XVIII Damascus 9/XI/98.

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XVIII
Damascus 9/XI 98.


Dearest Nicky

By the kind telegram you sent me to Jerusalem1 you intimate that you follow our journey with interest; this encourages me to send you a few lines at the end of our tour with some of my impressions. They are so manifold that it is rather difficult to fix them.

In the first place Jerusalem has of course occupied our attention on account of the many places filled with reminiscences of our Saviour. The thought that His eyes rested on the same hills, that His feet trod the same ground is most stirring to ones heart, and makes it beat faster and more fervently. But I must frankly own that not all one sees relating to the Christian faith is exactly adopted for the promotion of this feeling. The manifold and different confessions and sects of our Common Christian faith have done too much in the way of church-building, the erection of monastries, chapels etc. on so called "Traditional Holy Places." Which has led to a sort of concurrence or race for the highest towers or biggest churches, which do not at all harmonise with the sites they are erected on. In fact one could call it an exhibition of Church-models! 2 This has also affected the clergies of the different churches, who have a pleasure in intrigues and political designs fostering hatred instead of love, and leading to free fights and battles in the churches instead of Psalms and friendly intercourse. But what is worse still they have created a worship of stones and wood, foribdden in the 2nd of the X Commandments, instead of the Divinity itself. A Frenchman characteristically said to me: "C'est l'adoration de la Pierre aux lieux 'soit disant Saints,' dont la Sainteté ne peut être garantie, et la Divité n'est pour Rien!"3 Very true but most distressing to our Christian feeling. Very naturally this -- I beg your pardon -- Fetish adoration has created a supreme contempt for the Christians with the Moslems. My personal feeling in leaving the Holy City was that I felt profondly ashamed before the Moslems and that if I had come there without any Religion at all I certainly would have turned Mahommetan! The way Religion is understood in Jerusalem, it will never lead to the conversion of a single Moslem, or the growth of a single tree or the digging of a single new well. I am afraid that Religion in Jerusalem is often used by the Clergies as a cover for political devices and designs and that is very wrong and does Christianity a very great harm as the Moslems have long ago perceived this and treat us accordingly. I return home with feelings of great disillusion and with the firm convictions that our Saviours grave quite certainly is not beneath that church of the Saint Sepulchre, which in its appearance and decoration compares very badly with the Mosque of Omar in its simple and awe inspiring grandeur! -- Alas! -- The most interesting and the finest town from the oriental point of view is no doubt Damascus. Beirut with its lovely villas gardens and glades reminding one more of a town in the south of Italy or in Sicily. The Holy Land is simply terrible in its arid dryness and utter want of trees and water. But here everything is changed as if by magic! The great River Barader4 gives life and coolness and fosters vegetation of the finest description. The town is situated in the midst of vast gardens and shady glades all watered by small rivulets giving them the aspect when seen from above -- of a large fasanarie of the circumference of 2 square miles! The quiet lovely courtyards with their Arabian Masonry, their shady nooks and murmuring fountains with fresh water in marble basins, are simply unique, like in a dream! You would be delighted to be here as you understand so much about the East! -- Our reception5 here is simply astounding never has a Christian -- Giaur -- Monarch been so fêted and received with such unbounded enthusiasm. It is because I am a friend of their Sultan and Kaliph and because I allways pursued an open and loyal Policy toward him; the same I so often advocated for you too. The hatred of the English is strong and growing more and more intense -- no wonder -- whilst in the same time apace with it grows the open contempt of France, which has lost all the respect it once possessed of old! That is the unavoidable consequence of the terrible quagmire the French are now floundering about in their interior affairs,6 splashing the dirt right and left till the whole of Europe reeks with the stench! Showing how far the corruption lying and dishounour has allready gained in the nation and before all in the army! Here people look upon them as on a dying nation, especially since the last and most ignominious retreat of the French from Faschoda!7 What on earth has possessed them? After such a first rate well arranged and plucky expedition of poor and brave Marchand? They were in a first rate position and able to help us others all in Africa who are sorely in need of strong help! The news here have come like a thunderbolt on the Eastern People, nobody would believe them! at all events if it is true, what the Papers say, that count Mouravioff8 France to take this foolish step he was singularily and exceptionally ill advised, as it has given your "friends and allies" a mortal blow here and brought down their ancient prestige here never to rise again! The Moslems call it Frances second Sedan, and the poor french Consul I spoke to was in tears saying that all was crumbling to dust around him! France will never forget that piece of friendship nor will she ever feel very grateful for them. These my dear Nicky are the most interesting of my observations, which I openly and without backthought refer to after having seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears what is going on in this most interesting country. I found all my suppositions and combinations I so often laid before you absolutely confirmed; Turky is very much alive and not a dying man. Beware of the Musulmen if you touch their National honour or their Khalif! Best love to Alix.

Ever your most devoted friend and cousin
Willy

Notes
1. The Kaiser and Kaiserin entered Jerusalem in the afternoon of October 28th. The ostensible object of the Kaiser's visit was the consecration of the Church of the Redeemer.
2. The Kaiser considered himself an expert in ecclesiastical architecture, and took a prominent part in encouraging the building of churches throughout Germany.
3. It is the worship of stone of so-called holy places of which the holiness cannot be guaranteed and the Divinity of which stands for nothing.
4. The River Barada which runs through Damascus and converts the desert into a fruitful paradise.
5. The Kaiser was welcomed by the Ulema of Damascus, who invoked Heaven's richest blessing on him, and was entertained at a banquet at the municipal hall.
6. The Dreyfuss case was at its height at this time. It had been referred for revision to the Cour de Cassation on September 26th.
7. On July 10th, 1898, Fashoda, an Egyptian military post, was occupied by a small French force coming from the Congo, commanded by Major Marchand. The incident created acute tension between France and Great Britain. The French Government was eventually compelled to recall Major Marchand, which was done on November 4th, 1898.
8. Michael Mouravioff was Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1898.