Hejaz railway: notes and map
The country between the Hejaz Railway and AZRAK is practically featureless. It consists of quite barren desert, in which the valleys first run S.W., but after about 20 miles E. of the Railway, N.E., among rounded hills of limestone and brown flint. Some of the higher hills have rude cairns on the top, but none rise more than 200 feet above the surrounding country, and few of them will be distinguishable from the air. It would be possible to land in most of this area, but very difficult to get off again.
Near AZRAK the country flattens out. About KHARANEH, about AMRUH, and about KASR EL WEINID, the valleys are sometimes several miles in breadth, with low banks, and scrub-filled bottoms, through which the winter floods have cut treacherous little channels a yard or two wide, and perhaps two feet deep. Whenever possible a forced landing should be made on a patch of bare mud, or on the back of a flint slope, in preference to a wadi. KHARANEH, AMRUH and WEINID are large ruined hunting-palaces of the Ghassanide kings.
Lava fields, usually raised 20 feet above the ordinary level of the country, and appearing in colour either grey or blue or black according to the weather conditions, lie to the north of AMRUH and flank the west bank of the great group of valleys that come up from the south - the GHADAF - into AZRAK.
Lava fields resemble shingle beaches, with the pebbles made angular, and enlarged to a foot or two in length. Landing in lava fields is impossible. Their tops, however, frequently contain bright yellow mud flats, where the driven sand and dust have settled and been watered out by floods into areas as flat as tennis courts, and harder. If large enough these make ideal landing grounds, (and if possible one of these lying S.W. of AZRAK will be chosen as such when required).
AZRAK itself is fairly obvious when reached, for it is marked by a lagoon of fresh water, which, according to season, is an open stretch a mile long fringed with green lawns, or a dense brake of bull-rushes and water-canes. From its brilliant greenness it will stand out for many miles and should make AZRAK unmistakable. The place itself is a grove of 60 palm trees, with the square court-yard and corner towers of a fort that began as Roman, was adapted by the Ghassanide kings as a desert outpost, restored by the first Mohammedans and garrisoned by successive Sultans of Damascus as a protection against the Beduin. It lies a stone's throw from the lake, is built of black basalt, and is about 100 yards square. Behind it, to West and North, is a belt of jagged lava, from a mile to two miles wide, and North of that, rolling flint plains to the outlying spurs of JEBEL DRUSE 12 miles away. To the N.E. the lava bed is narrower, and beyond it lie the waste of sand-heaps, grown with Tamarisk, that the Arabs call WADI SIRHAN.
AZRAK has no other house, and only one permanent inhabitant, but, owing to its unceasing water supply, it is much frequented by Beduin, who usually camp to the South towards EL WEINID, between the lava fields and branches of the GHADAF.
In the attached sketch-map, the immediate neighbourhood of the Kasr - the fort - is shown not inaccurately. The complex of valleys between AMRUH and AZRAK is not attempted, nor are the areas or extent of the lava fields correctly shown.
(Sgd). T. E. LAWRENCE.
(Handwritten) Damascus 1/500,000
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