing on their heads jars of plaited willow, pitched without and within (Fig. 62). We did not fill our water-skins there when we set out next day for Kasr Khubbâz, but rode on to 'Ain Za'zu', where the water is drinkable, though far from sweet (Fig. 63). There are

Illustrations opposite p.118 ]

Kasr Khubbaz and ruins of the tank.

Kasr Khubbaz, the gateway.

Illustrations opposite p.119 ]

Kasr Khubbaz, a vaulted chamber.


KHUBBÂZ   p.119 / two other sulphurous springs, one a little to the north and one to the south, round each of which, as at 'Ain Za'zu', the inhabitants of Kebeisah sow clover, the sole fodder of the oasis in rainless years like the spring of 1909; so said Fawwâz, the owner of the two camels on which we had placed our small packs. Fawwâz rode one of them and his nephew, Sfâga, the other, and they hung the dripping water-skins under the loads. We followed the course of a shallow valley westwards, and before we left it sighted a train of donkeys making to the north with an escort on foot — Arabs of the Deleim. They looked harmless enough, but I afterwards found that they had caused Fawwâz great uneasiness; indeed they kept him watchful all through the night, fearing that they might raid us while we slept. I was too busy observing the wide landscape to dwell on such matters. The desolate world stretched before us, lifting itself by shallow steps into long, bare ridges, on which the Arab rijm were visible for miles away. The first of these steps — it was not more than fifty feet high — was called the Jebel Muzâhir, and when we had gained its summit we saw the castle of Khubbâz lying out upon the plain. To the north the ground falls away into a wâdî, a shallow depression like all desert valleys, in which are traces of a large masonry tank that caught the trickle of the winter springs and held their water behind a massive dam (Fig. 64). The tank is now half full of soil and the dam leaks, so that as soon as the rains have ceased the water store vanishes. It had left behind it a scanty crop of grass and flowers, which seemed luxuriant to us in that dry season; we turned the mares and camels loose in what Fattûh called enthusiastically the rabî'ah (the herbage of spring), and pitched my light tent in the valley bottom, where my men could find shelter among the rocks against the chills of night. I left all these arrangements to Fattûh, and with Hussein and Fawwâz to hold the metre tape, measured and photographed the fort till the sun touched the western horizon.
      The walls of Khubbâz are built of stones, either unworked or very roughly squared, set in a thick bed of coarse mortar. p.120 / In form the fort is a hollow square with round bastions at the angles, and except on the side facing towards Kebeisah, where the centre of the wall is occupied by a gate, there is also a round bastion midway between the angle towers (Fig. 65). All these bastions are much ruined and I may be wrong in representing them as if unequal size. Before the door there has been a vaulted porch, among the ruins of which lies a large block of stone which looks as if it had served



as lintel to the outer door; I could see no moulding or inscription upon it (Fig. 66). The existing inner door is arched, the arch being set forward in a curious fashion. It opened into a vaulted entrance passage which communicated with an open court in the centre of the building. The court was surrounded by barrel-vaulted chambers, some of which showed traces of repair or reconstruction, though the old and the new work are now alike ruined.1

   1 The central division wall in the long south chamber is a later addition.

All the vaults KHUBBÂZ   p.121 / are set forward about three centimetres beyond the face of the wall (Fig. 67). Above the outset the first few courses of stones are laid horizontally, inclining slightly inwards, but where the curve of the vault makes it impossible to continue this method without the aid of centering beams, the stone is cut into narrow slabs which are set upright so as to form slices of the vault, and each slice has an inclination backwards, the first resting against the head wall and every succeeding slice resting against the one behind it. This is the well-known Mesopotamian system of vaulting without a centering, which is as old as the Assyrians.1

   1 Described by Choisy: L'Art de bâtir chez les Byzantins, p. 31.

It is best adapted to brick, but it can be carried out in stone when the span of the vault is not large, provided that the stones be cut thin, so as to resemble as nearly as possible brick tiles. On the south side, which is the best preserved, there are traces of an upper storey, or possibly of an upper gallery or chemin de ronde. A doorway led from it into a small chamber hollowed out of the thickness of the central bastion: I imagine that there was a similar outlook chamber in the other bastions, but in all these the upper part is ruined. I could find no inscriptions; the Arab tribe marks (awâsim) were scratched upon the plaster with which the inner side of the walls had been coated. I do not doubt that Khubbâz belongs to the Mohammadan period, nor that it is a relic of the great days of the khalifate when the shortest road from Baghdâd to Damascus was guarded by little companies of soldiers stationed at Khubbâz and 'Amej, and perhaps at other points. The plan is that of many of the Roman and Byzantine lime fortresses upon the Syrian side of the desert,2

   2 For example Kastal (Brünnow and Domaszewski: Provincia Arabia, Vol. II. pl. xliv.); Kasr el Abyad (de Vogüé: La Syrie Centrale, Vol. I. p. 69); Deir el Kahf, founded in A.D. 306 (Butler: Ancient Architecture in Syria, Section A. Part II. p. 146); Kuseir el Hallâbât, dated A.D. 213 (ditto, p. 72); barracks at Anderîn, dated A.D. 558 (ditto, Section B, Part II. pl. viii.).

of the Mohammadan forts and fortified khâns scattered over Syria and Mesopotamia,3

   3 Tuba with a triple court (Musil: Kuseir 'Amra, Vol. I. p. 13); Kharânî (ditto, p. 97); Khân ez Zebîb (Provincia Arabia, Vol. II. p. 78).

and of the modern p.122 / Turkish guardhouse; the structural details are Mesopotamian, dictated by the conditions of the land.
     At the pleasant hour of dusk I sat among the flowering weeds by my tent door while Fattûh cooked our dinner in his kitchen among the rocks, Sfâga gathered a fuel of desert scrub, Fawwâz stirred the rice-pot, and the bubbling of Hussein's narghileh gave a note of domesticity to our bivouac. My table was a big stone, the mares cropping the ragged grass round the tent were my dinner-party; one by one the stars shone out in a moonless heaven and our tiny encampment was wrapped in the immense silences of the desert, the vast and peaceful night. Next morning, as we rode back to Kebeisah, Fattûh and I, between intervals devoted to chasing gazelle, laid siege on our companions and persuaded them to accompany us in our further journey. Fawwâz avowed that he was satisfied with us and would come where we wished (and as for Sfâga he would do as he was told) as long as Hussein would give a semi-official sanction to the enterprise by his presence. It was more difficult to win over Hussein, who had received from the Mudîr no permission to absent himself so long from Hît; but Fattûh pointed out that, when you have three wives, with the prospect of a fourth, to say nothing of six daughters of whom but two are married, you cannot afford to neglect the opportunity of earning an extra bakhshîsh. This reasoning was conclusive, and before we reached 'Ain Za'zu we had settled everything, down to the quantity of coffee-beans we would buy at Kebeisah for the trip. But when we got to Kebeisah we were greeted by news that went near to overturning our combinations. There had been alarums and excursions in our absence; the Deleim had attacked a party of fuel-gatherers two hours from the oasis, in the very plain we were to cross, and had made off with eight donkeys. One of the donkeys belonged to Fawwâz; he shook his head over the baleful activity of the tribe and murmured that we were a small party in the face of such perils. Moreover, in the Mudîr's courtyard there stood a half-starved mare which had been recaptured in a counter-raid from the seventh husband of the famous Shemsah. He too KEBEISAH   p.123 / was of the Deleim. We gave the mare a feed of corn — her gentle, hungry eyes were turned appealingly on our full mangers; but to Shemsah I was harder hearted, though her eyes were more beautiful than those of the mare. She came suppliant as I sat dining on the Mudîr's roof at nightfall and begged me to recover her husband's rifle, which lay below in the hands of the government. Her straight brows were pencilled together with indigo and a short blue line marked the roundness of her white chin; a cloak slipping backwards from her head showed the rows of scarlet beads about her throat, and as she drew it together with slender fingers, Fattûh, Hussein and I gazed on her with unmixed approval, in spite of the irregular course of her domestic history. But I felt that to return his rifle to a Deleimî robber was not part of my varied occupations, though who knows whether Shemsah's grace, backed by what few mejîdehs she could scrape together, did not end by softening the purpose of Hussein and the Mudîr, "the Government," as in veiled terms we spoke of them?
     With the exercise of some diplomacy we induced Fawwâz to hold to his engagement, but the Mudîr took fright when he heard of our intentions, and threatened our guides with dire retribution if they led us into the heart of the desert. I think the threat was only intended to relieve him of responsibility, for Hussein shrugged his shoulders, and said it would be enough if we rode an hour in the direction of Ramâdî, on the Euphrates, and then changed our course and made straight for Abu Jîr, an oasis where we expected to find Arab tents. We set off next morning in the clear sunlight which makes all projects seem entirely reasonable, and dropped after three-quarters of an hour, into a little depression. When we had crossed the sulphur marsh which lay at the valley bottom, we altered our direction to the south-west and rode almost parallel to a long low ridge called the Ga'rat ej Jemâl, which lay about three miles to the west of us. Four hours from Kebeisah we reached a tiny mound out of which rose a spring of water, sulphurous but just drinkable. The top of the mound was lifted only a few feet above the surrounding p.124 / level, but that was enough to give us a wide view, and since in all the world before us there was no shade or shelter from the sun, we sat down and lunched where we could be sure that a horseman would not approach us unawares. And as we rested, some one far away opened a bottle into which Solomon, Prophet of God, had sealed one of the Jinn. Up sprang a gigantic column of smoke that fanned outwards in the still air and hung menacingly over the naked, empty plain. I waited spellbound to see the great shoulders and huge horned head disengage themselves from the smokewreaths that rolled higher and—
     "'Ain el 'Awâsil burns," said Fawwâz. "A shepherd has set it alight."
     There was a small pitch-well an hour away to the south-east, and if springs that burn when the tinder touches them are more logical than spirits that issue from a bottle when the seal is broken, then the explanation of Fawwâz may be accepted. But at that moment I could not stay to think the problem out, for if it was hot riding, sitting still was intolerable, and we were not anxious to linger when every half-hour's march meant half-an-hour of dangerous country behind us. From noon to sunset the desert is stripped of beauty. Hour after hour we journeyed on, while the bare forbidding hills drew away from us on the right, and the plain ahead rolled out illimitable. We saw no living creature, man or beast, but an hour from 'Ain el 'Asfûrîyeh, where we had lunched, we came upon a deep still pool in an outcrop of rock, the water sufficiently sweet to drink. This spot is called Jelîb esh Sheikh; it contains several such pools, said Fawwâz, and he added that the water had appeared there of a sudden two years before, but that now it never diminished, nor rose higher in the rocky clefts. Just beyond the pool we crossed the Wâdî Muhammadî, which stretched westwards to the receding ridges of the Gar'at ej Jemâl, and east to the Euphrates; it was dry and blotched with an evil-looking crust of sulphur. Fawwâz turned his camel's head a little to the east of south and began to look anxiously for landmarks. We hoped to find at Abu Jîr an encampment of the Deleim, ABU JÎR   p.125 / and, eagerly as we wished to avoid the scattered horsemen of the tribe by day, it was essential that we should pass the night near their tents. The desert is governed by old and dwell-defined laws, and the first of these is the law of hospitality. If we slept within the circuit of a sheikh's encampment he would be "malzûm 'aleinâ" (responsible for us) and not one of his people would touch us; but if we lay out in the open we should court the attack of raiders and of thieves. Two hours from the Wâdî Muhammadî we reached a little tell, from the top of which we sighted the 'alâmah (the landmarks) of Abu Jîr, a couple of high-piled mounds of stones. An hour later they lay to the east of us, and we saw still farther to the south-east the black line of tamarisk bushes that indicated the oasis. But it was another hour before we got up to it, and the sun was very low in the sky when we set foot on the hard black surface that gives the place its name. There was no time to lose, and we embarked recklessly on the "Father of Asphalt," only to be caught in the fresh pitch that had been spread out upon the wilderness by streams of sulphurous water. We dismounted and led our animals over the quaking expanse, coasting round the head-waters of the springs — there are, I believe, eight of them — and experimenting in our own persons on half-congealed lakes of pitch before we allowed the camels to venture across them. The light faded while we were thus engaged, and seeing that too much caution might we be our undoing, I shouted to Fattûh to follow, and struck out eastwards. Fattûh was half inclined to look upon our case as a result of premeditated treachery on the part of Fawwâz, but I had noted unmistakable signs of fear and bewilderment in the bearing of the latter, and at all hazards I was resolved not to sleep in a pool of tar. We made for a line of tamarisk bushes behind which lay a thin haze of smoke, and as we broke through the brushwood we beheld a black tent crouching in the hollow. We rode straight up to the door and gave the salaam.
     "And upon you peace," returned the astonished owner.
     "What Arabs are you, and where is your sheikh's tent?" said I, in an abrupt European manner.
p.126 /
     He was taken aback at being asked so many questions and answered reluctantly, "We are the Deleim, and the tent of Muhammad el 'Abdullah lies yonder."
     We turned away, and I whispered to Fattuh not to hasten, and above all to approach the sheikh's tent from in front, lest we should be mistaken for such as come upon an evil errand. He fell behind me, and with as much dignity as a tired and dusty traveller can muster, I drew rein by the tent ropes and gave the salaam ceremoniously, with a hand lifted to breast and lip and brow. A group of men sitting by the hearth leapt to their feet and one came forward.
     "Peace and kinship and welcome," said he, laying his hand on my bridle.
     I looked into his frank and merry face and knew that all was well.
     "Are you Muhammad el 'Abdullah, for whom we seek?"
     "Wallah, how is my name known to you?" said he. "Be pleased to enter."
     Hussein Onbâshî, when he appeared with the camels a quarter of an hour later, found a large company round the coffee-pots, listening in breathless wonder (I no less amazed than the rest) while the sheikh related the exploits of — a motor!
     "And then, oh lady, they wound a handle in front of the carriage, and lo, it moved without horses, eh billah! And it sped across the plain, we sitting on the cushions. And from behind there went forth semok." He brought out the English word triumphantly.
     "Allah, Allah!" we murmured.
     Hussein took from his lip the narghileh tube which was already between them and explained the mystery.
     "It was the automobile of Misterr X. He journeyed from Aleppo to Baghdâd in four days, and the last day Muhammad el 'Abdullah went with him, for the road was through the country of the Deleim."
     "I saw them start," said Fattûh the Aleppine. "But the automobile lies now broken in Baghdâd."
ABU JÎR   p.127 /
     Muhammad paid no heed to this slur upon the reputation of the carriage.
     "White!" said he. "It was all painted white. Wallah, the Arabs wondered as it fled past. And I was seated within upon the cushions."
     That night Fattûh and I held a short council. We had won successfully through a hazardous day, but it seemed less than wisdom to go farther without an Arab guide, and I proposed to add Muhammad el 'Abdullah to our party, if he would come.
     "He will come," said Fattûh. "This sheikh is a man. And your Excellency is of the English."
     Muhammad neither demurred nor bargained. I think he would have accompanied me even if I had not belonged to the race that owned the carriage. Our adventure pleased him; he was one of those whose blood runs quicker than that of his fellows, whose fancy burns brighter, "whom thou, Melpomene, at birth" . . .  upon many an unknown cradle the Muse sheds her clear beam.
     "But if we were to meet the raiders of the Benî Hassan?" I asked, mindful of the unsuccessful parleyings at Hît.
     "God is great!" replied Muhammad, "and we are four men with rifles."
     There was once a town at Abu Jîr, guarded by a little square fort with bastioned angles like Kasr Khubbâz. It was, however, much more ruined; of the interior buildings nothing remained, while the outer walls were little better than heaps of stones. But below this later work there were remains of older foundations, more careful masonry of larger materials, and outside the walls traces of a pavement, composed of big slabs of stone, accurately fitted together. All round the fort lay the foundations of houses, stone walls or crumbling mounds of sun-dried brick, not unlike the ruins of Ma'mûreh. There must have existed here a mediaeval Mohammadan settlement, if there was nothing older, and the discovery was sufficiently surprising, for Abu Jîr now lies far beyond the limits of fixed habitation. The Deleim still turn the abundant water of the oasis to some profit, planting a p.128 / few patches of corn and clover in the low ground below the ruins, but the insecurity of the desert forbids all permanent occupation. We had not gone far on our way next morning before Muhammad stopped short in the ode he was singing and bent down from his saddle to examine some hoof-prints in the sandy ground. Two horsemen had travelled that way, riding in the same direction that we were taking.
     "Those are the mares of our enemies," he observed.
     "How do you know?" I asked.
     "I heard that they had passed Abu Jîr in the night," he answered and resumed his song. When he had brought it to an end, he called out —
     "Oh lady, I will sing the ode that I composed about the carriage."
     At this the camel-riders and Hussein drew near and Muhammad began the first kasîdah that has been written to a motor.

"I tell a marvel the like of which no man has known,
    A glory of artifice born of English wit."

     "True, true!" ejaculated Fawwâz ecstatically.
     "Eh billah !" exclaimed Hussein.

"Her food and her drink are the breath from a smoke-cloud blown,
    If her radiance fade bright fire shall reburnish it."

     "Allah, Allah !" cried the enraptured Fawwâz.

"On the desert levels she darts like a bird of prey,
    Her race puts to shame a mare of the purest breed;
As a hawk in the dusk that hovers and swoops to slay,
    She swoops and turns with wondrous strength and speed."

     "Wallah, the truth !" Hussein's enthusiasm was uncontrollable.
     "Eh wallah !" echoed Fawwâz and Sfâga.

"He who mounts and rides her sits on the throne of a king . . ."

     "A king in very truth !" cried Fawwâz.

"If the goal be far, to her the remote is near . . ."

THEMAIL   p.129 /
     "Near indeed !" burst from the audience.

"More stealthy than stallions, more swift than the jinn a-wing,
    She turns the gazelle that hides from her blast in fear."

     "Allah !" Fawwâz punctuated the stanza.

"Not from idle lips was gathered the wisdom I sing . . ."

     "God forbid !" exclaimed Fawwâz, leaning forward eagerly.

"In the whole wide plain she has not met with her peer."

     "Mâshallah ! it is so ! it is the truth, oh lady !" said Hussein.
     "I did not quite understand it all," said I humbly, feeling rather like Alice in Wonderland when Humpty Dumpty recited his verses to her. "Perhaps you will help me to write it down this evening."
     So that night, with the assistance of Fawwâz, who had a bowing acquaintance with letters, we committed it to paper, and I now know how the masterpieces of the great singers were received at the fair of 'Ukâz in the Days of Ignorance.
     "The truth ! it is the truth !" shouted the tribes between each couplet. "Eh by Al Lât and by Al 'Uzzah !"
     Three hours from Abu Jîr we cantered down to the Wâdî Themail and saw some black tents pitched by a tell on the farther side. Flocks of goats were scattered over the plain; the shepherds, when they perceived our party, drew them together and began to drive them towards the tents. At this Muhammad pulled up, rose in his stirrups, and waved a long white cotton sleeve over his head — a flag of truce.
     "They take us for raiders," said he, laughing. "Wallah, in a moment we should have had their rifles upon us."
     The mound of Themail is crowned by a fort built of mud and unshaped stones (Fig. 68). It has a single door and round bastions at the angles of the wall, like Khubbâz, but the figure described by the walls is far from regular, and there is no trace of construction within. The existing building looked to me like rough Bedouin work, though I suspect that p.130 / it has taken the place of older defences (Fig. 69). A copious sulphur spring rises below it and flows into the cornfields of the Deleim. With a supply of water so plentiful Themail must always have been a place worth holding. We stayed for an hour to lunch, Muhammad's kinsmen supplementing our fare with a bowl of sour curds. Fawwâz was all for spending the night here, for there would be no tents at



'Asîleh, where we meant to camp, and the noonday stillness was broken by a loud altercation between him and the indignant Fattûh. I paid no attention until the case was brought to me for decision — the final court of appeal should always be silent up to the moment when an opinion is requested — and then said that we should undoubtedly sleep at 'Asîleh.
     "God guide us, God guard us, God protect us !" muttered Muhammad as he settled himself into the saddle. He never took the road without this pious ejaculation.
WÂDÎ BURDÂN   p.131 /
     Four hours of weary desert lie between Themail and 'Asîleh, but Muhammad diversified the way by pointing out the places where he had attacked and slain his enemies. These historic sites were numerous. The Deleim have no friends except the great tribe of the 'Anazeh, represented in these regions by the Amarât under Ibn Hudhdhâl. To the 'Anazeh he always alluded as the Bedû, giving me their names for the different varieties of scanty desert scrub as well as the common titles. Even the place-names are not the same on the lips of the Bedû; for example El 'Asîleh is known to them as Er Radâf.
     "Are not the Deleim also Bedû ?" I asked.
     "Eh wah," he assented. 'The 'Anazeh intermarry with us. But we would not take a girl of the Afâdleh; they are 'Agedât" (base born).
     The friendship between the Amarât and the Deleim is intermittent at best, like all desert alliances. As we neared the Wâdî Burdân, Muhammad called our attention to some tamarisk bushes where he and his raiding party had lain one night in ambush, and at dawn killed four men of the Amarât and taken their mares.
     "Eh billah !" said he with a sigh of satisfaction.
     The very rifle he carried had been taken in a raid from Ibn er Rashîd's people. He showed me with pride that the name of 'Abdu'l 'Azîz ibn er Rashîd, lately Lord of Nejd, was scratched upon it in large clear letters.
     "I did not take it from them," he explained. "I found it in the hands of one of the Benî Hassan." I fell to wondering how many midnight attacks it had seen, and how many masters it had served since Ibn er Rashîd's agents brought it up from the Persian Gulf.
     The Wâdî Burdân is one of three valleys that are reputed to stretch across the Syrian desert from the Jebel Haurân to the Euphrates. The northernmost is the Wadi Haurân, which joins the river above Hît, and the southernmost the Wâdî Lebai'ah, on which stands Kheidir. When the snow melts in the Haurân mountains water flows down all three, so I have heard, but later in the year there is no water in the p.132 / Wâdî Burdân, except at 'Asîleh, though Kiepert marks it "quellenreich." Muhammad declared that there was no permanent water west of 'Asîleh save at Wîzeh, a spring which has often been described to me. It rises underground, and you approach it by a long passage through the rock, taking with you a lantern, my informants are careful to add. At the end of the passage you come to a shallow pool where the mud predominates, though it is always possible to quench your thirst at it. 'Asîleh is an autumn camping-ground of the 'Anazeh. The deep fine sand of the valley is bordered by a fringe of tamarisk bushes, covered, when we were there, with feathery white flower. Their roots strike down into the water, which rises into cup-shaped holes scooped out in the sand, and the deeper you dig the clearer and the colder it is. For four days we had found no water that was sweet, and the pools under the tamarisk bushes tasted like nectar. It was a delightful solitary camp. The setting sun threw a magic cloak of colour and soft shadows over the sandhills of the Wâdî Burdân, and under the starlight my companions lingered round the camp fire, smoking a narghileh and telling each other wondrous tales. When I joined them Fattûh was holding forth upon the evil eye, a favourite topic with him. I knew by heart the tragedy of his three horses who died in one day because an acquantance had looked at them in their stable.
     "And if your Excellency doubts," said Fattûh, "I can tell you that there is a man well known in Aleppo who has one good eye and one evil. And this he keeps bound under a kerchief. And one day when he was sitting in the house of friends they said to him, 'Why do you bind up the left eye?' He said, 'It is an evil eye.' Then they said, 'If you were to take off the kerchief and look at the lamp hanging from the roof, would it fall?' 'Without doubt,' said he; and with that he unbound the kerchief and looked, and the lamp fell to the ground."
     "Allah!" said Fawwâz. "There is a man at Kebeisah who has never dared to look at his own son."
    "At 'Ânah," observed Hussein, letting the narghileh WÂDÎ EL 'ASIBIYEH   p.133 / relapse into silence for a moment, "there is a sheikh who wears a charm against bullets."
     But Muhammad knew as much as most men about the ways of bullets, and he thought nothing of this expedient.
     "Whether the bullet hits or misses," he remarked, "it is all from God." He poured me out a cup of coffee. "A double health, oh lady," said he.
     The sun had not risen when we left 'Asîleh, but it fell upon us as we climbed the sandhills, and gave to every little thorny plant a long trail of shadow.
     "God guide us, God guard us, God protect us!" murmured Mohammad.
     The desert was unbearably monotonous that morning. The ground rose gradually, level above level in an almost imperceptible slope which was just enough to prevent us from seeing more than a quarter of an hour ahead. A dozen times I marked a bush on the top of the rise and promised myself that when we reached it we should have a wider prospect; a dozen times the summit melted away into another slope as featureless as the last. We were journeying in a south-easterly direction, straight into the sun, and as I rode, with eyes downcast to avoid the glare, I noticed that the ground was strewn with yellow gourds larger than an orange.
     "It is hanzal," said Muhammad. "It grows only where the plain is very dry, and best in rainless years. Wallah, so bitter is the fruit that, if you hold dates in your hand and crush the hanzal with your foot, they say you cannot eat the dates for the flavour of the hanzal. God knows."
     His words set loose a host of memories, for though I had never before seen the bitter colocynth gourds, the great singers of the desert have drawn many an image from them, and I drifted back through their world of heroic loves and wars to where Imru'l Kais stood weeping, as though his eyelids were inflamed with the acrid juice.
     Five hours from 'Asîleh we dipped into the Wâdî el 'Asibîyeh, where the marshy bottom still bore footprints of horses and camels that had come down to drink before the pools had vanished. A steep bank on the south side gave p.134 / us a rim of shadow in which we stretched ourselves and lunched, and from the top of the bank we sighted the palm-trees of Rahhâlîyeh, an hour and a half to the south; we had seen them three hours earlier from the summit of a little mound and then lost them again. The oasis is surrounded by stagnant pools that lie rotting in the sun; at the end of the summer the evil vapours marry with the fresh dates, with which the inhabitants are surfeited, and breed a horrible fever that will kill a strong man in a few hours. The air was heavy with the rank smell of the marsh, and I warned my people to drink no water but that which we had brought with us from the clear pools of 'Asîleh. There are sixteen thousand palm-trees at Rahhâlîyeh and, buried in their midst, a village governed by a Mudîr, to whom I hastened to pay my respects. He gave me glasses of tea while my tent was being pitched—may God reward him! We camped that night in a palm garden, where we were entertained by a troop of musicians playing on drums and a double flute, to which music one of them danced between the sun and shade of the palm fronds. Their faces were those of negroes, though they had the clear yellow skin of the Arab, and I noticed that most of the population of Rahhâlîyeh was of this type. "They have always been here," said Hussein contemptuously, "they and the frogs." In spite of the flickering shade of the palm-trees it was stifling hot, and I looked with regret over the broken mud wall of our garden into the clean stretches of the open desert. But the splendours of the sunset glowed between the palm trunks; in matchless beauty a crescent moon hung among the dark fronds, and we lay down to sleep with the contentment of those who have come safely out of perilous ways.
     The Mudîr had given me useful information concerning some ruins that lie between Rahhâlîyeh and Shetâteh. Next day I sent Fattûh and the camels direct to the second oasis, and, taking with me Hussein and Muhammad, with a boy for guide, set out to explore the site of an ancient city. Fawwâz objected loudly to this arrangement, and on reflection I am inclined to think that we overrated the security

Illustrations opposite p.134 ]

Muhammad El 'Abdullah.

Kheidir, Ma'ashi and Sheikh 'Ali.

Illustrations opposite p.135 ]

Bardawi from south-west.

Bardawi, east end of vaulted hall.

'AIN ET TAMR   p.135 / of the road, though no harm came of it. About an hour to the south of Rahhâlîyeh, on the northern edge of low-lying marshy ground, rich in springs, stands the shrine of Sayyid Ahmed ibn Hâshim, and near it to the north and west are vestiges of what must have been a large town. We followed for at least a quarter of a mile the foundations of a fine masonry wall 150 centimetres thick. Between this wall and the low ground the surface of the plain is broken by innumerable mounds and heaps of stone; here, said the boy, after rain, the women of the two oases find gold ornaments and pictured stones. I saw and bought some of the pictured stones at Shetâteh; they are Assyrian cylindrical seals; but without knowing in what quantities and with what other objects they appear, it would be rash to decide that the site is as old. There was undoubtedly a mediaeval Arab city there; all the ground was strewn with fragments of Arab coloured pottery, and at the western limit of the ruin field there are remains of the usual four-square fort; Murrât is its present name.1

   1 The whole area of ruins is known as Kherâb=ruin.

It is build of uncut stone and unburnt brick; the doorway in the north wall is covered with a flattened pointed arch that suggests the thirteenth century or thereabouts.2

   2 It is not necessarily so late, for the Baghdâd Gate at Rakkah has the same arch, and it is certainly earlier.

My own belief is that the town to which this castle belonged stood on the site of an older city, and I place here 'Ain et Tamr, an oasis that was famous in the days of the Persian kings. Yâkût describes it as having lain near Shetâteh, and observes that Khâlid ibn u'l Walîd took and sacked it in the year 12 A.H.., but he says nothing about a later town on the same spot, to which the evidence of the ruins points. Perhaps it was absorbed in Shetâtech.
     The interest of these speculations had caused me to forget that we were still in the desert. Our guide caught us up at Murrât, whither we had galloped recklessly, and explained that he had had some difficulty in allaying the suspicions of a small encampment of the Amarât half-hidden in the valley. The men, seeing us hurrying past, had taken us for robbers p.136 / and were preparing to shoot at us. At a soberer pace we turned back along the valley. It was marshy in places, intersected by little streams from the springs, and covered with a white crust of salts — sabkhah, the Arabs call such regions — on which nothing grew but a malignant-looking thorny shrub, thelleth, useless to man and beast. The water of the springs was "heavy," Muhammad told me, like the water of Rahhâlîyeh. Half-an-hour's ride down the valley we crossed the Rahhâlîyeh-Shetâtech road at a point where there were traces of good masonry. Another half-hour ahead



stood the mound of Bardawî, our objective. Being in good spirits we devoted the interval to song. Muhammad gave us his ode to the motor, and I obliged with "God save the King," translated into indifferent Arabic for the benefit of the audience.
     "The words are good," said Muhammad politely, "but I do not care about the air."
     So we came to Bardawî, a striking tell with an oval fortress standing upon it (Fig. 72]. There had been at least three storeys of vaulted rooms lifting the strange tower-like structure high above the level of the desert (Fig. 73). It suggests a watch-tower guarding the eastern approaches to the city, but I am not prepared to affirm that the present edifice is earlier than the Mohammadan period. A substructure and the remains of an upper floor are standing, the ground plan of both being the same. A small vaulted hall, with three vaulted chambers on either side, occupied the centre of the building; the door, with traces of a porch or ante-room, lay to the west; while to the east there were two much-ruined chambers, which BARDAWΠ  p.137 / communicated with the hall by means of a narrow door. The masonry is of undressed stones laid in mortar. The vaults of the side chambers seem to have been built over a rude centering; they are much flattened and so irregularly constructed as to approach in form to a gable roof. These rooms were lighted by a small round hole in the outer wall, under the apex of the vault. The vault of the hall springs with a double outset from the wall and terminates at the eastern end (the west end is ruined) in a semi-dome which was adjusted to the rectangular corners by means of squinch arches (Fig. 74). The partition walls are carried up above the level of the upper vaults, apparently for another storey. The lower part of a strong facing of masonry is still in existence on the south side, and I conjecture that it was continued originally to the top of the tower. Having photographed and planned this singular building, we dismissed our guide, whose services we no longer needed, and set out over broken sabkhah in the direction of Shetâteh. We were jogging along between hummocks of thorn and scrub, Muhammad as usual singing, when suddenly he broke off at the end of a couplet and said:
     "I see a horseman riding in haste."
     I looked up and saw a man galloping towards us along the top of a ridge; he was followed closely by another and yet another, and all three disappeared as they dipped down from the high ground. In the desert every newcomer is an enemy till you know him to be a friend. Muhammad slipped a cartridge into his rifle, Hussein extracted his riding-stick from the barrel, where it commonly travelled, and I took a revolver out of my holster. This done, Muhammad galloped forward to the top of a mound; I followed, and we watched together the advance of the three who were rapidly diminishing the space that lay between us. Muhammad jumped to the ground and thre me his bridle.
     "Dismount," said he, "and hold my mare."
     I took the two mares in one hand and the revolver in the other. Hussein had lined up beside me, and we two stood perfectly still while Muhammad advanced, rifle in hand, his p.138 / body bent forward in an attitude of strained watchfulness. He walked slowly, alert and cautious, like a prowling animal. The three were armed and our thoughts ran out to a possible encounter with the Benî Hassan, who were the blood enemies of our companion. If, when they reached the top of the ridge in front of us, they lifted their rifles, Hussein and I would have time to shoot first while they steadied their mares. The three riders topped the ridge, and as soon as we could see their faces Muhammad gave the salaam; they returned it, and with one accord we all stood at ease. For if men give and take the salaam when they are near enough to see each other's faces, there cannot, according to the custom of the desert, be any danger of attack. The authors of this picturesque episode turned out to be three men from Rahhâlîyeh. One of them had lent a rifle to the boy who had guided us and, repenting of his confidence, had come after him to make sure that he did not make off with it. We pointed out the direction in which he had gone and turned our horses' heads once more in the direction of Shetâteh.
     "Lady," said Muhammad reflectively, "in the day of raids I do not trust my mare to the son of my uncle and not to my own brother, lest they should see the foe and fear, and ride away. But to you I gave her because I know that the heart of the English is strong. They do not flee."
     "God forbid!" said I, but my spirit leapt at the compliment paid to my race, however lightly it had been evoked.
     The incident led to some curious talk concerning the rules that govern desert wars. You do not invariably raid to kill; on the contrary, you desire, as far as possible, to avoid bloodshed, with all its tiresome and dangerous consequences of feud.
     "Many a day," explained Muhammad, "we are out only to rob. Then if we meet a few horsemen who try to escape from us, we pursue, crying, 'Your mount, lad!' And if they surrender and deliver to us their mares, their lives are safe, even if they should prove to be blood enemies."
     It is usual to hold in small esteem the courage called forth by Arab warfare, and I do not think that the mortality is,

Illustrations opposite p.138 ]

Shetateh, sulphur spring.

Kasr Sham'un, outer wall.

Illustrations opposite p.139 ]

Ukheidir from north-west.
FIG. 77.—UKHEIDIR FROM NORTH-WEST.   (enlargement)

Ukheidir, interior from south-east.

SHETÂTEH   p.139 / as a rule, high; but I have on one or two occasions found myself with an Arab guide under conditions that might have proved awkward, and I have never yet seen him give signs of fear. It is only to town-dwellers like Fawwâz that the wilderness is beset with terrors.
     Shetâteh is an oasis of 160,000 palms. The number is rapidly diminishing, and on every side there are groups of headless trunks from which the water has been turned off. This is owing to the iniquitous exactions of the tax-gatherers, who levy three and four times in the year the moneys due from each tree, so that the profits on the fruit vanish and even turn to loss. The springs are sulphurous, but very abundant. The palm-trees rise from a bed of corn and clover; willows and pomegranates edge the irrigation streams, and birds nest and sing in the thickets. To us, who had dropped out of the deserts of the Euphrates, it seemed a paradise. The glimmering weirs, the sheen of up-turned willow leaves, the crinkled beauty of opening pomegranate buds were so many marvels, embraced in the recurring miracle of spring, that grows in wonder year by year.
     Through these enchanted groves we rode from our camp to the castle of Sham'ûn, the citadel of the oases. Its great walls, battered and very ancient, tower above the palm-trees, and within their circuit nestles a whole village of mud-built houses (Fig. 76). There is an arched gateway to the north, but the largest fragment of masonry lies to the east, a massive, shapeless wall of stone and unburnt bricks, seamed from top to bottom by a deep fissure, which the khalif, 'Alî ibn Abi Tâlib, said my guide, made with a single sword cut. Among the houses there are many vestiges of old foundations, and a few vaulted chambers, now considerably below the level of the soil. It was impossible to plan the place in its present state; I can only be sure that it was square with bastioned corners. My impression is that it is pre-Mohammadan, repaired by the conquerors, and local tradition, to which, however, it would be unwise to attach much value, bears out this view. Possibly Sham'ûn was the main fortress of 'Ain et Tamr before the Mohammadan invasion.
p.140 /
     At Shetâteh I parted from Hussein, Muhammad, and the camel riders. Kheidir was reported to be four hours away, a little to the south of the Kerbelâ road. The Kâimmakâm could supply me with two zaptiehs, and Fattûh had hired a couple of mules to carry our diminished packs. The four men intended to travel back together, making a long day from Rahhâlîyeh to Themail so as to avoid a night in the open desert. They started next morning in good heart, fortified by presents of quinine, a much-prized gift, and other more substantial rewards. Muhammad would gladly have come with us to Kerbelâ, but we remembered the Benî Hassan and decided that it would be wiser for him to turn back, though before he left we had laid plans for a longer and a more adventurous journey to be undertaken another year, please God! We had not gone more than an hour from Shetâteh before we met a company of the Benî Hassan coming in to the oasis for dates, a troop of lean and ragged men driving donkeys. They asked us anxiously whether we had seen any of the Deleim at Shetâteh.
     "No, wallah!" said Fattûh with perfect assurance, and I laughed, knowing that Muhammad was well on his way to Rahhâlîyeh.
     We had ridden to the south-east for about three hours, through a most uncompromising wilderness, when, in the glare ahead, we caught sight of a great mass which I took for a natural feature in the landscape. But as we approached, its shape became more and more definite, and I asked one of the zaptiehs what it was.
     "It is Kheidir," said he.
     "Yallah, Fattûh, bring on the mules," I shouted, and galloped forward.
     Of all the wonderful experiences that have fallen my way, the first sight of Kheidir is the most memorable. It reared its mighty walls out of the sand, almost untouched by time, breaking the long lines of the waste with its huge towers, steadfast and massive, as though it were, as I had at first thought it, the work of nature, not of man. We approached it from the north, on which side a long low building runs UKHEIDIR   p.141 / out towards the sandy depression of the Wâdî Lebai'ah (Fig. 77). A zaptieth caught me up as I reached the first of the vaulted rooms, and out of the northern gateway a man in long robes of white and black came trailing down towards us through the hot silence.
     "Peace be upon you," said he.
     "And upon you peace, Sheikh 'Alî," returned the zaptieh. "This lady is of the English."
     "Welcome, my lady Khân," said the sheikh; "be pleased to enter and to rest."
     He led me through a short passage and under a tiny dome. I was aware of immense corridors opening on either hand, but we passed on into a great vaulted hall where the Arabs sat round the ashes of a fire.
     "My lady Khân," said Sheikh 'Alî, "this is the castle of Nu'mân ibn Mundhir."
     Whether it were a Lakhmid palace or no, it was the palace which I had set forth to seek. It belongs architecturally to the group of Sassanian buildings which are already known to us, and historically it is related to the palaces, famous in pre-Mohammadan tradition, whose splendours had filled with amazement the invading hordes of the Bedouin, and still shine with a legendary magnificence, from the pages of the chroniclers of the conquest. Even for the Mohammadan writers they had become nothing but a name. Khawarnak, Sadîr, and the rest, fell into ruin with Hîrah, the capital of the small Arab principality that occupied the frontiers of the desert, and their site was a matter of hearsay or conjecture. "Think on the lord of Khawarnak," sang 'Adî ibn Zaid prophetically—

                     "—— eyes guided of God see clear ——
He rejoiced in his might and the strength of his hands, the encompassing wave and Sadîr;
And his heart stood still and he spake: 'What joy have the living to death addressed?
For the open cleft of the grave lies close upon pleasure and power and rest.
Like a withered leaf they fall, and the wind shall scatter them east and west.' "

p.142 /
     But for all its total disappearance under the wave of Islâm, the Lakhmid state had played a notable part in the development of Arab culture. It was at Hirah that the desert came into contact with the highly organized civilization of the Persians, with the wealth of cultivated lands and the long-established order of a settled population; there, too, as among the Ghassânids on the Syrian side of the wilderness, they made acquaintance with the precepts of Christianity which exercised so marked an influence on the latest poets of the Age of Ignorance, some of whom, like 'Adî ibn Zaid himself, are known to have been Christians, and prepared the way for the Prophet's teaching. 1

   1 See Rothstein : Die Dynastie der Lakhmiden in al Hîra, p. 25. He gives reasons for believing that the art of writing Arabic was first practised at Hîrah. The population was largely Christian (the 'Ibad of the Arab historians), Hîrah was the seat of a bishopric, and frequent allusion is made to churches and monasteries in and near the town.

So little have the eastern borders of the Syrian desert been explored that except for the ruin field of Hîrah, a town which was destroyed in order to furnish building materials for the Moslem city of Kûfah, and a cluster of mouldering vaults, said to represent the castle of Khawarnak, 2

   2 Meissner :  "Hîra und Khawarnak" Senschriften der D. Orient Gesell., No. 2.

not one of the famous pre-Mohammadan sites has been identified, and it is possible that important vestiges of the Lakhmid age may lie unsuspected within a few days' journey from regions familiar to travellers and even to tourists. Meanwhile Kheidir (the name is the colloquial abbreviation of Ukhaidir=a small green place) is the finest example of Sassanian architecture which has yet been discovered. Its wonderful state of preservation is probably due to the fact that it was some distance removed from the nearest inhabited spot. Shetâteh is separated from it by three hours of naked desert; the canals that feed Kerbelâ are yet further away, and the water supply of Ukheidir, derived from wells in the Wâdî Lebai'ah, to have tempted the fellahîn to establish themselves there. Nowhere in the vicinity, so far as I could learn, are

Illustrations opposite p.142 ]

Ukheidir, north-east angle tower

Ukheidir, stair at south-east angle

Ukheidir, interior of south gate

Illustrations opposite p.143 ]

Ukheidir, chemin de ronde of east wall

Ukheidir, north gate, from outside

UKHEIDIR   p.143 / there more abundant springs, and the palace has therefore been allowed to drop into a slow decay, forgotten in the midst of its wildernesses, save when a raiding expedition brings the Bedouin into the neighbourhood of Shetâteh.
     Most of us who have had opportunity to become familiar with some site that has once been the theatre of a vanished civilization have passed through hours of vain imaginings during which the thoughts labour to recapture the aspect of street and market, church or temple enclosure, of which the evidences lie strewn over the surface of the earth. And ever, as a thousand unanswerable problems surge up against the realization of that empty hope, I have found myself longing for an hour out of a remote century, wherein I might look my fill upon the walls that have fallen and stamp the image of a dead world indelibly upon my mind. The dream seemed to have reached fulfilment at Ukheidir. There the architecture of a by-gone age presented itself in unexampled perfection to the eye. It was not necessary to guess at the structure of vaults or the decorative scheme of niched façades — the camera and the measuring-tape could register the methods of the builder and the results which he had achieved. But it was evident that no satisfactory record of Ukheidir could be made within the limits of the day which I had allowed myself for the expedition. We had exhausted our small stock of provisions, and the materials necessary for carrying out so large a piece of work as the planning of the palace were at Kerbelâ with the caravan. Fattûh disposed of these difficulties at once by declaring that he intended to ride into Kerbelâ that night and bring out the caravan next day. The truth was that he yearned for the sight of the baggage horses, and for my part I longed for a bed and for a table more than I could have thought it possible. I was weary of sleeping on the stony face of the desert, of sitting in the dust and eating my meals with a seasoning of sand — so infirm is feminine endurance. An Arab called Ghânim, clean-limbed and spare, like all his half-fed tribe, offered himself as guide, and 'Alî assured us that he knew every inch of the way. But when the zaptiehs heard that p.144 / one of them was to accompany the expedition they turned white with fear. To ride through the desert at night, they declared, was a venture from which no man was likely to come out alive. I hesitated — it requires much courage to face risks for others — but Fattûh stood firm, 'Alî laughed, and the thought of the bed carried the day. They started at eight in the evening, and I watched them disappear across the sands with some sinking of heart. All next day I was too well occupied to give them much thought, but when six o'clock came and 'Alî set watchers upon the castle walls, I began to feel anxious. Half-an-hour later Ma'ashî, the sheikh's brother and my particular friend, came running down to my tent.
     "Praise God ! my lady Khân they are here."
     The Arabs gathered round to offer their congratulations, and Fattûh rode in, grey with fatigue and dust, with the caravan at his heels. He had reached Kerbelâ at five in the morning, found the muleteers, bought provisions, loaded the animals, and set off again about ten.
     "And the oranges are good in Kerbelâ," he ended triumphantly. "I have brought your Excellency a whole bag of them."
     It was a fine performance.
     The Arabs who inhabited Kheidir had come there two years before from Jôf in Nejd: "Because we were vexed with the government of Ibn er Rashîd," explained 'Alî, and I readily understood that his could not be a soothing rule. The wooden howdahs in which the women had travelled blocked one of the long corridors, and some twenty families lodged upon the ground in the vaulted chambers of princes. They lived and starved and died in this most splendid memorial of their own civilization, and even in decay Kheidir offered a shelter more than sufficient for their needs to the race at whose command it had been reared. Their presence was an essential part of its proud decline. The sheikh and his brothers passed like ghosts along the passages, they trailed their white robes down the stairways that led to the high chambers where they lived with their women, UKHEIDIR   p.145 / and at night they gathered round the hearth in the great hall where their forefathers had beguiled the hours with tale and song in the same rolling tongue of Nejd. Then they would pile up the desert scrub till the embers glowed under the coffee-pots, while Ma'ashî handed round the delicious bitter draught which was the one luxury left to them. The thorns crackled, a couple of oil wicks placed in holes above the columns, which had been contrived for them by the men-at-arms of old, sent a feeble ray into the darkness, and Ghânim took the rebâbah and drew from its single string a wailing melody to which he chanted the stories of his race.
     "My lady Khân, this is the song of 'Abdu'l 'Azîz ibn er Rashîd."
     He sang of a prince great and powerful, patron of poets, leader of raids, and recently overwhelmed and slain in battle; but old or new, the songs were all pages out of the same chronicle, the undated chronicle of the nomad. The thin melancholy music rose up into the blackness of the vault; across the opening at the end of the hall, where the wall had fallen in part away, was spread the deep still night and the unchanging beauty of the stars.
     "My lady Khân," said Ghânim, "I will sing you the song of Ukheidir."
     But I said, "Listen to the verse of Ukheidir" —

"We wither away but they wane not, the stars that above us rise;
  The mountains remain after us, and the strong towers when we are gone."

     "Allah !" murmured Ma'ashî, as he swept noiselessly round the circle with the coffee cups, and once again Labîd's noble couplet held the company, as it had held those who sat in the banqueting-hall of the khalif.
     One night I was provided with a different entertainment. I had worked from sunrise till dark and was too tired to sleep. The desert was as still as death; infinitely mysterious, it stretched away from my camp and I lay watching the empty sands as one who watches for a pageant. Suddenly p.146 / a bullet whizzed over the tent and the crack of a rifle broke the silence. All my men jumped up; a couple more shots rang out, and Fattûh hastily disposed the muleteers round the tents and hurried off to join a band of Arabs who had streamed from the castle gate. I picked up a revolver and went out to see them go. In a minute or two they had vanished under the uncertain light of the moon, which seems so clear and yet discloses so little. A zaptieh joined me and we stood still listening. Far out in the desert the red flash of rifles cut through the white moonlight; again the quick flare and then again silence. At last through the night drifted the sound of a wild song, faint and far away, rhythmic, elemental as the night and the desert. I waited in complete uncertainty as to what was approaching, and it was not until they were close upon us that we recognized our own Arabs and Fattûh in their midst. They came on, still singing, with their rifles over their shoulders; their white garments gleamed under the moon; they wore no kerchiefs upon their heads, and their black hair fell in curls about their faces.
     "Ma'ashî," I cried, "what happened?"
     Ma'ashî shook his hair out of his eyes.
     "There is nothing, my lady Khân. 'Alî saw some men lurking in the desert at the 'asr" (the hour of afternoon prayer), "and we watched after dark from the walls."
     "They were raiders of the Benî Dafî'ah," said Ghânim, mentioning a particular lawless tribe.
     "Fattûh," said I, "did you shoot?"
     "We shot," replied Fattûh; "did not your Excellency hear? — and one man is wounded."
     A wild-looking boy held out his hand, on which I detected a tiny scratch.
     "There is no harm," said I. "Praise God !"
     "Praise God!" they repeated, and I left them laughing and talking eagerly, and went to bed and to sleep.
     Next morning I questioned Fattûh as to the events of the night, but he was exceptionally non-committal.
     "My lady," said he, "God knows. 'Alî says that they

Illustrations opposite p.146 ]

Ukheidir, fluted dome at A.

Ukheidir, fluted niche, south-east corner of Court D

Illustration opposite p.147 ]

Ukheidir, great hall
FIG. 90.—UKHEIDIR, GREAT HALL.   (enlargement)

KERBEL   p.147 / were men of the Benî Dafî'ah." Then with a burst of confidence he added, "But I saw no one."
     "At whom did you shoot?" said I in bewilderment.
     "At the Benî Dafî'ah," answered Fattûh, surprised at the stupidity of the question.
     I gave it up, neither do I know to this hour whether we were or were not raided in the night.
     Two days later my plan was finished. I had turned one of the vaulted rooms of the stable into a workshop, and spreading a couple of waterproof sheets on the sand for table, had drawn it out to scale lying on the ground. Sometimes an Arab came in silently and stood watching my pencil, until the superior attractions of the next chamber, in which sat the muleteers and the zaptiehs, drew him away. As I added up metres and centimetres I could hear them spinning long yarns of city and desert. Occasionally Ma'ashî brought me coffee.
     "God give you the reward," said I.
     "And your reward," he answered gravely.
     The day we left Kheidir, the desert was wrapped in the stifling dust of a west wind. I have no notion what the country is like through which we rode for seven hours to Kerbelâ, and no memory, save that of the castle walls fading like a dream into the haze, of a bare ridge of hill to our right hand and the bitter waves of a salt lake to our left, and of deep sand through which we were driven by a wind that was the very breath of the Pit. Then out of the mist loomed the golden dome of the shrine of Hussein, upon whom be peace, and few pious pilgrims were gladder than I when we stopped to drink a glass of tea at the first Persian tea-shop of the holy city.


     I DO not propose to enter here into a detailed account of the palace of Ukheidir, which must be reserved for a subsequent publication, but it is well to give a short elucidation p.148 / of the plan, and to consider briefly the theories which have been formed with regard to the origin of the building.1

   1 I have already published the plan in the Hellenic Journal for 1910, Part I., p. 69, in an article on the vaulting system of the palace. Ukhaidir was visited in the year 1907 by M. Massignon, though this fact was unknown to me until I returned to England in July 1909. He has published an account of it, together with a sketch plan made under circumstances of great difficulty, in the Bulletin de l'Acad. des Inscr. et Belles-Lettres of March 1909, in the Gazette des Beaux Arts of April 1909, and in the Mémoires de l'Institut français du Caire, vol. xxviii. (The last named has not yet appeared, but he has been so kind as to let me see an advance copy.) Neither to M. Massignon nor to me belongs the honour of discovery; an unknown Englishman had visited the palace in the eighteenth century, and his brief report is given by Niebuhr (Reisebeschreibung, vol. ii., p. 225, note): "Ich habe in dem Tagebuch eines Engländers, der von Haleb nach Basra gereist war, gefunden, dass er 44 Studen Südfost nach Osten von Hit, eine ganz verlassene Stadt in der Wüste angetroffen habe, wovon die Mauer 50 Fuss hoch und 40 Fuss dick war. Jede der vier Seiten hatte 700 Fuss, und in der Mauer waren Thürme. In dieser Stadt oder grossem Castell, findet man noch ein kleines Castell. Von eben dieser verlassenen Stadt hörte ich nachher, dass sie von den Arabern El Khader gennant werde, und nur 10 bis 12 Stunden von Meshed Ali entfernt sei." I cannot feel any doubt that the "forsaken town" referred to in the diary, the existence of which was confirmed by the Arabs, who spoke of it to Niebuhr under the name of Khader, is our Ukheidir. So far as I have been able to discover, the nameless Englishman was the first modern traveller to visit the site.

     The palace consists of a rectangular fortification wall set with round bastions, with larger round bastions at the angles, and of an oblong building surrounded on three sides by a court, together with a small annex in the eastern part of the court (Fig. 79). That part of the oblong building which adjoins the northern fortification wall is three storeys high; the remainder of the palace is one storey high. Outside the enclosing fortification wall there is a structure composed of fourteen vaulted parallel chambers, with a small open court at the southern end. To the west of the small court and of the first five chambers lies a larger court with round bastions on its western side. Between each of these bastions there is a door and either one or two groups of windows, each group consisting of three narrow lights. I noticed foundations of masonry which ran down from near the northern end of this

Illustration opposite p.148 ]

Ukheidir, court D and niched facade of three-storeyed block

Illustrations opposite p.149 ]

Ukheidir, vault of room I.

Ukheidir, room I.

p.149 ]

Link to Ukheidir, ground plan

p.150 / out-building towards the valley. To the N.W. of the palace there is another small detached building called by the Arabs the Bath (Fig. 80). Near it the surface of the ground is broken by low mounds which may indicate the presence of ruins. The

Ukhaidir, the bath


Arabs assured me that by digging here brackish water could be obtained; there is also a well of brackish water in the western part of the palace court, but it is not used for drinking purposes. The water supply of Ukheidir is derived from the Wâdî Lebai'ah. It is obtained by digging holes in the sandy bed of the valley.
     The fortification wall is arcaded without and within up to two thirds of its height. These blind arcades support the walls of the chemin de ronde. The outer arcade serves the purpose of a machicoulis, a narrow space between its arches and the outer face of the main wall enabling the defenders in the chemin de ronde to protect with missiles the foot of the wall below them (Fig. 83). The chemin de ronde could be reached from the uppermost floor of the three-storeyed block of the palace, as well as by means of four staircases, one in each of the angles of the court (Fig. 84). Two of these staircases have now fallen completely. The chemin de ronde had been covered by a vault (Fig 86). Arched doorways led into outlook chambers hollowed in the thickness of the bastions. Arched windows open on to the court. In the centre of each side of the fortification wall there is a gate (Fig. 85), that which stands on the northern side being the most important, since it communicates directly with the palace (Fig. 87). It opens into a passage with a guard-room on either side. The passage leads into a small rectangular chamber, A in the plan, covered with a fluted dome (Fig. 88). From this chamber an arched doorway communicates with a vaulted hall, B, which runs up to a height of two storeys and is the largest room in the palace (Fig. 90). The vault, borne on projecting engaged piers, spans seven metres. Beyond the hall vaulted corridors, C C C C, C' C' C' C', surround an open

Illustrations opposite p.150 ]

Ukheidir, cusped door of court S.
Ukheidir, corridor Q.
Ukheidir, vaulted end of P, showing tube.
Ukheidir, vaulted cloister O'.

Illustrations opposite p.151 ]

Ukheidir, groin in corridor C.

Ukheidir, squinch arch on second storey.

UKHEIDIR   p.151 / court, D, as well as a block of rooms lying to the south of the court. The court D is set round with engaged columns forming vaulted niches (Fig. 91). At the S.E. corner the vault of one of these niches is fluted (Fig. 89). The bracketed setting of these small semi-domes over the angles is to be noted. The block of chambers south of court D is more carefully built than any other part of the palace. It consists of an oblong antechamber, E, leading into a square room, F. On either side of the antechamber there are a pair of rooms, the walls and vaults of those lying to the west, G' and H', being finished with stucco decorations and small columned niches. On either side of the square chamber, F, is a room containing four masonry columns which support three parallel barrel vaults (Figs. 92 and 93). South of room F stretches a cloister, J, which was covered with a barrel vault, now fallen. It opens into an unroofed court, K. The corridor CC' runs to the south of court K, and still further to the south is another open court, L, with vaulted rooms round it.
     To east and west of the corridor CC, C'C', lie four courts, MM' and NN'. To north and south of each of these courts there are three vaulted rooms, but in M and M' small antechambers in the shape of a narthex separate the rooms from the court, whereas in N and N' the rooms open directly on to the court. In every case there are traces of a vaulted cloister, OO and O'O', between the court and the outer wall (Fig. 97). Behind each block of rooms there is a rectangular space, PPPP and P'P'P'P', two-thirds of which are vaulted, while the central part is left open (Fig. 95). Similar open spaces are left in the corridor CC, C'C', which would otherwise be exceedingly dark.
     To return to the north gate. On either side of the small domed chamber, A, long vaulted corridors, QQ', lead to the outer court (Fig. 96). A door on the south side of corridor Q communicates with a small court, R, with chambers to north and south of it and vaulted cloisters to east and west. A group of vaulted chambers is placed between court R and the great hall B. West of hall B there is a smaller group of vaulted chambers. In the south wall of corridor Q', two p.152 / doors lead into an open court surrounded on three sides by a vaulted cloister, the vault of which has now fallen except for fragments in the south-east and south-west corners. These fragments are adorned with stucco decorations. I have suggested (in the Hellenic Journal, loc. cit.) that this court may be a mosque of a primitive type. (See, too, Der Islâm,

Ukheidir, second storey


vol. i. part ii. p. 126, where Dr. Herzfeld points out that a chamber somewhat similarly placed in the palace of Mshatta may also be a mosque.)
     No difficulty will be found in following on the plan the arrangement of the upper floors in the northern part of the palace. In the second storey, the space marked B2 is occupied by the vault of the great hall B (Fig. 81). At A2

Ukheidir, third storey


three windows open into the hall from the room in the second storey. R2 and S2 correspond with the two courts R and S. In the third storey the rectangular space A3 is unroofed, and the space B3, below which lies the vault of the great hall, is also unroofed (Fig. 82). The eastern part of this storey is completely ruined, but there would appear to have been rooms

Illustrations opposite p.152 ]

Ukheidir, north side of court M.

Ukheidir, south-east angle of court S.

Illustrations opposite p.153 ]

Ukheidir, west side of B3.

Ukheidir, door leading from V to W, seen from south.

UKHEIDIR   p.153 / round R3 similar to the rooms round R2. The chemin de ronde, TT', is on a level with this storey.
     Between the main palace block and the eastern fortification wall there lies a group of rooms which is clearly an addition to the original scheme. It is interesting to observe that these rooms are in all essentials of their plan a repetition of the group of rooms to the south of court D. Room U corresponds with the antechamber E; room V with the square room F; W with the cloister J; X, Y, and Z to G, H, and T. But the columns in I I' are not repeated in the small rooms, Z Z'; room V is covered with a groined vault instead of the barrel vault of F, and the court A is not closed with a wall like the court K. I make no doubt that both these groups of rooms, which are so strikingly similar in arrangement, were intended for the same purposes, and I conjecture that they were ceremonial reception rooms. Herzfeld has compared E and F with the throne room of Mshatta (Der Islâm, loc. cit.).
     All the rooms and corridors of the palace are vaulted. Some of the finer vaults are built of brick tiles (for example, over the great hall B and over rooms E, F, I, and I'), but as a rule the vaults are constructed with stones set in mortar, the stones being cut into thin slabs so as to resemble bricks as closely as possible. (Cf. the Sassanian palace of Firûzâbâd, Dieulafoy, L'Art Ancien de la Perse, vol. iv.) All the vaults, whether of brick or stone, are built without centering, and all are set forward slightly from the face of the wall. (The same construction is found at Ctesiphon, see below, Fig. 109.)1

   1 I wish to call special attention to the presence of this construction at Ctesiphon because Dr. Herzfeld has stated erroneously that it does not exist in Sassanian buildings. (Der Islâm, vol. i. part ii. p. 111.)

The groined vault occurs seven times in the corridor CC' (Fig. 98), and it is also found in room V. (See my article in the Hellenic Journal above cited.) The fluted dome over room A is bracketed across the corners of the rectangular substructure (Fig. 88). In several cases where a barrel vault terminates not against a head wall but against another section of barrel vault, it is adjusted to the angles of the substructure p.154 / by means of squinch arches (Fig. 99). A noticeable feature of the vault construction of Ukheidir is the presence of masonry tubes running between the parallel barrel vaults (Fig. 100). The structural purpose of these tubes is to diminish the mass of masonry between the barrel vaults. Whenever two barrel vaults lie parallel to one another, a tube will be found between them, and similar tubes exist between the vault of the cloister O O and O' O' and the outer wall. (See too Fig. 95, which shows a tube between a barrel vault and a straight wall.) Over the vaults of the rooms of the annex in the eastern part of the court, and also over the vaults of the fourteen parallel chambers outside the enclosing wall to the north, a false roof is laid (Fig. 103). It serves as a protection against the heat of the sun. Under the eastern annex there are some much-ruined subterranean chambers. A staircase at the south-eastern angle of court D leads down into similar cellars (serâdîb).
     The arches over the doorways are usually of an ovoid shape, sometimes slightly pointed. When the door-jambs take the form of engaged columns, the capitals of the columns, roughly blocked out in masonry, carry an arch slightly narrower in width than the opening of the doorway beneath it. But when the door-jambs are formed merely by the straight section of the wall, the span of the arch is wider than the opening of the doorway (Fig. 102 illustrates both types). This set-back of the arch was doubtless employed in order to facilitate the placing of centering beams. Three wide doorways with round arches, b b' and c, lead from the main block of the palace building into the surrounding court. The arches are usually characterized by double rings of voussoirs (cf. Ctesiphon and other buildings of the Sassanian and early Mohammadan period), the inner ring laid so as to show the broad face of the stones or tiles, while the narrow end shows in the outer ring. (See the arch in Fig. 102.) The arch construction in the eastern annex is, however, much rougher in style. The outer ring of voussoirs is omitted there, nor is it invariable in other parts of the palace.
     The niche plays a large part in the decoration of Ukheidir. A row of narrow niches runs along the top of the outer face UKHEIDIR   p.155 / of the northern enclosing wall, but very little of it is now left (Fig. 87). The southern face of the three-storeyed block bears an elaborate niche decoration (Fig. 91). Here the lowest row of niches forms part of the series already mentioned which runs round court D. Above these, on the second storey, are remains of another row of arched niches, each of which contains three small niches. So far as I know, this feature of a large niche enclosing groups of smaller niches has not yet been observed in Sassanian architecture. It is found, however, in a certain well-known type of early Christian church (see, for instance, Ala Klisse, published by me in the Thousand and One Churches, p. 403). On the third storey of the palace the face of the wall has been left blank, but above the windows there are still traces of a third order of small niches. Pairs of niches flanked by engaged columns are to be seen in room G'. They are set high up in the wall between the transverse arches. On these transverse arches there is a plaster decoration, the same in character as that which occurs in the semi-domes at the ends of the vault in Court S (Fig. 101). The motives there used are the flute (in the squinch arch and in the conical segment of the semi-dome above it), and a pattern which resembles a tiny battlemented motive. Upon the transverse arches the battlemented motive is doubled so as to form diamond-shaped patterns. In the centre of each of these diamonds, and in the centre of the tiny arched niches at the bottom of the vault, and also between those niches, there are small funnel-shaped motives formed of concentric rings. Between the transverse arches there is a boldly worked ribbing. The arch round the eastern of the two doors that leads into corridor Q' is surrounded by cusps (Fig. 94). (Cf. Ctesiphon, Dieulafoy, op. cit., vol. v. plate 6.) A blind arcade, borne by pilasters, is to be seen in courts M M' and N N'. In the antechamber U there are shallow niches on either side of the doors.
 With regard to the date of Ukheidir there are three possible hypotheses. It may belong —
     I.  To the Sassanian or Lakhmid period prior to the Mohammadan conquest.
p.156 /
     2.  To the 150 years after the Mohammadan conquest.
     3.  To the Abbâsid period, i. e. after A.D. 750.
     I.  In defence of the first theory can be urged the close relationship between Ukheidir and other places of the Sassanian age, not only in plan (cf. Kasr-i-Shîrîn, de Morgan, Mission Scientifique en Perse, vol. iv., part 2), but also in the technique of brick and stone masonry and in the principles of vault construction (cf. Ctesiphon, Firûzâbâd, and Sarvistân, Dieulafoy, op. cit.). But since it is certain that the arts of the early Moslem era were dominated in Mesopotamia by Sassanian influence, these affinities do not offer a convincing proof of a pre-Mohammadan date. Even if Ukheidir belonged to the early Moslem age, it might, and probably would, have been built by Persian workmen. At the same time certain architectural features, such as the groined vault and the fluted dome, have not hitherto been observed in any Sassanian building. The earliest Mesopotamian example of the groined vault known to me, besides the groins of Ukheidir, is that of which fragments can be seen in the Baghdâd Gate at Rakkah.
     There is, further, a passage in Yâkût's Dictionary which might help to support the theory of a pre-Mohammadan origin (vol. ii., p. 626, under Dûmat ej Jandal). In the accounts, given by the Arab historians of the invasion of Mesopotamia in 12 A.H. (A.D. 633-4), by Khâlid ibn u'l Walîd, frequent mention is made of 'Ain et Tamr, which Yâkût expressly states to be the same as Shefâthâ (Shetâteh is the modern colloquial form of the name). When Khâlid ibn u'l Walîd had taken the oasis, which was inhabited by Christian Arabs, and appears to have been the one place that offered him serious resistance (Teano: Annali dell' Islam, vol. ii., p. 940), he is said to have marched on Dûmat ej Jandal, which he captured, putting to death its defender, Ukeidir 'Abdu'l Malik el Kindî.1

   1 The name Ukeidir can have no connection with the name Ukheidir. The two words are differently spelt in Arabic.

It is generally admitted that the name Dûmat ej Jandal in this account is an error, and that the fortress which was taken by the Mohammadans in the UKHEIDIR   p.157 / year 12 A.H. was Dûmat el Hîrah. (For the reasons for substituting Dûmat el Hîrah for Dûmat ej Jandal in Tabarî's text, see Teano, op. cit., vol. ii., p. 991.) Now Yâkût gives two conflicting traditions concerning the foundation of Dûmat el Hîrah, but he expresses no uncertainty as to its position. It was near to 'Ain et Tamr, and its ruins were known in Yâkût's day (thirteenth century). According to the first tradition given by Yâkût, the Prophet sent Khâlid ibn u'l Walîd in the year 9 A.H. against Ukeidir, who was lord of Dûmat ej Jandal. Khâlid captured Dûmat ej Jandal and made a treaty with Ukeidir, but after the death of Mohammad, Ukeidir broke the treaty, whereupon the Khalif 'Umar expelled him from Dûmat ej Jandal. He retired to Hîrah and built himself a palace near to 'Ain et Tamr, which he called Dûmah. This Dûmah, near 'Ain et Tamr, is no doubt Dûmat el Hîrah which Khâlid besieged and took in the year 12 A.H. The second tradition is substantially the same as the first as far as the Mohammadan invasion is concerned, but Yâkût here implies that Ukeidir dwelt in the first instance at Dûmat el Hîrah, and was accustomed to resort to Dûmat ej Jandal for the purposes of the chase, and he adds that Ukeidir named Dûmat ej Jandal after Dûmat el Hîrah. Prince Teano (op. cit., vol. ii. p. 262) has exposed the improbabilities which attend this explanation, and he concludes that both traditions are equally untrustworthy, and doubts the authenticity of any part of the story of Ukeidir. It does, however, appear to me to be possible that the ruins of Dûmat el Hîrah which were standing in Yâkût's day were no other than the abandoned palace of Ukheidir, though it is not necessary to accept either of Yâkût's versions of the story of its foundation.
     2.  If the palace is to be ascribed to the period immediately succeeding the conquest, it would be a Mesopotamian representative of the group of pleasure palaces which were built upon the Syrian side of the desert by the Umayyad princes (Lammens: La Badia et la Hîra, Mélanges de la faculté orientale, Beyrout, vol. iv., p. 91). But whereas it was natural that the Umayyad khalifs should have constructed p.158 / hunting palaces in that part of the desert which lay on the direct road between their capital of Damascus and the spiritual capitals of their empire, Mecca and Medina, it is difficult to see why they should have selected a site so far from any of their habitual residences as Ukheidir. It is true that the Khalif 'Alî made Kûfah his capital for five years. He was assassinated there in A.D. 661. But during those years he was ceaselessly occupied in quelling rebellions, and I dismiss the possibility that he should have found leisure to build or to use the palace of Ukheidir.
   3.  I am not disposed to place Ukheidir as late as the Abbâsid period. The Abbâsid princes had lost the habit of the desert which was so strong a characteristic of their Umayyad predecessors. When they moved away from their capital of Baghdâd they built themselves cities like Rakkah and Sâmarrâ. Moreover, the architectural features of Ukheidir, both structural and decorative, present marked differences from those of the ruins at Rakkah and at Sâmarrâ, and on architectural as well as on historical grounds I am inclined to ascribe Ukheidir to an earlier age.
   Whether that age be immediately before the Mohammadan conquest, or whether it fall shortly after the conquest, during the Umayyad period, I do not think we are as yet in a position to determine. It is to be borne in mind that the ruins of the palace bear witness to two different dates of building. The eastern annex and probably the edifice outside the enclosing wall to the north are an addition to the original plan and must be of a slightly later date.