By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan, Volume I (of 2) - Including a Summer in the Upper Karun Region and a Visit - to the Nestorian Rayahs
Author: Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan, Volume I (of 2) - Including a Summer in the Upper Karun Region and a Visit - to the Nestorian Rayahs" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved.  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  Two of the Letters are entitled "Letter XIV."

  Macrons (straight lines above the characters) are represented as
  [=a], [=e], [=i], and [=u].


  [Illustration: MRS. BISHOP (ISABELLA L. BIRD).]








     The Untravelled Many,


   "Miss Bird's fascinating and instructive work on Japan fully
   maintains her well-earned reputation as a traveller of the first
   order, and a graphic and picturesque writer. Miss Bird is a born
   traveller, fearless, enthusiastic, patient, instructed, knowing
   as well what as how to describe. No peril daunts her, no
   prospect of fatigue or discomfort disheartens or repels
   her."--_Quarterly Review._

I. UNBEATEN TRACKS IN JAPAN, Including Visits to the Aborigines of
Yezo and the Shrines of Nikko and Isé.

With Illustrations. Crown 8vo. 7s. 6d.


With Illustrations. Post 8vo. 7s. 6d.

III. THE HAWAIIAN ARCHIPELAGO: Six Months Among the Palm Groves, Coral
Reefs, and Volcanoes of the Sandwich Islands.

With Illustrations. Crown 8vo. 7s. 6d.


With Map and Illustrations. Crown 8vo. 14s.

JOHN MURRAY, Albemarle Street.


The letters of which these volumes are composed embrace the second
half of journeys in the East extending over a period of two years.[1]
They attempt to be a faithful record of facts and impressions, but
were necessarily written in haste at the conclusion of fatiguing
marches, and often in circumstances of great discomfort and
difficulty, and I relied for their correction in the event of
publication on notes made with much care. Unfortunately I was robbed
of nearly the whole of these, partly on my last journey in Persia and
partly on the Turkish frontier,--a serious loss, which must be my
apology to the reader for errors which, without this misfortune, would
not have occurred.

The bibliography of Persia is a very extensive one, and it may well be
that I have little that is new to communicate, except on a part of
Luristan previously untraversed by Europeans; but each traveller
receives a different impression from those made upon his predecessors,
and I hope that my book may be accepted as an honest attempt to make a
popular contribution to the sum of knowledge of a country and people
with which we are likely to be brought into closer relations.

As these volumes are simply travels in Persia and Eastern Asia Minor,
and are _not a book on either country_, the references to such
subjects as were not within the sphere of my observation are brief and
incidental. The administration of government, the religious and legal
systems, the tenure of land, and the mode of taxation are dismissed in
a few lines, and social customs are only described when I came in
contact with them. The Ilyats, or nomadic tribes, form a very
remarkable element of the population of Persia, but I have only
noticed two of their divisions--the Bakhtiari and Feili Lurs. The
antiquities of Persia are also passed over with hardly a remark, as
well as many other subjects, which have been "threshed out" by
previous writers with more or less of accuracy.

I make these omissions with all the more satisfaction, because most
that is "knowable" concerning Persia will be accessible on the
publication of a work now in the Press, _Persia and the Persian
Question_, by the Hon. George N. Curzon, M.P., who has not only
travelled extensively in the country, but has bestowed such enormous
labour and research upon it, and has had such exceptional
opportunities of acquiring the latest and best official information,
that his volumes may fairly be described as "exhaustive."

It is always a pleasant duty to acknowledge kindness, and I am deeply
grateful to several friends for the help which they have given me in
many ways, and for the trouble which some of them have taken to
recover facts which were lost with my notes, as well as for the
careful revision of a portion of my letters in MS. I am indebted to
the Indian authorities for the materials for a sketch map, for
photographs from which many of the illustrations are taken, and for
the use of a valuable geographical report, and to Mr. Thistleton Dyer,
Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, for the identification
of a few of my botanical specimens.

In justice to the many kind friends who received me into their homes,
I am anxious to disclaim having either echoed or divulged their views
on Persian or Turkish subjects, and to claim and accept the fullest
responsibility for the opinions expressed in these pages, which,
whether right or wrong, are wholly my own. It is from those who know
Persia and Kurdistan the best that I am sure of receiving the most
kindly allowance wherever, in spite of an honest desire to be
accurate, I have fallen into mistakes.

The retention, not only of the form, but of the reality of diary
letters, is not altogether satisfactory either to author or reader,
for the author sacrifices the literary and artistic arrangement of his
materials, and however ruthlessly omissions are made, the reader is
apt to find himself involved in a multiplicity of minor details,
treated in a fashion which he is inclined to term "slipshod," and to
resent the egotism which persistently clings to familiar
correspondence. Still, even with all the disadvantages of this form of
narrative, I think that letters are the best mode of placing the
reader in the position of the traveller, and of enabling him to share,
not only first impressions in their original vividness, and the
interests and enjoyments of travelling, but the hardships,
difficulties, and tedium which are their frequent accompaniments!

For the lack of vivacity which, to my thinking, pervades the following
letters, I ask the reader's indulgence. They were originally written,
and have since been edited, under the heavy and abiding shadow, not
only of the loss of the beloved and only sister who was the
inspiration of my former books of travel, and to whose completely
sympathetic interest they owed whatever of brightness they possessed,
but of my beloved husband, whose able and careful revision
accompanied my last volume through the Press.

Believing that these letters faithfully reflect what I saw of the
regions of which they treat, I venture to ask for them the same kindly
and lenient criticism with which my travels in the Far East and
elsewhere were received in bygone years, and to express the hope that
they may help to lead towards that goal to which all increase of
knowledge of races and beliefs tends--a truer and kindlier recognition
of the brotherhood of man, as seen in the light of the Fatherhood of


     _November 12, 1891._


[1] I left England with a definite object in view, to which others
were subservient, but it is not necessary to obtrude it on the reader.



     Mrs. Bishop (Isabella L. Bird)         _Frontispiece_

     A Gopher                                    _Page_ 19

     A Turkish Frontier Fort             _To face page_ 78

     Lodgings for Travellers                            82

     Persian Bread-making                              159

     The Shrine of Fatima                              167

     A Dervish                                         237

     Castle of Ardal                                   318

     Imam Kuli Khan                                    326

     The Karun at Dupulan               _To face page_ 351

     Ali Jan                                           362

     Armenian Women of Libasgun                        366

     Wall and Gate of Libasgun          _To face page_ 368

     A Perso-Bakhtiari Cradle                          372

     A Dastgird Tent                    _To face page_ 378


_Abambar_, a covered reservoir.

_Agha_, a master.

_Andarun_, women's quarters, a _haram_.

_Arak_, a coarse spirit.

_Badg[=i]r_, wind-tower.

_Badragah_, a parting escort.

_Balakhana_, an upper room.

_Bringals_, egg plants.

_Chapar_, post.

_Chapar Khana_, post-house.

_Chapi_, the Bakhtiari national dance.

_Charvadar_, a muleteer.

_Far[=a]sh_, _lit._ a carpet-spreader.

_Farsakh_, from three and a half to four miles.

_Gardan_, a pass.

_Gaz_, a sweetmeat made from manna.

_Gelims_, thin carpets, drugget.

_Gheva_, a summer shoe.

_Gholam_, an official messenger or attendant.

_H[=a]kim_, a governor.

_Hak[=i]m_, a physician.

_Hammam_, a Turkish or hot bath.

_Ilyats_, the nomadic tribes of Persia.

_Imam_, a saint, a religious teacher.

_Imamzada_, a saint's shrine.

_Istikbal_, a procession of welcome.

_Jul_, a horse's outer blanket.

_Kabob_, pieces of skewered meat seasoned and toasted.

_Kafir_, an infidel, a Christian.

_Kah_, chopped straw.

_Kajawehs_, horse-panniers.

_Kalian_, a "hubble-bubble" or water-pipe for tobacco.

_Kamarband_, a girdle.

_Kanaat_, an underground water-channel.

_Kanat_, the upright side of a tent.

_Karsi_, a wooden frame for covering a fire-hole.

_Katirgi_ (Turkish), a muleteer.

_Ketchuda_, a headman of a village.

_Khan_, lord or prince; a designation as common as esquire.

_Khan_ (Turkish), an inn.

_Khanjar_, a curved dagger.

_Khanji_ (Turkish), the keeper of a _khan_.

_Khanum_, a lady of rank.

_Khurjins_, saddle bags.

_Kizik_, a slab of animal fuel.

_Kotal_, _lit._ a ladder, a pass.

_Kourbana_ (Syriac), the Holy Communion.

_Kran_, eightpence.

_Kuh_, mountain.

_Lira_ (Turkish), about £1.

_Malek_ (Syriac, _lit._ king), a chief or headman.

_Mamachi_, midwife.

_Mangel_, a brazier.

_Mast_, curdled milk.

_Medresseh_, a college.

_Mirza_, a scribe, secretary, or gentleman. An educated man.

_Modakel_, illicit percentage.

_Mollah_, a religious teacher.

_Munshi_, a clerk, a teacher of languages.

_Namad_, felt.

_Nasr_, steward.

_Odah_ (Turkish), a room occupied by human beings and animals.

_Piastre_, a Turkish coin worth two-pence-halfpenny.

_Pirahan_, a chemise or shirt.

_Pish-kash_, a nominal present.

_Qasha_ (Syriac), a priest.

_Rayahs_, subject Syrians.

_Roghan_, clarified butter.

_Samovar_, a Russian tea-urn.

_Sartip_, a general.

_Seraidar_, the keeper of a caravanserai.

_Sharbat_, a fruit syrup.

_Shroff_, a money-changer.

_Shuldari_ (_Shooldarry_), a small tent with two poles and a ridge
pole, but without _kanats_.

_Shulwars_, wide trousers.

_Sowar_, a horseman, a horse soldier.

_Takch[=a]h_, a recess in a wall.

_Taktrawan_, a mule litter.

_Tand[=u]r_, an oven in a floor.

_Tang_, a rift or defile.

_Tufangchi_, a foot soldier, an armed footman.

_Tuman_, seven shillings and sixpence.

_Vakil_, an authorised representative.

_Vakil-u-Dowleh_, agent of Government.

_Yabu_, a pony or inferior horse.

_Yailaks_, summer quarters.

_Yekdan_, a mule or camel trunk, made of leather.

_Yohoort_ (Turkish), curdled milk.

_Zaptieh_ (Turkish), a _gendarme_.


     BASRAH, ASIATIC TURKEY, _Jan. 1, 1890_.

A _shamal_ or N.W. wind following on the sirocco which had accompanied
us up "the Gulf" was lashing the shallow waters of the roadstead into
reddish yeast as we let go the anchor opposite the sea front of
Bushire, the most important seaport in Persia. _The_ Persian
man-of-war _Persepolis_, officered by Germans, H.M. ship _Sphinx_, two
big steamers owned in London, a British-built three-masted clipper,
owned and navigated by Arabs, and a few Arab native vessels tugged at
their anchors between two and three miles from the shore. Native
_buggalows_ clustered and bumped round the trading vessels, hanging on
with difficulty, or thumped and smashed through the short waves, close
on the wind, easily handled and sailing magnificently, while the
Residency steam-launch, puffing and toiling, was scarcely holding her
own against a heavy head sea.

Bushire, though it has a number of two-storied houses and a population
of 15,000, has a most insignificant appearance, and lies so low that
from the _Assyria's_ deck it gave the impression of being below the
sea-level. The _shamal_ was raising a sand storm in the desert beyond;
the sand was drifting over it in yellow clouds, the mountains which at
a greater or less distance give a wild sublimity to the eastern shores
of the Gulf were blotted out, and a blurred and windy shore
harmonised with a blurred and windy sea.

The steam-launch, which after several baffled attempts succeeded in
reaching the steamer's side, brought letters of welcome from Colonel
Ross, who for eighteen years has filled the office of British Resident
in the Persian Gulf with so much ability, judgment, and tact as to
have earned the respect and cordial esteem of Persians, Arabs, the
mixed races, and Europeans alike. Of his kindness and hospitality
there is no occasion to write, for every stranger who visits the Gulf
has large experience of both.

The little launch, though going shorewards with the wind, was tossed
about like a cork, shipping deluges of spray, and it was so cold and
generally tumultuous, that it was a relief to exchange the shallow,
wind-lashed waters of the roadstead for the shelter of a projecting
sea-wall below the governor's house. A curricle, with two fiery little
Arab horses, took us over the low windy stretch of road which lies
behind Bushire, through a part of the town and round again to the
sea-shore, on which long yellow surges were breaking thunderously in
drifts of creamy foam. The Residency, a large Persian house, with that
sort of semi-fortified look which the larger Eastern houses are apt to
have, is built round courtyards, and has a fine entrance, which was
lined with well-set-up men of a Bombay marine battalion. As is usual
in Persia and Turkey, the reception rooms, living rooms, and guest
rooms are upstairs, opening on balconies, the lower part being
occupied by the servants and as domestic offices. Good fires were a
welcome adjunct to the genial hospitality of Colonel Ross and his
family, for the mercury, which for the previous week had ranged from
84° to 93°, since the sunrise of that day had dropped to 45°, and the
cold, damp wind suggested an English February. Even the Residency,
thick as its walls are, was invaded by sea sand, and penetrated by
the howlings and shriekings of the _shamal_ and the low hiss at
intervals of wind-blown spray.

This miserable roadstead does a large trade,[2] though every bale and
chest destined for the cities of the interior must be packed on mules'
backs for carriage over the horrible and perilous _kotals_ or rock
ladders of the intervening mountain ranges. The chief caravan route in
Persia starts from Bushire _viâ_ Shiraz, Isfahan, Kashan, and Kûm, to
Tihran. A loaded mule takes from thirty to thirty-five days to
Isfahan, and from Isfahan to Tihran from twelve to sixteen days,
according to the state of the roads.

Bushire does not differ in appearance from an ordinary eastern town.
Irregular and uncleanly alleys, dead mud walls, with here and there a
low doorway, bazars in which the requirements of caravans are largely
considered, and in which most of the manufactured goods are English, a
great variety in male attire, some small mosques, a marked
predominance of the Arab physiognomy and costume, and ceaseless
strings of asses bringing skins of water from wells a mile from the
town, are my impressions of the first Persian city that I have ever
seen. The Persian element, however, except in officialism and the
style of building, is not strong, the population being chiefly
composed of "Gulf Arabs." There are nearly fifty European residents,
including the telegraph staff and the representatives of firms doing a
very large business with England, the Persian Gulf Trading Company,
Messrs. Hotz and Company, Messrs. Gray, Paul, and Company, and the
British India Steam Navigation Company, which has enormously developed
the trade of the Gulf.

Bushire is the great starting-point of travellers from India who
desire "to go home through Persia" by Shiraz and Persepolis.
_Charvadars_ (muleteers) and the necessary outfit are obtainable, but
even the kindness of the Resident fails to overcome the standing
difficulty of obtaining a Persian servant who is both capable and
trustworthy. Having been forewarned by him not to trust to Bushire for
this indispensable article, I had brought from India a Persian of good
antecedents and character, who, desiring to return to his own country,
was willing to act as my interpreter, courier, and sole attendant.
Grave doubts of his ability to act in the two latter capacities
occurred to me before I left Karachi, grew graver on the voyage, and
were quite confirmed as we tossed about in the Residency launch, where
the "young Persian gentleman," as he styled himself, sat bolt upright
with a despairing countenance, dressed in a tall hat, a beautifully
made European suit, faultless tan boots, and snowy collar and cuffs, a
man of truly refined feeling and manners, but hopelessly out of place.
I pictured him helpless among the _déshabillé_ and roughnesses of a
camp, and anticipated my insurmountable reluctance to ask of him
menial service, and was glad to find that the same doubts had occurred
to himself.

I lost no time in interviewing Hadji,--a Gulf Arab, who has served
various travellers, has been ten times to Mecca, went to Windsor with
the horses presented to the Queen by the Sultan of Muscat, speaks more
or less of six languages, knows English fairly, has some
recommendations, and professes that he is "up to" all the requirements
of camp life. The next morning I engaged him as "man of all work," and
though a big, wild-looking Arab in a rough _abba_ and a big turban,
with a long knife and a revolver in his girdle, scarcely looks like a
lady's servant, I hope he may suit me, though with these antecedents
he is more likely to be a scamp than a treasure.

The continuance of the _shamal_ prevented the steamer from unloading
in the exposed roadstead, and knocked the launch about as we rejoined
her. We called at the telegraph station at Fao, and brought off Dr.
Bruce, the head of the Church Missionary Society's Mission at Julfa,
whose long and intimate acquaintance with the country and people will
make him a great acquisition on the Tigris.

"About sixty miles above the bar outside the Shat-el-Arab" (the united
Tigris and Euphrates), "forty miles above the entrance to that estuary
at Fao, and twenty miles below the Turkish port of Basrah, the present
main exit of the Karun river flows into the Shat-el-Arab from the
north-east by an artificial channel, whose etymology testifies to its
origin, the Haffar" (dug-out) "canal. When this canal was cut, no one
knows.... Where it flows into the Shat-el-Arab it is about a quarter
of a mile in width, with a depth of from twenty to thirty feet.

"The town of Mohammerah is situated a little more than a mile up the
canal on its right bank, and is a filthy place, with about 2000
inhabitants, and consists mainly of mud huts and hovels, backed by a
superb fringe of date palms."[3] In the rose flush of a winter morning
we steamed slowly past this diplomatically famous confluence of the
Haffar and Shat-el-Arab, at the angle of which the Persians have
lately built a quay, a governor's house, and a large warehouse, in
expectation of a trade which shows few signs of development.

A winter morning it was indeed, splendid and invigorating after the
ferocious heat of the Gulf. To-day there has been frost!

The Shat-el-Arab is a noble river or estuary. From both its Persian
and Turkish shores, however, mountains have disappeared, and dark
forests of date palms intersected by canals fringe its margin heavily,
and extend to some distance inland. The tide is strong, and such
native boats as _belems_, _buggalows_, and dug-outs, loaded with
natives and goods, add a cheerful element of busy life.

We anchored near Basrah, below the foreign settlement, and had the
ignominy of being placed for twenty-four hours in quarantine, flying
the degrading yellow flag. Basrah has just been grievously ravaged by
the cholera, which has not only carried off three hundred of the
native population daily for some time, but the British Vice-Consul and
his children. Cholera still exists in Turkey while it is extinct in
Bombay, and the imposition of quarantine on a ship with a "clean bill
of health" seems devised for no other purpose than to extract fees, to
annoy, and to produce a harassing impression of Turkish officialism.

After this detention we steamed up to the anchorage, which is in front
of a few large bungalows which lie between the belt of palms and the
river, and form the European settlement of Margil. A fever-haunted
swamp, with no outlet but the river; canals exposing at low water
deep, impassable, and malodorous slime separating the bungalows; a
climate which is damp, hot, malarious, and prostrating except for a
few weeks in winter, and a total absence of all the resources and
amenities of civilisation, make Basrah one of the least desirable
places to which Europeans are exiled by the exigencies of commerce. It
is scarcely necessary to say that the few residents exercise unbounded
hospitality, which is the most grateful memory which the stranger
retains of the brief halt by the "River of Arabia."

This is the dead season in the "city of dates." An unused river
steamer, a large English trader, two Turkish ships-of-war painted
white, the _Mejidieh_, one of two English-owned steamers which are
allowed to ply on the Tigris, and the _Assyria_ of the B.I.S.N. Co.,
constitute the fleet at anchor. As at Bushire, all cargo must be
loaded and unloaded by boats, and crowds of native craft hanging on to
the trading vessels give a little but not much vivacity.

October, after the ingathering of the date harvest, is the busiest
month here. The magnitude of the date industry may be gathered from
the fact that in 1890, 60,000 tons of dates were exported from Basrah,
20,000 in boxes, and the remainder in palm-leaf mats, one vessel
taking 1800 tons. The quantity of wood imported for the boxes was 7000
tons in cut lengths, with iron hooping, nails, and oiled paper for
inside wrapping, brought chiefly from England.

A hundred trees can be grown on an acre of ground. The mature tree
gives a profit of 4s., making the profit on an acre £20 annually. The
Governor of Mohammerah has lately planted 30,000 trees, and date palms
to the number of 60,000 have been recently planted on Persian soil.

It is said that there are 160 varieties of dates, but only a few are
known to commerce. These great sombre date forests or "date gardens,"
which no sunshine can enliven, are of course artificial, and depend
upon irrigation. The palms are propagated by means of suckers taken
from the female date. The young trees begin to bear when they are
about five years old, reach maturity at nine, and may be prolific for
two centuries. Mohammed said wisely, "Honour the palm, it is your
paternal aunt." One soon learns here that it not only provides the
people with nutritious food, but with building materials, as well as
with fuel, carpets, ropes, and mats. But it is the least beautiful of
the palms, and the dark monotonous masses along the river contrast
with my memories of the graceful coco palm fringing the coral islands
of the Pacific.

I left the _Assyria_ with regret. The captain and officers had done
all that intelligence and kindness could do to make the voyage an
agreeable one, and were altogether successful. On shore a hospitable
reception, a good fire, and New Year's Day come together
appropriately. The sky is clear and cloudless, and the air keen. The
bungalows belonging to the European firms are dwelling-houses above
and offices below, and are surrounded by packing-yards and sheds for
goods. In line with them are the Consulates.

The ancient commercial glories of Basrah are too well known to need
recapitulation. Circumstances are doing much to give it something of
renewed importance. The modern Basrah, a town which has risen from a
state of decay till it has an estimated population of 25,000, is on
the right bank of the river, at some distance up a picturesque
palm-fringed canal. Founded by Omar soon after the death of Mohammed,
and tossed like a shuttlecock between Turk and Persian, it is now
definitely Turkish, and the great southern outlet of Chaldæa and
Mesopotamia, as well as the port at which the goods passing to and
from Baghdad "break bulk." A population more thoroughly polyglot could
scarcely be found, Turks, Arabs, Sabeans, Syrians, Greeks, Hindus,
Armenians, Frenchmen, Wahabees, Britons, Jews, Persians, Italians, and
Africans, and there are even more creeds than races.

_S.S. Mejidieh, River Tigris, Jan. 4._--Leaving Basrah at 4 P.M. on
Tuesday we have been stemming the strong flood of the Tigris for three
bright winter days, in which to sit by a red-hot stove and sleep under
a pile of blankets have been real luxuries after the torrid heat of
the "Gulf." The party on board consists of Dr. Bruce, Mr. Hammond, who
has been for some months pushing British trade at Shuster, the
Assistant Quartermaster-General for India, a French-speaking Jewish
merchant, the Hon. G. Curzon, M.P., and Mr. Swabadi, a Hungarian
gentleman in the employment of the Tigris and Euphrates Steam
Navigation Company, a very scholarly man, who in the course of a long
residence in Southern Turkey has acquainted himself intimately with
the country and its peoples, and is ever ready to place his own stores
of information at our disposal. Mr. Curzon has been "prospecting" the
Karun river, and came on board from the _Shushan_, a small stern-wheel
steamer with a carrying capacity of 30 tons, a draught when empty of
18 inches, and when laden of from 24 to 36. She belongs to the Messrs.
Lynch Brothers, of the Tigris and Euphrates S.N. Co. They run her once
a fortnight at a considerable loss between Mohammerah and Ahwaz. Her
isolated position and diminutive size are a curious commentary on the
flourish of trumpets and _blether_ of exultation with which the
English newspapers announced the very poor concession of leave to run
steamers on the Karun between the Shat-el-Arab and Ahwaz.

[Since this letter was written, things have taken rather a singular
turn, and the development of trade on the Karun has partly fallen into
the hands of a trading corporation of Persians, the _Nasiri_ Company.
By them, and under their representative partner, Haja Mahomad, a man
of great energy, the formidable rapids at Ahwaz are being circumvented
by the construction of a tramway 2400 yards long, which is proceeding
steadily. A merchants' caravanserai has already been built on the
river bank at the lower landing-place and commencement of the tramway,
and a bakery, butchery, and carpentry, along with a _café_ and a
grocery and general goods stores, have already been opened by men
brought to Ahwaz by H. Mahomad.

A river face wall, where native craft are to lie, is being constructed
of hewn stone blocks and sections of circular pillars, remains of the
ancient city.

The _Nasiri_ Company has a small steamer, the _Nasiri_, plying on the
lower Karun, chiefly as a tug, taking up two Arab boats of
twenty-seven tons each, lashed alongside of her. On her transference
at the spring floods of this year to the river above Ahwaz, the
_Karun_, a steam launch of about sixty tons, belonging to the Governor
of Mohammerah, takes her place below, and a second steamer belonging
to the same company is now running on the lower stream. Poles from
Zanzibar have been distributed for a telegraph line from Mohammerah to
Ahwaz. The Messrs. Lynch have placed a fine river steamer of 300 tons
on the route; but this enterprising firm, and English capitalists
generally, are being partially "cut out" by the singular "go" of this
Persian company, which not only appears to have strong support from
Government quarters, but has gained the co-operation of the
well-known and wealthy Sheikh Mizal, whose personal influence in
Arabistan is very great, and who has hitherto been an obstacle to the
opening of trade on the Karun.

A great change for the better has taken place in the circumstances of
the population, and villages, attracted by trade, are springing up,
which the _Nasiri_ Company is doing its best to encourage. The
land-tax is very light, and the cultivators are receiving every
encouragement. Much wheat was exported last year, and there is a brisk
demand for river lands on leases of sixty years for the cultivation of
cotton, cereals, sugar-cane, and date palms.

Persian soldiers all have their donkeys, and at Ahwaz a brisk and
amusing competition is going on between the soldiers of a fine
regiment stationed there and the Arabs for the transport of goods past
the rapids, and for the conveyance of tramway and building materials.
This competition is enabling goods to pass the rapids cheaply and

One interesting feature connected with these works is the rapidly
increased well-being of the Arabs. In less than a year labour at 1
_kran_ (8d.) a day has put quite a number of them in possession of a
pair of donkeys and a plough, and seed-corn wherewith to cultivate
Government lands on their own account, besides leaving a small balance
in hand on which to live without having to borrow on the coming crop
at frightfully usurious rates.

Until now the sheikhs have been able to command labour for little more
than the poorest food; and now many of the very poor who depended on
them have started as small farmers, and things are rapidly changing.

The careful observer, from whose report on Persia to the Foreign
Office, No. 207, I have transferred the foregoing facts, wrote in
January 1891: "It was a sight to see the whole Arab population on the
river banks hard at work taking advantage of the copious rain which
had just fallen; every available animal fit for draught was yoked to
the plough--horses, mules, bullocks, and donkeys, and even mares, with
their foals following them up the furrows."

This, which is practically a Persian opening of the trade of the
Karun, is not what was expected, however much it was to be desired.
After a journey of nine months through Persia, I am strongly of
opinion that if the Empire is to have a solid and permanent
resurrection, it must be through the enterprise of Persians, aided it
may be by foreign skill and capital, though the less of the latter
that is employed the more hopefully I should regard the Persian
future. The _Nasiri_ Company and the Messrs. Lynch may possibly unite,
and the New Road Company may join with them in making a regular
transport service by river and road to Tihran, by which England may
pour her manufactured goods even into Northern Persia, as this route
would compete successfully both with the Baghdad and Trebizond routes.

Already, owing to the improved circumstances of the people, the import
of English and Indian cotton goods and of sugar has increased; the
latter, which is French, from its low price, only 2½d. a pound in the
Gulf, pushing its way as far north as Sultanabad. Unfortunately the
shadow of Russia hangs over the future of Persia.]

At present two English and four Turkish boats run on the Tigris. They
are necessarily of light draught, as the river is shallow at certain
seasons and is full of shifting sand-banks. The _Mejidieh_ is a
comfortable boat, with a superabundance of excellent food. Her saloon,
state-rooms, and engines are on the main deck, which is open fore and
aft, and has above it a fine hurricane deck, on the fore part of which
the deck passengers, a motley crowd, encamp. She is fully loaded with
British goods.

The first object of passing interest was Kornah, reputed among the
Arabs to be the site of the Garden of Eden, a tongue of land at the
junction of the Tigris and Euphrates. The "Garden of Eden" contains a
village, and bright fires burned in front of the mat-and-mud houses.
Women in red and white, and turbaned men in brown, flitted across the
firelight; there was a mass of vegetation, chiefly palms with a number
of native vessels moored to their stems, and a leaning minaret. A
frosty moonlight glorified the broad, turbid waters, Kornah and the
Euphrates were left in shadow, and we turned up the glittering
waterway of the Tigris. The night was too keenly frosty for any dreams
of Paradise, even in this classic Chaldæa, and under a sky blazing
down to the level horizon with the countless stars which were not to
outnumber the children of "Faithful Abraham."

Four hours after leaving Kornah we passed the reputed tomb of Ezra the
prophet. At a distance and in the moonlight it looked handsome. There
is a buttressed river wall, and above it some long flat-roofed
buildings, the centre one surmounted by a tiled dome. The Tigris is so
fierce and rapid, and swallows its alluvial banks so greedily, that it
is probable that some of the buildings described by the Hebrew
traveller Benjamin of Tudela as existing in the twelfth century were
long since carried away. The tomb is held in great veneration not only
by Jews and Moslems but also by Oriental Christians. It is a great
place of Jewish pilgrimage, and is so venerated by the Arabs that it
needs no guard.[4]

Hadji brought my breakfast, or as he called it, "the grub," the next
morning, and I contemplated the Son of Abraham with some astonishment.
He had discarded his turban and _abba_, and looked a regular
uncivilised desert Ishmaelite, with knives and rosaries in his belt,
and his head muffled in a _kiffiyeh_, a yellow silk shawl striped with
red, with one point and tassels half a yard long hanging down his
back, and fastened round his head by three coils of camel's-hair rope.
A loose coat with a gay girdle, "breeks" of some kind, loose boots
turned up at the toes and reaching to the knees, and a striped
under-garment showing here and there, completed his costume.

The view from the hurricane deck, though there are no striking
varieties, is too novel to be monotonous. The level plains of Chaldæa,
only a few feet higher than the Tigris, stretch away to the distant
horizon, unbroken until to-day, when low hills, white with the first
snows of winter, are softly painted on a pure blue sky, very far away.
The plains are buff and brown, with an occasional splash, near
villages as buff and brown as the soil out of which they rise, of the
dark-green of date gardens, or the vivid green of winter wheat. With
the exception of these gardens, which are rarely seen, the vast
expanse is unbroken by a tree. A few miserable shrubs there are, the
_mimosa agrestis_ or St. John's bread, and a scrubby tamarisk, while
liquorice, wormwood, capers, and some alkaline plants which camels
love, are recognisable even in their withered condition.

There are a few villages of low mud hovels enclosed by square mud
walls, and hamlets of mat huts, the mats being made of woven sedges
and flags, strengthened by palm fronds, but oftener by the tall, tough
stems of growing reeds bent into arches, and woven together by the
long leaves of aquatic plants, chiefly rushes. The hovels, so
ingeniously constructed, are shared indiscriminately by the Arabs and
their animals, and crowds of women and children emerged from them as
we passed. Each village has its arrangement for raising water from the

Boats under sail, usually a fleet at a time, hurry downstream, owing
more to the strong current than to the breeze, or are hauled up
laboriously against both by their Arab crews.

The more distant plain is sparsely sprinkled with clusters of brown
tents, long and low, and is dotted over with flocks of large brown
sheep, shepherded by Arabs in _kiffiyehs_, each shepherd armed with a
long gun slung over his shoulder. Herds of cattle and strings of
camels move slowly over the brown plain, and companies of men on
horseback, with long guns and lances, gallop up to the river bank,
throw their fiery horses on their haunches, and after a moment of
gratified curiosity wheel round and gallop back to the desert from
which they came. Occasionally a stretch of arable land is being
ploughed up by small buffaloes with most primitive ploughs, but the
plains are pastoral chiefly, tents and flocks are their chief
features--features which have changed little since the great Sheikh
Abraham, whose descendants now people them, left his "kindred" in the
not distant Ur of the Chaldees, and started on the long march to

Reedy marshes, alive with water-fowl, arable lands, bare buff plains,
brown tents, brown flocks, mat huts, mud and brick villages, groups of
women and children, flights of armed horsemen, alternate rapidly,--the
unchanging features are the posts and wires of the telegraph.

The Tigris in parts is wonderfully tortuous, and at one great bend,
"The Devil's Elbow," a man on foot can walk the distance in less than
an hour which takes the steamer four hours to accomplish. The current
is very strong, and the slow progress is rendered slower at this
season of low water by the frequent occurrence of sand-banks, of which
one is usually made aware by a jolt, a grinding sound, a cessation of
motion, some turns astern, and then full speed ahead, which often
overcomes the obstacle. Some hours' delay and the floats of one
paddle-wheel injured were the most serious disasters brought about;
and in spite of the shallows at this season, the Tigris is a noble
river, and the voyage is truly fascinating. Not that there are many
remarkable objects, but the desert atmosphere and the desert freedom
are in themselves delightful, the dust and _débris_ are the dust and
_débris_ of mighty empires, and there are countless associations with
the earliest past of which we have any records.

Aimarah, a rising Turkish town of about 7000 people, built at a point
where the river turns at a sharp angle to the left, is interesting as
showing what commerce can create even here, in less than twenty years.
A caravan route into Persia was opened and Aimarah does a somewhat
busy trade. Flat-faced brick buildings, with projecting lattice
windows, run a good way along the left bank of the river, which is so
steep and irregular that the crowd which thronged it when the steamer
made fast was shown to great advantage--Osmanlis, Greeks, Persians,
Sabeans, Jews of great height and superb _physique_, known by
much-tasselled turbans, and a predominating Arab element.

We walked down the long, broad, covered bazar, with a broken water
channel in the middle, where there were crowds, solely of men, meat,
game, bread, fruit, grain, lentils, horse-shoes, pack saddles,
Manchester cottons, money-changers, silversmiths, and scribes, and
heard the roar of business, and the thin shouts of boys unaccustomed
to the sight of European women. The crowds pressed and followed,
picking at my clothes, and singing snatches of songs which were not
complimentary. It had not occurred to me that I was violating rigid
custom in appearing in a hat and gauze veil rather than in a _chadar_
and face cloth, but the mistake was made unpleasantly apparent. In
Moslem towns women go about in companies and never walk with men.

We visited an enclosed square, where there are barracks for _zaptiehs_
(gendarmes), the Kadi's court, and the prison, which consists of an
open grating like that of a menagerie, a covered space behind, and
dark cells or dens opening upon it, all better than the hovels of the
peasantry. There were a number of prisoners well clothed, and
apparently well fed, to whom we were an obvious diversion, but the
guards gesticulated, shouted, and brandished their side-arms, making
us at last understand that our presence in front of the grating was
forbidden. After seeing a large barrack yard, and walking, still
pursued by a crowd, round the forlorn outskirts of Aimarah, which
include a Sabean village, we visited the gold and silversmiths' shops
where the Sabeans were working at their craft, of which in this region
they have nearly a monopoly, not only settling temporarily in the
towns, but visiting the Arab encampments on the plains, where they are
always welcome as the makers and repairers of the ornaments with which
the women are loaded. These craftsmen and others of the race whom I
have seen differ greatly from the Arabs in appearance, being white
rather than brown, very white, _i.e._ very pale, with jet-black hair;
large, gentle, intelligent eyes; small, straight noses, and small,
well-formed mouths. The handsome faces of these "Christians of St.
John" are very pleasing in their expression, and there was a dainty
cleanliness about their persons and white clothing significant of
those frequent ablutions of both which are so remarkable a part of
their religion. The children at Aimarah, and generally in the riparian
villages, wear very handsome chased, convex silver links, each as
large as the top of a breakfast cup, to fasten their girdles.

The reedy marshes, the haunts of pelicans and pigs, are left behind at
Aimarah, and tamarisk scrub and liquorice appear on the banks. At
Kut-al-Aimarah, a small military post and an Arab town of sun-dried
bricks on the verge of a high bank above the Tigris, we landed again,
and ragamuffin boys pressed very much upon us, and ragamuffin
_zaptiehs_,[5] grotesquely dressed in clothes of different European
nationalities, pelted them with stones. To take up stones and throw
them at unwelcome visitors is a frequent way of getting rid of them in
the less civilised parts of the East.

A _zaptieh_ station, barracks, with a large and badly-kept parade
ground, a covered bazar well supplied, houses with blank walls, large
_cafés_ with broad matted benches, asafoetida, crowds of men of
superb _physique_, picturesque Arabs on high-bred horses, and a total
invisibility of women, were the salient features of Kut-al-Aimarah.
Big-masted, high-stemmed boats, the broad, turbid Tigris with a great
expanse of yellowish sand on its farther shore, reeds "shaken with the
wind," and a windy sky, heavily overcast, made up the view from the
bank. There were seen for the first time by the new-comers the most
venerable boats in the world, for they were old even when Herodotus
mentions them--_kufas_ or _gophers_, very deep round baskets covered
with bitumen, with incurved tops, and worked by one man with a paddle.
These remarkable tubs are used for the conveyance of passengers,
goods, and even animals.

  [Illustration: A GOPHER.]

Before leaving we visited the Arab Khan or Sheikh in his house. He
received us in an upper room of difficult access, carpeted with very
handsome rugs, and with a divan similarly covered, but the walls of
brown mud were not even plastered. His manner was dignified and
courteous, and his expression remarkably shrewd. A number of men
sitting on the floor represented by their haughty aspect and
magnificent _physique_ the royalty of the Ishmaelite descent from
Abraham. This Khan said that his tribe could put 3000 fighting men
into the field, but it was obvious that its independence is broken,
and that these tribal warriors are reckoned as Osmanli irregulars or
Bashi Bazouks. The Khan remarked that "the English do not make good
friends, for," he added, "they back out when difficulties arise."

On board the steamer the condition of the Arabs is much discussed,
and the old residents describe it as steadily growing worse under the
oppression and corruption of the Osmanli officials, who appear to be
doing their best to efface these fine riparian tribes by merciless
exactions coming upon the top of taxation so heavy as to render
agriculture unprofitable, the impositions actually driving thousands
of them to seek a living in the cities and to the Persian shores of
the Gulf, where they exchange a life of hereditary freedom for a
precarious and often scanty subsistence among unpropitious
surroundings. Still, the Arab of the desert is not conquered by the


[2] According to the returns for 1889, the British tonnage entering
the Bushire roadstead was 111,745 out of 118,570 tons, and the imports
from British territory amounted to a value of £744,018 out of
£790,832. The exports from Bushire in the same year amounted to
£535,076, that of opium being largely on the increase. Among other
things exported are pistachio nuts, gum, almonds, madder, wool, and
cotton. Regarding gum, the wars in the Soudan have affected the supply
of it, and Persia is reaping the benefit, large quantities now being
collected from certain shrubs, especially from the wild almond, which
abounds at high altitudes. The drawback is that firewood and charcoal
are becoming consequently dearer and scarcer. The gum exported in 1889
was 7472 cwts., as against 14,918 in 1888, but the value was more than
the same.

The imports into Bushire, as comparing 1889 with 1888, have increased
by £244,186, and the exports by £147,862. The value of the export of
opium, chiefly to China, was £231,521, as against £148,523 in 1888.

[3] "The Karun River," Hon. G. Curzon, M.P., _Proceedings of R.G.S._,
September 1890.

[4] Sir A. H. Layard describes the interior of the domed building as
consisting of two chambers, the outer one empty, and the inner one
containing the Prophet's tomb, built of bricks covered with white
stucco, and enclosed in a wooden case or ark, over which is thrown a
large blue cloth, fringed with yellow tassels, the name of the donor
being inscribed in Hebrew characters upon it.--Layard's _Early
Adventures_, vol. i. p. 214.

[5] A year later in Kurdistan, the _zaptiehs_, all time-expired
soldiers and well set up soldierly men, wore neat, serviceable, dark
blue braided uniforms, and high riding-boots.

LETTER I (_Continued_)

     BAGHDAD, _Jan. 5_.

The last day on the Tigris passed as pleasantly as its predecessors.
There was rain in the early morning, then frost which froze the rain
on deck, and at 7 A.M. the mercury in my cabin stood at 28°.

In the afternoon the country became more populous, that is, there were
_kraals_ of mat huts at frequent intervals, and groups of tents to
which an external wall of mats gave a certain aspect of permanence.
Increased cultivation accompanied the increased population. In some
places the ground was being scratched with a primitive plough of
unshod wood, or a branch of a tree slightly trimmed, leaving a scar
about two inches deep. These scars, which pass for furrows, are about
ten inches apart, and camel thorn, tamarisk, and other shrubs inimical
to crops stand between them. The seed is now being sown. After it
comes up it grows apace, and in spite of shallow scratches, camel
thorn, and tamarisk the tilth is so luxuriant that the husbandmen
actually turn cattle and sheep into it for two or three weeks, and
then leave it to throw up the ear! They say that there are from
eighteen to thirty-five stalks from each seed in consequence of this
process! The harvest is reaped in April, after which water covers the

Another style of cultivation is adopted for land, of which we saw a
good deal, very low lying, and annually overflowed, usually
surrounding a nucleus of permanent marsh. This land, after the water
dries up, is destitute of vegetation, and presents a smooth, moist
surface full of cracks, which scales off later. No scratching is
needed for this soil. The seed is sown broadcast over it, and such of
it as is not devoured by birds falls into the cracks, and produces an
abundant crop. All this rich alluvial soil is stoneless, but is strewn
from Seleucia to Babylon with fragments of glass, bricks, and pottery.
Artificial mounds also abound, and remains of canals, all denoting
that these fertile plains in ancient days supported a large stationary
population. Of all that once was, this swirling river alone remains,
singing in every eddy and ripple--

     "For men may come and men may go,
           But I go on for ever."

As we were writing in the evening we were nearly thrown off our chairs
by running aground with a thump, which injured one paddle wheel and
obliged us to lie up part of the night for repairs near the ruins of
the ancient palace of Ctesiphon. Seleucia, on the right bank of the
river, is little more now than a historic name, but the palace of
Tak-i-Kasr, with its superb archway 100 feet in height, has been even
in recent times magnificent enough in its ruin to recall the glories
of the Parthian kings, and the days when, according to Gibbon,
"Khosroes Nushirwan gave audience to the ambassadors of the world"
within its stately walls. Its gaunt and shattered remains have even
still a mournful grandeur about them, but they have suffered so
severely from the barbarous removal of the stones and the fall of much
of the front as to be altogether disappointing.

Soon after leaving Ctesiphon there is increased cultivation, and
within a few miles of Baghdad the banks of the river, which is its
great high road, become populous. "Palatial residences," in which the
women's apartments are indicated by the blankness of their walls, are
mixed up with mud hovels and goat's-hair tents; there are large
farmhouses with enclosures for cattle and horses; date gardens and
orange groves fringe the stream, and arrangements for drawing water
are let into its banks at frequent intervals. Strings of asses laden
with country produce, companies of horsemen and innumerable foot
passengers, all moved citywards.

The frosty sun rose out of an orange sky as a disc of blood and flame,
but the morning became misty and overcast, so that the City of the
Arabian Nights did not burst upon the view in any halo of splendour. A
few tiled minarets, the blue domes of certain mosques, handsome
houses,--some of them European Consulates, half hidden by orange
groves laden with their golden fruitage,--a picturesque bridge of
boats, a dense growth of palms on the right bank, beyond which gleam
the golden domes of Kazimain and the top of Zobeide's tomb, the
superannuated British gun-boat _Comet_, two steamers, a crowd of
native craft, including _kufas_ or _gophers_, a prominent
Custom-house, and decayed alleys opening on the water, make up the
Baghdad of the present as seen from the _Mejidieh's_ deck.

As soon as we anchored swarms of _kufas_ clustered round us, and
swarms of officials and _hamals_ (porters) invaded the deck. Some of
the passengers had landed two hours before, others had proceeded to
their destinations at once, and as my friends had not come off I was
alone for some time in the middle of a tremendous Babel, in which
every man shouted at the top of his voice and all together, Hadji
assuming a deportment of childish helplessness. Certain officials
under cover of bribes lavished on my behalf by a man who spoke
English professed to let my baggage pass unopened, then a higher
official with a sword knocked Hadji down, then a man said that
everything would be all right if I would bestow another gold _lira_,
about £1, on the officers, and I was truly glad when kind Captain
Dougherty with Dr. Sutton came alongside in the _Comet's_ boat, and
brought me ashore. The baggage was put into another of her boats, but
as soon as we were out of sight it was removed, and was taken to the
Custom-house, where they insisted that some small tent poles in a
cover were guns, and smashed a box of dates in the idea that it was

The Church Mission House, in which I am receiving hospitality, is a
"native" house, though built and decorated by Persians, as also are
several of the Consulates. It is in a narrow roadway with blank walls,
a part of the European quarter; a door of much strength admits into a
small courtyard, round which are some of the servants' quarters and
reception rooms for Moslem visitors, and within this again is a
spacious and handsome courtyard, round which are kitchens, domestic
offices, and the _serdabs_, which play an important part in Eastern

These _serdabs_ are semi-subterranean rooms, usually with arched
fronts, filled in above-ground with latticework. They are lofty, and
their vaulted roofs are supported in rich men's houses on pillars. The
well of the household is often found within. The general effect of
this one is that of a crypt, and it was most appropriate for the
Divine Service in English which greeted my arrival. The cold of it
was, however, frightful. It was only when the Holy Communion was over
that I found that I was wearing Hadji's revolver and cartridge belt
under my cloak, which he had begged me to put on to save them from
confiscation! In these vaulted chambers both Europeans and natives
spend the hot season, sleeping at night on the roofs.

Above this lower floor are the winter apartments, which open upon a
fine stone balcony running round three sides of the court. On the
river side of the house there is an orange garden, which just now
might be the garden of the Hesperides, and a terrace, below which is
the noble, swirling Tigris, and beyond, a dark belt of palms. These
rooms on the river front have large projecting windows, six in a row,
with screens which slide up and down, and those which look to the
courtyard are secluded by very beautiful fretwork. The drawing-room,
used as a dormitory, is a superb room, in which exquisitely beautiful
ceiling and wall decorations in shades of fawn enriched with gold, and
fretwork windows, suggest Oriental feeling at every turn. The
plaster-work of this room is said to be distinctively Persian and is
very charming. The house, though large, is inconveniently crowded,
with the medical and clerical mission families, two lady missionaries,
and two guests. Each apartment has two rows of vaulted recesses in its
walls, and very fine cornices above. It is impossible to warm the
rooms, but the winter is very short and brilliant, and after ulsters,
greatcoats, and fur cloaks have been worn for breakfast, the sun
mitigates the temperature.

     I. L. B.


     BAGHDAD, _Jan. 9_.

Baghdad is too well known from the careful descriptions given of it by
Eastern travellers to justify me in lingering upon it in detail, and I
will only record a few impressions, which are decidedly _couleur de
rose_, for the weather is splendid, making locomotion a pleasure, and
the rough, irregular roadways which at other seasons are deep in foul
and choking dust, or in mud and pestilential slime, are now firm and
not remarkably dirty.

A little earlier than this the richer inhabitants, who have _warstled_
through the summer in their dim and latticed _serdabs_, emerge and
pitch their tents in the plains of Ctesiphon, where the men find a
stimulating amusement in hunting the boar, but it is now the "season"
in the city, the liveliest and busiest time of the year. The cholera,
which is believed to have claimed 6000 victims, has departed, and the
wailing of the women, which scarcely ceased day or night for a month,
is silent. The Jewish troubles, which apparently rose out of the
indignation of the Moslems at the burial within the gates, contrary to
a strict edict on the subject, of a Rabbi who died of cholera, have
subsided, and the motley populations and their yet more motley creeds
are for the time at peace.

In the daytime there is a roar or hum of business, mingled with
braying of asses, squeals of belligerent horses, yells of
camel-drivers and muleteers, beating of drums, shouts of beggars,
hoarse-toned ejaculations of fakirs, ear-splitting snatches of
discordant music, and in short a chorus of sounds unfamiliar to
Western ears, but the nights are so still that the swirl of the Tigris
as it hurries past is distinctly heard. Only the long melancholy call
to prayer, or the wail of women over the dead, or the barking of dogs,
breaks the silence which at sunset falls as a pall over Baghdad.

Under the blue sunny sky the river view is very fine. The river itself
is imposing from its breadth and volume, and in the gorgeous sunsets,
with a sky of crimson flame, and the fronds of the dark date palms
mirrored in its reddened waters, it looks really beautiful. The city
is stately enough as far as the general _coup-d'oeil_ of the river
front goes, and its river _façade_ agreeably surprises me. The Tigris,
besides being what may be called the main street, divides Baghdad into
two unequal parts, and though the city on the left bank has almost a
monopoly of picturesque and somewhat stately irregularity in the
houses of fair height, whose lattices and oriel windows overhang the
stream from an environment of orange gardens, the dark date groves
dignify the meaner buildings of the right bank. The rush of a great
river is in itself attractive, and from the roof of this house the
view is fascinating, with the ceaseless movements of hundreds of boats
and _kufas_, the constant traffic of men, horses, asses, and caravans
across the great bridge of boats, and the long lines of buildings
which with more or less picturesqueness line the great waterway.

Without the wearisomeness of sight-seeing there is much to be seen in
Baghdad, and though much that would be novel to a new-comer from the
West is familiar to me after two years of Eastern travel, there is a
great deal that is really interesting. The _kufas_ accumulating at
their landing, freighted with the products of the Upper Tigris, the
transpontine city, in which country produce takes the foremost place;
the tramway to Kazimain constructed during the brief valiship of
Midhat Pasha, on which the last journey of the day is always performed
at a gallop, _coûte que coûte_; the caravans of asses, each one with a
huge fish, the "Fish of Tobias," hanging across its back; the strings
of the same humble animal, carrying skins of water from the river
throughout the city; the tombs, the mosques, the churches, the great
caravans of mules and camels, almost monopolising the narrow roadways,
Arabs and Osmanlis on showy horses, Persians, Turks, Arabs, Jews,
Armenians, Chaldæans, in all the variety of their picturesque national
costumes, to which the niggardly clothing of a chance European acts as
an ungraceful foil; Persian dead, usually swaddled, making their last
journey on mule or horseback to the holy ground at Kerbela, and the
occasional march of horse or foot through the thronged bazars, are
among the hourly sights of a city on which European influence is
scarcely if at all perceptible.

Turkish statistics must be received with caution, and the population
of Baghdad may not reach 120,000 souls, but it has obviously recovered
wonderfully from the effects of war, plague, inundation, and famine,
and looks busy and fairly prosperous, so much so indeed that the
account given of its misery and decay in Mr. Baillie Fraser's charming
_Travels in Kurdistan_ reads like a story of the last century. If
nothing remains of the glories of the city of the Caliphs, it is
certainly for Turkey a busy, growing, and passably wealthy
nineteenth-century capital. It is said to have a hundred mosques,
twenty-six minarets, and fifteen domes, but I have not counted them!

Its bazars, which many people regard as the finest in the East outside
of Stamboul, are of enormous extent and very great variety. Many are
of brick, with well-built domed roofs, and sides arcaded both above
and below, and are wide and airy. Some are of wood, all are covered,
and admit light scantily, only from the roof. Those which supply the
poorer classes are apt to be ruinous and squalid--"_ramshackle_," to
say the truth, with an air of decay about them, and their roofs are
merely rough timber, roughly thatched with reeds or date tree fronds.
Of splendour there is none anywhere, and of cleanliness there are few
traces. The old, narrow, and filthy bazars in which the gold and
silversmiths ply their trade are of all the most interesting. The
trades have their separate localities, and the buyer who is in search
of cotton goods, silk stuffs, carpets, cotton yarn, gold and silver
thread, ready-made clothing, weapons, saddlery, rope, fruit, meat,
grain, fish, jewellery, muslins, copper pots, etc., has a whole alley
of contiguous shops devoted to the sale of the same article to choose

At any hour of daylight at this season progress through the bazars is
slow. They are crowded, and almost entirely with men. It is only the
poorer women who market for themselves, and in twos and threes, at
certain hours of the day. In a whole afternoon, among thousands of
men, I saw only five women, tall, shapeless, badly-made-up bundles,
carried mysteriously along, rather by high, loose, canary-yellow
leather boots than by feet. The face is covered with a thick black
gauze mask, or cloth, and the head and remainder of the form with a
dark blue or black sheet, which is clutched by the hand below the
nose. The walk is one of tottering decrepitude. All the business
transacted in the bazars is a matter of bargaining, and as Arabs shout
at the top of their voices, and buyers and sellers are equally keen,
the roar is tremendous.

Great _cafés_, as in Cairo, occur frequently. In the larger ones from
a hundred to two hundred men are seen lounging at one time on the
broad matted seats, shouting, chaffering, drinking coffee or _sharbat_
and smoking _chibouks_ or _kalians_. Negro attendants supply their
wants. These _cafés_ are the clubs of Baghdad. Whatever of public
opinion exists in a country where the recognised use of words is to
"conceal thought," is formed in them. They are centres of business
likewise, and much of the noise is due to bargaining, and they are
also manufactories of rumours, scandals, and fanaticism. The great
caravanserais, such as the magnificent Khan Othman, are also resorts
of merchants for the display and sale of their goods.

Europeans never make purchases in the bazars. They either have the
goods from which they wish to make a choice brought to their houses,
or their servants bargain for them, getting a commission both from
buyer and seller.

The splendour of the East, if it exists at all, is not to be seen in
the bazars. The jewelled daggers, the cloth of silver and gold, the
diaphanous silk tissues, the brocaded silks, the rich embroideries,
the damascened sword blades, the finer carpets, the inlaid armour, the
cunning work in brass and inlaid bronze, and all the articles of
_vertu_ and _bric-à-brac_ of real or spurious value, are carefully
concealed by their owners, and are carried for display, with much
secrecy and mystery, to the houses of their ordinary customers, and to
such European strangers as are reported to be willing to be

Trade in Baghdad is regarded by Europeans and large capitalists as
growing annually more depressed and unsatisfactory, but this is not
the view of the small traders, chiefly Jews and Christians, who start
with a capital of £5 or upwards, and by buying some cheap lot in
Bombay,--gay handkerchiefs, perfumery, shoes, socks, buttons, tin
boxes with mirror lids, scissors, pocket-knives, toys, and the
like,--bid fair to make small fortunes. The amount of perfumery and
rubbish piled in these ramshackle shops is wonderful. The trader who
picks up a desert Arab for a customer and sells him a knife, or a
mirror box, or a packet of candles is likely to attract to himself a
large trade, for when once the unmastered pastoral hordes of Al
Jaz[=i]ra, Trak, and Stram[=i]ya see such objects, the desire of
possession is aroused, and the refuse of Manchester and Birmingham
will find its way into every tent in the desert.

The best bazars are the least crowded, though once in them it is
difficult to move, and the strings of asses laden with skins of water
are a great nuisance. The foot-passenger is also liable at any moment
to be ridden down by horsemen, or squeezed into a jelly by the passage
of caravans.

It is in the meat, vegetable, cotton, oil, grain, fruit, and fish
bazars that the throngs are busiest and noisiest, and though
cucumbers, the great joy of the Turkish palate, are over, vegetables
"of sorts" are abundant, and the slant, broken sunbeams fall on
pyramids of fruit, and glorify the warm colouring of melons, apples,
and pomegranates.

A melon of 10 lbs. weight can be got for a penny, a sheep for five or
six shillings, and fish for something like a farthing per pound, that
is the "Fish of Tobias," the monster of the Tigris waters, which is
largely eaten by the poor. Poultry and game are also very cheap, and
the absolute necessaries of life, such as broken wheat for porridge,
oil, flour, and cheese, cost little.

Cook-shops abound, but their viands are not tempting, and the bazars
are pervaded by a pungent odour of hot sesamum oil and rancid fat,
frying being a usual mode of cooking in these restaurants. An
impassive Turk, silently smoking, sits cross-legged on a platform at
each Turkish shop door. He shows his goods as if he had no interest in
them, and whether he sells or not seems a matter of indifference, so
that he can return to his pipe. It is not to him that the overpowering
din is owing, but to the agitated eagerness of the other

The charm of the bazars lies in the variety of race and costume and in
the splendid _physique_ of the greater number of the men. The European
looks "nowhere." The natural look of a Moslem is one of _hauteur_, but
no words can describe the scorn and lofty Pharisaism which sit on the
faces of the Seyyids, the descendants of Mohammed, whose hands and
even garments are kissed reverently as they pass through the crowd; or
the wrathful melancholy mixed with pride which gives a fierceness to
the dignified bearing of the magnificent beings who glide through the
streets, their white turbans or shawl head-gear, their gracefully
flowing robes, their richly embroidered under-vests, their Kashmir
girdles, their inlaid pistols, their silver-hilted dirks, and the
predominance of red throughout their clothing aiding the general
effect. Yet most of these grand creatures, with their lofty looks and
regal stride, would be accessible to a bribe, and would not despise
even a perquisite. These are the _mollahs_, the scribes, the traders,
and the merchants of the city.

The Bedouin and the city Arabs dress differently, and are among the
marked features of the streets. The under-dress is a very coarse shirt
of unbleached homespun cotton, rarely clean, over which the Sheikhs
and richer men wear a robe of striped silk or cotton with a Kashmir
girdle of a shawl pattern in red on a white ground. The poor wear
shirts of coarse hair or cotton, without a robe. The invariable
feature of Arab dress is the _abba_--a long cloak, sleeveless, but
with holes through which to pass the arms, and capable of many
adaptations. It conceals all superabundance and deficiency of attire,
and while it has the dignity of the _toga_ by day it has the utility
of a blanket by night. The better-class _abba_ is very hard, being
made of closely-woven worsted, in broad brown and white or black and
white perpendicular stripes. The poorest _abba_ is of coarse brown
worsted, and even of goat's-hair. I saw many men who were destitute of
any clothing but tattered _abbas_ tied round their waists by frayed
hair ropes. The _abba_ is the distinctive national costume of the
Arabs. The head-gear is not the turban but a shawl of very thick silk
woven in irregular stripes of yellow and red, with long cords and
tassels depending, made of the twisted woof. This handsome square is
doubled triangularly, the double end hangs down the back, and the
others over the shoulders. A loosely-twisted rope of camel's-hair is
wound several times round the crown of the head. When the weather is
cold, being like all Orientals very sensitive in their heads, they
bring one side of the shawl over the whole of the face but the eyes,
and tuck it in, in great cold only exposing one eye, and in great heat
also. Most Moslems shave the head, but the Arabs let their hair grow
very long, and wear it in a number of long plaits, and these elf-locks
mixed up with the long coloured tassels of the _kiffiyeh_, and the
dark glittering eyes looking out from under the yellow silk, give them
an appearance of extreme wildness, aided by the long guns which they
carry and their long desert stride.

The Arab moves as if he were the ruler of the country, though the grip
of the Osmanli may be closing on him. His eyes are deeply set under
shaggy eyebrows, his nose is high and sharp, he is long and thin, his
profile suggests a bird of prey, and his demeanour a fierce

The Arab women go about the streets unveiled, and with the _abba_
covering their very poor clothing, but it is not clutched closely
enough to conceal the extraordinary tattooing which the Bedouin women
everywhere regard as ornamental. There are artists in Baghdad who make
their living by this mode of decorating the person, and vie with each
other in the elaboration of their patterns. I saw several women
tattooed with two wreaths of blue flowers on their bosoms linked by a
blue chain, palm fronds on the throat, stars on the brow and chin, and
bands round the wrists and ankles. These disfigurements, and large
gold or silver filigree buttons placed outside one nostril by means of
a wire passed through it, worn by married women, are much admired.
When these women sell country produce in the markets, they cover their
heads with the ordinary _chadar_.

The streets are narrow, and the walls, which are built of fire-burned
bricks, are high. Windows to the streets are common, and the oriel
windows, with their warm brown lattices projecting over the roadways
at irregular heights, are strikingly picturesque. Not less so are
latticework galleries, which are often thrown across the street to
connect the two houses of wealthy residents, and the sitting-rooms
with oriel windows, which likewise bridge the roadways. Solid doorways
with iron-clasped and iron-studded doors give an impression of
security, and suggest comfort and to some extent home life, and sprays
of orange trees, hanging over walls, and fronds of date palms give an
aspect of pleasantness to the courtyards.

The best parts of the city, where the great bazars, large
dwelling-houses, and most of the mosques are, is surrounded by a
labyrinth of alleys, fringing off into streets growing meaner till
they cease altogether among open spaces, given up to holes, heaps,
rubbish, the slaughter of animals, and in some favoured spots to the
production of vegetables. Then come the walls, which are of
kiln-burned bricks, and have towers intended for guns at intervals.
The wastes within the walls have every element of decay and meanness,
the wastes without, where the desert sands sweep up to the very foot
of the fortifications, have many elements of grandeur.

Baghdad is altogether built of chrome-yellow kiln-dried bricks. There
are about twenty-five kilns, chiefly in the hands of Jews and
Christians in the wastes outside the city, but the demand exceeds the
supply, not for building only, but for the perpetual patchings which
houses, paths, and walls are always requiring, owing to the absorption
of moisture in the winter.

Bricks at the kilns sell for 36s. per thousand twelve inches square,
and 18s. per thousand seven inches square. They are carried from the
kilns on donkeys, small beasts, each taking ten large or twenty-five
small bricks.

Unskilled labour is abundant. Men can be engaged at 9d. a day, and
boys for 5d.

This afternoon, in the glory of a sunset which reddened the yellow
waste up to the distant horizon, a caravan of mules, mostly in single
file, approached the city. Each carried two or four white bales slung
on his sides, or two or more long boxes, consisting of planks roped
rather than nailed together. This is the fashion in which thousands of
Persian Moslems (Shiahs or "Sectaries") have been conveyed for ages
for final burial at Kerbela, the holiest place of the Shiahs, an easy
journey from Baghdad, where rest the ashes of Ali, regarded as
scarcely second to Mohammed, and of Houssein and Hassan his sons,
whose "martyrdom" is annually commemorated by a Passion Play which is
acted in every town and village in Persia. To make a pilgrimage to
Kerbela, or to rest finally in its holy dust, or both, constitutes
the ambition of every Shiah. The Sunnis, or "Orthodox," who hate the
Shiahs, are so far kept in check that these doleful caravans are not
exposed to any worse molestation than the shouts and ridicule of
street Arabs.

The mode of carrying the dead is not reverent. The _katirgis_, who
contract for the removal, hurry the bodies along as goods, and pile
them in the yards of the caravanserais at night, and the mournful
journey is performed, oftener than not, without the presence of
relations, each body being ticketed with the name once borne by its
owner. Some have been exhumed and are merely skeletons, others are in
various stages of decomposition, and some are of the newly dead.[6]

Outside the walls predatory Arabs render the roads unsafe for solitary
travellers, and at times for feeble caravans; but things in this
respect are better than they were.

Visits to the Armenian and Chaldæan Churches, to the Mosque of Abdel
Kader, with its courts thronged by Afghan pilgrims, and to the Jewish
quarter, have been very interesting. There are said to be 30,000 Jews
here, and while a large proportion of them are in poverty, on the
whole they are an influential nationality, and some of them are very

Through the liberality of Sir Albert Sassoon a Jewish High School has
been opened, where an admirable education is given. I was extremely
pleased with it, and with the director, who speaks French fluently,
and with the proficiency in French of the elder students. He describes
their earnestness and energetic application as being most remarkable.

The French Carmelite monks have a large, solid "Mission Church" or
Cathedral with a fine peal of bells, and a very prosperous school
attached, in which are boys belonging to all the many creeds professed
in Baghdad. The sisters of St. Joseph have a school for girls, which
Turkish children are not slow to avail themselves of. The sisters find
a remarkable unhandiness among the women. Few, if any, among them have
any idea of cutting out or repairing, and rich and poor are equally
incapable of employing their fingers usefully.

The people here are so used to the sight of Europeans that it is quite
easy for foreign ladies to walk in this quarter only attended by a
servant, and I have accompanied Mrs. Sutton on visits to several
Armenian houses. The Armenians are in many cases wealthy, as their
admirably-designed and well-built houses testify. The Christian
population is estimated at 5000, and its wealth and energy give it
greater importance than its numbers warrant. One of the houses which
we visited was truly beautiful and in very good taste, the solidity of
the stone and brickwork, the finish of the wood, and the beauty of the
designs and their execution in hammered iron being quite remarkable.
The lofty roofs and cornices are elaborately worked in plaster, and
this is completely concealed by hundreds or thousands of mirrors set
so as to resemble facets, so that roof and cornices flash like
diamonds. This is a Persian style of decoration, and is extremely
effective in large handsome rooms. Superb carpets and divans and tea
tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl furnish the reception and smoking
rooms, and the bedrooms and nurseries over which we were taken were
simply arranged with French bedsteads and curtains of Nottingham
mosquito net. As in other Eastern houses, there were no traces of
occupation, no morning room or den sacred to litter; neither was there
anything to look at--the opposite extreme from our overloaded
drawing-rooms--or any library. Cigarettes and black coffee in minute
porcelain cups, in gold filigree receptacles, were presented on each
occasion, and the kind and courteous intention was very pleasing.

The visits which I paid with Dr. Sutton were very different. He has
worked as a medical missionary here for some years, and his unaffected
benevolence and quiet attention to all suffering persons, without
distinction of race or creed, and his recent extraordinary labours by
night and day among the cholera-smitten people, have won for him
general esteem and confidence, and he is even allowed to enter Moslem
houses and prescribe for the women in some cases.

The dispensary, in which there is not half enough accommodation, is
very largely attended by people of all creeds, and even Moslem women,
though exclusively of the poorer classes, avail themselves of it.
Yesterday, when I was there, the comfortable seats of the cheerful
matted waiting-room were all occupied by Armenian and Chaldæan women,
unveiled and speaking quite freely to Dr. Sutton; while a few Moslem
women, masked rather than veiled, and enveloped in black sheets,
cowered on the floor and scarcely let their voices be heard even in a
tremulous whisper.

I am always sorry to see any encroachment made by Christian teachers
on national customs where they are not contrary to morality, and
willingly leave to Eastern women the _pardah_ and the veil, but still
there is a wholesomeness about the unveiled, rosy, comely, frank faces
of these Christian women. But--and it is a decided but--though the
women were comely, and though some of the Armenian girls are
beautiful, every one has one or more flattish depressions on her
face--scars in fact--the size of a large date stone. Nearly the whole
population is thus disfigured. So universal is it among the
fair-skinned Armenian girls, that so far from being regarded as a
blemish, it is viewed as a token of good health, and it is said that a
young man would hesitate to ask for the hand of a girl in marriage if
she had not a "date mark" on her face.

These "date boils," or "Baghdad boils," as they are sometimes called,
are not slow in attacking European strangers, and few, if any, escape
during their residence here. As no cause can reasonably be assigned
for them, so no cure has been found. Various remedies, including
cauterisation, have been tried, but without success, and it is now
thought wisest to do nothing more than keep them dry and clean, and
let them run their natural course, which lasts about a year. Happily
they are not so painful as ordinary boils. The malady appears at first
as a white point, not larger than a pin's head, and remains thus for
about three months. Then the flesh swells, becomes red and hard and
suppurates, and underneath a rough crust which is formed is corroded
and eaten away as by vitriol. On some strangers the fatal point
appears within a few days of their arrival.

In two years in the East I have not seen any European welcomed so
cordially as Dr. Sutton into Moslem homes. The _Hak[=i]m_, exhibiting
in "quiet continuance in well-doing" the legible and easily-recognised
higher fruits of Christianity, while refraining from harsh and
irreverent onslaughts on the creeds of those whose sufferings he
mitigates, is everywhere blessed.[7]

To my thinking, no one follows in the Master's footprints so closely
as the medical missionary, and on no agency for alleviating human
suffering can one look with more unqualified satisfaction. The
medical mission is the outcome of the living teachings of our faith. I
have now visited such missions in many parts of the world, and never
saw one which was not healing, helping, blessing; softening prejudice,
diminishing suffering, making an end of many of the cruelties which
proceed from ignorance, restoring sight to the blind, limbs to the
crippled, health to the sick, telling, in every work of love and of
consecrated skill, of the infinite compassion of Him who came "not to
destroy men's lives, but to save them."

In one house Dr. Sutton was welcome because he had saved a woman's
life, in another because a blind youth had received his sight, and so
on. Among our visits was one to a poor Moslem family in a very poor
quarter. No matter how poor the people are, their rooms stand back
from the street, and open on yards more or less mean. It is a misnomer
to call this dwelling a house, or to write that it _opens_, for it is
merely an arched recess which can never be shut!

In a hole in the middle of an uneven earthen floor there was a fire of
tamarisk root and animal fuel, giving off a stinging smoke. On this
the broken wheat porridge for supper was being cooked in a copper pot,
supported on three rusty cannon-balls. An earthenware basin, a wooden
spoon, a long knife, a goat-skin of water, a mallet, a long hen-coop,
which had served as the bed for the wife when she was ill, some ugly
hens, a clay jar full of grain, two heaps of brick rubbish, and some
wadded quilts, which had taken on the prevailing gray-brown colour,
were the plenishings of the arch.

Poverty brings one blessing in Turkey--the poor man is of necessity a
monogamist. Wretched though the place was, it had the air of home, and
the smoky hole in the floor was a fireside. The wife was unveiled and
joined in the conversation, the husband was helping her to cook the
supper, and the children were sitting round or scrambling over their
parents' knees. All looked as happy as people in their class anywhere.
It is good to have ocular demonstration that such homes exist in
Turkey. God be thanked for them! The man, a fine frank-looking Turk,
welcomed Dr. Sutton jovially. He had saved the wife's life and was
received as their best friend. Who indeed but the medical missionary
would care for such as them and give them of his skill "without money
and without price"? The hearty laugh of this Turk was good to hear,
his wife smiled cordially, and the boys laughed like their father. The
eldest, a nice, bright fellow of nine, taught in the mosque school,
was proud to show how well he could read Arabic, and read part of a
chapter from St. John's Gospel, his parents looking on with wonder and

Among the Christian families we called on were those of the dispenser
and catechist--people with very small salaries but comfortable homes.
These families were living in a house furnished like those of the rich
Armenians, but on a very simple scale, the floor and daïs covered with
Persian carpets, the divan with Turkish woollen stuff, and there were
in addition a chair or two, and silk cushions on the floor. In one
room there were an intelligent elderly woman, a beautiful girl of
seventeen, married a few days ago, and wearing her bridal ornaments,
with her husband; another man and his wife, and two bright,
ruddy-cheeked boys who spoke six languages. All had "date marks" on
their faces. After a year among Moslems and Hindus, it was startling
to find men and women sitting together, the women unveiled, and taking
their share in the conversation merrily and happily. Even the young
bride took the initiative in talking to Dr. Sutton.

Of course the Christian women cover their faces in the streets, but
the covering is of different material and arrangement, and is really
magnificent, being of very rich, stiff, corded silk--self-coloured
usually--black, heliotrope, or dark blue, with a contrasting colour
woven in deep vandykes upon a white ground as a border. The silk is
superb, really capable of standing on end with richness. Such a sheet
costs about £5. The ambition of every woman is to possess one, and to
gratify it she even denies herself in the necessaries of life.

The upper classes of both Moslem and Christian women are rarely seen
on foot in the streets except on certain days, as when they visit the
churches and the mosques and burial-grounds. Nevertheless they go
about a great deal to visit each other, riding on white asses, which
are also used by _mollahs_ and rich elderly merchants. All asses have
their nostrils slit to improve their wind. A good white ass of long
pedigree, over thirteen hands high, costs as much as £50. As they are
groomed till they look as white as snow, and are caparisoned with red
leather trappings embroidered with gold thread and silks, and as a
rider on a white ass is usually preceded by runners who shout and
brandish sticks to clear the way, this animal always suggests
position, or at least wealth.

Women of the upper classes mounted on these asses usually go to pay
afternoon visits in companies, with mounted eunuchs and attendants,
and men to clear the way. They ride astride with short stirrups, but
the rider is represented only by a shapeless blue bundle, out of which
protrude two yellow boots. Blacks of the purest negro type frequently
attend on women, and indeed consequence is shown by the possession of
a number of them.

Of the Georgian and Circassian _belles_ of the harams, a single
lustrous eye with its brilliancy enhanced by the use of _kohl_ is all
that one sees. At the bottom of the scale are the Arab women and the
unsecluded women of the lower orders generally, who are of necessity
drudges, and are old hags before they are twenty, except in the few
cases in which they do not become mothers, when the good looks which
many of them possess in extreme youth last a little longer. If one's
memories of Baghdad women were only of those to be seen in the
streets, they would be of leathery, wrinkled faces, prematurely old,
figures which have lost all shape, and henna-stained hands crinkled
and deformed by toil.

Baghdad is busy and noisy with traffic. Great quantities of British
goods pass through it to Persia, avoiding by doing so the horrible
rock ladders between Bushire and Isfahan. The water transit from
England and India, only involving the inconvenience of transhipment at
Basrah, makes Baghdad practically into a seaport, with something of
the bustle and vivacity of a seaport, and caravans numbering from
20,000 to 26,000 laden mules are employed in the carriage of goods to
and from the Persian cities. A duty of one per cent is levied on goods
in transit to Persia.[8]

The trade of Baghdad is not to be despised. The principal articles
which were imported from Europe amounted in 1889 to a value of
£621,140, and from India to £239,940, while the exports from Baghdad
to Europe and America were valued in the same year at £469,200, and
to India by British India Company steamers only at £35,150. In looking
through the Consular list of exports, it is interesting to notice that
13,400 cwts. of gum of the value of £70,000 were exported in 1889.
Neither the Indian postage stamps nor ours should suffer from the
partial failure of the Soudan supply.

Liquorice roots to the value of £7800 were exported in 1888, almost
solely to America, to be used in the preparation of quid tobacco and
"fancy drinks"!

The gall nuts which grow in profusion on the dwarf oaks which cover
many hillsides, were exported last year to the value of £35,000, to be
used chiefly in the production of ink, so closely is commerce binding
countries one to the other.

Two English firms have concessions for pressing wool and making it
into bales suitable for shipment. There are five principal English
firms here, three French, and six Turkish, not including the small
fry. There are five foreign Consulates.

The carriage of goods is one of the most important of Persian and
Turkish industries, and the breeding of mules and the manufacture of
caravan equipments give extensive employment; but one shudders to
think of the amount of suffering involved in sore backs and wounds,
and of exhausted and over-weighted animals lying down forlornly to
die, having their eyes picked out before death.

The mercury was at 37° at breakfast-time this morning. Fuel is scarce
and dear, some of the rooms are without fireplaces, and these good
people study, write, and work cheerfully in this temperature in open
rooms, untouched by the early sun.

The preparations for to-morrow's journey are nearly complete. Three
mules have been engaged for the baggage--one for Hadji, and a saddle
mule for myself; stores, a revolver, and a _mangel_ or brazier have
been bought; a permit to travel has been obtained, and my hosts, with
the most thoughtful kindness, have facilitated all the arrangements. I
have bought two mule _yekdans_, which are tall, narrow leather trunks
on strong iron frames, with stout straps to buckle over the top of the
pack saddle. On the whole I find that it is best to adopt as far as
possible the travelling equipments of the country in which one
travels. The muleteers and servants understand them better, and if any
thing goes wrong, or wears out, it can be repaired or replaced. I have
given away _en route_ nearly all the things I brought from England,
and have reduced my camp furniture to a folding bed and a chair. I
shall start with three novelties--a fellow-traveller,[9] a saddle
mule, and an untried saddle.

It is expected that the journey will be a very severe one, owing to
the exceptionally heavy snowfall reported from the Zagros mountains
and the Persian plateau. The Persian post has arrived several days
late. I. L. B.


[6] I heard that the Shah had prohibited this "Dead March" to Kerbela,
on account of the many risks to the public health involved in it, but
nearly a year later, in Persian Kurdistan, I met, besides thousands of
living pilgrims, a large caravan of the dead.

[7] Six months later a Bakhtiari chief, a bigoted Moslem, said to me
at the conclusion of an earnest plea for European medical advice,
"Yes, Jesus was a great prophet; _send us a Hak[=i]m in His
likeness_," and doubtless the nearer that likeness is the greater is
the success.

[8] The entire trade of Baghdad is estimated at about £2,500,000, of
which the Persian transit trade is nearly a quarter. The Persian
imports and exports through Baghdad are classified thus: Manufactured
goods, including Manchester piece goods, and continental woollens and
cottons, 7000 to 8000 loads. Indian manufactures, 1000 loads. Loaf
sugar, chiefly from Marseilles, 6000 loads. Drugs, pepper, coffee,
tea, other sugars, indigo, cochineal, copper, and spelter, 7000 loads.
The Persian exports for despatch by sea include wool, opium, cotton,
carpets, gum, and dried fruits, and for local consumption, among
others, tobacco, _roghan_ (clarified butter), and dried and fresh
fruits, with a probable bulk of from 12,000 to 15,000 loads.

[9] I had given up the idea of travelling in Persia, and was preparing
to leave India for England, when an officer, with whom I was then
unacquainted, and who was about to proceed to Tihran on business,
kindly offered me his escort. The journey turned out one of extreme
hardship and difficulty, and had it not been for his kindness and
efficient help I do not think that I should have accomplished it.



Whether for "well or ill" the journey to Tihran is begun. I am ashamed
to say that I had grown so nervous about its untried elements, and
about the possibilities of the next two months, that a very small
thing would have made me give it up at the last moment; but now that I
am fairly embarked upon it in splendid weather, the spirit of travel
has returned.

Much remained for the last morning,--debts to be paid in complicated
money, for Indian, Turkish, and Persian coins are all current here;
English circular notes to be turned into difficult coin, and the usual
"row" with the muleteers to be endured. This disagreeable farce
attends nearly all departures in the East, and I never feel the
comfortable assurance that it means nothing.

The men weighed my baggage, which was considerably under weight, the
day before, but yesterday three or four of them came into the
courtyard, shouting in Arabic at the top of their loud harsh voices
that they would not carry the loads. Hadji roared at them, loading his
revolver all the time, calling them "sons of burnt fathers," and other
choice names. Dr. Bruce and Dr. Sutton reasoned with them from the
balcony, when, in the very height of the row, they suddenly
shouldered the loads and went off with them.

Two hours later the delightful hospitalities of Dr. and Mrs. Sutton
were left behind, and the farewell to the group in the courtyard of
the mission house is a long farewell to civilisation. Rumours of
difficulties have been rife, and among the various dismal prophecies
the one oftenest repeated is that we shall be entangled in the snows
of the Zagros mountains; but the journey began propitiously among
oranges and palms, bright sunshine and warm good wishes. My mule turns
out a fine, spirited, fast-walking animal, and the untried saddle
suits me. My marching equipment consists of two large holsters, with a
revolver and tea-making apparatus in one, and a bottle of milk, and
dates in the other. An Afghan sheepskin coat is strapped to the front
of the saddle, and a blanket and stout mackintosh behind. I wear a
cork sun-helmet, a gray mask instead of a veil, an American mountain
dress with a warm jacket over it, and tan boots, scarcely the worse
for a year of Himalayan travel. Hadji is dressed like a wild

Captain Dougherty of H.M.S. _Comet_ and his chief engineer piloted us
through the narrow alleys and thronged bazars,--a _zaptieh_, or
gendarme, with a rifle across his saddle-bow, and a sheathed sabre in
his hand, shouting at the donkey boys, and clearing the crowd to right
and left. Through the twilight of the bazars, where chance rays of
sunshine fell on warm colouring, gay merchandise, and picturesque
crowds; along narrow alleys, overhung by brown lattice windows; out
under the glorious blue of heaven among ruins and graves, through the
northern gateway, and then there was an abrupt exchange of the roar
and limitations of the City of the Caliphs for the silence of the
desert and the brown sweep of a limitless horizon. A walled Eastern
city has no suburbs. It is a literal step from a crowded town to
absolute solitude. The contrast is specially emphasised at Baghdad,
where the transition is made from a great commercial city with a
crowded waterway, to an uninhabited plain in the nudity of mid-winter.

A last look at gleaming domes, coloured minarets, and massive
mausoleums, rising out of an environment of palms and orange groves,
at the brick walls and towers of the city, at the great gate to which
lines of caravans were converging from every quarter, a farewell to
the kindly pilots, and the journey began in earnest.

The "Desert" sweeps up to the walls of Baghdad, but it is a misnomer
to call the vast level of rich, stoneless, alluvial soil a desert. It
is a dead flat of uninhabited earth; orange colocynth balls, a little
wormwood, and some alkaline plants which camels eat, being its chief
products. After the inundations reedy grass grows in the hollows. It
is a waste rather than a desert, and was once a populous plain, and
the rich soil only needs irrigation to make it "blossom as the rose."
Traces of the splendid irrigation system under which it was once a
garden abound along the route.

The mid-day and afternoon were as glorious as an unclouded sky, a warm
sun, and a fresh, keen air could make them. The desert freedom was all
around, and the nameless charm of a nomadic life. The naked plain,
which stretched to the horizon, was broken only by the brown tents of
Arabs, mixed up with brown patches of migrating flocks, strings of
brown camels, straggling caravans, and companies of Arab horsemen
heavily armed. An expanse of dried mud, the mirage continually seen, a
cloudless sky, and a brilliant sun--this was all. I felt better at
once in the pure, exhilarating desert air, and nervousness about the
journey was left behind. I even indulged in a gallop, and except for
her impetuosity, which carried me into the middle of a caravan, and
turning round a few times, the mule behaved so irreproachably that I
forgot the potential possibilities of evil. Still, I do not think that
there can ever be that perfect correspondence of will between a mule
and his rider that there is between a horse and his rider.

The mirage was almost continual and grossly deceptive. Fair blue lakes
appeared with palms and towers mirrored on their glassy surfaces,
giving place to snowy ranges with bright waters at their feet, fringed
by tall trees, changing into stately processions, all so absolutely
real that the real often seemed the delusion. These deceptions,
continued for several hours, were humiliating and exasperating.

Towards evening the shams disappeared, the waste purpled as the sun
sank, and after riding fifteen miles we halted near the mud village of
Orta Khan, a place with brackish water and no supplies but a little
brackish sheep's milk. The caravanserai was abominable, and we rode on
to a fine gravelly camping-ground, but the headman and some of the
villagers came out, and would not hear of our pitching the tents where
we should be the prey of predatory hordes, strong enough, they said,
to overpower an officer, two _zaptiehs_, and three orderlies! Being
unwilling to get them into trouble, we accepted a horrible
camping-ground, a mud-walled "garden," trenched for dates, and lately
irrigated, as damp and clayey as it could be. My _dhurrie_ will not be
dry again this winter. The mules could not get in, the baggage was
unloaded at some distance, and was all mixed up, and Hadji showed
himself incapable; my tent fell twice, remained precarious, and the
_kanats_ were never pegged down at all.

The _dhurrie_ was trampled into the mud by clayey feet. Baggage had to
be disentangled and unpacked after dark, and the confusion apt to
prevail on the first night of a march was something terrible. It
opened my eyes to the thorough inefficiency of Hadji, who was so dazed
with opium this morning that he stood about in a dream, ejaculating
"_Ya Allah!_" when it was suggested that he should bestir himself,
leaving me to do all the packing, groaning as he took up the tent
pegs, and putting on the mule's bridle with the bit hanging under her

The night was very damp, not quite frosty, and in the dim morning the
tent and its contents were wet. Tea at seven, with Baghdad rusks, with
a distinctly "native taste," two hours spent in standing about on the
damp, clayey ground till my feet were numb, while the men, most of
whom were complaining of rheumatism, stumbled through their new work;
and then five hours of wastes, enlivened by caravans of camels, mules,
horses, or asses, and sometimes of all mixed, with their wild, armed
drivers. The leader of each caravan carries a cylinder-shaped bell
under his throat, suspended from a red leather band stitched with
cowries, another at his chest, and very large ones, often twenty-four
inches long by ten in diameter, hanging from each pack. Every other
animal of the caravan has smaller bells, and the tones, which are
often most musical, reach from the deep note of a church bell up to
the frivolous jingle of sleigh bells; jingle often becomes jangle when
several caravans are together. The _katirgis_ (muleteers) spend large
sums on the bells and other decorations. Among the loads we met or
overtook were paraffin, oranges, pomegranates, carpets, cotton goods,
melons, grain, and chopped straw. The waste is covered with tracks,
and a guide is absolutely necessary.

The day has been still and very gloomy, with flakes of snow falling at
times. The passing over rich soil, once cultivated and populous, now
abandoned to the antelope and partridge, is most melancholy. The
remains of canals and water-courses, which in former days brought the
waters of the Tigris and the Diyalah into the fields of the great
grain-growing population of these vast levels of Chaldæa and
Mesopotamia, are everywhere, and at times create difficulties on the
road. By road is simply meant a track of greater or less width,
trodden on the soil by the passage of caravans for ages. On these two
marches not a stone has been seen which could strike a ploughshare.

Great ancient canals, with their banks in ruins and their deep beds
choked up and useless, have been a mournful feature of rather a dismal
day's journey. We crossed the bed of the once magnificent Nahrwan
canal, the finest of the ancient irrigation works to the east of the
Tigris, still in many places from twenty-five to forty feet deep and
from 150 to 200 feet in breadth.

For many miles the only permanent village is a collection of miserable
mud hovels round a forlorn caravanserai, in which travellers may find
a wretched refuge from the vicissitudes of weather. There is a
remarkable lack of shelter and provender, considering that this is not
only one of the busiest of caravan routes, but is enormously
frequented by Shiah pilgrims on their way from Persia to the shrines
of Kerbela.

After crossing the Nahrwan canal the road keeps near the right bank of
the Diyalah, a fine stream, which for a considerable distance runs
parallel with the Tigris at a distance of from ten to thirty miles
from it, and falls into it below Baghdad; and _imamzadas_ and villages
with groves of palms break the line of the horizon, while on the left
bank for fully two miles are contiguous groves of dates and
pomegranates. These groves are walled, and among them this
semi-decayed and ruinous town is situated, miserably shrunk from its
former proportions. We entered Yakobiyeh after crossing the Diyalah
by a pontoon bridge of twelve boats, and found one good house with
projecting lattice windows, and a large entrance over which the head
and ears of a hare were nailed; narrow, filthy lanes, a covered bazar,
very dark and ruinous, but fairly well supplied, an archway, and
within it this caravanserai in which the baggage must be waited for
for two hours.

This first experience of a Turkish inn is striking. There is a large
square yard, heaped with dirt and rubbish, round which are stables and
some dark, ruinous rooms. A broken stair leads to a flat mud roof, on
which are some narrow "stalls,"--_rooms_ they cannot be called,--with
rude doors fastening only from the outside, for windows small round
holes mostly stuffed with straw near the roof, for floors sodden
earth, for fireplaces holes in the same, the walls slimy and
unplastered, the corners full of ages of dusty cobwebs, both the walls
and the rafters of the roof black with ages of smoke, and beetles and
other abominations hurry into crannies, when the doors are opened, to
emerge as soon as they are shut. A small hole in the wall outside each
stall serves for cooking. The habits of the people are repulsive, foul
odours are only hybernating, and so, mercifully, are the vermin.

While waiting for the "furniture" which is to make my "unfurnished
apartment" habitable, I write sitting on my camp stool with its back
against the wall, wrapped up in a horse-blanket, a heap of saddles,
swords, holsters, and gear keeping the wind from my feet. The Afghan
orderly smokes at the top of the stair. Plumes of palms and
faintly-seen ridges of snowy hills appear over the battlements of the
roof. A snow wind blows keenly. My fingers are nearly numb, and I am
generally stiff and aching, but so much better that discomforts are
only an amusement. Snow is said to be impending. I have lunched
frugally on sheep's milk and dates, and feel everything but my present
surroundings to be very far off, and as if I had lived the desert
life, and had heard the chimes of the great caravans, and had seen the
wild desert riders, and the sun sinking below the level line of the
desert horizon, for two months instead of two days.

Yakobiyeh is said to have 800 houses. It has some small mosques and
several caravanserais, of which this is the best! It was once a
flourishing place, but repeated ravages of the plague and chronic
official extortions have reduced it to decay. Nevertheless, it grows
grain enough for its own needs on poorly irrigated soil, and in its
immense gardens apples, pears, apricots, walnuts, and mulberries
flourish alongside of the orange and palm.

_Kizil Robat, Jan. 14._--It was not very cold at Yakobiyeh. At home
few people would be able to sit in a fireless den, with the door open,
on a January night, but fireless though it was, my slender camp
equipage gave it a look of comfort, and though rats or mice ate a bag
of rusks during the night, and ran over my bed, there were no other
annoyances. Hadji grows more dazed and possibly more unwilling every
day, as he sees his vista of perquisites growing more limited, and to
get off, even at nine, I have to do the heavy as well as the light
packing myself.

There was a great "row," arising out of an alleged delinquency of the
_katirgis_ concerning payment, when we left Yakobiyeh the following
morning. The owners of the caravanserai wanted to detain us, and the
archway was so packed with a shouting, gesticulating, scowling, and
not kindly crowd, mostly armed, that it was not easy for me to mount.
The hire of mules always includes their fodder and the keep of the
men, but in the first day or two the latter usually attempt to break
their bargain, and compel their employer to provide for them. So long
as Arabic is spoken Hadji acts as sole interpreter, and though
soldiers and _zaptiehs_ were left with him he was scared at being left
behind with the baggage. The people stormed and threatened at the top
of their voices, but doubtless it was not so bad as it sounded, for we
got through the bazars without molestation, and then into a perplexing
system of ancient water-courses whose high broken banks and deep
waterless beds intersect each other and the road. In contrast to this
magnificent irrigation system there are modern water-channels about a
foot wide, taken from the river Diyalah, which, small as they are,
turn the rich deep soil into a "fruitful field."

After these glimpses of a prosperity which once was and might be again
(for these vast alluvial plains, which extend from the Zagros
mountains to the Euphrates and up to the Syrian desert, are capable
with irrigation and cultivation of becoming the granary of Western
Asia), the road emerges on a level and somewhat gravelly waste, on
which after a long ride we were overtaken by a _zaptieh_ sent by the
Persian agent in Yakobiyeh, to say that the baggage and servants were
being forcibly detained, but shortly afterwards with a good glass the
caravan was seen emerging from the town.

The country was nearly as featureless as on the preceding day, and on
the whole quite barren; among the few caravans on the road there were
two of immense value, the loads being the best description of Persian
carpets. There were a few families on asses, migrating with all their
possessions, and a few parties of Arab horsemen picturesquely and very
fully armed, but no dwellings, till in the bright afternoon sunshine,
on the dreariest stretch of an apparently verdureless waste, we came
on the caravanserai of Wiyjahea, a gateway with a room above it, a
square court with high walls and arched recesses all round for goods
and travellers, and large stables. A row of reed huts, another of Arab
tents, and a hovel opposite the gateway, where a man with two guns
within reach sells food, tobacco, and hair ropes, make up this place
of horror. For, indeed, the only water is a brackish reedy pool, with
its slime well stirred by the feet of animals, and every man's hand is
against his brother.

We proposed to pitch my tent in a ruined enclosure, but the headman
was unwilling, and when it was suggested that it should be placed
between the shop and the caravanserai, he said that before sunset all
the predatory Arabs for ten miles round would hear that "rich
foreigners were travelling," and would fall upon and plunder us, so we
must pitch, if at all, in the filthy and crowded court of the
caravanserai. The _balakhana_, or upper room, was too insecure for me,
and had no privacy, as the fodder was kept in it, and there was no
method of closing the doors, which let in the bitterly cold wind.

We arrived at 3 P.M., and long before sunset a number of caravans came
in, and the courtyard was full of horses, mules, and asses. When they
halted the loads were taken off and stacked in the arched recesses;
next, the great padded pack-saddles, which cover nearly the whole
back, were removed, revealing in most cases deep sores and ulcers.
Then the animals were groomed with box curry-combs, with "clatters"
like the noise of a bird-scarer inside them. Fifty curry-combs going
at once is like the din of the cicada. Then the beasts were driven in
batches to the reedy pool, and came flying back helter-skelter through
the archway, some fighting, others playing, many rolling. One of them
nearly pulled my tent over by rolling among the tent ropes. It had
been pitched on damp and filthy ground in a corner of the yard, among
mules, horses, asses, dogs, and the roughest of rough men, but even
there the damp inside looked like home.

After this brief hilarity, the pack-saddles, which serve as blankets,
were put on, the camels were made to lie down in rows, most of the
mules and horses were tethered in the great stable, where they
neighed, stamped, and jangled their bells all night, and others were
picketed in the yard among the goats and donkeys and the big dogs,
which wandered about yelping. Later, the small remaining space was
filled up with sheep. It was just possible to move, but no more, and
sheep and goats were even packed under the _flys_ of my tent. The
muleteers and travellers spread their bedding in the recesses, lighted
their fires of animal fuel, and cooked their food.

At sunset the view from the roof was almost beautiful. Far away, in
all directions, stretched the level desert purpling in the purple
light. Very faintly, on the far horizon to the north-east, mountain
ranges were painted in amethyst on an orange sky. Horsemen in
companies galloped to tents which were not in sight, strings of camels
cast their long shadows on the purple sand, and flocks of big brown
sheep, led by armed shepherds, converged on the reedy pool in long
brown lines. The evening air was keen, nearly frosty.

The prospects for the night were not encouraging, and on descending
the filthy stair on which goats had taken up their quarters, I found
the malodorous, crowded courtyard so blocked, that shepherds, with
much pushing, shouting, and barking of big dogs, with difficulty made
a way for me to pass through the packed mass of sheep and goats into
the cold, damp tent, which was pitched on damp manure, two or three
feet deep, into which heavy feet had trampled the carpet. The uproar
of _katirgis_ and travellers went on for another two hours, and was
exchanged later for sounds of jangling bells, yelping and quarrelling
dogs, braying asses, bleating sheep, and coarsely-snoring men.

At 9 P.M. the heavy gates, clamped with iron, were closed and barred,
and some belated travellers, eager to get in from the perils of the
outside, thundered at them long and persistently, but "the door was
shut," and they encountered a hoarse refusal. The _seraidar_ said that
400 horses and mules, besides camels and asses, 2000 sheep, and over
70 men were lodged in the caravanserai that night.

The servants were in a recess near, and Hadji professed that he
watched all night, and said that he fired at a man who tried to rob my
tent after the light went out, but I slept too soundly to be
disturbed, till the caravans and flocks left at daybreak, after a
preliminary uproar of two hours. It was bitterly cold, and my tent and
its contents were soaked with the heavy dew, nearly doubling their

I started at 9 A.M., before the hoar-frost had melted, and rode with
the _zaptieh_ over flat, stoneless, alluvial soil, with some
irrigation and the remains of some fine canals. There are villages to
be seen in the distance, but though the soil is rich enough to support
a very large population, there are no habitations near the road except
a few temporary reed huts, beside two large caravanserais. There was
little of an interesting kind except the perpetual contrast between
things as they are and things as they were and might be. Some large
graveyards, with brick graves, a crumbling _imamzada_, a pointed arch
of brick over the Nahrud canal, a few ass caravans, with a live fowl
tied by one leg on the back of each ass, and struggling painfully to
keep its uneasy seat, some cultivation and much waste, and then we
reached the walled village of Sheraban, once a town, but now only
possessing 300 houses.

Passing as usual among ruinous dwellings and between black walls with
doors here and there, by alleys foul with heaps of refuse, and
dangerous from slimy pitfalls, in the very foulest part we turned into
the caravanserai, its great courtyard reeking with filth and puddles,
among which are the contaminated wells from which we are supposed to
drink. The experience of the night before was not repeated. There were
fairly good rooms, mine looking into a palm garden, through a wooden
grating, cold truly, but pleasant. I fear we may never have such
"luxury" again. I remarked to my fellow-traveller that our early
arrival had fortunately given us the "choice of rooms," and he
replied, "choice of pig-styes,--choice of dens!" but my experience at
Wiyjahea has deprived me of the last remnants of fastidiousness!

I walked through the ruinous, wretched town, and its poor bazar, where
the very fine _physique_ of the men was in marked contrast with their
wretched surroundings, and gives one the impression that under honest
officials they might be a fine people. They are not genial to
strangers, however. There was some bad language used in the bazar, and
on the roads they pass one in silence at the best, so unlike the
Tibetans with their friendly _Tzu_. At Sheraban one of the muleteers
forced his way into my room, and roughly turned over my saddle and
baggage, accusing me of having taken his blanket! Hadji is useless
under such circumstances. He blusters and fingers his revolver, but
carries no weight. Indeed his defects are more apparent every day. I
often have to speak to him two or three times before I can rouse him
from his opium dream, and there is a growing inclination to shirk his
very light work when he can shift it upon somebody else. I hope that
he is well-meaning, as that would cover a multitude of faults, but he
is very rough and ignorant, and is either unable or unwilling to learn
anything, even how to put up my trestle bed!

Open rooms have sundry disadvantages. In the night a cat fell from
the roof upon my bed, and was soon joined by more, and they knocked
over the lamp and milk bottle, and in the darkness had a noisy quarrel
over the milk.

The march of eighteen miles here was made in six hours, at a good
caravan pace. The baggage animals were sent off in advance, and the
_zaptieh_ led a mule loaded with chairs, blankets, and occupations. I
ride with the _zaptieh_ in front of me till I get near the
halting-place, when M---- and his orderly overtake me, as it might be
disagreeable for a European woman to enter a town alone.

The route lies over treeless levels of the same brown alluvial soil,
till it is lifted on a gentle gravelly slope to a series of low
crumbling mounds of red and gray sandstone, mixed up with soft
conglomerate rocks of jasper and porphyry pebbles. These ranges of
mounds, known as the Hamrin Hills, run parallel to the great Kurdistan
ranges, from a point considerably below Baghdad, nearly to Mosul and
the river Zab. They mark the termination in this direction of the vast
alluvial plains of the Tigris and Euphrates, and are the first step to
the uplifted Iranian plateau.

Arid and intricate ravines, dignified by the name of passes, furrow
these hills, and bear an evil reputation, as Arab robbers lie in wait,
"making it very unsafe for small caravans." A wild, desolate,
ill-omened-looking region it is. When we were fairly within the pass,
the _zaptieh_ stopped, and with much gesticulation and many
repetitions of the word _effendi_, made me understand that it was
unsafe to proceed without a larger party. We were unmolested, but it
is a discredit to the administration of the province that an organised
system of pillage should be allowed to exist year after year on one of
the most frequented caravan routes in Turkey. There were several
companies of armed horsemen among the ranges, and some camels
browsing, but we met no caravans.

From the top of the descent there was a striking view over a great
brown alluvial plain, watered by the Beladruz and the Diyalah, with
serrated hills of no great height, but snow-covered; on its east side
a silent, strange, weird view, without interest or beauty as seen
under a sullen sky. There are no villages on this march, but ancient
canals run in all directions, and fragments of buildings, as well as
of brick and pottery, scattered over the unploughed surface, are
supposed by many to mark the situation of Dastagird, the residence of
Khosroe Parviz in the seventh century. I have no books of reference
with me, and can seldom write except of such things as I see and hear.

Farther on a multitude of irrigation ditches have turned a plain of
dry friable soil into a plain of mud, through which it was difficult
to struggle. Then came a grove of palms, and then the town or village
of Kizil Robat (Red Shrine), with its _imamzada_, whose reputation for
sanctity is indicated by the immense number of graves which surround
it. The walls of this decayed and wretched town are of thick layers of
hardened but now crumbling earth, and on the east side there is an old
gateway of burned brick. There are said to be 400 houses, which at the
lowest computation would mean a population of 2000, but inhabited
houses and ruins are so jumbled up together that one cannot form any

So woe-begone and miserable a place I never saw, and the dirt is
appalling even in this dry weather. In spring the alleys of the town
are impassable, and people whose business calls them out cross from
roof to roof on boards. Pools of filthy water, loathsome ditches with
broad margins of trodden slime full of abominations, ruins of houses,
yards foul with refuse, half-clothed and wholly unwashed children, men
of low aspect standing in melancholy groups, a well-built brick bazar,
in which Manchester cottons are prominent, more mud and dirt, some
ruinous caravanserais, and near the extremity of the town or village
is the horrible one in which I now am, said to be the best, with a
yard a foot deep in manure and slush, in the midst of which is the
well, and around which are stables and recesses for travellers.

At first it seemed likely that I should fall so low as to occupy one
of these, but careful investigation revealed a ruinous stair leading
to the roof, up which were two rooms, or shall I say three?--an arched
recess such as coals are kept in, a small room within it, and a low
wood hole. The open arch, with a _mangel_ or iron pan of charcoal,
serves as the "parlour" this January night, M---- occupies the wood
hole, and I the one room, into which Hadji, with many groans and
ejaculations of "_Ya Allah!_" has brought up the essential parts of my
baggage. The evening is gray and threatening, and low, snow-covered
hills look grimly over the bare brown plain which lies outside this
mournful place.

_Khannikin, Jan. 15._--This has been a hard, rough march, but there
will be many worse ahead. Rain fell heavily all night, converting the
yard into a lake of trampled mud, and seemed so likely to continue
that it was difficult to decide whether to march or halt. Miserable it
was to see mules standing to be loaded, up to their knees in mud,
bales of tents and bedding lying in the quagmire, and the shivering
Indian servants up to their knees in the swamp. In rain steadily
falling the twelve animals were loaded, and after the usual scrimmage
at starting, in which the _bakhsheesh_ is often thrown back at us, we
rode out into a sea of deep mud, through which the mules, struggling
and floundering, got on about a mile an hour.

After a time we came to gravel, then relapsed into deep alluvial soil,
which now means deep mire, then a low range of gravelly hills on
which a few sheep and camels were browsing on artemisia and other
aromatic herbs gave a temporary respite, then again we floundered
through miles of mud, succeeded by miles of gravel and stones. The
rain fell in torrents, and there was a cold strong wind to fight
against. There was that amount of general unpropitiousness which is
highly stimulating and inspiriting.

When noon came, there was not a rock or bush for shelter, and turning
our backs to the storm we ate our lunch in our saddles. There was
nothing to look at but brown gravel, or brown mud, brooded over by a
gray mist. So we tramped on, hour after hour, in single file, the
_zaptieh_ leading, everything but his gun muffled in his brown _abba_,
splashing through mud and water, the water pouring from my hat and
cloak, the six woollen thicknesses of my mask dripping, seeing neither
villages nor caravans, for caravans of goods do not travel in such
rain as this. Then over a slope we went down into a lake of mud, where
the _aide-de-camp_ of the Governor of Khannikin, in a fez and military
frock-coat and trousers, with a number of Bashi Bazouks or irregulars,
met M---- with courtesies and an invitation.

From the top of the next slope there was a view of Khannikin, a
considerable-looking town among groves of palms and other trees. Then
came a worse sea of mud, and a rudely cobbled causeway, so horrible
that it diverted us back into the mud, which was so bottomless that it
drove us back to the causeway, and the causeway back to the mud, the
rain all the time coming down in sheets. This causeway, without
improvement, is carried through Khannikin, a town with narrow blind
alleys, upon which foul courtyards open, often so foul as to render
the recent ravages of cholera (if science speaks truly) a matter of
necessity. The mud and water in these alleys was up to the knees of
the mules. Not a creature was in the streets. No amount of curiosity,
even regarding the rare sight of a Frank woman, could make people face
the storm in flimsy cotton clothes.

Where the road turns to the bridge a line of irregular infantry was
drawn up, poorly dressed, soaked creatures, standing in chilly mud up
to their ankles, in soaked boots reaching to their knees. These joined
and headed the cavalcade, and I fell humbly in the rear. Poor fellows!
To keep step was impossible when it was hard work to drag their feet
out of the mire, and they carried their rifles anyhow. It was a
grotesque procession. A trim officer, forlorn infantry, wild-looking
Bashi Bazouks, Europeans in stout mackintoshes splashed with mud from
head to foot, mules rolling under their bespattered loads, and a
_posse_ of servants and orderlies crouching on the top of baggage,
muffled up to the eyes, the asses which carry the _katirgis_ and their
equipments far behind, staggering and nearly done up, for the march of
seventeen miles had taken eight and a half hours.

An abrupt turn in the causeway leads to the Holwan, a tributary of the
Diyalah, a broad, rapid stream, over which the enterprise of a Persian
has thrown a really fine brick bridge of thirteen heavily-buttressed
arches, which connects the two parts of the town and gives some
dignity and picturesqueness to what would otherwise be mean. On the
left bank of the Holwan are the barracks, the governor's house, some
large caravanserais, the Custom-house, and a quarantine station,
quarantine having just been imposed on all arrivals from Persia,
giving travel and commerce a decided check.

After half a mile of slush on the river bank we entered by a handsome
gateway a nearly flooded courtyard, and the Governor's house
hospitably engorged the whole party.

The fully-laden mules stuck in the mud a few miles off, and did not
come in for two hours, and in spite of covers everything not done up
in waterproof was very wet. The servants looked most miserable, and
complained of chills and rheumatism, and one of the orderlies is
really ill. We cannot move till the storm is over.

The rain falls heavily still, the river is rising, the alleys are two
feet deep in slush, travel is absolutely suspended, and it is not
possible without necessity to go out. It was well indeed that we
decided to leave the shelterless shelter of Kizil Robat. Nothing can
exceed the wretchedness of Khannikin or any Turkish town in such rain
as this. Would that one could think that it would be washed, but as
there are no channels to carry off the water it simply lodges and
stagnates in every depression, and all the accumulations of summer
refuse slide into these abominable pools, and the foul dust, a foot
deep, becomes mud far deeper; buried things are half uncovered;
torrents, not to be avoided, pour from every roof, the courtyards are
knee-deep in mud, the cows stand disconsolately in mud; not a woman is
to be seen, the few men driven forth by the merciless exigences of
business show nothing but one eye, and with "loins girded" and big
staffs move wearily, stumbling and plunging in the mire.

After some hours the flat mud roofs begin to leak, water finds out
every weak place in the walls, the bazars, only half open for a short
time in the day, are deserted by buyers, and the patient sellers
crouch over _mangels_, muffled up in sheepskins, the caravanserais are
crammed and quarrelsome; the price of fodder and fuel rises, and every
one is drowned in rain and wretchedness. Even here, owing to the
scarcity of fuel, nothing can be dried; the servants in their damp
clothes come in steaming; Hadji in his misshapen "jack-boots," which
he asserts he cannot take off, spreads fresh mud over the carpets
whenever he enters; I shift from place to place to avoid the drip from
the roof--and still the rain comes down with unabated vigour!


[10] I present my diary letters much as they were written, believing
that the details of travel, however wearisome to the experienced
traveller, will be interesting to the "Untravelled Many," to whom
these volumes are dedicated.

LETTER III (_Continued_)

The house consists of two courtyards, with buildings round them. The
larger and handsomer is the _haram_ or women's house, which is
strictly enclosed, has no exterior windows, and its one door into the
men's house is guarded by a very ancient eunuch. The courtyard of this
house is surrounded partly by arched _serdabs_, with green lattice
fronts, and partly by a kitchen, bakery, wood-house, _hammam_ or hot
bath, and the servants' quarters. The _haram_ has a similar
arrangement on the lower floor. A broad balcony, reached by a steep
and narrow stair, runs round three sides of the upper part of this
house. There are very few rooms, and some of them are used for storing
fruit. The wet baggage is mostly up here, and under the deep roof the
servants and orderlies camp, looking miserable. The _haram_ has a
balcony all round it, on which a number of reception and living rooms
open, and though not grand or elaborately decorated, is convenient and

The Turkish host evidently did not know what to do with such an
embarrassing guest as a European woman, and solved the difficulty by
giving me the guest-chamber in the men's house, a most fortunate
decision, as I have had quiet and privacy for three days. Besides,
this room has a projecting window, with panes of glass held in by
nails, and there is not only a view of the alley with its slush, but
into the house of some poor folk, and over that to the Holwan,
sometimes in spate, sometimes falling, and through all the hours of
daylight frequented by grooms for the purpose of washing their horses.
Some shingle banks, now overflowed, sustain a few scraggy willows, and
on the farther side is some low-lying land. There may be much besides,
but the heavy rain-clouds blot out all else.

My room is whitewashed, and is furnished with Persian rugs, Austrian
bent-wood chairs, and a divan in the window, on which I sleep. Lamps,
_samovars_, and glasses are kept in recesses, and a black slave is
often in and out for them. Otherwise no one enters but Hadji. I get my
food somewhat precariously. It is carved and sent from table at the
beginning of meals, chiefly pillau, curry, _kabobs_, and roast
chicken, but apparently it is not etiquette for me to get it till
after the men have dined, and it is none the better for being cold.

The male part of the household consists of the Governor and his
brother-in-law, a Moslem judge, and the quarantine doctor, a Cretan,
takes his meals in the house. The Governor and doctor speak French. My
fellow-traveller lives with them.

The night we arrived, the Governor in some agitation asked me to go
and see his wife, who is very ill. The cholera has only just
disappeared, and the lady had had a baby, which died of it in three
days, and "being a boy her heart was broken," and "something had come
under her arm." So I went with him into the _haram_, which seemed
crowded with women of various races and colours, peeping from behind
curtains and through chinks of doors, tittering and whispering. The
wife's room is richly carpeted and thoroughly comfortable, with a huge
charcoal brazier in the centre, and cushions all over the floor,
except at one end, where there is a raised alcove with a bed in it.

On this the lady sat--a rather handsome Kurdish woman, about
thirty-five, dressed in a silk quilted jacket, and with a black gauze
handkerchief round her head, and a wadded quilt over her crossed legs.
She was supported by a pile of pillows. Since then I have been sent
for to see her several times every day, and found her always in the
same position. There is surely something weird about it. She says she
sits there all night, and has not lain down for two months. A black
slave was fanning her, and two women, shrouded in veils of tinselled
gauze, sat on the bed combing her luxuriant hair. She is not really
beautiful at all, but her husband assures me constantly that she is
"_une femme savante_." She has property and the consideration which
attaches to it. She was burning with fever and very weak.

I had scarcely returned to my room when my host sent again, begging
that I would go back and see the doctor. I found that it was expected
that I should persuade the lady to consent to have the abscess, or
whatever it is, reopened. The room was full of women and eunuchs, and
the chief eunuch, an elderly Arab, sat on the bed and supported her
while the doctor dressed the wound, and even helped him with it. Her
screams were fearful, and five people held her with difficulty. Her
husband left the room, unable to bear her cries.

Quite late I was sent for again, and that time by the lady, to know if
I thought she would die. It appears that her brother, the judge,
remains here to see that she is not the victim of foul play, but I
don't like to ask to whom the suspicion points, or whether our host,
although the civil governor, keeps him here that he may not be
suspected in case his rich wife dies.

Except for the repeated summonses to the sick-room, a walk on the
slime of the roof when the rain ceases for a time, and on the balcony
of the _haram_ when it does not, and a study of the habits of my
neighbours over the way, it is very dull. I have patched and mended
everything that gave any excuse for either operation, have written
letters which it is not safe to post, and have studied my one book on
Persia till I know it throughout, and still the rain falls nearly
without cessation and the quagmires outside deepen.

So bad is it that, dearly as Orientals love bazars and _hammams_,
Hadji refuses leave to go to either. I remarked to him that he must be
glad of such a rest, and he replied in his usual sententious fashion:
"They who have to work must work. God knows all." I fear he is very
lazy, and he has no idea of making one comfortable or of keeping
anything clean. He stamps the mud of the courtyard into the carpets,
and wipes my plates without washing them, with his shirt. He considers
that our host has attained the height of human felicity. "What is
there left to wish for?" he says. "He has numbers of slaves, and he's
always buying more, and he's got numbers of women and eunuchs, and
everything, and when he wants money he just sends round the villages.
God is great! _Ya Allah!_"

Khannikin, being the nearest town to the Persian frontier, should be a
place of some importance. It is well situated at an altitude of 1700
feet among groves of palms, on both banks of the Holwan, and having
plenty of water, the rich alluvium between it and Yakobiyeh is able to
support its own population, though it has to import for caravans. Most
of the Persian trade with Baghdad and thousands of Shiah pilgrims
annually pass through it. It is a customs station, and has a regiment
of soldiers. Nevertheless, it is very ruinous, and its population has
diminished of late years from 5000 to about 1800 (exclusive of the
troops), and of this number a fifth have been carried off by cholera
within the last few weeks. It has no schools, and no special
industries. The stamp of decay rests upon it. Exactions, crushing
hope out of the people, the general insecurity of property, and the
misrule which has blighted these fine Asiatic provinces everywhere,
sufficiently explain its decadence.

The imposition of quarantine on arrivals from Persia has all but
stopped the supply of charcoal, and knowing the scarcity in the house,
I am going without a fire, as most of the inhabitants are doing. A
large caravanserai outside the walls is used as a quarantine station,
and three others are taken as lazarettos. Out of these arrangements
the officials make a great deal of money in fees, but anything more
horrible than the sanitary state of these places cannot be conceived.
The water appears to be the essence of typhoid fever and cholera, and
the unfortunate _détenus_ are crowded into holes unfit for beasts,
breathing pestiferous exhalations, and surrounded by such ancient and
modern accumulations of horrors that typhus fever, cholera, and even
the plague might well be expected to break out.

Yesterday, for a brief interval, hills covered with snow appeared
through rolling black clouds, and a change seemed probable, but rain
fell in torrents all night; there is a spate in the river, and though
we were ready to start at eight this morning, the _katirgis_ declined
to move, saying that the road could not be travelled because of the
depth of the fords and the mud.

The roof, though a good one, is now so leaky that I am obliged to
sleep under my waterproof cloak, and the un-puttied window-frames let
in the rain. Early this morning a gale from the south-west came on,
and the howling and roaring have been frightful, the rain falling in
sheets most of the time. Sensations are not wanting. One of the
orderlies is seriously ill, and has to be left behind under medical
care till he can be sent to India,--the second man who has broken
down. A runner came in with the news that all caravans are stopped in
the Zagros mountains by snow, which has been falling for five days,
and that the road is not expected to be open for a fortnight. Later,
the Persian agent called to say that on the next march the road, which
is carried on a precipice above the river, has slid down bodily, and
that there are fifteen feet of water where there should be only two.
Of course this prolonged storm is "exceptional." The temperature is
falling, and it is so cold without a fire that though my bed is only a
blanket-covered dais of brick and lime, dripped upon continually, in a
window with forty draughts, I am glad to muffle myself up in its
blankets and write among wraps.

The Governor, recognising the craze of Europeans for exercise, sent
word that M---- might walk in the balcony of the _haram_ if I went to
chaperon him, and this great concession was gladly accepted, for it
was the only possible way of getting warm. The apparition of a strange
man, and a European, within the precincts of the _haram_ was a great
event, and every window, curtain, and doorway was taken advantage of
by bright dark eyes sparkling among folds of cotton and gauze. The
enjoyment was surreptitious, but possibly all the more keen, and
sounds of whispering and giggling surged out of every crevice. There
are over thirty women, some of them negresses. Some are Kurds and very
handsome, but the faces of the two handsomest, though quite young,
have something fiendish in their expression. I have seldom seen a
_haram_ without its tragedies of jealousy and hate, and every fresh
experience makes me believe that the system is as humiliating to men
as it is to women.

The _haram_ reception-rooms here are large and bright, with roofs and
cornices worked daintily in very white plaster, and there are superb
carpets on the floors, and divans covered with Damascus embroidery in
gold silk on cream muslin.

Each day the demands for my presence in the sick-room are more
frequent, and though I say that I can scarcely aspire to be a nurse,
they persist in thinking that I am a _Haki[=i]m_, and possibly a
useful spy on the doctor. I have become aware that unscrupulous
jealousy of the principal wife exists, and, as is usual in the East,
everybody distrusts everybody else, and prefers to trust strangers.
The husband frequently asks me to remove what seems a cancerous
tumour, and the doctor says that an operation is necessary to save the
lady's life, but when I urge him to perform it, and offer a nurse's
help, he replies that if she were to die he would be at once accused
of murder, and would run a serious risk.

The Governor to-day was so anxious that I should persuade the lady to
undergo an operation that he even brought Hadji into the room to
interpret what I said in Arabic. His ceaseless question is, "Will she
die?" and she asks me the same many times every day. She insists that
I shall be present each day when the wound is dressed, and give help,
lest the doctor without her leave should plunge a knife into the
swelling. These are most distressing occasions, for an hour of
struggle and suffering usually ends in delirium.

This afternoon, however, she was much freer from pain, and sent for me
to amuse her. She wore some fine jewels, and some folds of tinselled
gauze round her head, and looked really handsome and intelligent. Her
husband wished that we could converse without his imperfect
interpreting, and repeated many times, "She is a learned woman, and
can write and read several languages." The room was as usual full of
women, who had removed their veils at their lord's command. I showed
the lady some Tibetan sketches, but when I came to one of a man the
women replaced their veils!

When I showed some embroidery, the Governor said he had heard that the
Queen of England employed herself with her needle in leisure hours,
but that it is not _comme il faut_ here for ladies to work. It seems
that the making of sweetmeats is the only occupation which can be
pursued without loss of dignity. Is it wonderful that intolerable
_ennui_ should be productive of the miserable jealousies, rivalries,
intrigues, and hatreds which accompany the system of polygamy?

The host, although civil governor of a large district, also suffers
from _ennui_. The necessary official duties are very light, and the
accounts and reports are prepared by others. If money is wanted he
makes "an exaction" on a village, and subordinates screw it out of the
people. Justice, or the marketable commodity which passes for such, is
administered by a _kadi_. He clatters about the balconies with
slippered feet, is domestic, that is, he spends most of the day in the
_haram_, smokes, eats two meals of six or seven courses each, and
towards evening takes a good deal of wine, according to a habit which
is becoming increasingly common among the higher classes of Moslems.
He is hospitable, and is certainly anything but tyrannical in his

The customs and ways of the first Turkish house I have visited in
would be as interesting to you as they were to myself, but it would be
a poor return for hospitality to dwell upon anything, unless, like the
difficulties regarding the illness of the principal wife, it were a
matter of common notoriety.

It is a punishable act in Persia, and possibly here also, to look into
a neighbour's house, but I cannot help it unless I were to avoid the
window altogether. Wealth and poverty are within a few feet of each
other, and as Moslems are charitable to a degree and in a manner
which puts us to shame, the juxtaposition is advantageous.

My neighbour's premises consist of a very small and mean yard, now a
foot deep in black mire, a cow-shed, and a room without door or
windows, with a black uneven floor, and black slimy rafters--neither
worse nor better than many hovels in the Western Isles of Scotland. A
man in middle life, a woman of dubious age, two girls from eight to
ten years old, and a boy a little older are the occupants. The
furniture consists of some wadded quilts, a copper pot, an iron
girdle, a clay ewer or two, a long knife, a wooden spoon, a clay
receptacle for grain, two or three earthenware basins, glazed green,
and a wicker tray. The cow-shed contains--besides the cow, which is
fed on dried thistles--a spade, an open basket, and a baggage pad. A
few fowls live in the house, and are disconcerted to find that they
cannot get out of it without swimming.

The weather is cold and raw, fuel is enormously dear, work is at a
standstill, and cold and _ennui_ keep my neighbours in bed till the
day is well advanced. "Bed" consists of a wadded quilt laid on the
floor, with another for a covering. The man and boy sleep at one end
of the room, the woman and girls at the other, with covered heads.
None make any change in their dress at night, except that the man
takes off the _pagri_ of his turban, retaining only a skull cap.

The woman gets up first, lights a fire of tamarisk twigs and thistles
in a hole in the middle of the floor, makes porridge of some coarse
brownish flour and water, and sets it on to warm--to _boil_ it, with
the means at her disposal, is impossible. She wades across the yard,
gives the cow a bunch of thistles, milks it into a basin, adds a
little leaven to the milk, which she shakes in a goat skin till it is
thick, carries the skin and basket to the house, feeds the fowls from
the basket, and then rouses her lord. He rises, stretches himself,
yawns, and places himself cross-legged by the fire, after putting on
his _pagri_. The room is dense with pungent wood smoke, which escapes
through the doorway, and only a few embers remain. The wife hands him
an earthen bowl, pours some porridge into it, adds some "thick milk"
from the goat skin, and stands before him with her arms crossed while
he eats, then receives the bowl from his hands and kisses it, as is
usual with the slaves in a household.

Then she lights his pipe, and while he enjoys it she serves her boy
with breakfast in the same fashion, omitting the concluding ceremony,
after which she and the girls retire to a respectful distance with the
big pot, and finish its contents simultaneously. The pipe over, she
pours water on her lord's hands, letting it run on the already damp
floor, and wipes them with her _chadar_. No other ablution is
customary in the house.

Poor as this man is, he is a Hadji, and having brought from Mecca a
"prayer stone," with the Prophet's hand upon it, he takes it from his
girdle, puts it on the floor, bows his forehead on it, turning
Mecca-ward, and says his prayers, repeating his devotions towards
evening. The first day or two he went out, but the roads now being
almost impassable, he confines himself to the repairing of a small
dyke, which keeps the water from running into the room, which is lower
than the yard, and performs its duty very imperfectly, the soak from
the yard and the drip from the roof increasing the sliminess hourly.
These repairs, an occasional pipe, and much sleep are the record of
this man's day till an hour before sunset, when the meal of the
morning is repeated with the addition of some cheese.

The children keep chiefly in bed. Meanwhile the woman, the busy bee of
the family, contrives to patter about nearly all day in wet clothing,
carrying out rubbish in single handfuls, breaking twigs, cleaning the
pot, and feeding the cow. The roof, which in fine weather is the scene
of most domestic occupations, is reached by a steep ladder, and she
climbs this seven times in succession, each time carrying up a fowl,
to pick for imaginary worms in the slimy mud. Dyed yarn is also
carried up to steep in the rain, and in an interval of dryness some
wool was taken up and carded. An hour before sunset she lights the
fire, puts on the porridge, and again performs seven journeys with
seven fowls, feeds them in the house, attends respectfully to her
lord, feeds her family, including the cow, paddles through mire to
draw water from the river, and unrolls and spreads the wadded quilts.
By the time it is dark they are once more in bed, where I trust this
harmless, industrious woman enjoys a well-earned sleep.

The clouds are breaking, and in spite of adverse rumours it is decided
_coûte que coûte_ to start to-morrow. For my own part I prefer the
freedom even with the "swinishness" of a caravanserai to receiving
hospitality for which no fitting return can be made.

     I. L. B.


     SARIPUL-I-ZOHAB, _Jan. 21_.

The rain at last ceased, and after the _katirgis_ had squabbled for an
hour over the baggage, we got off at ten, two days ago, very grateful
for shelter and hospitality under such untoward circumstances. Six
Bashi Bazouks and two _zaptiehs_ on foot in ragged and incongruous
uniforms escorted us to the Turkish frontier.

The streets were in a terrible condition, and horse and footmen, after
an attempt to march in pairs, fell perforce into a floundering and
disorderly single file, the footmen occasionally pulling themselves
out of mud holes by the tails of the horses. Outside the town there
was an expanse of mud and flooded water-channels which broke up the
last attempt at a procession, and led to a general _sauve qui peut_.
The mire was tenacious and up to the horses' knees, half the mules
were down with their loads, Hadji rolled into the mud, my capable
animal snorted and struggled, some went on banks and some took to
streams, the asses had to be relieved of their loads, and the air was
full of shouts and objurgations, till after much delay the forlorn
rabble all struggled to the _terra firma_ of a gravelly slope,
splashed from head to foot.

The road crosses low, rolling, gravelly hills, with an occasional
outcrop of red sandstone, and ascends on the whole. The sun was
bright, but the wind was strong and very cold. The Bashi Bazouk escort
was altogether harum-scarum and inconsequent, careering in circles,
and firing at birds (which they never hit) from the saddle, and when
we reached some low hills bearing a bad reputation, the officer, in
order to represent danger and his vigilant care, threw them out in all
directions scouting for robbers, till we came to a steepish hill
crowned by a round tower with a mushroom top, a few ruinous mud
buildings, and a tattered tent. Here the escort formed into one line,
and the ragged garrison into another, with an officer facing them, and
were photographed as they shivered in the biting wind. This tower is a
Turkish frontier fort.

Soon afterwards the Persian frontier is crossed, the hills increase
considerably in size, and mud was exchanged for firm, rough gravel. A
feature of the otherwise featureless landscape is the frequent
occurrence of towers like martello towers, on hill-tops, placed there
for the shelter of the guards who formerly kept a look-out for
robbers. In the uninteresting gravel lie pebbles of jasper and agate,
emerald green, red, yellow, and purple. The first object of the
slightest interest in this new country was a village of Ilyats, built
of reed screens, with roofs of goat's-hair cloth, and with small yards
with reed walls in front. The women, who wore full trousers and short
jackets, were tall, somewhat striking-looking, and unveiled. Their
hair hung down in long plaits, and they wore red handkerchiefs knotted
at the back of the head.

There an escort of four Persian _sowars_ joined us. The type of face
was that with which we are familiar on Sasanian coins and sculptured
stones, the brow and chin receding considerably, and the nose thin and
projecting, the profile suggesting a beak rather than a human face,
and the skin having the appearance of being drawn so tightly over the
bones as to force the eyes into singular prominence.

  [Illustration: A TURKISH FRONTIER FORT.]

A six hours' march ended at the wildly-situated village of
Kasr-i-Shirin, high on the right bank of the Holwan, with a plantation
of dates on the left bank and considerable cultivation in the valley.
It has only eighty houses of the most wretched construction, rivalled
in height and size by middens, the drainage of which wastes itself on
the wretched roadway. A caravanserai of the most miserable
description, a square fort with a small garrison, and some large
graveyards with domed tombs and curious obelisks, are the salient
features of this village. Its wretched aspect is accounted for by its
insecurity. It has been destroyed by robber tribes as often as there
was anything worth destroying, and it has been so tossed to and fro
between Turkey and Persia as not to have any of the special
characteristics of either empire.

We stopped short of the village, at a great pile of building on a
height, in massiveness and irregularity resembling a German medieval
castle, in which a letter had secured accommodation. It has been
unoccupied since its owner, Jan Mir, a sheikh of a robber tribe, and
the terror of the surrounding neighbourhood, was made away with by the
Persian Government.

The accommodation consisted of great, dark, arched, vaulted rooms,
with stone-flagged floors, noble in size, but needing fifty candles
and huge log fires to light up and warm their dark recesses, and
gruesome and damp with one candle and a crackle of twigs. They were
clean, however, and their massive walls kept out the cold. The village
is at an elevation of 2300 feet, and the temperature has greatly

The interest of Kasr-i-Shirin is that it lies among masses of ancient
rubble, and that the slopes which surround it are completely covered
with hewn and unhewn stones of all sizes, the relics of a great city,
at the western extremity of which the present wretched hamlet
stands.[11] The walls, which are easily traced, enclose an irregular
square, the shortest front of which is said to be three miles long.
They are built of roughly-hewn blocks of gray and red sandstone, and
very hard mortar or concrete. The blocks are so huge in many places as
to deserve the often misused epithet Cyclopean.

Within this enclosure are remains of houses built of water-worn round
stones, which lie in monstrous heaps, and of a large fort on an
eminence. In another direction are the ruins of an immense palace of
quadrangular form, with only one entrance, and large underground rooms
now nearly choked up. There are remains of what must have been very
fine archways, but as the outer coating of hewn stone and all the
decorations have fallen off, leaving only the inner case of rough
rubble and concrete, the architectural forms are very badly defined,
and the aspect of what must once have been magnificent is now
forbidding and desolate. The remains of an aqueduct cut in the rock,
and of troughs and stone pipes by which water was brought into the
palace and city, from a distance of fifteen miles, are still traceable
among the desolations, but of the beautiful gardens which they
watered, and with which Khosroe surrounded the beautiful Shirin, not a
trace remains. There was a pale sunset, flushing with pale pink
distant leagues of sodden snow, and right across a lurid opening in a
heavy mass of black clouds the great ruined pile of the palace of
Khosroe the Magnificent stood out, a dismal commentary on splendour
and fame.

The promise of the evening was fulfilled the next day in windy rain,
which began gently, but afterwards fell in persistent torrents, varied
by pungent swirls of sleet and snow. Leaving the gash through cliffs
with curious stratification in white and red, formed by the Holwan,
the day was spent in skirting or crossing low hills. The mud was very
deep and tenacious, and the rate of progress barely two miles an hour.
There were no caravans, travellers, or population, and no birds or
beasts. The rain clouds hung low and heavy, mists boiled up from among
the folds of the hills, the temperature fell perceptibly. It was
really inspiriting for people protected by good mackintoshes.

After riding for six hours the rain changed into sleet and wet snow,
blotting out the hills and creating an unnatural twilight, in which we
floundered in mud up to the mules' knees into the filthiest village I
have ever seen, a compound of foul, green ditches, piles of dissolving
manure, mud hovels looking as if they were dissolving too, reed huts,
and an Ilyat village, grouped round the vilest of caravanserais, the
entrance to which was knee-deep in mire. To lodge in it was voted
impossible, and the escort led us in the darkening mist and pelting
sleet to an adjacent mud hamlet as hopeless-looking on the other side
of the bridge, where, standing up to the knees of the mules in liquid
manure, we sought but vainly for shelter, forded the Holwan, and
returned to the caravanserai through almost impassable slush.

It was simply loathsome, with its stench, its foulness, and its mire,
and was already crowded and noisy with men and beasts. There was a
great courtyard with arched recesses all round, too abominable to be
occupied, too exposed and ruinous, even had they been cleaned, to give
shelter from the driving sleet. The last resource was to pass through
an archway into the great, lofty mule stable, on both sides of which
are similar recesses or mangers, about ten feet by seven and about
eight feet high. The stable was of great size and height with a domed
roof. Probably it runs half-way round the quadrangle at the back of
the uninhabitable recesses. There were at least four hundred mules in
this place, jangling their great bells, and crowds of _katirgis_,
travellers, and _zaptiehs_, all wet and splashed over their heads with
mud, some unloading, others making fires and feeding their mules, all
shouting when they had anything to say, the Babel aggravated by the
clatter of the rattles of a hundred curry-combs and the squeals of
fighting horses.


The floor was deep with the manure of ages and piled with bales and
boxes. In the side recesses, which are about the height of a mule's
back, the muleteers camped with their fires and their goods, and laid
the provender for their beasts in the front. These places are the
mangers of the eastern caravanserai, or _khan_, or inn. Such must have
been the inn at Bethlehem, and surely the first step to the
humiliation of "the death of the cross" must have been the birth in
the manger, amidst the crowd and horrors of such a stable.

The odour was overpowering and the noise stunning, and when our wet,
mud-covered baggage animals came in, adding to the din, there was
hardly room to move, far less for the roll in which all mules indulge
when the loads are taken off; and the crush resulted in a fight, and
one mule got his fore-feet upon my "manger," and threatened to share
it with me. It was an awful place to come to after a six hours' march
in rain and snow, but I slid off my mule into the recess, had it
carpeted, put down my chair, hung a blanket up in front, and prepared
to brave it, when the inhabitants of this room, the one place which
has any pretensions to being a room in the village, were bribed by an
offer of six _krans_ (about four shillings) to vacate it for me. Its
"pretensions" consist in being over a gateway, and in having a door,
and a square hole looking on the street; a crumbling stair slippery
with mud leads up to it. The roof leaks in every direction, and the
slimy floor is full of pools, but it is luxury after the caravanserai
stable, and with one waterproof sheet over my bed and another over
myself I have fared well, though the door cannot be shut, and the rest
of the party are in the stable at an impassable distance.

Our language happily has no words in which the state of this village
can be described. In front of this room is a broken ditch full of
slimy greenish water, which Hadji took for my tea! There has been a
slight snowfall during the night, and snow is impending. We have now
reached a considerable altitude, and may expect anything. Hadji has
just climbed the stair with groans of "_Ya Allah_," and has almost
wailed out, "Colonel says we go--God help us."

_Kirrind, Jan. 23._--From Saripul-i-Zohab we are taking the most
southerly of the three routes to Kirmanshah traversed by Sir H.
Rawlinson in 1836.[12] A sea of mud varied by patches of sodden snow,
walls of rock with narrow passes, great snow-covered mountains, seen
spectrally for a minute at a time through swirling snow-clouds, black
tents of nomads, half-drowned villages, and a long, cold, steep
ascent, among scrub oaks and dwarf ash, to snow which was not melting,
and the hospitalities of a Kurdish village, comprise the interests of
the march from Saripul to Myan Tak, so far as they lie on the surface,
but in various ways this part of Kurdistan has many interests, not to
be absolutely ignored even in a familiar letter.

Here the Ilyats, who are supposed to constitute a fifth of the rural
population of Persia, are met with in large numbers, and their brown
flocks and herds are still picking up a scanty subsistence. The great
chief of this, the Gur[=a]n tribe, holds the region on an annual
payment to the Persian Government, gives grain to his tribesmen, and
receives from them, of corn one-half, and of rice two-thirds of the
crop. These people sow their grain in early spring, and then move up
with their flocks to the mountain pastures, leaving behind only a few
men to harvest the crops. They use no manure, this being required for
fuel, and in the case of rice they allow a fallow of at least seven
years. There are very few cultivators resident upon these lands, but
Ilyat camps occur frequently.

The region is steeped in history. The wretched village of Saripul is
the Calah of Asshur and the Halah of the Israelitish captivity,[13]
and gave to the surrounding country the name of Chalonitis, which we
have on our old maps. A metropolitan See in the fifth century A.D.,
soon after the institution of the Nestorian hierarchy, it was called
Calah, Halah, and Holwan. If the Diyalah be the ancient Gyndes,
noteworthy for the singular delay of Cyrus on his march to Babylon,
and Saripul the ancient Holwan, and if in addition to the numerous
Chaldæan and Sasanian remains there are relics of Semiramis and of the
fire-temples of the Magi, the crowd of historic associations is almost
too much for one day, and I will return to the insignificant details
of the journey.

We left at nine, crossed the Holwan by a four-arched brick bridge, and
in falling snow and deep mud rode over fairly level ground till we
came to an abrupt range of limestone rock, with a natural rift, across
which the foundations of a wall still remain. The clouds were rolling
low, and the snow was driving wildly, so as to make it impossible to
see the sculptured tablet described by Rawlinson and Layard, on which
a high-priest of the Magi is represented, with one hand raised in
benediction, and the other grasping a scroll, the dress being the
pontifical robe worn by the Zoroastrian priests, with a square cap,
pointed in front, and lappets covering the mouth. Above this is a tomb
with an ornamented entrance.

We were now among a very strange and mysterious people, of whose
ancestry and actual beliefs very little is known. They are Ali-Ilahis,
but Europeans often speak of them as "Davidites," from their special
veneration for King David. This tomb in the rift is called
Dukkani-Daoud, or David's shop, and the people believe that he still
dwells there, and come on pilgrimages and to offer animals in
sacrifice from all parts of Kurdistan. He is believed to work as a
smith, and the _katirgis_ say that he makes suits of fine armour. A
part of the tomb which is divided from the rest by a low partition is
believed to be a reservoir containing the water which he uses to
temper his metal. A great mound with some building in the centre, on
the right of the road near this gorge, though properly it bears
another name, is called by the people "David's Fort." Jewish
traditions abound, specially concerning David, who is regarded by the
tribes as their great tutelar prophet.

The Gur[=a]ns and Kalhurs, who are the nomadic inhabitants of this
district, are of a very marked type of physiognomy, so Israelitish
indeed that, taken along with certain traditions of their origin,
their Jewish names, and their veneration for David, they have been put
forward as claimants to the dignity of being the "lost tribes." The
great Hebrew traveller of the twelfth century, to whom I have referred
before, believed that the whole of the Ali-Ilahis were Jews, and
writes of 100 synagogues in the Zagros mountains, and of 50,000 Jewish
families in the neighbourhood.

As we shall be for some days among these people, I will abbreviate Sir
H. Rawlinson's sketch of their tenets. He considers that Ali-Ilahism
bears evident marks of Judaism, mixed up with Moslem, Christian, and
Sabæan legends. The Ali-Ilahis believe in 1001 incarnations of the
Godhead in a series; among them Benjamin, Moses, Elias, David, Jesus
Christ, Ali and Salman his tutor, the Imam Houssein and the Haft[=a]n
(or seven bodies), the chief spiritual guides in the early ages of
Islam, "and each, worshipped as a Deity, is an object of adoration in
some locality of Kurdistan." The tomb of one of these, B[=a]b[=a]
Yadg[=a]r, is their holy place, and this was regarded as the dwelling
of Elijah at the time when the Arabs invaded Persia. All these
incarnations are regarded as of one and the same person. All that
changes is the bodily form of the Divine manifestation. There are
degrees in the perfection of the development, and the most perfect
forms are Benjamin, David, and Ali.

Practically, however, the metaphysical speculations involved in this
creed of successive incarnations are unknown, and the Imam Ali, the
cousin of Mohammed, is the great object of worship. Though professing
Mohammedanism the Ali-Ilahis are held in great horror by "believers,"
and those of this region lie under the stigma of practising unholy
rites as a part of their religion, and have received the name of
"Chiragh Sonderan," the putters-out of lights.[14] This accusation,
Sir A. H. Layard observes, may be only a calumny invented, like many
another, to justify persecution.

Passing through the rift in the Dukkani-Daoud range which has led to
this digression, we entered an ascending valley between the range
through which we had passed and some wild mountains covered with snow,
which were then actively engaged in brewing a storm. Farther on there
was irrigation and cultivation, and then the wretched village of Pai
Tak, and the ruins of a bridge. There, the people told us, we must
halt, as the caravanserai at the next place was already full, and we
plunged about in the snow and mud looking for a hovel in which to take
shelter, but decided to risk going on, and shortly began the ascent of
the remarkable pass known as "The Gates of Zagros," on the ancient
highway between Babylonia and Media, by which, in a few hours, the
mountain barrier of Zagros is crossed, and the plain of Kirrind, a
part of the great Iranian plateau, is reached.

This great road, which zigzags steeply up the pass, is partly composed
of smoothed boulders and partly of natural rock, somewhat dressed, and
much worn by the continual passage of shod animals. It is said to be
much like a torrent bed, but the snow was lying heavily upon it,
filling up its inequalities. Dwarf oaks, hawthorn, ash, and other
scrub find root-hold in every crevice. All that may be ugly was draped
in pure white, and looking back from the surrounding glitter, the view
of low ranges lying in indigo gloom was very striking. On the ascent
there is a remarkable arch of great blocks of white marble, with a
vaulted recess, called the "Tak-i-Girreh," "the arch holding the
road," which gives the popular name of Gardan-i-Tak-i-Girreh (the pass
of Tak-i-Girreh) to the ascent, though the geographers call it
Akabah-i-Holwan (the defile of Holwan).

After the deep mud of the earlier part of the march it was a pleasure
to ride through pure, deep, powdery snow, and to find the dirt of the
village of Myan Tak, a Kurdish hamlet situated on a mountain torrent
among steep hills and small trees, covered with this radiant mantle.
The elevation of the pass is 4630 feet, but Myan Tak is at a lower
altitude an hour farther on.

The small and ruinous caravanserai was really full of caravans
detained by the snowstorm, and we lodged in a Kurdish house, typical
of the style of architecture common among the settled tribes. Within a
wide doorway without a door, high enough for a loaded mule to enter,
is a very large room, with a low, flat mud roof, supported on three
rows of misshapen trunks of trees, with their branches cut off about a
foot from the stem, all black and shiny with smoke. Mud and rubble
platforms, two feet high, run along one side and one end, and on the
end one there is a clay, beehive-shaped fireplace, but no chimney.
Under this platform the many fowls are shut in at night by a stone at
the hole by which they enter. Within this room is a perfectly dark
stable of great size. Certainly forty mules, besides asses and oxen,
were lodged in it, and the overflow shared the living-room with a
number of Kurds, _katirgis_, servants, dogs, soldiers, and Europeans.
The furniture consisted of guns and swords hanging on the walls.

The owner is an old Kurd with some handsome sons with ruddy
complexions and auburn hair. The big house is the patriarchal roof,
where the patriarch, his sons, their wives and children, and their
animals, dwell together. The women, however, had all been got rid of
somehow. The old Kurd made a great fire on the dais, wood being
plentiful, and crouched over it. My bed was pitched near it, and
enclosed by some reed screens. With chairs and a table, with routes,
maps, writing materials, and a good lantern upon it, an excellent
dinner of soup and a leg of mutton, cooked at a bonfire in the middle
of the floor, and the sight of all the servants and _katirgis_ lying
round it, warm and comfortable, and the knowledge that we were above
the mud, the clouds of blinding smoke which were the only drawback
scarcely affected the cheerfulness and comfort of the blazing,
unstinted fire. The doorway gave not only ample ventilation but a
brilliant view of snow, and of myriads of frosty stars.

It was infinitely picturesque, with the fitful firelight falling on
the uncouth avenues of blackened tree-stumps, on big dogs, on
mild-eyed ox faces and long ass ears, on turbaned Indian heads, and on
a confused crowd of Turks, Kurds, and Persians, some cooking, some
sleeping, some smoking, while from the black depth beyond a startling
bray of an ass or the abortive shriek of a mule occasionally
proceeded, or a stray mule created a commotion by rushing in from the
snow outside.

I slept comfortably, till I was awakened early by various country
sounds--the braying of an ass into my ear (for I was within a few
inches of the stable), the crowing of cocks, and some hens picking up
crumbs upon my bed. The mules were loaded in the living-room. The
mercury was only 26° at 9 A.M., and under cloudless sunshine the
powdery snow glittered and crackled. There were difficulties ahead, we
heard. The road heavily blocked with snow was only just open, and the
Persian post, which should have passed forty-eight hours before, had
not been heard of, showing that the snow is very deep farther on.

It was beautiful, that uplifted, silent world of snow and mountains,
on whose skirts for some miles grew small apple and pear trees, oak,
ash, and hawthorn, each twig a coral spray. In the deepest depression,
among great rocks, now masses of snow, tumbles a now partially
arrested stream, gleaming with icicles, one of the head-waters of the
Holwan. After getting through this picturesque forest of scrub, the
road emerges on the plateau of the Kirrind valley, the greatest
altitude of which is about 5800 feet. It is said to be irrigated and
fertile. It is now, as I describe it, a wide valley, without a tree or
bush, a rolling plain of snow from two to three feet deep, marked only
by lines made by birds' feet and the beating of the tips of birds'
wings, the track across it a corrugated trench, wide enough for one
mule, the sun brilliant, the sky blue, the surface of the snow
flashing light from millions of crystals with a glitter not to be
borne, all dazzling, "glistering," silent,--a white world and a blue
heaven, with a sun "shining in his strength,"--light without heat.

It has been a tremendous day's march, only fourteen miles in seven and
a half hours of severe toil! The _katirgis_ asked us to keep together
in case of difficulties with caravans. Difficulties indeed! A mild
term! I was nearly smashed. I little knew what meeting a caravan in
these circumstances meant till we met the first sixty animals, each
laden with two heavy packing-cases. The question arises who is to
give way, and who is to drive his heavily-laden beasts off the track,
to struggle, flounder, and fall in three feet of snow, not to get up
again without being unloaded, and even then with difficulty.

The rub came on a bank near a stream where there was a deep drift. I
decided to give way, but nothing would induce my mule to face the
snow. An orderly was in front and Hadji behind. Down the track came
sixty animals, loaded with their great packing-cases. They could not
and would not give way, and the two caravans came into collision.
There were mules struggling and falling, loads overturned, muleteers
yelling and roaring, Hadji groaning "God help us!" my mule, a new one,
a big strong animal, unused to a bit, plunging and kicking, in the
middle of a "free fight." I was struck hard on my ankle by a
packing-case and nearly knocked off. Still, down they came, in
apparently endless hordes; my mule plunged her bridle off, and kicked
most violently; there were yells all round. My snow spectacles were
knocked off and lost, then came another smash, in which I thought a
bone was broken. Fearing that I should be laid up with a broken limb
for weeks in some horrible caravanserai, and really desperate with the
danger and confusion, I called over and over again to Hadji to get off
and pull my mule into the snow or I should be killed! He did not stir,
but sat dazed on his pack moaning "God help us!" till he, the mule,
and the load were rolled over in the drift. The orderly contrived to
get the bridle on my mule, and to back his own in front of me, and as
each irrepressible animal rolled down the bank he gave its load a
push, which, nicely balanced as these loads are, made it swerve, and
saved me from further damage. Hadji had rolled off four times
previously, and the last I saw of him at that time and of the caravan
was a man, five mules, and their loads buried in the snow. The
personal results to me of what is euphemistically called a
"difficulty," are my blue glasses gone, a number of bruises, a
badly-torn riding-skirt, and a bad cut, which bled profusely, and then
the blood froze.

A number of caravans snowed up for several days were _en route_, and
there were many similar encounters, and donkeys and mules falling with
their loads and rolling into the deep snow, and _katirgis_ coming to
blows over the right-of-way. If a donkey is forced off the track it
goes down at once. I unfortunately caught my foot in the pack of one
and rolled it over, and as it disappeared in the snow its pack and
saddle fell over its head and displayed the naked vertebræ of its poor

This Kirrind valley must be fully twenty miles long by from two to
five broad, but there was only one village inhabited and two in ruins.
As we floundered along in the snow with our jaded animals, two
well-armed men on fine horses met and joined us, sent by the _Agha_
Abdul Rahim, son of the British agent at Kirmanshah, whose guests we
are to be. Following them was a _taktrawan_ or litter for me, a wooden
box with two side doors, four feet high, six feet long, and three feet
wide. At each end are long shafts, and between each pair of shafts a
superb mule, and each mule has a man to lead him. I could never use
such a thing except in case of a broken limb, but I am very grateful
to Abdul Rahim for sending it fifty-six miles.

The temperature fell with the sun; the snowy hills took on every shade
of rose and pink, and in a universal blush of tender colouring we
reached Kirrind. All of a sudden the colour died out, the rose-flushed
sky changed to blue-gray, and pallid wastes of unbroken snow
stretching into the gray distance made a glorious winter landscape.
We are now fairly in for the rigours of a Persian winter.

Kirrind, the capital of the Kirrind Kurds, is either grotesquely or
picturesquely situated in and around a narrow gap in a range of lofty
hills, through which the Ab-i-Kirrind rushes, after rising in a spring
immediately behind. The gap suggests the word jaws, and in these open
jaws rise one above another flat-roofed houses straggling down upon
the plain among vineyards, poplars, willows, fruit-trees, and immense
walnuts and gardens. There are said to be 900 houses, but many of them
are ruinous. The stream which bursts from the hills is divided into
innumerable streamlets, which must clothe these gardens with beauty.

A _far[=a]sh_ riding on ahead had engaged a house, so we avoided the
horrors of the immense caravanserai, crammed to-night with storm-bound
caravans. The house is rough, but has three adjoining rooms, and the
servants are comfortable. A fire, with its usual accompaniment of
stinging smoke, fails to raise the temperature of my room to the
freezing-point, yet it is quite possible to be comfortable and employ

_Mahidasht, Jan. 24._--My room at Kirrind was very cold. The ink
froze. The mercury fell to 2° below zero in it, and outside in the sun
was only 14° at 8.30. There was a great Babel at starting. Some men
had sold four chickens for the high price of 2s. each, the current
price being 6d., and had robbed the servants of two, and they took one
of the mules, which was sent after us by an official. Slipping,
floundering, and falling in the deep snow, and getting entangled among
caravans, we rode all day over rolling levels. The distance seemed
interminable over the glittering plains, and the pain and stiffness
produced by the intense cold were hard to bear, and it was not
possible to change the cramped position by walking. The mercury fell
to 4°, as with tired animals we toiled up the slope on which Harunabad

A very large caravanserai and a village of sixty houses occupy the
site of a town built by Harun-al-Raschid on the upper waters of the
Kerkhah. It has the reputation of being one of the coldest places in
Persia, so cold that its Ilyat inhabitants desert it in winter,
leaving two or three men who make a business of supplying caravans.
Usually people come out of the villages in numbers as we arrive, but
we passed group after group of ruinous hovels without seeing a
creature. We obtained awfully cold rooms at a great height above a
bazar, now deserted. I write "awfully" advisedly, for the mercury in
them at sunset was 2° below zero, the floors were plaster, slippery
with frozen moisture, the walls were partly wood, with great apertures
between the planks; where they were mud the blistered plaster was
fringed with icicles. Later the mercury sank to 12°, and before
morning to 16° below zero, and the hot water froze in my basin before
I could use it!

We were to have started at eight, as there was no possible way of
dividing the nine hours' march, but when the time came the _katirgis_
said it was too cold to rope the loads, a little later that we could
only get half-way, and later that there was no accommodation for mules
half-way and that we must go the whole way! At nine the mercury was at
4° below zero, and the slipperiness was fearful. The poor animals
could scarcely keep on their feet. We have crossed two high passes,
Nal Shikan (the Horse-Shoe breaking pass) and the Charzabar Pass, in
tremendous snow, riding nine hours, only dismounting to walk down one
hill. At the half-way hamlet I decided to go on, having still a
lingering prejudice against sharing a den with a quantity of human
beings, mules, asses, poultry, and dogs.

On one long ascent we encountered a "blizzard," when the mercury was
only 3° above zero. It was awful. The men covered their heads with
their _abbas_ and turned their backs to the wind. I got my heavy
mackintosh over everything, but in taking off three pairs of gloves
for one minute to button it the pain of my hand was literally
excruciating. At the summit the snow was four feet deep, and a number
of mules were down, but after getting over the crest of the Nal Shikan
Pass and into the Zobeideh valley it became better. But after every
descent there was another ascent to face till we reached the pass
above the Cheshmeh-i-Charzabar torrent, in a picturesque glen, with a
village and some primitive flour mills.

Below this height lies the vast and fertile plain of Mahidasht, one
expanse of snow, broken by mud villages looking like brown islands,
and the truncated cone of Goree, a seat of the ancient fire-worship.
In the centre of the plain is an immense caravanserai with some houses
about it. When this came into sight it was only five miles off, but we
were nearly three hours in reaching it! The view was wonderful. Every
speck on the vast plain was seen distinctly; then came a heavy snow
blink, above which hovered ghosts of snow mountains rising into a pale
green sky, a dead and lonely wilderness, looking as if all things
which lived and moved had long ago vanished from it. Those hours after
first sighting the village were very severe. It seemed to grow no
nearer. I was half-dead with the journey of twenty-two miles at a slow
foot's pace, and was aching and cramped from the intense cold, for as
twilight fell the mercury sank to 3° below zero. The Indian servants,
I believe, suffered more than I did, and some of the _katirgis_ even
more than they.

At last by a pointed brick bridge we crossed the little river of
Mahidasht, and rode into the house of the headman, who is a sort of
steward of Abdul Rahim, our future host, the owner of many villages on
this plain. The house is of the better class of Kurdish houses, with a
broad passage, and a room on each side, at the end a great, low, dark
room, half living-room, half stable, which accommodates to-night some
of the mules, the muleteers, the servants, and the men of the family.
Beyond this again is a large stable, and below-ground, reached by a
sloping tunnel, is the sheep-fold. One room has neither door nor
window, mine has an outer and inner door, and a fire of live embers in
a hole in the floor.

The family in vacating the room have left their goods behind,--two
plank beds at one end heaped with carpets and felts, a sacking cradle
hanging from the roof, two clay jars five feet high for storing grain,
and in the _takchahs_, or recesses of the walls, _samovars_ or
tea-urns, pots, metal vases, cartridge belts, and odds and ends. Two
old guns, an old sword, and a coarse coloured print of the Russian
Imperial family are on the wall.

I was lifted from the mule to my bed, covered with all available
wraps, a pot of hot embers put by the bed, my hands and feet rubbed,
hot syrup coloured with tea produced in Russian glasses, and in two
hours I was able to move. The caravan, which we thought could not get
through the snow, came in three hours later, men and mules thoroughly
knocked up, and not till nine could we get a scanty dinner. It has
been a hard day all round. The _far[=a]shes_ in the kitchen are
cursing the English sahibs, who will travel in the winter, wishing our
fathers may be burned, etc., two of the muleteers have been howling
with pain for the last two hours, and I went into the kitchen to see
the poor fellows.

In a corner of the big room, among the rough trunks of trees which
support the sooty roof, the muleteers were lying in a heap in their
big-sleeved felt coats round a big fire, about another the servants
were cooking their food, the _far[=a]shes_ were lying round another,
and some of the house people about a fourth, and through smoke and
flame a background of mules and wolf-like dogs was dimly seen, a gleam
now and then falling into the dark stable beyond, where the jaded
baggage animals were lying in heaps.

Mahidasht is said to be one of the finest and most fertile plains in
Persia, seventy-two miles long by fifteen broad, and is irrigated
throughout by a small stream swarming with turtles. Its population,
scattered over it in small villages, is estimated--over-estimated
probably--at 4000. At a height of 5050 feet the winters are severe.
The snow is nearly three feet deep already, and more is impending.

The mercury in my room fell to 5° below zero before midnight, but rose
for a gray cloudy day. The men and animals were so done up that we
could not start till nearly eleven. The march, though not more than
sixteen miles, was severe, owing to the deep snow and cold wind. Five
miles over the snowy billows of the Mahidasht plain, a long ascent, on
which the strong north wind was scarcely bearable, a succession of
steep and tiresome ridges, many "difficulties" in passing caravans,
and then a gradual descent down a long wide valley, opened upon the
high plateau, on which Kirmanshah, one of the most important cities in
Persia, is situated.

Trees, bare and gaunt, chiefly poplars, rising out of unsullied snow,
for two hours before we reached it, denoted the whereabouts of the
city, which after many disappointments bursts upon one suddenly. The
view from the hill above the town was the most glorious snow view I
ever saw. All around, rolled to a great height, smooth as the icing of
a cake, hills, billowy like the swell of the Pacific after a storm--an
ocean of snow; below them a plateau equally unsullied, on the east
side of which rises the magnificently precipitous Besitun range,
sublime in its wintry grandeur, while on the distant side of the
plateau pink peaks raised by an atmospheric illusion to a colossal
height hovered above the snow blink, and walled in the picture. Snow
was in the air, snow clouds were darkening over the Besitun range;
except for those pink peaks there were no atmospheric effects; the
white was very pallid, and the gray was very black; no illusions were
possible, the aspect was grim, desolate, and ominous, and even before
we reached the foot of the descent the huge peaks and rock masses of
Besitun were blotted out by swirls of snow.

Kirmanshah, approached from the south-west, added no elements of
picturesqueness to the effect. A ruinous wall much too large for the
shrunken city it encloses, parts of it lying in the moat, some ruinous
loopholed towers, lines of small domes denoting bazars below, a few
good-looking houses rising above the insignificant mass, gardens,
orchards, vineyards, and poplars stretching up the southerly hollow
behind, and gardens, now under frozen water, to the north, made up a
not very interesting contrast with the magnificence of nature.

We circled much of the ruinous wall on thin ice, turned in between
high walls and up an alley cumbered with snow, dismounted at a low
door, were received by a number of servants, and were conducted
through a frozen courtyard into a handsomely-carpeted room with divans
beside a blazing fire, a table in the centre covered with apples,
oranges, and sweetmeats, and the large Jubilee photograph of Queen
Victoria hanging over the fireplace.

     I. L. B.


[11] Another interest, however, is its connection with many of the
romantic legends still told of Khosroe Parviz and his beautiful queen,
complicated with love stories concerning the sculptor Farhad, to whom
the Persians attribute some of their most famous rock sculptures. One
of the most romantic of these legends is that Farhad loved Shirin, and
that Khosroe was aware of it, and promised to give her to him if he
could execute the impossible task of bringing to the city the abundant
waters of the mountains. Farhad set himself to the Herculean labour,
and to the horror of the king nearly accomplished it, when Khosroe,
dreading the advancing necessity of losing Shirin or being
dishonoured, sent to inform him of her death. Being at the time on the
top of a precipice, urging on the work of the aqueduct, the news
filled him with such ungovernable despair that he threw himself down
and was killed.

[12] The Pashalik of Zohab, now Persian territory, is fully described
by Major Rawlinson in a most interesting paper in _The Journal of the
Royal Geographical Society_, vol. ix. part 1, p. 26.

[13] Gen. x. 11; 2 Kings xviii. 11; 1 Chron. v. 26.

[14] See Sir A. H. Layard's _Early Adventures_, vol. i. p. 217.


     KIRMANSHAH, _Jan. 31_.

This hospitable house is the residence of the British Agent or _Vakil_
for Kirmanshah, in whose absence at Tihran, his son, Abdul Rahim,
performs the duties of hospitality in a most charming manner, as if
though a very busy man he had nothing else to do but carry out the
wishes of his guests. His hospitality is most unobtrusive also, and
considerate. If such a wish is expressed as to visit the sculptures of
the Takt-i-Bostan, or anything else, everything is quietly and
beautifully arranged; a landau-and-four with outriders, superb led
saddle-horses, and arrangements for coffee are ready outside the
walls, with the host as _cicerone_, ready to drive or ride at the
pleasure of his guests. The rooms in which he receives Europeans are
on the opposite side of the courtyard from the house, and have been
arranged according to European ideas.

The family history, as usually told, is an interesting one. They are
Arabs, and the grandfather of our host, Hadji Khalil, was a trusted
_katirgi_ in the employment of Sir Henry Rawlinson, and saved his life
when he fell from a scaffolding while copying the Besitun
inscriptions. His good qualities, and an honesty of character and
purpose rare among Orientals, eventually placed him in the important
position of British _Vakil_ here, and he became a British subject, and
was succeeded in his position by his son, Agha Hassan, who is now by
virtue of singular business capacities the wealthiest man in this
province and possibly in Persia, and bears the very highest character
for trustworthiness and honour.[15]

Abdul Rahim is a very fine-looking man, with noticeable eyes, very
large and prominent. He has a strong sense of humour, which flits over
his face in an amused smile. He and his father are very large
landowners, and are always adding land to land, and are now the owners
of the magnificent sculptures and pleasure-grounds of the
Takt-i-Bostan. They are bankers likewise, and money-lenders, merchants
on a large scale, and have built a very fine caravanserai, with great
brick warehouses for the use of traders. Agha Hassan travels _en
prince_, driving to Tihran and back in an English landau with four
horses and a number of outriders and attendants, and his son
entertains visitors in the same way, mounting even the outriders and
pipe-bearers on well-bred Arabs. When he walks in the city it is like
a royal progress. Everybody bows low, nearly to the ground, and his
purse-bearer follows, distributing alms among the poor.

I mention all this because it is a marvel in Persia, where a
reputation for wealth is the last thing a rich man desires. To elevate
a gateway or to give any external sign of affluence is to make himself
a mark for the official rapacity which spares none. The policy is to
let a man grow quietly rich, to "let the sheep's wool grow," but as
soon as he shows any enjoyment of wealth to deprive him of his gains,
according to a common Persian expression, "He is ripe, he must be
squeezed." The _Vakil_ and his son are the only men here who are not
afraid to show their wealth, and for the simple reason that it cannot
be touched, because they are British subjects. They can neither be
robbed, squeezed, nor mulcted beyond the legitimate taxation by
Persian officials, and are able to protect the property of others when
it is entrusted to their keeping. British protection has been in fact
the making of these men.

The _ménage_ is simple. The dining-room is across the frozen
courtyard. The meals are served in European fashion, the _major-domo_
being an ancient man, "born in the house," who occasionally inserts a
remark into the conversation or helps his master's memory. The
interpreter sits on the floor during meals. I breakfast in my room,
but lunch and dine with our host, who spends the evening in the
_salon_; sherbet is provided instead of wine. Abdul Rahim places me at
the head of the table, and I am served first! The interpreting is from
Persian into Hindustani, and _vice versâ_. Our host expresses almost
daily regret that he cannot talk with me on politics!

Kirmanshah, which is said to be a favourable specimen of a Persian
town, is absolutely hideous and uninteresting. It is really half in
ruins. It has suffered terribly from "plague, pestilence, and famine,"
and from the awful rapacity of governors. It once had 12,000 houses,
but the highest estimate of its present population is 25,000. So
severely have the town and province been oppressed that some years ago
three-quarters of the inhabitants migrated, the peasants into Turkey,
and the townspeople into the northern province of Azerbijan. If a
governor pays 30,000 _tumans_ (£10,000) to the Shah for an
appointment, of which he may be deprived any day, it can scarcely be
expected of Oriental, or indeed of any human nature, that he will not
make a good thing of it while he has it, and squeeze all he can out of
the people.

The streets are very narrow, and look narrower just now, because the
snow is heaped almost to the top of the mud walls, which are not
broken up as in Turkish towns by projecting lattice windows, but are
absolutely blank, with the exception of low-arched entrances to the
courtyards within, closed by heavy, unpainted wooden doors, studded
with wooden nails. The causeways, on which, but for the heaps of
slippery snow two men might walk abreast, have a ditch two or three
feet wide between them, which is the roadway for animals. There are
some open spaces, abounding in ruinous heaps, others where goods are
unloaded, surrounded with warehouses, immense brick bazars with domed
roofs, a citadel or _ark_, where the Governor lives, a large parade
ground and barracks for 2000 men, mosques of no pretensions, public
baths, caravanserais, brick warehouses behind the bazars, public
gardens, with fountains and avenues of poplars, a prison, and some
good houses like this one, hidden behind high mud walls. Although the
snow kindly veils a good deal of deformity, the city impresses one as
ruinous and decayed; yet it has a large trade, and is regarded as one
of the most prosperous places in the Empire.[16]

The bazars are spacious and well stocked with European goods,
especially with Manchester cottons of colours and patterns suited to
Oriental taste, which loves carnation red. There are many Jews,
otherwise the people are Shiah Moslems, with an increasing admixture
of the secret sect of the _B[=a]bis_. In some respects the Shiahs are
more fanatical than the Sunnis, as, for instance, it is quite possible
to visit a mosque in Turkey, but here a Christian is not allowed to
cross the threshold of the outer gate. Certain customs are also more
rigidly observed. A Persian woman would be in danger of death from the
mob if she appeared unveiled in the streets. When I walked through the
town, though attended by a number of men, the _major-domo_ begged me
to exchange my gauze veil for a mask, and even when I showed this
deference to custom the passing through the bazars was very
unpleasant, the men being decidedly rude, and inclined to hoot and use
bad language. Even the touch of a Christian is regarded as polluting,
and I nearly got into trouble by handling a "flap-jack," mistaking it
for a piece of felt. The bazars are not magnificent. No rich carpets
or other goods are exposed to view for fear of exactions. A buyer
wanting such things must send word privately, and have them brought to
his house.

Justice seems to be here, much as in Turkey, a marketable commodity,
which the working classes are too poor to buy. A man may be kept in
prison because he is too poor to get out, but justice is usually
summary, and men are not imprisoned for long terms. If prisoners have
friends, the friends feed them, if not they depend on charity, and
charity is a Moslem virtue. There is no prison here for women. They
are punished by having their heads shaved, and by being taken through
the town on asses. Various forms of torture are practised, such as
burning with hot irons, the bastinado, and squeezing the fingers in a
vice. The bastinado is also most extensively used as a punishment.

Yesterday by appointment we were received by the Governor of the
Province. Riding through the slippery snow-heaped alleys is not what
Europeans would think of, and our host with his usual courtesy
humoured the caprice by walking with us himself, preceded by six
_far[=a]shes_ (lit. carpet-spreaders) and followed by his purse-bearer
casting money to the poor, and a train of servants. The Citadel, or
Governor's residence, like all else, is forlorn, dirty, and ruinous in
its approaches, which are long vaulted corridors capable of much
adornment. Crowds of soldiers, _mollahs_, dervishes, and others were
there to see the visit, which was one of ceremony. The Palace and
Government offices are many-windowed, well-built brick-and-tile
buildings, arranged round a large _place_ with trees and fountains.

Two little fellows in scarlet uniform were at the entrance, and the
lobby upstairs was crowded with Persian and Negro servants, all in
high, black lambskin caps, tight black trousers, and tight coats with
full skirts. The Governor received us in a very large, lofty,
vacant-looking room, and shook hands. I never saw a human being more
nearly like an ape in appearance, and a loud giggle added to the
resemblance. This giggle and a fatuous manner are possibly assumed,
for he has the widespread reputation of being a very able man, shrewd
in business and officially rapacious, as was his father before him.
The grotesque figure, not more than five feet high, was dressed in a
black Astrakan cap, a coat of fine buff Russian kerseymere with full
skirts, and tight trousers of the same, and an under-coat of rich,
Kerman silk brocade, edged with costly fur. He made a few curt remarks
to his foreign guests, and then turned to Abdul Rahim, and discussed
local affairs for the remainder of a very long visit.

A table covered with exquisite-looking sweetmeats was produced, and we
were regaled with tea _à la Russe_ in Russian glasses, ice-cream, and
_gaz_. Then young, diminutive, raw-looking soldiers in scarlet coats
and scarlet trousers with blue stripes marched into the courtyard, and
stood disconsolately in the snow, and two bands brayed and shrieked
for an hour. Then _kalians_ were smoked, and coffee was handed round,
the cups being in gold filigree holders incrusted with turquoises.
This was the welcome signal for the termination of a very tedious
visit. The reception-room is a dismal combination of Persian and
European taste, invariably a failure. The carpets are magnificent, but
the curtains are common serge bordered with white cotton lace, and the
tea-table with its costly equipments was covered with a tawdry
cretonne cover, edged with some inferior black cotton lace. The lofty
walls of plain plaster of Paris have their simplicity destroyed by
some French girandoles with wax grapes hanging from them.

The Governor returned the visit to-day, arriving on horseback with
fully forty mounted attendants, and was received in a glass room on
the roof, furnished with divans, tables covered with beautiful
confectionery, and tea and coffee equipages. The conversation was as
local as yesterday, in spite of our host's courteous efforts to
include the strangers in it. The Governor asked if I were going to
Tihran to be _Hak[=i]m_ to the Shah's _haram_, which our host says is
the rumour in Kirmanshah! During such visits there are crowds of
attendants in the room all the time pouring out tea, filling
_kalians_, and washing cups on the floor, and as any guest may be a
spy and an enemy, the conversation is restricted to exaggerated
compliments and superficial remarks.

Everything is regulated by an elaborate code of etiquette, even the
compliments are meted out by rule, and to give a man more than he is
entitled to is understood to be intended as sarcasm. The number of
bows made by the entertainer, the distance he advances to meet his
guest, and the position in which he seats him are matters of careful
calculation, and the slightest mistake in any particular is liable to
be greatly resented by a superior.

The Persian is a most ceremonious being. Like the Japanese he is
trained from infancy to the etiquette of his class, and besides the
etiquette of class there is here the etiquette of religion, which is
far more strict than in Turkey, and yields only when there is daily
contact, as in the capital, between Moslems and Christians. Thus, a
Moslem will not accept refreshments from a Christian, and he will not
smoke a pipe after a Christian even if he is his guest, and of equal
or higher rank.

The custom is for a visitor, as in the case of the Governor, to
announce his visit previously, and he and his train are met, when he
is the superior, by a mounted servant of the recipient of the honour,
who precedes him to the door, where the servants are arranged
according to their rank, and the host waits to take his hand and lead
him to a seat. On entering the room a well-bred Persian knows at once
what place he ought to take, and it is rare for such a _fiasco_ as
that referred to in Luke xiv. 9 to occur. Refreshments and pipes are
served at regulated intervals, and the introduction of a third cup of
tea or coffee and a third _kalian_ is the signal for the guest to
retire. But it is necessary to ask and receive permission to do so,
and elaborate forms of speech regulated by the rank of the visitor are
used on the occasion. If he is of equal or superior rank, the host,
bowing profoundly, replies that he can have no other wish than that of
his guest, that the house has been purified by his presence, that the
announcement of the visit brought good luck to the house, that his
headache or toothache has been cured by his arrival, and these flowery
compliments escort the ordinary guest to the door, but if he be of
superior rank the host walks in advance to the foot of the stairs,
and repeats the compliments there.

The etiquette concerning pipes is most elaborate.[17] _Kalians_ are
invariably used among the rich. The great man brings his own, and his
own pipe-bearer. The _kalian_ is a water pipe, and whatever its form
the principle is the same, the smoke being conducted to the bottom of
a liberal supply of water, to be sucked up in bubbles through it with
a gurgling noise, as in the Indian "hubble-bubble." This water-holder
is decanter-shaped, of plain or cut glass, with a wide mouth; the
fire-holder, as in the case of the Governor's pipe, is often a work of
high art, in thin gold, chased, engraved, decorated with _repoussé_
work, or incrusted with turquoises, or ornamented with rich enamel,
very costly, £40 or even £50 being paid by rich men for the decoration
of a single pipe-head. Between this and the water-holder is a wooden
tube about fourteen inches long, from one end of which an inner tube
passes to the bottom of the water. A hole in the side of the tube
admits the flexible smoking tube, more used in Turkey than in Persia,
or the wooden stem, about eighteen inches long. The fire-holder is
lined with clay and plaster of Paris. Besides these there is the
wind-guard, to prevent the fire from falling or becoming too hot,
usually of silver, with dependent silver chains, and four or six
silver or gold chains terminating in flat balls hang from the

The _kalian_ is one of the greatest institutions of Persia. No man
stirs without it, and as its decoration gives an idea of a man's
social position, immense sums are lavished upon it, and the
pipe-bearer is a most important person. The lighting is troublesome,
and after all there seems "much ado about nothing," for a few whiffs
exhaust its capacities.

The tobacco, called _tumbaku_, which is smoked in _kalians_ is
exceptionally poisonous. It cannot be used the first year, and
improves with age, being preserved in bags sewn up in raw hide. Unless
it is moistened it produces alarming vertigo. When the _kalian_ is
required, about three-quarters of an ounce is moistened, squeezed like
a sponge, and packed in the fire-holder, and morsels of live charcoal,
if possible made from the root of the vine, are laid upon it and blown
into a strong flame. The pipe-bearer takes two or three draws, and
with an obeisance hands it with much solemnity to his master. Abdul
Rahim smokes three or four pipes every evening, and coffee served with
the last is the signal for his departure.

A guest, if he does not bring his own pipe and pipe-bearer has a
_kalian_ offered to him, but if the host be of higher rank any one but
an ignoramus refuses it till he has smoked first. If under such
circumstances a guest incautiously accepts it, he is invariably
mortified by seeing it sent into the ante-room to be cleaned and
refilled before his superior will smoke. If it be proper for him to
take it, he offers it in order of rank to all present, but takes good
care that none accept it till he has enjoyed it, after which the
attendant passes it round according to rank. In cases of only one
_kalian_ and several guests, they smoke in order of position, but each
one must pay the compliment of suggesting that some one else should
smoke before himself. The etiquette of smoking is most rigid. I heard
of a case here in which a _mollah_, who objected to smoke after a
European, offered it to one after he had smoked it himself--so gross a
piece of impertinence that the other called the pipe-bearer, saying,
"You can break that pipe to pieces, and burn the stick, I do not care
to smoke it," upon which the _mollah_, knowing that his violation of
etiquette merited this sharp rebuke, turned pale and replied, "You say
truly, I have eaten dirt."

The lower classes smoke a coarse Turkish tobacco, or a Persian mild
sort looking like whitish sawdust, which is merely the pounded leaf,
stalk, and stem. The pipe they use and carry in their girdles has a
small iron, brass, or clay head, and a straight cherry-wood stick,
with a very wide bore and no mouthpiece, and it is not placed in the
teeth but is merely held between the lips. Smoking seems a necessity
rather than a luxury in Persia, and is one of the great features of
social life.

Kirmanshah is famous for its "rugs," as carpets are called in this
country. There are from twenty-five to thirty kinds with their
specific names. Aniline dyes have gone far to ruin this manufacture,
but their import is now prohibited. A Persian would not look at the
carpets loosely woven and with long pile, which are made for the
European market, and are bought just now from the weavers at 13s. the
square yard. A carpet, according to Persian notions, must be of fast
colours, fine pile, scarcely longer than Utrecht velvet, and ready to
last at least a century. A rug can scarcely be said to have reached
its prime or artistic mellowness of tint till it has been "down" for
ten years. The permanence of the dyes is tested by rubbing the rug
with a wet cloth, when the worthless colours at once come off.

Among the real, good old Persian carpets there are very few patterns,
though colouring and borders vary considerably. A good carpet, if new,
is always stiff; the ends when doubled should meet evenly. There must
be no creases, or any signs on the wrong side of darning or
"fine-drawing" having been resorted to for taking out creases, and
there must be no blue in the white cotton finish at the ends. Carpets
with much white are prized, as the white becomes primrose, a colour
which wears well. Our host has given me a rug of the oldest Persian
pattern, on a white ground, very thin and fine. Large patterns and
thick wool are comparatively cheap. It is nearly impossible to say
what carpets sell at, for if one has been made by a family and poverty
presses, it may be sold much under value, or if it is a good one and
they can hold on they may force a carpet fancier to give a very high
price. From what Abdul Rahim says, the price varies from 13s. to 50s.
a square yard, the larger carpets, about fourteen feet by eight feet,
selling for £40.[18]

Abdul Rahim took me to see carpet-weaving, a process carried on in
houses, hovels, and tents by women and children. The "machinery" is
portable and marvellously simple, merely two upright beams fixed in
the floor, with a cross-beam near the top and bottom, round which the
stout cotton or woollen threads which are the basis of the carpet are
stretched. The wools are cut in short lengths and are knotted round
two threads, according to the pattern, which, however elaborate, the
weaver usually carries in her head. After a few inches have been woven
in this simple way the right side is combed and the superfluous length
cut off with rough scissors. Nothing can be more simple than the
process or more beautiful than the result. The vegetable dyes used are
soft and artistic, specially a madder red and the various shades of
indigo. A soft turquoise blue is much used, and an "olive green,"
supposed to be saffron and indigo. The dull, rich tints, even when
new, are quite beautiful. The women pursue this work chiefly in odds
and ends of time, and in some cases make it much of a pastime. Men
being present they were very closely veiled, and found great
difficulty in holding on the _chadars_ and knotting the wool at the
same time.

After taking tea in the pleasant upper room of the carpet-weaver's
house, we visited the large barracks and parade ground. The appearance
of the soldiers could not possibly impress a stranger favourably. They
looked nothing better than "dirty, slouching ragamuffins," slipshod,
in tattered and cast-off clothes of all sorts, on the verge of actual
mendicancy, bits of rusty uniform appearing here and there amongst
their cotton rags. The quarters are not bad. The rank and file get one
and a half pounds of bread daily and five rupees a month nominally,
but their pay is in arrears, and they eke it out by working at
different trades. These men had not been drilled for two months, and
were slovenly and unsoldierly to a degree, as men must be who have no
proper pay, rations, instruction, clothing, or equipments.

The courtesy of the host leaves nothing unthought of. In returning
from a long stroll round the city a wet place had to be crossed, and
when we reached it there were saddle-horses ready. On arriving at dusk
in the bazar several servants met us with lanterns. The lantern is an
important matter, as its size is supposed to indicate the position of
the wearer. The Persian lantern has a tin or iron top and bottom,
between which is a collapsible wired cylinder of waxed muslin. The
light from the candle burning inside is diffused and soft. Three feet
long and two feet wide is not an uncommon size. They are carried close
to the ground, illustrating "Thy Word is a lamp unto my path," and
none but the poor stir out after dark without a lantern-bearer in
front. Our lanterns, as befits the _Vakil's_ position, are very large.

There is something Biblical in the progress of Abdul Rahim through
the streets, always reminding me of "greetings in the market-place,"
and "doing alms to be seen of men,"--not that I think our kind host
sins in either direction. "Peace be with you," say the people, bending
low. "To you be peace," replies the Agha.

A wish having been expressed to visit the rock-sculptures of the
Takt-i-Bostan, a winter picnic was quietly arranged for the purpose.
There was a great snowstorm on the night we arrived, succeeded by
intense frost and clear blue skies,--glorious Canadian winter weather.
Outside the wall an English landau, brought in pieces from Baghdad,
awaited us, with four Arab horses, two of them ridden. There were
eleven outriders and some led horses, and a Turki pipe-bearer rode
alongside the carriage with two cylinders of leather containing
_kalians_ in place of holsters, on one side, behind a leather
water-bottle, and on the other a brazier of lighted charcoal hanging
by chains much below the horse's body. Another pipe-bearer lighted the
_kalian_ at intervals and handed it into the carriage to his master.
Some of the horsemen carried rifles and wore cartridge-belts.

Reaching the Karasu river we got out into deep mud, were ferried over
in a muddy box hauling on a rope, and drove to the Takt-i-Bostan,
where several tanks of clear water, a house built into the rock, a
number of Kurds on fine horses, the arched recesses in the rock which
contain the sculptures, and the magnificent range of the
Jabali-Besitun formed a very striking scene.

Sir H. Rawlinson considers these sculptures the finest in Persia, and
regards them as the work of Greek artists. The lower of the two
bas-reliefs at the back of the main recess is a colossal figure of a
king on horseback, "the staff of whose spear is as a weaver's beam."
On the sides of the recess, and, like the equestrian figure, in very
high relief and very much undercut, are scenes from the chase of a
most spirited description, representing a king and court mounted on
elephants, horses, and camels, hunting boars, stags, and other
animals, their enthusiasm in the pursuit being successfully conveyed
by the art of the sculptor. In the spandrels of the archway of the
main recess are carved, winged female figures. In the smaller arch,
also containing a bas-relief, is a Pehlevi inscription.[19]

There is a broad stone platform in front of the arch, below which
flows direct from the mountain a great volume of water, which
replenishes the tanks. The house, which also contains a tank fed by
the same living water, the mountain and its treasures, the tanks, and
some miles of avenues of willows, have been bought by the _Vakil_, and
his son laughingly says that he hopes to live to see a time when Cook
will give "tourist excursion tickets" by rail to the Takt-i-Bostan!

Coffee and _kalians_ were served to the Kurds in the arch, and
mounting the horses we rode to a country house belonging to our host
in the midst of large rose gardens, and with a wonderful view of the
magnificent Besitun range, of the rolling snowy hills on which
Kirmanshah and its plantations lay like a black splotch, and of this
noble plain, six miles long from north to south, and thirty from east
to west, its absolutely unbroken snow gleaming like satin, and shadows
lying upon it in pure blue. Many servants and a large fire awaited us
in that pleasant bungalow, as well as coffee and sweetmeats, and we
stayed there till the sinking sun flushed all the surrounding hills
with pink, and the gray twilight came on.

I rode a splendid Arab, with a neck "clothed with thunder," a horse
to make one feel young again, with his elastic stride and pride of
bearing, but indeed I "snatched a fearful joy," for the snow was
extremely slippery, and thirteen Arab horses in high condition
restrained to a foot's pace had belligerent views of their own,
tending to disconcert an unwary rider. We crossed the Karasu by a deep
and devious ford up to the girths, and had an exhilarating six miles'
ride by moonlight in keen frost, the powdery snow crackling under the
horses' feet. It was too slippery to enter the town on horseback, but
servants with lanterns awaited us at the gates and roaring fires and
dinner were ready here, after a delightful expedition.

I dined alone with our host, Hadji, who understands and speaks English
fairly well, acting as interpreter. Abdul Rahim at once plunged into
politics, and asked very many intelligent questions about English
politics and parties, the condition and housing of our working
classes, and then about my own family and occupations. He is a zealous
Moslem, and the pious phrases which sit so oddly on Hadji come very
naturally from his lips. In reply to a sketch of character which I
gave him he said: "What God does is good. He knows, we submit. He of
whom you speak laid up great treasure for another life. Whoso loves
and befriends the poor is acceptable to God. One day we shall know
all. God is good." He said he had been too busy to learn English, but
that he understands a great deal, and added, with a roguish gleam
lighting up his whole face, and a very funny laugh, "And I hear what
M---- says." He has seen but very few English ladies, and it shows
great quickness of apprehension that he should never fail in the
respectfulness and quiet courteous attentions which would be shown to
a lady by an English host.

Even after India, the quantity of servants employed in such a
household as this is very impressive. Besides a number who are with
the _Vakil_ in Tihran, there are the _nazr_ or steward, who under the
master is supreme, cooks and their assistants, table servants,
_far[=a]shes_, who are sweepers and message-runners, in any number,
pipe-bearers, coffee and ice-makers, plate-cleaners, washermen,
lamp-cleaners, who are also lantern-bearers, a head groom, with a
groom for each horse under him, and a number more, over forty in all,
receiving, if paid at the usual rate of wages in Kirmanshah, which is
a cheap place, from sixty _krans_ a month down to twenty, the _kran_
being now about 8d. These wages do not represent the actual gains of a
servant, for he is entitled to perquisites, which are chiefly in the
form of commissions on things bought and sold by his master, and which
are regarded as legitimate if they do not exceed 10 per cent. It is of
no use to fight again this "_modakel_," or to vex one's soul in any
way about it. Persians have to submit to it as well as Europeans.
Hadji has endeavoured to extract from 50 to 80 per cent on purchases
made by him for me, but this is thought an outrage.

This _modakel_ applies to all bargains. If a _charvadar_ (no longer a
_katirgi_) is hired, he has to pay one's servant 10 per cent on the
contract price. If I sell a horse, my servant holds out for a good
price, and takes his 10 per cent, and the same thing applies to a pair
of shoes, or a pound of tea, or a chicken, or a bottle of milk. The
system comes down from the highest quarters. The price paid by the
governor of a province to the Shah is but the Shah's _modakel_, and
when a governor farms the taxes for 60,000 _tumans_ and sells them for
80,000, the difference is his _modakel_, and so it goes on through all
official transactions and appointments, and is a fruitful source of
grinding oppression, and of inefficiency in the army and other
departments. The servant, poor fellow, may stop at 10 per cent, but
the Shah's servant may think himself generous if he hesitates at 50
per cent. I have heard it said that when the late Shah was dying he
said to the present sovereign: "If you would sit long upon the throne,
see that there is only one spoon among ten men," and that the system
represented by this speech is faithfully carried out.

     I. L. B.


[15] I had the pleasure of seeing Agha Hassan at the British Legation
at Tihran. He is charming, both in appearance and manner, a specimen
of the highest type of Arab good breeding, with a courteous kindliness
and grace of manner, and is said to have made a very favourable
impression when he went to England lately to be made a C.M.G. Both
father and son wear the Arab dress, in plain colours but rich
materials, with very large white turbans of Damascus embroidery in
gold silk, and speak only Arabic and Persian.

[16] A journey of nine months in Persia, chiefly in the west and
north-west, convinced me that this aspect of ruin and decay is

[17] The reader curious as to this and other customs of modern Persia
should read Dr. Wills's book, _The Land of the Lion and the Sun_.

[18] A rug only eight feet by five feet was given me by a Persian in
Tihran, which was valued for duty at Erzerum at £3 the square yard,
with the option of selling it to the Custom-house at that price, which
implies that its value is from 70s. to 80s. per yard. It has a very
close pile, nearly as short and fine as velvet.

[19] For the Sasanian inscriptions, vide _Early Sasanian
Inscriptions_, by E. Thomas. The great work published by the French
Government, _Voyage en Perse_, Paris, 1851, by Messieurs Flandin et
Coste, contains elaborate and finely-executed representations of these
rock sculptures, which are mostly of the time of the later Sasanian


     KIRMANSHAH, _Feb. 2_.

On January 28 there was a tremendous snowfall, and even before that
the road to Hamadan, which was our possible route, had been blocked
for some days. The temperature has now risen to 31°, with a bitter
wind, and much snow in the sky. The journey does not promise well. Two
of the servants have been ill. I am not at all well, and the reports
of the difficulties farther on are rather serious. These things are
certain,--that the marches are very long, and without any possibility
of resting _en route_ owing to mud or snow, and that the food and
accommodation will be horrible.

Hadji is turning out very badly. He has fever now, poor fellow, and is
even more useless than usual. Abdul Rahim does not like him to
interpret, and calls him "the savage." He does no work, and is both
dirty and dishonest. The constant use of pious phrases is not a good
sign either of Moslem or Christian. I told him this morning that I
could not eat from so dirty a plate. "God is great," he quietly
answered. He broke my trestle bed by not attending to directions, and
when I pointed out what he had done, he answered, "God knows all, God
ordains all things." It is really exasperating.

It is necessary to procure an additional outfit for the journey--a
slow process--masks lined with flannel, sheepskin bags for the feet,
the thick felt coats of the country for all the servants, additional
blankets, _kajawehs_ for me, and saddle-horses. The marches will
frequently be from twenty to thirty miles in length, and the fatigue
of riding them at a foot's pace when one cannot exchange riding for
walking will be so great that I have had a pair of _kajawehs_ made in
which to travel when I am tired of the mule. These panniers are oblong
wooden boxes, eighteen inches high, with hoops over them for curtains.
One hangs on each side of the mule on a level with his back, and they
are mounted, _i.e._ they are scrambled into from the front by a
ladder, which is carried between them. Most women and some men travel
in them. They are filled up with quilts and cushions. The mule which
is to carry them is a big and powerful animal, and double price is
charged for him.

Horses are very good and cheap here. A pure Arab can be bought for
£14, and a cross between an Arab and a Kurdish horse--a breed noted
for endurance--for even less. But to our thinking they are small,
never exceeding fifteen hands. The horses of the Kirmanshah province
are esteemed everywhere, and there is a steady drain upon them for the
Indian market. The stud of three horses requires a groom, and Abdul
Rahim is sending a _sowar_, who looks a character, to attend us to
Tihran. A muleteer, remarkable in appearance and beauty, and twelve
fine mules have been engaged. The _sowar_ and several other men have
applied to me for medicine, having fearful coughs, etc., but I have
not been fortunate enough to cure them, as their maladies chiefly
require good feeding, warm bedding, and poultices, which are
unattainable. It is pitiable to see the poor shivering in their thin
cotton clothes in such weather. The men make shift with the seamless
felt coats--more cloaks than coats, with long bag-like sleeves
tapering to the size of a glove but with a slit midway, through which
the hands can be protruded when need arises. The women have no outer
garment but the thin cotton _chadar_.

I have tried to get a bed made, but there is no wood strong enough for
the purpose, and the bazars cannot produce any canvas.

_Sannah, Feb. 5._--Yesterday we were to have started at nine, but the
usual quarrelling about loads detained us till 10.30, so that it was
nearly dark when we reached the end of the first stage of a three
weeks' journey. From the house roof the prospect was most dismal. It
was partly thawing, and through the whiteness of the plain ran a brown
trail with sodden edges, indicating mud. The great mass of the
Jabali-Besitun, or Behistun, or Behishtan, though on the other side of
the plain, seemed actually impending over the city, with its great
black rock masses, too steep to hold the snow, and the Besitun
mountain itself, said to be twenty-four miles away, looming darkly
through gray snow clouds, looked hardly ten. Our host had sent men on
to see if the landau could take me part of the way at least; but their
verdict was that the road was impassable.

After much noise the caravan got under way, but it was soon evident
that the fine mules we had engaged had been changed for a poor,
sore-backed set, and that the fine saddle-mule I was to have had was
metamorphosed into a poor weak creature, which began to drop his leg
from the shoulder almost as soon as we were outside the walls, and on
a steep bridge came down on his nose with a violent fall, giving me a
sharp strain, and fell several times afterwards; indeed, the poor
animal could scarcely keep on his legs during the eight hours' march.

Hadji rode in a _kajaweh_, balanced by some luggage, and was to keep
close to me, but when I wanted to change my broken-down beast for a
pannier he was not to be seen, then or afterwards, and came in late.
The big mule had fallen, he was bruised, the _kajawehs_ were smashed
to pieces, and were broken up for firewood, and I am now without any
means of getting any rest from riding! "It's the pace that kills." In
snow and mud gallops are impossible, and three miles an hour is good

An hour from Kirmanshah the road crosses the Karasu by a good brick
bridge, and proceeds over the plain for many miles, keeping the
Besitun range about two miles on the left, and then passes over
undulating ground to the Besitun village. Two or three large villages
occur at a distance from the road, now shut in, and about eight miles
from Besitun there are marble columns lying on the ground among some
remains of marble walls, now only hummocks in the snow.

The road was churned into deep mud by the passage of animals, and the
snow was too deep to ride in. My mule lost no opportunity of tumbling
down, and I felt myself a barbarian for urging him on. Hills and
mountains glistened in all directions. The only exception to the
general whiteness was Piru, the great rock mass of Besitun, which ever
loomed blackly overhead through clouds and darkness, and never seemed
any nearer. It was very solitary. I met only a caravan of carpets, and
a few men struggling along with laden asses.

It was the most artistic day of the whole journey, much cloud flying
about, mountains in indigo gloom, or in gray, with storm clouds round
their heads, or pure white, with shadows touched in with cobalt, while
peaks and ridges, sun-kissed, gleamed here and there above indigo and
gray. Not a tree or even bush, on them or on the plain, broke the
monotony after a summer palace of the Shah, surrounded by poplars, was
passed. There is plenty of water everywhere.

As the sun was stormily tinging with pink the rolling snow-clouds here
and there, I halted on the brow of a slope under the imposing rock
front of Besitun to wait for orders. It was wildly magnificent: the
huge precipice of Piru, rising 1700 feet from the level, the mountains
on both sides of the valley approaching each other, and behind Piru a
craggy ravine, glorified here and there by touches of amber and pink
upon the clouds which boiled furiously out of its depths. In the
foreground were a huge caravanserai with a noble portal, a solitary
thing upon the snow, not a dwelling, but offering its frigid
hospitality to all comers; a river with many windings, and the ruinous
hovels of Besitun huddled in the mud behind. An appalling view in the
wild twilight of a winter evening; and as the pink died out, a
desolate ghastliness fell upon it. As I waited, all but worn out by
the long march, the tumbling mule, and the icy wind, I thought I
should like never to hear the deep chimes of a Persian caravan, or see
the huge portal of a Persian caravanserai any more. These are cowardly
emotions which are dispelled by warmth and food, but at that moment
there was not much prospect of either.

Through seas of mud and by mounds of filth we entered Besitun, a most
wretched village of eighteen hovels, chiefly ruinous, where we
dismounted in the mixed snow and mud of a yard at a hovel of three
rooms vacated by a family. It was a better shelter than could have
been hoped for, though after a fire was made, which filled the room
with smoke, I had to move from place to place to avoid the drip from
the roof.

Hadji said he was ill of fever, and seemed like an idiot; but the orderly
said that the illness was shammed and the stupidity assumed in order not
to work. I told him to put the mattress on the bed; "Pour water on the
mattress," he replied. I repeated, "Put--the--mattress--on--the--bed,"
to which he replied, "Put the mattress into water!" I said if he felt
too ill for his work he might go to bed. "God knows," he answered.
"Yes, knows that you are a lazy, good-for-nothing, humbugging
brute"--a well-timed objurgation from M----, which elicited a
prolonged "_Ya Allah!_" but produced no effect, as the tea and
_chapatties_ were not relatively but absolutely cold the next morning.

The next day dawned miserably, and the daylight when it came was only
a few removes from darkness, yet it was enough to bring out the
horrors of that wretched place, and the dirt and poverty of the
people, who were a prey to skin diseases. Many readers will remember
that Sir H. Rawlinson considers that there are good geographical and
etymological reasons for identifying Besitun with the Baghistan, or
Place of Gardens of the Greeks, and with the famous pleasure-grounds
which tradition ascribes to Semiramis. But of these gardens not a
trace remains. A precipitous rock, smoothed at its lower part, a
vigorous spring gushing out at the foot of the precipice, two tablets,
one of which, at a height of over 300 feet, visible from the road but
inaccessible, is an Achæmenian sculpture portraying the majesty of
Darius, with about a thousand lines of cuneiform writing, are all that
survive of the ancient splendours of Besitun, with the exception of
some buttresses opposite the rock, belonging to a vanished Sasanian
bridge over the Gamasiab, and some fragments of other buildings of the
Sasanian epoch. These deeply interesting antiquities have been
described and illustrated by Sir H. Rawlinson, Flandin and Coste, and

It has been a severe day. It was so unpromising that a start was only
decided on after many pros and cons. Through dark air small flakes of
snow fell sparsely at intervals from a sky from which all light had
died out. Gusts of icy wind swept down every gorge. Huge ragged masses
of cloud drifted wildly round the frowning mass of Piru. Now and then
the gusts ceased, and there was an inauspicious calm.

I rode a big mule not used to the bit, very troublesome and mulish at
first, but broken in an hour. A clear blink revealed the tablets, but
from their great altitude the tallest of the figures only looked two
feet high. There is little to see on this march even under favourable
circumstances. A few villages, the ruined fort of Hassan Khan, now
used as a caravanserai, on a height, the windings of the Gamasiab, and
a few canals crossed by brick bridges, represent its chief features.
Impressions of a country received in a storm are likely to be
incorrect, but they were pleasurable. Everything seemed on a grand
scale: here desolate plateaus pure white, there high mountains and
tremendous gorges, from which white mists were boiling up--everything
was shrouded in mystery--plain prose ceased to be for some hours.

The others had to make several halts, so I left the "light division"
and rode on alone. It became dark and wild, and presently the surface
of the snow began to move and to drift furiously for about a foot
above the ground. The wind rose to a gale. I held my hat on with one
half-frozen hand. My mackintosh cape blew inside out, and struck me
such a heavy blow on the eyes that for some time I could not see and
had to trust to the mule. The wind rose higher; it was furious, and
the drift, not only from the valley but from the mountain sides, was
higher than my head, stinging and hissing as it raced by. It was a
"blizzard," a brutal snow-laden north-easter, carrying fine, sharp,
hard-frozen snow crystals, which beat on my eyes and blinded them.

After a short experience of it my mule "turned tail" and needed
spurring to make him face it. I fought on for an hour, crossed what
appeared to be a bridge, where there were a few mud hovels, and
pressed on down a narrower valley. The blizzard became frightful;
from every ravine gusts of storm came down, sweeping the powdery snow
from the hillsides into the valley; the mountains were blotted out,
the depression in the snow which erewhile had marked the path was
gone, I could not even see the mule's neck, and he was floundering in
deep snow up to the girths; the hiss of the drift had increased to a
roar, the violence of the storm produced breathlessness and the
intense cold numbness. It was dangerous for a solitary traveller, and
thinking that M---- would be bothered by missing one of the party
under such circumstances, I turned and waited under the lee of a
ruinous mud hovel for a long, long time till the others came up--two
of the men having been unhorsed in a drift.

In those hovels there were neither accommodation nor supplies, and we
decided to push on. It was never so bad again. The wind moderated, wet
snow fell heavily, but cleared off, and there was a brilliant blue
heaven with heavy sunlit cloud-wreaths, among which colossal mountain
forms displayed themselves, two peaks in glorious sunlight, high, high
above a whirling snow-cloud, which was itself far above a great
mountain range below. There were rifts, valleys, gorges, naked, nearly
perpendicular rocks, the faces of mountains, half of which had fallen
down in the opposite direction, a snow-filled valley, a winding river
with brief blue stretches, a ruined fort on an eminence, a sharp turn,
a sudden twilight, and then another blizzard far colder than the last,
raging down a lateral ravine, up which, even through the blinding
drift, were to be seen, to all seeming higher than mountains of this
earth, the twin peaks of Shamran lighted by the sun. I faced the
blizzard for some time, and then knowing that Hadji and the cook, who
were behind me, would turn off to a distant village, all trace of a
track having disappeared, I rode fully a mile back and waited half an
hour for them. They were half-frozen, and had hardly been able to urge
their mules, which were lightly laden, through the snow, and Hadji was
groaning "_Ya Allah!_"

The blizzard was over and the sky almost cloudless, but the mercury
had fallen to 18°, and a keen wind was still blowing the powdery snow
to the height of a foot. I sent the two men on in front, and by dint
of calling to them constantly, kept them from getting into drifts of
unknown depth. We rode up a rising plateau for two hours--a plateau of
deep, glittering, blinding, trackless snow, giving back the sunshine
in millions of diamond flashings. Through all this region thistles
grow to a height of four feet, and the only way of finding the track
was to look out for a space on which no withered thistle-blooms
appeared above the snow.

This village of Sannah lies at an altitude of about 5500 feet, among
poplar plantations and beautiful gardens, in which fine walnut trees
are conspicuous. Though partly ruinous it is a flourishing little
place, its lands being abundantly watered by streams which run into
the Gamasiab. It is buried now in snow, and the only mode of reaching
it is up the bed of a broad sparkling stream among the gardens. The
_sowar_ met us here, the navigation being difficult, and the "light
division" having come up, we were taken to the best house in the
village, where the family have vacated two rooms, below the level of a
yard full of snow. The plateau and its adjacent mountains were flushed
with rose as we entered Sannah, and as soon as the change to the
pallor of death came on the mercury raced down to zero outside, and it
is only 6° in the room in which I am writing.

There is a large caravanserai at the entrance to Sannah, and I suspect
that the _sowar_ in choosing private quarters bullies the _ketchuda_
(headman) and throws the village into confusion, turning the women and
children out of the rooms, the owners, though they get a handsome sum
for the accommodation, having to give him an equally handsome

After nearly nine hours of a crawling pace and exposure to violent
weather, I suffered from intense pain in my joints, and was dragged
and lifted in and put into a chair. I write "put," for I was nearly
helpless, and had to take a teaspoonful of whisky in warm milk. While
the fire was being made two women, with a gentle kindliness which won
my heart, chafed my trembling, nearly frozen hands with their own,
with kindly, womanly looks, which supplied the place of speech.

I lay down under a heap of good blankets, sorry to see them in thin
cotton clothes, and when I was less frozen observed my room and its
grotesquely miserable aspect, "the Savage" never taking any trouble to
arrange it. There are no windows, and the divided door does not shut
by three inches. A low hole leads into the granary, which is also the
fowl-house, but the fowls have no idea of keeping to their own
apartment. Two sheep with injured legs lie in a corner with some
fodder beside them. A heap of faggots, the bed placed diagonally to
avoid the firehole in the floor, a splashed tarpaulin on which Hadji
threw down the saddle and bridle plastered with mud, and all my
travelling gear, a puddle of frozen water, a plough, and some ox
yokes, an occasional gust of ashes covering everything, and clouds of
smoke from wood which refuses to do anything but smoke, are the
luxuries of the halt. The house is full of people, and the women come
in and out without scruple, and I am really glad to see them, though
it is difficult to rouse Hadji from his opium pipe and coffee, and his
comfortable lounge by a good fire, to interpret for them.

The day's experiences remind me of the lines--

     "Bare all he could endure,
     And bare not always well."

But tired and benumbed as I am I much prefer a march with excitements
and difficulties to the monotony of splashing through mud in warm

_Hamilabad, Feb. 7._--The next morning opened cloudless, with the
mercury at 18°, which was hardly an excuse for tea and _chapatties_
being quite cold. I was ready much too early, and the servants having
given out that I am a _Hak[=i]m_, my room was crowded with women and
children, all suffering from eye diseases and scrofula, five women not
nearly in middle life with cataract advanced in both eyes, and many
with incurved eyelids, the result of wood smoke. It was most painful
to see their disappointment when I told them that it would need time
to cure some of them, and that for others I could do nothing. Could I
not stay? they pleaded. I could have that room and milk and eggs--the
best they had. "And they lifted up their voices and wept." I felt like
a brute for leaving them. The people there showed much interest in our
movements, crowding on the roofs to see our gear, and the start.

The order of march now is--light division, three mules with an
orderly, Hadji, and the cook upon them, the two last carrying what is
absolutely necessary for the night in case the heavy division cannot
get on. M---- and an orderly, the _sowar_, Abbas Khan, another who is
changed daily, the light division and I, sometimes start together; but
as the others are detained by work on the road, I usually ride on
ahead with the two servants.

To write that we all survived the march of that day is strange, when
the same pitiless blast or "demon wind," blowing from "the roof of the
world"--the Pamir desert, made corpses of five men who started with a
caravan ahead of us that morning. We had to climb a long ascending
plateau for 1500 feet, to surmount a pass. The snow was at times three
feet deep, and the tracks even of a heavy caravan which crossed before
us were effaced by the drift in a few minutes.

A sun without heat glared and scintillated like an electric light,
white and unsympathetic, out of a pitiless sky without a cloud. As
soon as we emerged from Sannah the "demon wind" seized on us--a
steady, blighting, searching, merciless blast, no rise or fall, no
lull, no hope. Steadily and strongly it swept, at a temperature of 9°,
across the glittering ascent--swept mountain-sides bare; enveloped us
at times in glittering swirls of powdery snow, which after biting and
stinging careered over the slopes in twisted columns; screeched down
gorges and whistled like the demon it was, as it drifted the light
frozen snow in layers, in ripples, in waves, a cruel, benumbing,
blinding, withering invisibility!

The six woollen layers of my mask, my three pairs of gloves, my
sheepskin coat, fur cloak, and mackintosh piled on over a swaddling
mass of woollen clothing, were as nothing before that awful blast. It
was not a question of comfort or discomfort, or of suffering more or
less severe, but of life or death, as the corpses a few miles ahead of
us show. I am certain that if it had lasted another half-hour I too
should have perished. The torture of my limbs down to my feet, of my
temples and cheekbones, the anguish and uselessness of my hands, from
which the reins had dropped, were of small consequence compared with a
chill which crept round my heart, threatening a cessation of work.

There were groans behind me; the cook and Hadji had rolled off into
the snow, where Hadji was calling on Him "who is not far from every
one of us." M---- was on foot. His mask was frozen hard. He was using
a scientific instrument, and told his orderly, an Afghan, a smart
little "_duffadar_" of a crack Indian _corps_, to fasten a strap. The
man replied sadly, "I can't, Sahib." His arms and hands were useless.
My mask was frozen to my lips. The tears extorted from my eyes were
frozen. I was so helpless, and in such torture, that I would gladly
have lain down to die in the snow. The mercury fell to 4°.

After fighting the elements for three hours and a half, we crossed the
crest of the pass at an altitude of 7000 feet, to look down upon a
snow world stretched out everywhere, pure, glistering, awful;
mountains rolling in snowy ranges, valleys without a trace of man, a
world of horror, glittering under a mocking sun.

Hadji, with many pious ejaculations, gasped out that he was dying (in
fact, for some time all speech had been reduced to a gasp); but when
we got over the crest there was no more wind, and all the benumbed
limbs resumed sensation, through an experience of anguish.

The road to Kangawar lies through a broad valley, which has many
streams. Among the mountains which encompass it are the Kuh-i-Hassan,
Boka, the Kuh-i-Paran, and the Kuh-i-Bozah. I rode on with the two
servants, indulging in no higher thoughts than of the comfort I should
have in lying down, when just in front of me Hadji turned a
somersault, my alpenstock flying in one direction and the medicine
chest in another, while he lay motionless, flat on his back with all
his limbs stretched out, just as soldiers who have been shot lie in
pictures. In getting to him my mule went down in a snow-drift, out of
which I extricated him with difficulty. I induced Hadji, who said his
back was broken, and was groaning and calling on Allah, to get up, and
went on to secure his mule, which had the great pack-saddle under its
body, and was kicking with all its might at my bed and "hold-all,"
which were between its hind legs, and succeeded in catching and
holding it till Hadji came up. I told him to unfasten the surcingle,
for the animal was wild with the things among its legs, and he wrung
his hands and beat his breast, exclaiming, "God is great! God knows I
shall never see Bushire again!" and was quite helpless. Seeing a
caravan of asses approaching, I rode on as fast as I could to the
well-situated little town of Kangawar, expecting him to follow
shortly. At present the entrance into Kangawar is up the bed of a

We had been promised good accommodation there, and the town could
evidently afford it, but Abbas Khan had chosen something very
wretched, though it was upstairs, and had an extensive snow view.
Crumbling, difficult stairs at each end of a crumbling mud house led
to rooms which barely afforded a shelter, with a ruinous barn between,
where the servants, regardless of consequences, kept up a bonfire. A
man shovelled most of the snow out of my room, and tried to make a
fire but failed, as neither he nor I could stand the smoke produced by
the attempt. This imperfect shelter had a window-frame, with three out
of its four wooden panes gone, and a cracked door, which could only
ensure partial privacy by being laid against the posts from the outer
landing, which was a flat roof. The wall was full of cracks big enough
for a finger, through which the night wind rioted in a temperature 5°
below zero.

There was nothing to sit upon, and I walked up and down for two hours,
half-frozen, watching the straggling line of the caravan as it crawled
along the valley, till the sunset flush changed into the chill
blue-gray of twilight. Hadji arrived with it, having broken his girth
after I left him. There was not much comfort after the severe march,
owing to the draughts and the smoke, but one is always hungry and
sleepy, and the hybernation of the insects makes up for any minor
discomforts. It was so cold that some water in a cup froze before I
could drink it, and the blanket over my face was hard frozen.

Kangawar was full of mourning. The bodies of two men and a boy, who
had perished on the plain while we were struggling up the pass, had
been brought in. This boy of twelve was "the only son of his mother
and she was a widow." He had started from Kangawar in the morning with
five asses laden with chopped straw to sell for her, and had miserably
perished. The two men were married, and had left families.

Kangawar is a town of a thousand people built below a high hill, on
some natural and artificial mounds. Some traditions regarding
Semiramis are localised there, and it is supposed to be on the site of
Pancobar, where she erected a temple to Anaitis or Artemis. Ruins of a
fortress, now snow-buried, occupy the crest of a hill above the town,
and there are other ruins, regarded by antiquaries as Grecian,
representing a temple or palace, "a vast building constructed of
enormous blocks of dressed stone." Of these remains I saw nothing but
some columns and a pilaster, which are built into the miserable mud
walls of a house near the bazar.

At night the muleteers were beseeching on their knees. They said that
they could not go on, that the caravan which had attempted to leave
Kangawar in the morning had put back with three corpses, and that they
and their mules would perish. In the morning it was for some time
doubtful whether they could be induced or bribed to proceed. The day
was fine and still, but they said that the snow was not broken. At
last they agreed to start if we would promise to return at the first
breath of wind!

Every resource against cold was brought out and put on. One eye was
all that was visible of the servants' faces. The _charvadars_ relied
on their felt coats and raw sheepskins, with the fur inside, roped
round their legs. There is danger of frost-bite even with all
precautions. In addition to double woollen underclothing I put on a
pair of thick Chitral socks over two pairs of woollen stockings, and
over these a pair of long, loose Afghan boots, made of sheepskin with
the fur inside. Over my riding dress, which is of flannel lined with
heavy homespun, I had a long homespun jacket, an Afghan sheepskin
coat, a heavy fur cloak over my knees, and a stout "regulation"
waterproof to keep out the wind. Add to this a cork helmet, a
fisherman's hood, a "six-ply" mask, two pairs of woollen gloves with
mittens and double gauntlets, and the difficulty of mounting and
dismounting for a person thus _swaddled_ may be imagined! The Persians
are all in cotton clothes.

However, though they have no "firesides," and no cheerful crackle and
blaze of wood, they have an arrangement by which they can keep
themselves warm for hours by the expenditure of a few handfuls of
animal fuel. The fire hole or _t[=a]nd[=u]r_ in the middle of the
floor is an institution. It is circular, narrows somewhat at the top
and bottom, has a flue leading to the bottom from the outside, and is
about three feet deep and two in diameter. It is smoothly lined with
clay inside.

Over this is the _karsi_ or platform, a skeleton wooden frame like an
inverted table, from two to five feet square, covered with blankets or
a thickly-wadded cotton quilt, which extends four or five feet beyond
it. Cushions are placed under this, and the women huddle under it all
day, and the whole family at night, and in this weather all day--the
firepot in the hole giving them comfortable warmth both for sleeping
and waking. They very rarely wash, and the _karsi_ is so favourable
for the development of vermin that I always hurry it out of the room
when I enter. So excellent and economical is the contrivance, that a
_t[=a]nd[=u]r_ in which the fire has not been replenished for eighteen
hours has still a genial heat.

It was a serious start, so terribly slippery in the heaped-up alleys
and uncovered bazars of Kangawar that several of the mules and men
fell. Outside the town was a level expanse of deep, wrinkled, drifted,
wavy, scintillating snow, unbroken except for a rut about a foot wide,
a deep long "mule ladder," produced by heavily-laden mules and asses
each stepping in its predecessor's footsteps, forming short, deep
corrugations, in which it is painful and tedious for horses or
lightly-laden animals to walk. For nine hours we marched through this
corrugated rut.

Leaving on the left the summer route to Tihran _viâ_ Hamadan, which is
said to have been blocked for twenty days, we embarked upon a
glittering plain covered with pure snow, varying in depth from two
feet on the level to ten and fifteen in the drifts, crossed by a
narrow and only slightly beaten track.

Ere long we came on solemn traces of the struggle and defeat of the
day before: every now and then a load of chopped straw thrown away,
then the deep snow much trampled, then the snow dug away and piled
round a small space, in which the _charvadars_ had tried to shelter
themselves from the wind as the shadows of death fell, then more
straw, and a grave under a high mound of snow; farther on some men
busy burying one of the bodies. The air was still, and the sun shone
as it had shone the day before on baffled struggles, exhaustion, and
death. The trampling of the snow near the track marked the place where
the caravan had turned, taking three out of the five bodies back to
Kangawar. The fury with which the wind had swept over the plain was
shown by the absolute level to which it had reduced the snow, the deep
watercourses being filled up with the drifts.

After crossing a brick bridge, and passing the nearly buried village
of Husseinabad, we rode hour after hour along a rolling track among
featureless hills, till in the last twilight we reached the village of
Pharipah, a low-lying place ("low-lying" must never be understood to
mean anything lower than 5000 feet) among some frozen irrigated lands
and watered gardens. I arrived nearly dead from cold, fatigue, and the
severe pains in the joints which are produced by riding nine hours at
a foot's pace in a temperature of 20°. My mule could only be urged on
by spurring, and all the men and animals were in a state of great
fatigue. My room was very cold, as much of one side was open to the
air, and a fire was an impossibility.

Except for the crossing of a pass with an altitude of 7500 feet, the
next day's route was monotonous, across plains, among mountains, all
pure white, the only incidents being that my chair was broken by the
fall of a mule, and that my mule and I went over our heads in a
snow-drift. The track was very little broken, and I was four hours in
doing ten miles.

Hamilabad is a village of about sixty mud hovels, and in common with
all these mountain hamlets has sloping covered ways leading to pens
under the house, where cattle, sheep, and goats spend much of the
winter in darkness and warmth.

I have a house, _i.e._ a mud room, to myself. These two days I have
had rather a severe chill, after getting in, including a shivering
lasting about two hours, perhaps owing to the severe fatigue; and I
was lying down with the blankets over my face and was just getting
warm when I heard much buzzing about me, and looking up saw the room
thronged with men, women, and children, just such a crowd as
constantly besieged our blessed Lord when the toilsome day full of
"the contradiction of sinners against Himself" was done, most of them
ill of "divers diseases and torments," smallpox, rheumatism, ulcers on
the cornea, abortive and shortened limbs, decay of the bones of the
nose, palate, and cheek, tumours, cancers, skin maladies, ophthalmia,
opaque films over the eyes, wounds, and many ailments too obscure for
my elementary knowledge. Nothing is more painful than to be obliged to
say that one cannot do anything for them.

I had to get up, and for nearly two hours was hearing their tales of
suffering, interpreted by Hadji with brutal frankness; and they
crowded my room again this morning. All I could do was to make various
ointments, taking tallow as the basis, drop lotion into some eyes,
give a few simple medicines, and send the majority sadly away. The
_sowar_, Abbas Khan, is responsible for spreading my fame as a
_Hak[=i]m_. He is being cured of a severe cough, and comes to my room
for medicine (in which I have no faith) every evening, a lean man with
a lean face, lighted with a rapacious astuteness, with a _kaftan_
streaming from his brow, except where it is roped round his shaven
skull, a zouave jacket, a skirt something like a kilt, but which
stands out like a ballet dancer's dress, all sorts of wrappings round
his legs, a coarse striped red shirt, a double cartridge-belt, and a
perfect armoury in his girdle of pistols and knives. He is a wit and a
rogue. Dogs, deprived of their usual shelter, shook my loose door at
intervals all night. This morning is gray, and looks like change.

_Nanej, Feb. 9._--It was thawing, and the march here was very soft
and splashy. The people are barbarous in their looks, speech, manners,
and ways of living, and have a total disregard of cleanliness of
person, clothing, and dwellings. Whether they are actually too poor to
have anything warmer than cotton clothing, or whether they have buried
hoards I do not know; but even in this severe weather the women of
this region have nothing on their feet, and their short blue cotton
trousers, short, loose, open jackets, short open chemises, and the
thin blue sheet or _chadar_ over their heads, are a mere apology for

The journey yesterday was through rolling hills, enclosing level
plains much cultivated, with villages upon them mostly at a
considerable distance from the road. I passed through two, one larger
and less decayed than usual, but fearfully filthy, and bisected by a
foul stream, from which people were drinking and drawing water. Near
this is a lofty mound, a truncated cone, with some "Cyclopean" masonry
on its summit, the relics of a fire temple of the Magi. Another poorer
and yet filthier village was passed through, where a man was being
buried; and as I left Hamilabad in the morning, a long procession was
escorting a corpse to its icy grave, laid on its bedding on a bier,
both these deaths being from smallpox, which, though very prevalent,
is not usually fatal, and seldom attacks adults. Indeed, it is
regarded as a childish malady, and is cured by a diet of melons and by
profuse perspirations.

A higher temperature had turned the path to slush, and made the
crossing of the last plain very tedious. This is an abominable
village, and the thaw is revealing a state of matters which the snow
would have concealed; but it has been a severe week's journey, and I
am glad of Sunday's rest even here. It is a disheartening place. I
dismounted in one yard, in slush up to my knees, and from this
splashed into another, round which are stables, cowsheds, and rooms
which were vacated by the _ketchuda_ and his family, but only
partially, as the women not only left all their "things" in my room,
but had a _godown_ or storehouse through it, to which they resorted
continually. I felt ill yesterday, and put on a blister, which
rendered complete rest desirable; but it is not to be got. The room
filled with women as soon as I settled myself in it.

They told me at once that I could not have a fire unless I had it
under the _karsi_, that the smoke would be unbearable. When I asked
them to leave me to rest, they said, "There's no shame in having women
in the house." M---- came an hour later and cleared the room, but as
soon as he went away it filled again, and with men as well as women,
and others unscrupulously tore out the paper panes from the windows.
This afternoon I stayed in bed feeling rather ill, and about three
o'clock a number of women in blue sheets, with a very definite leader,
came in, arranged the _karsi_, filling the room with smoke, as a
preliminary, gathered themselves under the quilt, and sat there
talking loudly to each other. I felt myself the object of a focused
stare, and covered my head with a blanket in despair. Then more women
came in with tea-trays, and they all took tea and sat for another hour
or two talking and tittering, Hadji assuring me that they were doing
it out of kindness, because I was not well, and they thought it dull
for me alone! The room was again cleared, and I got up at dark, and
hearing a great deal of whispering and giggling, saw that they had
opened the door windows, and that a crowd was outside. When I woke
this morning a man was examining my clothes, which were hanging up.
They feel and pull my hair, finger all my things, and have broken all
the fine teeth out of my comb. They have the curiosity without the
gracefulness of the Japanese.

This is a house of the better sort, though the walls are not
plastered. A carpet loom is fixed into the floor with a half-woven
carpet upon it. Some handsome rugs are laid down. There are two
much-decorated marriage chests, some guns and swords, a quantity of
glass teacups and ornaments in the recesses, and coloured woodcuts of
the Russian Imperial family, here, as in almost every house, are on
the walls.

There is great rejoicing to-night "for joy that a man is born into the
world," the first-born of the _ketchuda's_ eldest son. In their
extreme felicity they took me to see the mother and babe. The room was
very hot, and crowded with relations and friends. The young mother was
sitting up on her bed on the floor and the infant lay beside her
dressed in swaddling clothes. She looked very happy and the young
father very proud. I added a small offering to the many which were
brought in for luck, and it was not rejected.

A sword was brought from my room, and with it the _mamaché_ traced a
line upon the four walls, repeating a formula which I understood to
be, "I am making this tower for Miriam and her child."[20] I was
warned by Hadji not to look on the child or to admire him without
saying "Mashallah," lest I should bring on him the woe of the evil
eye. So greatly is it feared, that precautions are invariably taken
against it from the hour of birth, by bestowing amulets and charms
upon the child. A paragraph of the Koran, placed in a silk bag, had
already been tied round the infant's neck. Later, he will wear another
bag round his arm, and turquoise or blue beads will be sewn upon his

If a visitor admires a child without uttering the word _Mashallah_,
and the child afterwards falls sick, the visitor at once is regarded
as answerable for the calamity, and the relations take a shred of his
garment, and burn it in a brazier with cress seed, walking round and
round the child as it burns.

Persian mothers are regarded as convalescent on the third day, when
they go to the _hammam_ to perform the ceremonies required by Moslem
law. A boy is weaned at the end of twenty-six months and a girl at the
end of twenty-four. If possible, on the weaning day the child is
carried to the mosque, and certain devotions are performed. The
weaning feast is an important function, and the relations and friends
assemble, bringing presents, and the child in spite of his reluctance
is forced to partake of the food.

At the earliest possible period the _mamaché_ pronounces in the
infant's ear the Shiah profession of faith: "God is God, there is but
one God, and Mohammed is the Prophet of God, and Ali is the Lieutenant
of God." A child becomes a Moslem as soon as this _Kelemah Islam_ has
been spoken into his ear; but a ceremony attends the bestowal of his
name, which resembles that in use among the Buddhists of Tibet on
similar occasions.

Unless the father be very poor indeed, he makes a feast for his
friends on an auspicious day, and invites the village _mollahs_.
Sweetmeats are solemnly eaten after the guests have assembled. Then
the infant, stiffened and mummied in its swaddling clothes, is brought
in, and is laid on the floor by one of the _mollahs_. Five names are
written on five slips of paper, which are placed between the leaves of
the Koran, or under the edge of the carpet. The first chapter of the
Koran is then read. One of the slips is then drawn at random, and a
_mollah_ takes up the child, and pronounces in its ear the name found
upon it, after which he places the paper on its clothes.

The relations and friends give it presents according to their means,
answering to our christening gifts, and thereafter it is called by the
name it has received. Among men's names there is a preponderance of
those taken from the Old Testament, among which Ibrahim, Ismail,
Suleiman, Yusuf, and Moussa are prominent. Abdullah, Mahmoud, Hassan,
Raouf, Baba Houssein, Imam are also common, and many names have the
suffix of Ali among the Shiahs. Fatmeh is a woman's name, but
girl-children usually receive the name of some flower or bird, or
fascinating quality of disposition or person.

The journey is beginning to tell on men and animals. One of the Arab
horses has had a violent attack of pain from the cold, and several of
the men are ailing and depressed.

_Dizabad, Feb. 11._--Nanej is the last village laid down on any map on
the route we are taking for over a hundred miles, _i.e._ until we
reach Kûm, though it is a caravan route, and it does not appear that
any Europeans have published any account of it. Just now it is a
buried country, for the snow is lying from one to four feet deep. It
is not even possible to pronounce any verdict on the roads, for they
are simply deep ruts in the snow, with "mule ladders." The people say
that the plains are irrigated and productive, and that the hills
pasture their sheep and cattle; and they all complain of the exactions
of local officials. There is no variety in costume, and very little in
dwellings, except as to size, for they are all built of mud or
sun-dried bricks, within cattle yards, and have subterranean pens for
cattle and goats. The people abound in diseases, specially of the eyes
and bones.

The salient features of the hills, if they have any, are rounded off
by snow, and though many of them rise to a great height, none are
really impressive but Mount Elwand, close to Hamadan. The route is
altogether hilly, but the track pursues valleys and low passes as much
as possible, and is never really steep.

Yesterday we marched twenty-four miles in eight hours without any
incident, and the "heavy division" took thirteen hours, and did not
come in till ten at night! There are round hills, agglomerated into
ranges, with easy passes, the highest 7026 feet in altitude, higher
summits here and there in view, the hills encircling level plains,
sprinkled sparsely with villages at a distance from the road, denoted
by scrubby poplars and willows; sometimes there is a _kanaat_ or
underground irrigation channel with a line of pits or shafts, but
whatever there was, or was not, it was always lonely, grim, and
desolate. The strong winds have blown some of the hillsides bare, and
they appear in all their deformity of shapeless mounds of black
gravel, or black mud, with relics of last year's thistles and
euphorbias upon them. So great is the destitution of fuel that even
now people are out cutting the stalks of thistles which appear above
the snow.

As the hours went by, I did rather wish for the smashed _kajawehs_,
especially when we met the ladies of a governor's _haram_, to the
number of thirty, reclining snugly in pairs, among blankets and
cushions, in panniers with tilts, and curtains of a thick material,
dyed Turkey red. The cold became very severe towards evening.

The geographical interest of the day was that we crossed the watershed
of the region, and have left behind the streams which eventually reach
the sea, all future rivers, however great their volume, or impetuous
their flow, disappearing at last in what the Americans call "sinks,"
but which are known in Persia as _kavirs_, usually salt swamps. Near
sunset we crossed a bridge of seven pointed arches with abutments
against a rapid stream, and passing a great gaunt caravanserai on an
eminence, and a valley to the east of the bridge with a few villages
giving an impression of fertility, hemmed in by some shapely
mountains, we embarked on a level plain, bounded on all sides by
hills so snowy that not a brown patch or outbreak of rock spotted
their whiteness, and with villages and caravanserais scattered thinly
over it. On the left, there are the extensive ruins of old Dizabad,
and a great tract of forlorn graves clustering round a crumbling

As the sun sank the distant hills became rose-flushed, and then one by
one the flush died off into the paleness of death, and in the
gathering blue-grayness, in desolation without sublimity, in
ghastliness, impressive but only by force of ghastliness, and in
benumbing cold, we rode into this village, and into a yard encumbered
with mighty piles of snow, on one side of which I have a wretched
room, though the best, with two doors, which do not shut, but when
they are closed make it quite dark--a deep, damp, cobwebby, dusty,
musty lair like a miserable eastern cowshed.

I was really half-frozen and quite benumbed, and though I had plenty
of blankets and furs, had a long and severe chill, and another to-day.
M---- also has had bad chills, and the Afghan orderly is ill, and
moaning with pain in the next room. Hadji has fallen into a state of
chronic invalidism, and is shaking with chills, his teeth chattering,
and he is calling on Allah whenever I am within hearing.

The chilly dampness and the rise in temperature again may have
something to do with the ailments, but I think that we Europeans are
suffering from the want of nourishing food. Meat has not been
attainable for some days, the fowls are dry and skinny, and milk is
very scarce and poor. I cannot eat the sour wafers which pass for
bread, and as Hadji cannot boil rice or make flour porridge, I often
start in the morning having only had a cup of tea. I lunch in the
saddle on dates, the milk in the holsters having been frozen lately;
then is the time for finding the value of a double peppermint

Snow fell heavily last night, and as the track has not been broken,
and the _charvadars_ dared not face it, we are detained in this
miserable place, four other caravans sharing our fate. The pros and
cons about starting were many, and Abbas Khan was sent on horseback to
reconnoitre, but he came back like Noah's dove, reporting that it was
a trackless waste of snow outside. It is a day of rest, but as the
door has to be open on the snow to let in light, my hands are benumbed
with the damp cold. Still, a bowl of Edwards' desiccated soup--the
best of all travelling soups--has been very reviving, and though I
have had a severe chill again, I do not mean to succumb. I do not
dwell on the hardships, but they are awful. The soldiers and servants
all have bad coughs, and dwindle daily. The little orderly is so ill
to-day that we could not have gone on even had the track been broken.

_Saruk, Feb. 12._--Unladen asses, followed by unladen mules, were
driven along to break the track this morning, and as two caravans
started before us, it was tolerable, though very deep. The solitude
and desolation were awful. At first the snow was somewhat thawed, but
soon it became immensely deep, and we had to plunge through hollows
from which the beasts extricated themselves with great difficulty and
occasionally had to be unloaded and reloaded.

As I mentioned in writing of an earlier march, it is difficult and
even dangerous to pass caravans when the only road is a deep rut a
foot wide, and we had most tedious experience of it to-day, when some
of our men, weakened by illness, were not so patient as usual. Abbas
Khan and the orderly could hardly sit on their horses, and Hadji
rolled off his mule at intervals. As the _charvadars_ who give way
have their beasts floundering in the deep snow and losing their loads,
both attempt to keep the road, the result of which is a violent
collision. The two animals which "collide" usually go down, and some
of the others come on the top of them, and to-day at one time there
were eight, struggling heels uppermost in the deep snow, all to be

This led to a serious _mêlée_. The rival _charvadar_, aggravated by
Hadji, struck him on the head, and down he went into the snow, with
his mule apparently on the top of him, and his load at some distance.
The same _charvadar_ seized the halters of several of our mules, and
drove them into the snow, where they all came to grief. Our
_charvadar_, whose blue eyes, auburn hair and beard, and exceeding
beauty, always bring to mind a sacred picture, became furious at this,
and there was a fierce fight among the men (M---- being ahead) and
much bad language, such epithets as "son of a dog" and "sons of burnt
fathers" being freely bandied about. The fray at last died out,
leaving as its result only the loss of an hour, some broken
surcingles, and some bleeding faces. Even Hadji rose from his "gory
bed" not much worse, though he had been hit hard.

There was no more quarrelling though we passed several caravans, but
even when the men were reasonable and good nature prevailed some of
the mules on both sides fell in the snow and had to be reloaded. When
the matter is not settled as this was by violence, a good deal of
shouting and roaring culminates in an understanding that one caravan
shall draw off into a place where the snow is shallowest, and stand
still till the other has gone past; but to-day scarcely a shallow
place could be found. I always give place to asses, rather to avoid a
painful spectacle than from humanity. One step off the track and down
they go, and they never get up without being unloaded.

When we left Dizabad the mist was thick, and as it cleared it froze
in crystallised buttons, which covered the surface of the snow, but
lifting only partially it revealed snowy summits, sun-lit above heavy
white clouds; then when we reached a broad plateau, the highest plain
of the journey, 7800 feet in altitude, gray mists drifted very near
us, and opening in rifts divulged blackness, darkness, and tempest,
and ragged peaks exposed to the fury of a snowstorm. Snow fell in
showers on the plain, and it was an anxious time, for had the storm
which seemed impending burst on that wild, awful, shelterless expanse,
with tired animals, and every landmark obliterated, some of us must
have perished. I have done a great deal of snow travelling, and know
how soon every trace of even the widest and deepest path is effaced by
drift, much more the narrow rut by which we were crossing this most
exposed plateau. There was not a village in sight the whole march, no
birds, no animals. There was not a sound but the venomous hiss of
snow-laden squalls. It was "the dead of winter."

My admirable mule was ill of cold from having my small saddle on him
instead of his great stuffed pack-saddle, the _charvadar_ said, and he
gave me instead a horse that I could not ride. Such a gait I never
felt; less than half a mile was unbearable. I felt as if my eyes would
be shaken out of their sockets! The bit was changed, but in vain. I
was obliged to get off, and M---- kindly put my saddle on a powerful
Kirmanshah Arab. I soon found that my intense fatigue on this journey
had been caused by riding mules, which have no elasticity of movement.
I rode twenty miles to-day with ease, and could have ridden twenty
more, and had several canters on the few places where the snow was
well trodden.

I was off the track trying to get past a caravan and overtake the
others, when down came the horse and I in a drift fully ten feet deep.
Somehow I was not quite detached from the saddle, and in the scrimmage
got into it again, and a few desperate plunges brought us out, with
the horse's breastplate broken.

When we reached the great plateau above this village, a great blank
sheet of snow, surrounded by mountains, now buried in white mists, now
revealed, with snow flurries drifting wildly round their ghastly
heads, I found that the Arab, the same horse which was so ill at
Nanej, was "dead beat," and as it only looked a mile to the village I
got off, and walked in the deep snow along the rungs of the "mule
ladders," which are so fatiguing for horses. But the distance was
fully three miles, with a stream to wade through, half a mile of deep
wet soil to plunge through, and the thawed mud of a large village to
splash through; and as I dared not mount again for fear of catching
cold, I trailed forlornly into Saruk, following the men who were

Can it be said that they rode? They sat feebly on animals, swaddled in
felts and furs, the _pagri_ concealing each face with the exception of
one eye in a blue goggle; rolling from side to side, clutching at
ropes and halters, moaning "_Ya Allah!_"--a deplorable cavalcade.

Saruk has some poplars, and is surrounded by a ruinous mud wall. It is
a village of 150 houses, and is famous for very fine velvety carpets,
of small patterns, in vivid vegetable dyes. At an altitude of 7500
feet, it has a severe climate, and only grows wheat and barley, sown
in April and reaped in September. All this mountainous region that we
are toiling through is blank on the maps, and may be a dead level so
far as anything there is represented, though even its passes are in
several cases over 7000 feet high.

_Saruk, Feb. 13._--The circumstances generally are unfavourable, and
we are again detained. The Afghan orderly, who is also interpreter, is
very ill, and though he is very plucky it is impossible for him to
move; the cook seems "all to pieces," and is overcome by cough and
lassitude; Abbas Khan is ill, and his face has lost its comicality;
and in the same room Hadji lies, groaning and moaning that he will not
live through the night. Even M----'s herculean strength is not what it
was. I have chills, but in spite of them and the fatigue am really
much better than when I left Baghdad, so that though I exercise the
privilege of grumbling at the hardships, I ought not to complain of
them, though they are enough to break down the strongest men. I really
like the journey, except when I am completely knocked up, or the smoke
is exceptionally blinding.

The snow in this yard is lying in masses twelve feet high, rising out
of slush I do not know how many feet deep. It looks as if we had seen
the last of the winter. The mercury is at 32° now. It is very damp and
cold sitting in a room with one side open to the snow, and the mud
floor all slush from the drip from the roof. The fuel is wet, and
though a man has attempted four times to light a fire, he has only
succeeded in making an overpowering smoke, which prefers hanging
heavily over the floor and me to making its exit through the hole in
the roof provided for it. The door must be kept open to let in light,
and it also lets in fowls and many cats. My _dhurrie_ has been
trampled into the slush, and a deadly cold strikes up through it. Last
night a man (for Hadji was _hors de combat_) brought in some live
embers, and heaped some gum tragacanth thorns and animal fuel upon
them; there was no chimney, and the hole in the roof was stopped by a
clod. The result was unbearable. I covered my head with blankets, but
it was still blinding and stifling, and I had to extinguish the fire
with water and bear the cold, which then was about 20°. Later, there
was a tempest of snow and rain, with a sudden thaw, and water dripped
with an irksome sound on my well-protected bed, no light would burn,
and I had the mortification of knowing that the same drip was spoiling
writing paper and stores which had been left open to dry! But a
traveller rarely lies awake, and to-day by keeping my feet on a box,
and living in a mackintosh, I am out of both drip and mud. Such a room
as I am now in is the ordinary room of a Persian homestead. It is a
cell of mud, not brick, either sun or kiln dried. Its sides are
cracked and let in air. Its roof is mud, under which is some brushwood
lying over the rafters. It has no light holes, but as the door has
shrunk considerably from the door posts, it is not absolutely dark. It
may be about twelve feet square. Every part of it is blackened by
years of smoke. The best of it is that it is raised two feet from the
ground to admit of a fowl-house below, and opens on a rough platform
which runs in front of all the dwelling-rooms. With the misfitting
door and cracked sides it is much like a sieve.

I have waited to describe a Persian peasant's house till I had seen
more of them. The yard is an almost unvarying feature, whether a small
enclosure with a low wall and a gateway closed at night by a screen of
reeds, or a great farmyard like this, with an arched entrance and
dwelling-rooms for two or three generations along one or more of the

The house walls are built of mud, not sun-dried brick, and are only
one story high. The soil near villages is mostly mud, and by leading
water to a given spot, a pit of mortar for building material is at
once made. This being dug up, and worked to a proper consistency by
the feet of men, is then made into a wall, piece after piece being
laid on by hand, till it reaches a height of four feet and a thickness
of three--the imperative tradition of the Persian builder. This is
allowed a few days for hardening, when another layer of similar height
but somewhat narrower is laid upon it, _takchahs_ or recesses a foot
deep or more being worked into the thickness of the wall, and the
process is repeated till the desired height is attained. When the wall
is thoroughly dry it is plastered inside and outside with a mixture of
mud and chopped straw, and if this plastering is repeated at
intervals, the style of construction is very durable.

The oven or _t[=a]nd[=u]r_ is placed in the floor of one room, at
least, and answers for cooking and heating. A peasant's house has no
windows, and the roof does not project beyond the wall.

All roofs are flat. Rude rafters of poplar are laid across the walls
about two feet apart. In a _ketchuda's_ or a wealthier peasant's
house, above these are laid in rows peeled poplar rods, two inches
apart, then a rush mat, and then the resinous thorns of the tragacanth
bush, which are not liable to decay; but in the poorer houses the
owner contents himself with a coarse reed mat or a layer of brushwood
above the rafters. On this is spread a well-trodden-down layer of mud,
then eight or ten inches of dry earth, and the whole is thickly
plastered with mixed straw and mud. A slight slope at the back with a
long wooden spout carries off the water. Such a roof is impervious to
rain except in very severe storms if kept in order, that is, if it be
plastered once a year, and well rolled after rain. Few people are so
poor as not to have a neatly-made stone roller on their roofs. If this
is lacking, the roof must be well tramped after rain by bare feet, and
in all cases the snow must be shovelled off.

These roofs, among the peasantry, have no parapets. They are the
paradise of dogs, and in hot weather the people take up their beds
and sleep there, partly for coolness and partly because the night
breeze gives freedom from mosquitos. In simple country life, though
the premises of the peasants for the sake of security are contiguous,
there are seldom even balustrades to the roofs, though in summer most
domestic operations are carried on there. Fifty years ago Persian law
sanctioned the stoning without trial or mercy of any one caught in the
act of gazing into the premises of another, unless the gazer were the

Upon the courtyard stables, barns, and store-rooms open, but so far I
notice that the granary is in the house, and that the six-feet-high
clay receptacles for grain are in the living-room.

Looking from above upon a plain, the poplars which surround villages
where there is a sufficiency of water attract the eye. At this season
they are nothing but a brown patch on the snow. The villages
themselves are of light brown mud, and are surrounded usually by
square walls with towers at the corners, and all have a great gate.
Within the houses or hovels the families are huddled irregularly, with
all their appurtenances, and in winter the flocks and herds are in
subterranean pens beneath. In summer the animals go forth at sunrise
and return at sunset. The walls, which give most of the villages a
fortified aspect, used to afford the villagers a degree of protection
against the predatory Turkomans, and now give security to the flocks
against Lur and other robbers.

Every village has its _ketchuda_ or headman, who is answerable for the
taxes, the safety of travellers, and other matters.

_Siashan, Feb. 16._--The men being a little better, we left Saruk at
nine on the 14th, I on a bright little Baghdadi horse, in such good
case that he frequently threw up his heels in happy playfulness. The
temperature had fallen considerably, there had been a fresh snowfall,
and the day was very bright. The Arab horses are suffering badly in
their eyes from the glare of the snow.

If I had not had such a lively little horse I should have found the
march a tedious one, for we were six hours in doing eleven and a half
miles on a level! The head _charvadar_ had gone on early to make some
arrangements, and the others loaded the animals so badly that Hadji
and the cook rolled off their mules into the deep semi-frozen slush
from the packs turning just outside the gates. We had three mules with
us with worn-out tackle, and the loads rolled over many times, the
riders, who were too weak to help themselves, getting bad falls. As
each load, owing to the broken tackle, took fifteen minutes to put on
again, and the men could do little, a great deal of hard, exasperating
work fell on M----. After one bad fall in a snowdrift myself, I rode
on alone with one mule with a valuable burden. This, turning for the
fourth time, was soon under his body, and he began to kick violently,
quite dismaying me by the bang of his hoofs against cases containing
scientific instruments. It was a droll comedy in the snow. I wanted to
get hold of his halter, but every time I went near him he whisked
round and flung up his heels, till I managed to cut the ragged
surcingle and set him free, when I caught him in deep snow, in which
my horse was very unwilling to risk himself.

Soon after leaving Saruk, which, as I mentioned before, is famous for
very fine carpets, we descended gently upon the great plain of
Feraghan, perhaps the largest carpet-producing district of Persia.
These carpets are very fine and their patterns are unique, bringing a
very high price. This plain has an altitude of about 7000 feet, is 45
miles in length by from 8 to 15 in breadth, is officially stated to
have 650 villages upon it, all agricultural and carpet producing, and
is considerably irrigated by streams, which eventually lose themselves
in a salt lake at its eastern extremity. It is surrounded by hills,
with mountain ranges behind them, and must be, both as to
productiveness and population, one of the most flourishing districts
in Persia.

We were to have marched to Kashgird, but on reaching the hamlet of
Ahang Garang I found that Abbas Khan had taken quarters there, saying
that Kashgird was in ruins.

Hadji, who had allowed himself to roll off several times, was moaning
and weeping on the floor of my room, groaning out, with many cries of
_Ya Allah_, "Let me stay here till I'm better; I don't want any wages;
I shall be killed, oh, killed! Oh, my family! I shall never see
Bushire any more!" Though there was much reason to think he was
shamming, I did the little that he calls his "work," and left him to
smoke his opium pipe and sleep by the fire in peace.

I was threatened with snow-blindness in one eye; in fact I saw nothing
with it, and had to keep it covered up. One of the _charvadars_ lay
moaning outside my room, poor fellow, taking chlorodyne every
half-hour, and another had got a bad foot from frost-bite. They have
been terribly exposed, and the soft snow at a higher temperature has
been worse for them than the dry powdery snow at a low temperature, as
it soaks their socks, shoes, and leggings, and then freezes. Making
Liebig's beef tea warms one, and they like it even from a Christian
hand. The Afghan orderly bore up bravely, but was very weak. Indeed
the prospect of getting these men to Tihran is darkening daily.

My room, though open to the snow at one end, was comfortable. The oven
had been lighted twelve hours before, and it was delightful to hang
one's feet into the warm hole. There were holes for light in the roof,
and cold though it was, so long as daylight lasted these were never
free from veiled faces looking down.

In order to become thoroughly warm it was necessary to walk long and
briskly on the roof, and this brought all the villagers below it to
stare the stare of vacuity rather than of curiosity. A snow scene is
always beautiful at sunset, and this was exceptionally so, as the long
indigo shadows on the plain threw into greater definiteness the
gleaming, glittering hills, at one time dazzling in the sunshine, at
another flushed in the sunset. The plain of Feraghan as seen from the
roof was one smooth expanse of pure deep snow, broken only by brown
splashes, where mud villages were emphasised by brown poplars, the
unbroken, unsullied snow, two feet deep on the level and any number in
the drifts, looking like a picture of the Arctic Ocean, magnificent in
its solitude, one difficult track, a foot wide, the solitary link with
the larger world which then seemed so very far away.

Things went better yesterday on the whole, though the mercury fell to
zero in the night, and I was awakened several times by the cold of my
open room, and when a number of people came at daylight for medicines
my fingers were so benumbed that I could scarcely measure them. What a
splendid field for a medical missionary loving his profession this
plain with its 650 villages would be, where there are curable diseases
by the hundred! Many of the suffering people have told me that they
would give lodging and the best of their food to any English doctor
who would travel among them.

The loads were well balanced yesterday, and Hadji only pulled his over
once and only rolled off once, when Abbas Khan exclaimed, "He's not a
man; why did Allah make such a creature?" We got off at nine, the
roofs being crowded to see us start. Fuel is very scarce at Ahang
Garang. For the cooking and "parlour" fire, the charge was forty-five
_krans_, or about twenty-eight shillings! Probably this included a
large _modakel_. For a room from two to four _krans_ is expected.

Through M----'s kindness I now have a good horse to ride, and the
difference in fatigue is incredible. We embarked again on the vast
plain of snow. It was a grim day, and most ghastly and desolate this
end of the plain looked, where the waters having done their
fertilising work are lost in a salt lake, the absolutely white hills
round the plain being emphasised by the blue neutral tint of the sky.
For the first ten miles there was little more than a breeze, for the
last ten a pitiless, ruthless, riotous north-easterly gale, blowing up
the snow in hissing drifts, as it swept across the plain with a
desolate screech.

The coverings with which we were swaddled were soon penetrated. The
cold seemed to enter the bones, and to strike the head and face like a
red-hot hammer, stunning as it struck, the tears wrung from the eyes
were frozen, at times even the eyelids were frozen together. The
frozen snow hit one hard. Hands and feet were by turns benumbed and in
anguish, terrific blasts loaded with hard lumps of snow came down from
the hills, snow was drifting from all the white ranges above us; on
the more exposed part of the track the gusts burst with such violence
as to force some of the mules off it to flounder in the deep snow; my
Arab was struck so mercilessly on his sore swollen eyes that at times
I could scarcely, with my own useless hands, induce him to face the
swirls of frozen snow. Swifter and more resistless were the ice-laden
squalls, more and more obliterated became the track, till after a
fight of over three hours, and the ceaseless crossing of rolling
hills and deep hollows, we reached the top of a wind-bared slope 7700
feet in altitude and saw this village, looking from that distance
quite imposing, on a hill on the other side of a stream crossed by a
brick bridge, with a ruined fort on a height above it. It promised
shelter--that was all. Below the village there was an expanse of snow,
sloping up to pure white hills outlined against an indigo depth of
ominous-looking clouds.

While M---- went up a hill for some scientific work, I followed the
orderly, who could scarcely sit on his horse from pain and weakness,
into the most wretchedly ruinous, deserted-looking village I have yet
seen, epitomising the disenchantment which a near view of an Eastern
city brings, and up a steep alley to a ruinous yard heaped with
snow-covered ruins, on one side of which were some ruinous rooms,
their backs opening on a precipice above the river, and on the
north-east wind. I tumbled off my horse, Abbas Khan, the least sick of
the men, with benumbed hands breaking my fall. The severe cold had
stiffened all my joints. We could scarcely speak; the bones of my face
were in intense pain, and I felt as if the cold were congealing my

With Abbas Khan's help I chose the rooms, the worst we have ever had.
The one I took for myself has an open-work door facing the wind, and
it is impossible to have a fire, for the draught blows sticks, ashes,
and embers over the room. The others are worse. It is an awful night,
blowing and snowing; all the men but two are _hors de combat_. The
poor orderly, using an Afghan phrase, said, "The wind has played the
demon with me." He has a fearful cough, and hæmorrhage from the lungs
or throat. The cook is threatened with pleurisy. It may truly be
called "Hospital Sunday." The day has been chiefly spent in making
mustard poultices, which M---- is constantly crossing the yard in
three feet of snow to put on, and protectors for the chests and backs,
preparing beef tea, making up medicines, etc.

Surely things must have reached their worst. Out of seven men only one
servant, and he an Indian lad with a fearful squint and eyes so badly
inflamed that he can hardly see where he puts things down, is able to
do anything. Two of the _charvadars_ are lying ill in the stable.
Mustard plasters, Dover's powders, salicylate of soda, emetics,
poultices, clinical thermometers, chlorodyne, and beef tea have been
in requisition all day. The cook, the Afghan orderly, and Hadji seem
really ill. At eight this morning groans at my door took me out, and
one of the muleteers was lying there in severe pain, with the hard
fine snow beating on him. Later I heard fresh moaning on my threshold,
and found Hadji fallen there with my breakfast. I got him in and he
fell again, upsetting the tea, and while I attended to him the big
dogs ate up the _chapatties_! He had a good deal of fever, and severe
rheumatism, and on looking at his eyes I saw that he was nearly blind.
He lost his blue glasses some days ago. I sent him to bed in the
"kitchen" for the whole day, where he lay groaning in comfort by the
fire with his opium pipe and his tea. He thinks he will not survive
the night, and has just given me his dying directions!

Afterwards M---- came for the thermometer and chlorodyne, and remarked
that my room was "unfit for a beast." The truth is I share it with
several very big dogs. It did look grotesquely miserable last
night--black, fireless, wet, dirty, with all my things lying on the
dirty floor, having been tumbled about by these dogs in their search
for my last box of Brand's meat lozenges, which they got out of a
strong, tightly-tied-up bag, which they tore into strips. On going for
my fur cloak to-day, these three dogs, who, I believe, would take on
civilisation more quickly than their masters, were all found rolled up
under it, and lying on my bed.

The mercury in the "parlour" with a large fire cannot be raised above
36°. In my room to-night the wet floor is frozen hard and the mercury
is 20°. This is nothing after 12° and 16° below zero, but the furious
east wind and a singular dampness in the air make it very severe.
Yesterday, before the sky clouded over, there was a most remarkable
ring or halo of prismatic colours round the sun, ominous of the storm
which has followed.

This place standing high without shelter is fearfully exposed; there
is no milk and no comfort of any kind for the sick men. We have
decided to wrap them up and move them to Kûm, where there is a Persian
doctor with a European education; but it is a great risk, though the
lesser of two. I have just finished four protectors for the back and
chest, three-quarters of a yard long by sixteen inches wide, buttoning
on the shoulders, of a very soft felt _namad_ nearly half an inch
thick--a precaution much to be commended.

I think that Hadji, though in great pain, poor fellow, is partly
shamming. He professed this evening to have violent fever, and the
thermometer shows that he has none. Even the few things which I
thought he had done for me, such as making _chapatties_, I find have
been done by others. It is a pity for himself as well as for me that
he should be so incorrigibly lazy.

_Taj Khatan, Feb. 18._--Yesterday we had a severe march, and owing
first to the depth of the snow, and then to the depth of the mud, we
were seven hours in doing twenty-one miles. The wind was still
intensely cold--bitter indeed. There are few remarks to be made about
a country buried in snow. The early miles were across the fag end of
the dazzling plain of Feraghan, which instead of being covered with
villages is an uninhabited desert with a salt lake. Then the road
winds among mountains of an altitude of 8000 and 9000 feet and more,
its highest point being 8350 feet, where we began a descent which will
land us at Tihran at a level under 4000 feet. Snowy mountains and
snowy plains were behind--bare brown earth was to come all too soon.

Winding wearily round low hills, meeting caravans of camels to which
we had to give way, and of asses floundering in the snow, we came in
the evening to a broad slope with villages, poplars, walnuts, and
irrigated lands, then to the large and picturesquely situated village
of Givr on a steep bank above a rapid stream, and just at dusk to the
important village of Jairud, also on high ground above the same river,
and surrounded by gardens and an extraordinary number of fruit trees.
The altitude is 6900 feet.[21] I had a _balakhana_, very cold, and was
fairly benumbed for some time after the long cold march.

A great many people applied for medicine, and some of the maladies,
specially when they affect children, make one sick at heart. Hadji is
affecting to be stone deaf, so he no longer interprets for sick
people, which creates an additional difficulty. We left this morning
at ten, descended 2000 feet, and suddenly left the snow behind. Vast,
gray, and grim the snow-covered mountains looked as they receded into
indigo gloom, with snow clouds drifting round their ghastly heads and
across the dazzling snow plains in which we had been floundering for
thirty days. It is strange to see mother earth once more--rocky, or
rather stony hills, mud hills, mud plains, mud slopes, a brown world,
with a snow world above. Two pink hills rise above the brown plain,
and some toothed peaks, but the rest of the view is simply hills and
slopes of mud and gravel, bearing thorns, and the relics of last
year's thistles and wormwood. The atmospheric colouring is, however,
very fine.

  [Illustration: PERSIAN BREAD-MAKING.]

This is a large village with beehive roofs in, and of, mud. A quagmire
surrounds it and is in the centre of it, and the crumbling houses are
thrown promiscuously down upon it. It is nearly the roughest place I
have seen, and the worst accommodation, though Abbas Khan says it is
the best house in the village. My room has an oven in the floor,
neatly lined with clay, and as I write the women are making bread by a
very simple process. The oven is well heated by the live embers of
animal fuel. They work the flour and water dough, to which a piece of
leaven from the last baking has been added, into a flat round cake,
about eighteen inches in diameter and half an inch thick, place it
quickly on a very dirty cushion, and clap it against the concave
interior of the oven, withdrawing the cushion. In one minute it is
baked and removed.

A sloping hole in the floor leads to the fowl-house. The skin of a
newly-killed sheep hangs up. A pack saddle and gear take up one
corner, my bed another, and the owner's miscellaneous property fills
up the rest of the blackened, cracked mud hovel, thick with the sooty
cobwebs and dust of generations. The door, which can only be shut by
means of a wooden bolt outside, is six inches from the ground, so that
fowls and cats run in and out with impunity. Behind my bed there is a
doorless entrance to a dark den, full of goat's hair, bones, and other
stores. In front there is a round hole for letting in light, which I
persistently fill up with a blanket which is as persistently
withdrawn. There is no privacy, for though the people are glad to let
their rooms, they only partially vacate them, and are in and out all
the time. Outside there is mud a foot deep, then a steep slope, and a
disgusting green pool, and the drinking water is nauseous and
brackish. The village people here and everywhere seem of a very
harmless sort.

_Kûm, Ash Wednesday, 1890._--It was really very difficult to get away
from Taj Khatan. The _charvadar_ came on here, leaving only two men to
load twelve mules. M---- practically had to load them himself, and to
reload them when the tackle broke and the loads turned. Hadji and the
cook were quite incapable, the Afghan orderly, who seemed like a dying
man, was left behind; in fact there were no servants and no
interpreters, and the groom was so ill he could hardly sit on a horse.

The march of twenty-five miles took fully eight hours, but on the Arab
horse, and with an occasional gallop, I got through quite comfortably,
and have nothing to complain of. The road lies through a country of
mud hills, brown usually, drab sometimes, streaked with deep madder
red, and occasionally pale green clay--stones, thistles, and thorns
their only crop. [I passed over much of this country in the spring,
and though there were a few flowers, chiefly bulbs, and the thorns
were clothed with a scanty leafage, and the thistles and artemisia
were green-gray instead of buff, the general aspect of the region was
the same.] There was not a village on the route, only two or three
heaps of deserted ruins and two or three ruinous mud _imamzadas_, no
cultivation, streams, or springs, the scanty pools brackish, here and
there the glittering whiteness of saline efflorescence, not a tree or
even bush, nothing living except a few goats, picking up, who knows
how, a scanty living,--a blighted, blasted region, a land without a
_raison d'être_.

Then came low mud ranges, somewhat glorified by atmosphere, higher
hills on the left, ghastly with snow which was even then falling,
glimpses far away to the northward of snowy mountains among heavy
masses of sunlit clouds, an ascent, a gap in the mud hills, some low
peaks of white, green, and red clay, a great plain partly green with
springing wheat, and in the centre, in the glow of sunset, the golden
dome and graceful minarets of the shrine of Fatima, the sister of
Reza, groups of trees, and the mud houses, mud walls, and many domes
and minarets of the sacred city of Kûm.

Descending, we trotted for some miles through irrigated wheat, passed
a walled garden or two, rode along the bank of the Abi Khonsar or Abi
Kûm, which we had followed down from Givr, admired the gleaming domes
and tiled minarets of the religious buildings on its bank, and the
nine-arched brick bridge which spans it, and reached a sort of hotel
outside the gates, a superior caravanserai with good, though terribly
draughty guest-rooms upstairs, furnished with beds, chairs, and
tables, suited for the upper class of pilgrims who resort to this
famous shrine.

To have arrived here in good health, and well able for the remaining
journey of nearly a hundred miles, is nothing else than a triumph of
race, of good feeding through successive generations, of fog-born
_physique_, nurtured on damp east winds!

There is an air of civilisation about this place. The rooms have
windows with glass panes and doors which shut, a fountain in front,
beyond that a garden, and then the river, and the golden shrine of
Fatima and its exquisite minarets. My door opens on a stone-flagged
roof with a fine view of the city and hills--an excellent place for
taking exercise. So strong is Mohammedan fanaticism here that much as
I should like to see the city, it would be a very great risk to walk
through it except in disguise.

M---- borrowed a _taktrawan_ from the telegraph clerk and sent it back
with two horses to Taj Khatan for the orderly, who was left there very
ill yesterday morning, under Abbas Khan's charge, the Khan feeling so
ill that he lay down inside it instead of riding. Hadji gave up work
altogether, so I unpacked and pitched my bed, glad to be warmed by
exercise. Near 8 P.M. Abbas Khan burst into the "parlour" saying that
the _taktrawan_ horses were stuck in the mud. He evidently desired to
avoid the march back, but two mules have been sent to replace the
horses, and two more are to go to-morrow. The orderly was so ill that
I expect his corpse rather than himself.

This morning Hadji, looking fearful, told me that he should die
to-day, and he and the cook are now in bed in opposite corners of a
room below, with a good fire, feverish and moaning. It is really a
singular disaster, and shows what the severity of the journey has
been. The Persian doctor, with a European medical education, on whom
our hopes were built, when asked to come and see these poor men,
readily promised to do so; but the Princess, the Shah's daughter,
whose physician he is, absolutely refuses permission, on the ground
that we have come through a region in which there is supposed to be

     I. L. B.


[20] This custom, supposed to be an allusion to our Lord and His
mother, is described by Morier in his _Second Journey in Persia_.

[21] Jairud exports fruit to Kûm and even to Tihran, and in the autumn
I was interested to find that the best pears and peaches in the
Hamadan market came from its luxuriant orchards.


     KÛM, _Feb. 21_.

At five yesterday afternoon Abbas Khan rode in saying that the
_taktrawan_, with the orderly much better, was only three miles off.
This was good news; a mattress was put down for him next the fire and
all preparations for his comfort were made. Snow showers had been
falling much of the day, there was a pitiless east wind, and as
darkness came on snow fell persistently. Two hours passed, but no
_taktrawan_ arrived. At 7.30 Abbas Khan was ordered to go in search of
it with a good lantern; 8, 9, 10 o'clock came without any news. At
10.30, the man whose corpse I had feared to see came in much
exhausted, having crawled for two miles through the mire and snow. The
_sowar_, who pretended to start with the lantern, never went farther
than the coffee-room at the gate, where he had spent an
unconscientious but cheery evening!

In the pitch darkness the _taktrawan_ and mules had fallen off the
road into a gap, the _taktrawan_ was smashed, and a good white mule,
one of the "light division," was killed, her back being broken. This
was not the only disaster. Hadji had lain down on the borrowed
mattress and it had taken fire from the live ashes of his pipe and was
burned, and he was a little scorched.

The telegraphist was to have started for Isfahan the next morning with
his wife and child in the litter, in order to vacate the house for
the new official and his family, and their baggage had actually
started, but now they are detained till this _taktrawan_ can be
repaired. In the meantime another official has arrived with his goods
and a large family, a most uncomfortable situation for both parties,
but they bear it with the utmost cheerfulness and good nature.

Last night I made Hadji drink a mug of hot milk with two
tablespoonfuls of brandy in it, and it worked wonders. This morning,
instead of a nearly blind man groping his way about with difficulty, I
beheld a man with nothing the matter but a small speck on one eye. It
must have been snow-blindness. He looks quite "spry." It is not only
the alcohol which has cured him, but that we are parting by mutual
consent; and feeling sorry for the man, I have given him more than his
wages, and his full demand for his journey back to Bushire, with
additional warm clothing. M---- has also given him a handsome present.

I fear he has deceived me, and that the stone deafness, feebleness,
idiocy, and the shaking, palsied gait of a man of ninety--all but the
snow-blindness--have been assumed in order to get his return journey
paid, when he found that the opportunities for making money were not
what he expected. It is better to be deceived twenty times than to be
hard on these poor fellows once, but he has been exasperating, and I
feel somewhat aggrieved at having worked so hard to help a man who was
"malingering." The last seen of him was an active, erect man walking
at a good pace by the side of his mule, at least forty years thrown
off. [He did not then leave Kûm, but being seized with pleurisy was
treated with great kindness by Mr. Lyne the electrician, and
afterwards by the Amin-es-Sultan (the Prime Minister), who was
visiting Kûm, and who, thinking to oblige me, brought him up to
Tihran in his train!] Those who had known him for years gave a very
bad account of him, but said that if he liked he could be a good
servant. It is the first time that I have been unfortunate in my
travelling servant.

The English telegraph line, and a post-office, open once a week, are
the tokens of civilisation in Kûm. A telegraphic invitation from the
British Minister in Tihran, congratulatory telegrams on our safety
from Tihran, Bushire, and India, and an opportunity for posting
letters, make one feel once more in the world. The weather is grim,
bitterly cold, with a strong north-east wind, raw and damp, but while
snow is whitening the hills only rain and sleet fall here. The sun has
not shone since we came, but the strong cold air is invigorating like
our own climate.

Taking advantage of it being Friday, the Mohammedan day of rest, when
most of the shops are closed and the bazars are deserted, we rode
through a portion of them preceded by the wild figure of Abbas Khan,
and took tea at the telegraph office, where they were most kind and
pleasant regarding the accident which had put them to so much

Kûm is on the beaten track, and has a made road to Tihran. Almost
every book of travels in Persia has something to say upon it, but
except that it is the second city in Persia in point of sanctity, and
that it thrives as much by the bodies of the dead which are brought in
thousands for burial as by the tens of thousands of pilgrims who
annually visit the shrine of Fatima, and that it is renowned for
fanaticism, there is not much to say about it.

Situated in a great plain, the gleam of its golden dome and its
slender minarets is seen from afar, and the deep green of its
orchards, and the bright green of the irrigated and cultivated lands
which surround it, are a splash of welcome fertility on the great
brown waste. Singular toothy peaks of striated marl of brilliant
colouring--red, blue, green, orange, and salt peaks very white--give a
curious brilliancy to its environment, but this salt, which might be a
source of wealth to the city, is not worked, only an ass-load or two
at a time being brought in to supply the necessities of the market.

  [Illustration: THE SHRINE OF FATIMA.]

The shrine of Fatima, the sister of Reza the eighth Imam, who sleeps
at Meshed, is better to Kûm than salt mines or aught else. Moslems,
though they regard women with unspeakable contempt, agree to reverence
Fatima as a very holy and almost worshipful person, and her dust
renders Kûm a holy place, attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims
every year, although, unlike pilgrimages to Meshed and Kerbela, Kûm
confers no lifelong designation on those by whom it exists. Its
estimated population is 10,000 souls, and at times this number is
nearly doubled. Pilgrimage consists in a visit to the tomb of Fatima,
paying a fee, and in some cases adding a votive offering. Vows of
abstinence from some special sin are frequently made at the shrine
and are carefully registered.

The dead, however, who are annually brought in thousands to be buried
in the sacred soil which surrounds the shrine, are the great source of
the wealth of Kûm. These corpses travel, as to Kerbela, on mules, four
being lashed on one animal occasionally, some fresh, some decomposing,
others only bags of exhumed bones. The graves occupy an enormous area,
of which the shrine is the centre. The kings of the Kajar dynasty,
members of royal families, and 450 saints are actually buried within
the precincts of the shrine. The price of interments varies with the
proximity to the dust of Fatima from six _krans_ to one hundred
_tumans_. The population may be said to be a population of
undertakers. Death meets one everywhere. The Ab-i-Khonsar, which
supplies the drinking water, percolates through "dead men's bones and
all uncleanness." Vestments for the dead are found in the bazars.
Biers full and empty traverse the streets in numbers. Stone-cutting
for gravestones is a most lucrative business. The _charvadars_ of Kûm
prosper on caravans of the dead. There is a legion of gravediggers.
Kûm is a gruesome city, a vast charnel-house, yet its golden dome and
minarets brighten the place of death.

The dome of Fatima is covered with sheets of copper plated with gold
an eighth of an inch in thickness, and the ornament at the top of the
dome, which is of pure gold, is said to weigh 140 lbs. The slender
minarets which front this _imamzada_ are covered with a mosaic of
highly-glazed tiles of exquisite tints, in which an azure blue, a
canary yellow, and an iridescent green predominate, and over all there
is a sheen of a golden hue. The shrine is inaccessible to Christians.
I asked a Persian doctor if I might look in for one moment at the
threshold of the outer court, and he replied in French, "Are you then
weary of life?"[22]

My Indian servant, an educated man on whose faithful though meagre
descriptions I can rely, visited the shrine and describes the dome as
enriched with arabesques in mosaic and as hung with _ex votos_,
consisting chiefly of strips of silk and cotton. The tomb itself, he
says, is covered with a wooden ark, with certain sacred sentences cut
upon it, and this is covered by a large brown shawl. Round this ark,
which is under the dome, Kerman, Kashmir, and Indian shawls are laid
down as carpets. This open space is surrounded with steel railings
inlaid with gold after the fashion of the _niello_ work of Japan, and
the whole is enclosed with a solid silver fence, the rails of which
are "as thick as two thumbs, and as high as a tall man's head." This
_imamzada_ itself is regarded as of great antiquity.

Two Persian kings, who reigned in the latter part of the seventeenth
century, are buried near the beautiful minarets, which are supposed to
be of the same date. There are many mosques and minarets in Kûm,
besides a quantity of conical _imamzadas_, the cones of which have
formerly been covered with glazed blue tiles of a turquoise tint, some
of which still remain. It was taken by the Afghans in 1772, and though
partially rebuilt is very ruinous. It has a mud wall, disintegrating
from neglect, surrounded occasionally by a ditch, and at other times
by foul and stagnant ponds. The ruinousness of Kûm can scarcely be

The bazars are large and very busy, and are considerably more
picturesque than those of Kirmanshah. The town lives by pilgrims and
corpses, and the wares displayed to attract the former are more
attractive than usual. There are nearly 450 shops, of which
forty-three sell Manchester goods almost exclusively. Coarse china,
and pottery often of graceful shapes with a sky-blue glaze, and
water-coolers are among the industries of this city, which also makes
shoes, and tans leather with pomegranate bark.

The Ab-i-Khonsar is now full and rapid, but is a mere thread in
summer. The nine-arched bridge, with its infamously paved roadway
eighteen feet wide, is an interesting object from all points of view,
for while its central arch has a span of forty-five feet, the others
have only spans of twenty. The gateway beyond the bridge is tawdrily
ornamented with blue and green glazed tiles. After seeing several of
the cities of Persia, I am quite inclined to give Kûm the palm for
interest and beauty of aspect, when seen from any distant point of

That it is a "holy" city, and that a pilgrimage to its shrine is
supposed to atone for sin, are its great interests. Its population is
composed in large proportion of _mollahs_ and _Seyyids_, or
descendants of Mohammed, and as a whole is devoted to the reigning
Shiah creed. It has a theological college of much repute, established
by Fath' Ali Shah, which now has 100 students. The women are said to
be very devout, and crowd the mosques on Friday evenings, when their
devotions are led by an _imam_. The men are fanatically religious,
though the fanaticism is somewhat modified. No wine may be sold in
Kûm, and no Jew or Armenian is allowed to keep a shop.

Kûm, being a trading city, manufactures a certain amount of public
opinion in its business circles, which differs not very considerably
from that which prevails at Kirmanshah. The traders accept it as a
foregone conclusion that Russia will occupy Persia as far as Isfahan
on the death of the present Shah, and regard such a destiny as
"fate." If only their religion is not interfered with, it matters
little, they say, whether they pay their taxes to the Shah or the
Czar. To judge from their speech, Islam is everything to them, and
their country very little, and the strong bond of the faith which
rules life and thought from the Pillars of Hercules to the Chinese
frontier far outweighs the paltry considerations of patriotism. But my
impression is that all Orientals prefer the tyrannies and exactions,
and the swiftness of injustice or justice of men of their own creed
and race to good government on the part of unintelligible aliens, and
that though Persians seem pretty comfortable in the prospect of a
double occupation of Persia, its actual accomplishment might strike
out a flash of patriotism.

Probably this ruinous, thinly-peopled country, with little water and
less fuel, and only two roads which deserve the name, has
possibilities of resurrection under greatly changed circumstances. Of
the two occupations which are regarded as certain, I think that most
men, at least in Central and Southern Persia, would prefer an English
occupation, but every one says, "England talks and does not act," and
that "Russia will pour 100,000 troops into Persia while England is
talking in London."

     I. L. B.


[22] I spent two days at Kûm five weeks later, and saw the whole of it
in disguise, and in order to attain some continuity of description I
put my two letters together.



Twelve hours and a half of hard riding have brought us here in two
days. No doctor could be obtained in Kûm, and it was necessary to
bring the sick men on as quickly as possible for medical treatment. It
was bitterly cold on the last day, though the altitude is only 3400
feet, and it was a tiresome day, for I had not only to look over and
repack, but to clean the cooking utensils and other things, which had
not been touched apparently since we left Baghdad!

This is a tedious part of the journey, a "beaten track" with few
features of interest, the great highway from Isfahan to Tihran, a road
of dreary width; where it is a made road running usually perfectly
straight, with a bank and a ditch on each side. The thaw is now
complete, and travelling consists of an attempt to get on by the road
till it becomes an abyss which threatens to prove bottomless, then
there is a plunge and a struggle to the top of the bank, or over the
bank to the trodden waste, but any move can be only temporary, the
all-powerful mire regulates the march. The snow is nothing to the mud.
Frequently carcasses of camels, mules, and asses, which have lain down
to die under their loads, were passed, then caravans with most of the
beasts entangled in the miry clay, unable to rise till they were
unloaded by men up to their knees in the quagmire, and, worst of all,
mules loaded with the dead, so loosely tied up in planks that in some
cases when the mule flounders and falls, the miserable relics of
humanity tumble out upon the swamp; and these scenes of falling,
struggling, and even perishing animals are repeated continually along
the level parts of this scarcely passable highroad.

Our loads, owing to bad tackle, were always coming off, the groom's
mule fell badly, the packs came off another, and half an hour was
spent in catching the animal, then I was thrown from my horse into
soft mud.

Cultivation ceases a short distance from Kûm, giving place to a brown
waste, with patches of saline efflorescence upon it, on which high
hills covered partially with snow send down low spurs of brown mud.
The water nearly everywhere is brackish, and only just drinkable.
After crossing a rapid muddy river, nearly dry in summer, by a much
decayed bridge of seven or eight low arches, we reached _terra firma_,
and a long gradual ascent and a series of gallops brought us to the
large caravanserai of Shashgird, an immense place with imposing
pretensions which are fully realised within. In the outer court camels
were lying in rows. A fine tiled archway leads to an immense
quadrangle, with a fine stone _abambar_ or covered receptacle for
water in the middle. All round the quadrangle are arched recesses or
mangers, each with a room at the back, to the number of eighty. At two
of the corners there are enclosed courtyards with fountains, several
superior rooms with beds (much to be avoided), chairs, mirrors, and
tables fairly clean--somewhat dreary luxury, but fortunately at this
season free from vermin. That caravanserai can accommodate 1000 men in
rooms, and 1500 mules.

To-day's long march, which, however, has had more road suitable for
galloping, has been over wild, weird, desolate, God-forsaken country,
interesting from its desolation and its great wastes, forming part of
the Kavir or Great Salt Desert of Persia, absolutely solitary, with
scarcely a hamlet--miles of the great highway of Persia without a
living creature, no house, no bush, nothing. Later, there were some
vultures feasting on a dead camel, and a mule-load of two bodies down
in the mud.

Some miles from Shashgird, far from the road, there is a large salt
lake over which some stationary mists were brooding. Beyond this an
ascent among snow clouds along some trenched land where a few vines
and saplings have been planted leads to a caravanserai built for the
accommodation of state officials on their journeys, where in falling
snow we vindicated our origin in the triumphant West by taking lunch
on a windy verandah outside rather than in the forlorn dampness of the
inside, and brought a look of surprise even over the impassive face of
the _seraidar_.

When we left the snow was falling in large wet flakes, and the snow
clouds were drifting wildly among the peaks of a range which we
skirted for a few miles and then crossed at a considerable height
among wonderful volcanic formations, mounds of scoriæ, and outcrops of
volcanic rock, hills of all shapes fantastically tumbled about,
chiefly black, looking as if their fires had only just died out,
streaked and splotched with brilliant ash--orange, carmine, and
green--a remarkable volcanic scene, backed by higher hills looking
ghastly in the snow.

After passing over an absolutely solitary region of camel-brown plains
and slopes at a gallop, M---- a little in front always, and Abbas
Khan, the wildest figure imaginable, always half a length behind, the
_thud_ of the thundering hoofs mingling with the screech of the
cutting north wind which, coming over the snowy Elburz range, benumbed
every joint, on the slope of a black volcanic hill we came upon the
lofty towers and gaudy tiled front of this great caravanserai,
imposing at a distance in the solitude and snow clouds, but shabby on
a nearer view, and tending to disintegrate from the presence of
saltpetre in the bricks and mortar.

There are successions of terraces and tanks of water with ducks and
geese upon them, and buildings round the topmost terrace intended to
be imposing. The _seraidar_ is expecting the Amin-es-Sultan (the Prime
Minister) and his train, who will occupy rather a fine though tawdry
"suite of apartments"; but though they were at our service, I prefer
the comparative cosiness of a small, dark, damp room, though with a
very smoky chimney, as I find to my cost.

_British Legation, Tihran, Feb. 26._--The night was very cold, and the
reveille specially unwelcome in the morning. The people were more than
usually vague about the length of the march, some giving the distance
at twenty-five miles, and others making it as high as thirty-eight. As
we did a good deal of galloping and yet took more than seven hours, I
suppose it may be about twenty-eight. Fortunately we could desert the
caravan, as the caravanserais are furnished and supply tea and bread.
The baggage mules took ten hours for the march.

The day was dry and sunny, and the scenery, if such a tract of
hideousness can be called scenery, was at its best. Its one charm lies
in the solitude and freedom of a vast unpeopled waste.

The "made road" degenerates for the most part into a track "made"
truly, but rather by the passage of thousands of animals during a long
course of ages than by men's hands. This track winds among low ranges
of sand and mud hills, through the "Pass of the Angel of Death,"
crosses salt and muddy streams, gravelly stretches, and quagmires of
mud and tenacious clay, passing through a country on the whole
inconceivably hideous, unfinished, frothy, and saturated with
salt--the great brown desert which extends from Tihran to Quetta in
Beloochistan, a distance of 2000 miles.

On a sunny slope we met the Prime Minister with a considerable train
of horsemen. He stopped and spoke with extreme courtesy, through an
interpreter, for, unlike most Persians of the higher class, he does
not speak French. He said we had been for some time expected at
Tihran, and that great fears were entertained for our safety, which we
had heard at Kûm. He is a pleasant-looking man with a rather European
expression, not more than thirty-two or thirty-three, and in spite of
intrigues and detractors has managed to keep his hazardous position
for some years. His mother was lately buried at Kûm, and he was going
thither on pilgrimage. After the usual compliments he bowed his
farewells, and the gay procession with its brilliant trappings and
prancing horses flashed by. The social standing of a Persian is
evidenced by the size of his retinue, and the first of the Shah's
subjects must have been attended by fully forty well-mounted men,
besides a number of servants who were riding with his baggage animals.

Shortly after passing him a turn among the hills brought the
revelation through snow clouds of the magnificent snow-covered chain
of the Elburz mountains, with the huge cone of Demavend, their
monarch, 18,600 feet[23] in height, towering high above them, gleaming
sunlit above the lower cloud-masses. Swampy water-courses, a fordable
river crossed by a broad bridge of five arches, more low hills, more
rolling desert, then a plain of mud irrigated for cultivation,
difficult ground for the horses, the ruins of a deserted village
important enough to have possessed two _imamzadas_, and then we
reached the Husseinabad, which has very good guest-rooms, with mirrors
on the walls.

This caravanserai is only one march from Tihran, and it seemed as if
all difficulties were over. Abbas Khan and the sick orderly were sent
on early, with a baggage mule loaded with evening dress and other
necessities of civilisation; the caravan was to follow at leisure, and
M---- and I started at ten, without attendants, expecting to reach
Tihran early in the afternoon.

It is six days since that terrible ride of ten hours and a half, and
my bones ache as I recall it. I never wish to mount a horse again. It
had been a very cold night, and for some time after we started it was
doubtful whether snow or rain would gain the day, but after an hour of
wet snow it decided on rain, and there was a steady downpour all day.
The Elburz range, which the day before had looked so magnificent when
fifty miles off, was blotted out. This was a great disappointment.

An ascent of low, blackish volcanic hills is made by a broad road of
gray gravel, which a torrent has at some time frequented. Thorns and
thistles grow there, and skeletons of animals abound. Everything is
grim and gray. From these hills we descended into the Kavir, a rolling
expanse of friable soil, stoneless, strongly impregnated with salt,
but only needing sufficient water to wash the salt out of it and to
irrigate it to become as prolific as it is now barren.

It is now a sea of mud crossed by a broad road indicated by dykes,
that never-to-be-forgotten mud growing deeper as the day wore on. Hour
after hour we plunged through it, sometimes trying the road, and on
finding it impassable scrambling through the ditches and over the
dykes to the plain, which after offering firmer foothold for a time
became such a "slough of despond" that we had to scramble back to the
road, and so on, hour after hour, meeting nothing but one ghastly
caravan of corpses, and wretched asses falling in the mud.

At mid-day, scrambling up a gravel hill with a little wormwood upon
it, and turning my back to the heavy rain, I ate a lunch of dates and
ginger, insufficient sustenance for such fatigue. On again!--the rain
pouring, the mud deepening, my spine in severe pain. We turned off to
a caravanserai, mostly a heap of ruins, the roofs having given way
under the weight of the snow, and there I sought some relief from pain
by lying down for the short thirty minutes which could be spared in
the _seraidar's_ damp room. It was then growing late in the afternoon,
all landmarks had disappeared in a brooding mist, there were no
habitations, and no human beings of whom to ask the way.

The pain returned severely as soon as I mounted, and increased till it
became hardly bearable. Ceaseless mud, ceaseless heavy rain, a plain
of mud, no refuge from mud and water, attempts to gallop were made
with the risk of the horses falling into holes and even _kanaats_.
M---- rode in front. Not a word was spoken. A gleaming dome, with
minarets and wood, appeared below the Shimran hills. Unluckily, where
two roads met one looked impassable and we took the other, which,
though it eventually took us to Tihran, was a _détour_ of some miles.

In the evening, when I was hoping that Tihran was at hand, we reached
the town of Shah Abdul Azim, built among the ruins of an ancient city,
either Rhages or Rhei. The gilded dome is the shrine of Abdul Azim,
and is a great place of pilgrimage of the picnic order from Tihran.
The one railroad of Persia runs from the capital to this town. As we
floundered in darkness along wide roads planted with trees, there was
the incongruity of a railway whistle, and with deep breathing and much
glare an engine with some carriages passed near the road, taking away
with its harsh Western noises that glorious freedom of the desert
which outweighs all the hardship even of a winter journey.

It was several miles from thence to the gate of Tihran. It was nearly
pitch dark when we got out of Abdul Azim and the rain still fell
heavily. In that thick rainy darkness no houses were visible, even if
they exist, there were no passengers on foot or on horseback, it was a
"darkness which might be felt."

There was a causeway which gave foothold below the mud, but it was
full of holes and broken culverts, deep in slime, and seemed to have
water on each side not particular in keeping within bounds. It was
necessary to get on, lest the city gates should be shut, and by
lifting and spurring the jaded horses they were induced to trot and
canter along that road of pitfalls. I have had many a severe ride in
travelling, but never anything equal to that last two hours. The
severe pain and want of food made me so faint that I was obliged to
hold on to the saddle. I kept my tired horse up, but each flounder I
thought would be his last. There was no guidance but an occasional
flash from the hoofs of the horse in front, and the word "spur"
ringing through the darkness.

After an hour of riding in this desperate fashion we got into water,
and among such dangerous holes that from that point we were obliged to
walk our horses, who though they were half dead still feebly responded
to bit and spur. We reached the dimly-lighted city gate just as half
of it was shut, and found Abbas Khan waiting there. The caravan with
the other sick men never reached Tihran till late the next morning.

At the gate we learned that it was two miles farther to the British
Legation, and that there was no way for me to get there but on
horseback. One lives through a good deal, but I all but succumbed to
the pain and faintness. Inside the gate there was an open sea of
liquid mud, across which, for a time, certain lights shed their
broken reflections. There was a railway shriek, and then the
appearance of a station with shunting operations vaguely seen in a
vague glare.

Then a tramway track buried under several inches of slush came down a
slope, and crowded tramway cars with great single lamps came down the
narrow road on horses too tired to be frightened, and almost too tired
to get out of the way. Then came a street of mean houses and meaner
shops lighted with kerosene lamps, a region like the slums of a new
American city, with _cafés_ and saloons, barbers' shops, and European
enormities such as gazogenes and effervescing waters in several
windows. Later, there were frequent foot passengers preceded by
servants carrying huge waxed cambric lanterns of a Chinese shape, then
a square with barracks and artillery, a causewayed road dimly lit,
then darkness and heavier rain and worse mud, through which the
strange spectacle of a carriage and pair incongruously flashed.

By that time even the courage and stamina of an Arab horse could
hardly keep mine on his legs, and with a swimming head and dazed brain
I could hardly guide him, as I had done from the gate chiefly by the
wan gleam of Abbas Khan's pale horse; and expecting to fall off every
minute, I responded more and more feebly and dubiously to the question
frequently repeated out of the darkness, "Are you surviving?"

Just as endurance was on the point of giving way, we turned from the
road through a large gateway into the extensive grounds which surround
the British Legation, a large building forming three sides of a
quadrangle, with a fine stone staircase leading up to the central
door. Every window was lighted, light streamed from the open door,
splashed carriages were dashing up and setting down people in evening
dress, there were crowds of servants about, and it flashed on my
dazed senses that it must be after eight, and that there was a dinner

Arriving from the mud of the Kavir and the slush of the streets, after
riding ten hours in ceaseless rain on a worn-out horse; caked with mud
from head to foot, dripping, exhausted, nearly blind from fatigue,
fresh from mud hovels and the congenial barbarism of the desert, and
with the rags and travel-stains of a winter journey of forty-six days
upon me, light and festivity were overwhelming.

Alighting at a side door, scarcely able to stand, I sat down in a long
corridor, and heard from an English steward that "dinner is waiting."
His voice sounded very far off, and the once familiar announcement
came like a memory out of the remote past. Presently a gentleman
appeared in evening dress, wearing a star, which conveyed to my
fast-failing senses that it was Sir H. Drummond Wolff. It was true
that there was a large dinner party, and among the guests the Minister
with thoughtful kindness had invited all to whom I had letters of
introduction. But it was no longer possible to make any effort, and I
was taken up to a room in which the comforts of English civilisation
at first made no impression upon me, and removing only the mackintosh
cloak, weighted with mud, which had served me so well, I lay down on the
hearthrug before a great coal fire till four o'clock the next morning.
And "so the tale ended," and the winter journey with its tremendous
hardships and unbounded mercies was safely accomplished.[24]

     I. L. B.


[23] The altitude of Demavend is variously stated.

[24] I remained for three weeks as Sir H. Drummond Wolff's guest at
the British Legation, receiving from him that courtesy and considerate
kindness which all who have been under his roof delight to recall. I
saw much of what is worth seeing in Tihran, including the Shah and
several of the Persian statesmen, and left the Legation with every
help that could be given for a long and difficult journey into the
mountains of Luristan.


It is a matter of individual taste, but few cities in the East
interest me in which national characteristics in architecture,
costume, customs, and ways generally are either being obliterated or
are undergoing a partial remodelling on Western lines. An Eastern city
pure and simple, such as Canton, Niigata, or Baghdad, even with
certain drawbacks, forms a harmonious whole gratifying to the eye and
to a certain sense of fitness; while Cairo, Tokio, Lahore, and I will
now add Tihran, produce the effect of a series of concussions.

Tihran--set down on a plain, a scorched desert, the sublimity of which
is interfered with by _kanaats_ or underground watercourses with their
gravel mounds and ruinous shafts--has few elements of beauty or
grandeur in its situation, even though "the triumphant barbarism of
the desert" sweeps up to its gates, and the scored and channelled
Shimran range, backed by the magnificent peak, or rather cone, of
Demavend, runs to the north-east of the city within only ten miles of
its walls.

The winter with its snow and slush disappeared abruptly two days after
I reached Tihran, and as abruptly came the spring--a too transient
enjoyment--and in a few days to brownness and barrenness succeeded a
tender mist of green over the trees in the watered gardens, rapidly
thickening into dark leafage in which the _bulbul_ sang, and nature
helped by art spread a carpet of violets and irises over the brown
earth. But all of verdure and greenery that there is lies within the
city walls. Outside is the unconquerable desert, rolling in endless
shades of buff and brown up to the Elburz range, and elsewhere to the
far horizon.

Situated in the most depressed part of an uninteresting waste in Lat.
35° 40´ N. and Long. 51° 25´ E., and at an altitude of 3800 feet, the
climate is one of extremes, the summer extreme being the most severe.
For some weeks the heat is nearly insupportable, and the Legations,
and all of the four hundred Europeans who are not bound to the city by
a fate which they execrate, betake themselves to "yailaks," or summer
quarters on the slopes of the adjacent mountains.

Entering Tihran in the darkness, it was not till I saw it coming back
from Gulahek, the "yailak" of the British Legation, when the mud was
drying up and the willows were in their first young green, that I
formed any definite idea of its aspect, which is undeniably mean, and
presents no evidences of antiquity; indeed, it has no right to present
any, for as a capital it only came into existence a century ago, with
the first king of the present Kajar dynasty. The walls are said to be
eleven miles in circuit, and give the impression of being much too
large, so many are the vacant spaces within them. They consist chiefly
of a broad ditch, and a high sloping rampart without guns. Twelve
well-built domed gateways give access to the city. These are decorated
with glazed tiles of bright colours and somewhat gaudy patterns and
designs, representing genii, lions, and combats of mythical heroes.

Above the wall are seen tree-tops, some tile-covered minarets, the
domes of two mosques, and the iron ribs of a roofless theatre in the
Shah's garden, in which under a temporary awning the _Tazieh_ or
Passion Play (elsewhere referred to) is acted once a year in presence
of the Shah and several thousand spectators.

Entering by a gateway over which is depicted a scene in the life of
Rustem, the Achilles of Persia, or by the Sheikh Abdul Azim gate,
where the custom-house is established and through which all caravans
of goods must reach Tihran, the magnitude of the untidy vacant spaces,
and the shabby mud hovels which fringe them, create an unfavourable
impression. Then there are the inevitable ruinousness, the alleys with
broken gutters in the centre, the pools of slime or the heaps of dust
according to the weather, and the general shabbiness of blank walls of
sun-dried bricks which give one the impression, I believe an unjust
one, of decay and retrogression. I never went through those mean
outskirts of Tihran which are within the city walls without being
reminded of a man in shabby clothes preposterously too big for him.

The population is variously estimated at from 60,000 to 160,000 souls.
It varies considerably with the presence or absence of the Court. The
streets and bazars are usually well filled with people, and I did not
see many beggars or evidences of extreme poverty, even in the Jewish
quarter. On the whole it impressed me as a bustling place, but the
bustle is not picturesque. It is framed in mean surroundings, and
there is little variety in costume, and much sober if not sad

In "old" Tihran the alleys are crooked, dirty, and narrow, and the
bazars chiefly frequented by the poor are very mean and untidy; but
the better bazars, whether built as some are, round small domed open
spaces, or in alleys roofed with low brick domes, are decidedly
handsome, and are light, wide, clean, and in every way adapted for the
purposes of buying and selling. European women, even though
unattended, can walk through them quite freely without being mobbed or
stared at.

The best bazars are piled with foreign merchandise, to the _apparent_
exclusion of native goods, which, if they are of the better quality,
must be searched for in out-of-the-way corners. Indeed, if people want
fine carpets, _curios_, rich embroideries, inlaid arms, and Kerman
stuffs, they must resort to the itinerant dealers, who gauge the
tastes and purchasing powers of every European resident and visitor,
and who may be seen at all hours gliding in a sort of surreptitious
fashion round the Legation compounds, conveying their beautiful
temptations on donkeys' backs.

It is chiefly in the fine lofty saddlery bazar and some small bazars
that native manufactures are _en évidence_. All travelling is on
horseback, and the Persian, though sober in the colours of his costly
clothing, loves crimson and gold in leather and cloth, embroidered
housings and headstalls, and gorgeous saddle-covers for his horse. The
usual saddle is of plain wood, very high before and behind, and
without stuffing. A thick soft _namad_ or piece of felt covers the
horse's back, and over this are placed two or more saddle-cloths
covered with a very showy and often highly ornamental cover, with
tasselled ends, embroidered in gold and silks and occasionally with
real gems. The saddle itself is smoothly covered with a soft
ornamental cover made to fit it, and the crupper, breastplate, and
headstall are frequently of crimson leather embroidered in gold, or
stitched ingeniously with turquoise beads.

The mule, whether the pacing saddle-mule worth from £60 to £80, much
affected by rich Persians in Tihran, or the humbler beast of burden,
is not forgotten by the traders in the great saddlery bazar. Rich
_charvadars_ take great pride in the "outfit" of their mules, and do
not grudge twenty _tumans_ upon it. Hence are to be seen elaborate
headstalls, breastplates, and straps for bells, of showy embroidery,
and leather stitched completely over with turquoise beads and
cowries--the latter a favourite adornment--while cowried headstalls
are also ornamented with rows of woollen tassels dyed with beautiful
vegetable dyes. In this bazar too are found _khurjins_--the great
leather or carpet saddle-bags without which it is inconvenient to
travel--small leather portmanteaus for strapping behind the saddles of
those who travel _chapar_, _i.e._ post,--cylindrical cases over two
feet long which are attached in front of the saddle--decorated
holsters, the multifarious gear required for the travelling
pipe-bearers, the deep leather belts which are worn by _chapar_
riders, the leathern water-bottles which are slung on the saddles, the
courier bags, and a number of other articles of necessity or luxury
which are regarded as essential by the Persian traveller.

In most of the bazars the shops are packed to the ceiling with foreign
goods. It looks as if there were cottons and woollen cloth for the
clothing of all Persia. I saw scarcely any rough woollen goods or
shoddy. The Persian wears superfine, smooth, costly cloth, chiefly
black and fawn, stiff in texture, and with a dull shine upon it. The
best comes exclusively from Austria, a slightly inferior quality from
Germany, and such cloth fabrics as are worn by Europeans from England
and Russia.

The European cottons, which are slowly but surely displacing the heavy
durable native goods, either undyed, or dyed at Isfahan with madder,
saffron, and indigo, are of colours and patterns suited to native
taste, white and canary yellow designs on a red ground predominating,
and are both of Russian and English make, and the rivalry which
extends from the Indian frontier, through Central Asia, is at
fever-heat in the cotton bazars of Tihran. It does not appear that at
present either side can claim the advantage.

In a search for writing paper, thread, tapes, and what are known as
"small wares," I never saw anything that was not Russian. The cheap
things, such as oil lamps, _samovars_, coarse coloured prints of the
Russian Imperial family in tawdry frames, lacquered tin boxes, fitted
work-boxes, glass teacups, china tea-pots, tawdry lacquered trays,
glass brooches, bead necklaces, looking-glasses, and a number of other
things which are coming into use at least in the south-west and the
western portions of the Empire, are almost exclusively Russian, as is
natural, for the low price at which they are sold would leave no
margin of profit on such imports from a more distant country.

A stroll through the Tihran bazars shows the observer something of the
extent and rapidity with which Europe is ruining the artistic taste of
Asia. Masses of rubbish, atrocious in colouring and hideous in form,
the principle of shoddy carried into all articles along with the
quintessence of vulgarity which is pretence, goods of nominal utility
which will not stand a week's wear, the refuse of European markets--in
art Philistinism, in most else "Brummagem," without a quality of
beauty or solidity to recommend them--are training the tastes and
changing the habits of the people.

One squarish bazar, much resorted to for glass and hardware and what
the Americans call "assorted notions," is crammed with Austrian glass,
kerosene lamps of all sizes in hundreds, chandeliers, etc. The amount
of glass exhibited there for sale is extraordinary, and not less
remarkable is the glut of cheap hardware and worthless _bijouterie_.
It is the Lowther Arcade put down in Tihran.

Kerosene and candles may be called a Russian monopoly, and Russia has
completely driven French sugar from the markets. In the foreign town,
as it may be called, there are two or three French shops, an American
shop for "notions," and a German chemist.

The European quarter is in the northern part of Tihran, and is close
to vacant and airy spaces. There are the Turkish Embassy, and the
Legations of England, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Belgium,
Austria, and America, and a Dutch Consulate-General, each with its
Persian _gholams_ who perform escort duty. Their large and shady
compounds, brightened by their national flags, and the stir and
circumstance which surround them, are among the features of the city.
The finest of all the Legation enclosures is that of England, which is
beautifully wooded and watered. The reception-rooms and hall of the
Minister's residence are very handsome, and a Byzantine clock tower
gives the building a striking air of distinction. The grounds contain
several detached houses, occupied by the secretaries and others.

A very distinct part of the foreign quarter is that occupied by the
large and handsome buildings of the American Presbyterian Mission,
which consist of a church occupied at stated hours by a congregation
of the Reformed Armenian Church, and in which in the afternoons of
Sundays Dr. Potter, the senior missionary, reads the English Liturgy
and preaches an English sermon for the benefit of the English-speaking
residents, very fine boarding-schools for Armenian girls and boys, and
the houses of the missionaries--three clerical, one medical, and
several ladies, one of whom is an M.D.

Outside this fine enclosure is a Medical Missionary Dispensary, and
last year, in a good situation at a considerable distance, a very fine
medical missionary hospital was completed. The boys' and girls'
schools are of a very high class. To my thinking the pupils are too
much Europeanised in dress and habits; but I understand that this is
at the desire of the Armenian parents. The missionaries are not
allowed to receive Moslem pupils; but besides Armenians they educate
Jewish youths, some of whom have become Christians, and a few Guebres
or Zoroastrians.

I do not think that the capital is a hopeful place for missionary
work. The presence of Europeans of various creeds and nationalities
complicates matters, and the fine, perhaps too fine, mission buildings
in proximity to the houses of wealthy foreigners are at so great a
distance from the Moslem and Jewish quarters, that persons who might
desire to make inquiries concerning the Christian faith must be
deterred both by the space to be traversed and the conspicuousness of
visiting a mission compound in such a position. The members of the
mission church last year were altogether Armenians. The education and
training given in the schools are admirable.

Indications of the changes which we consider improvements abound in
Tihran. There are many roads accessible to wheeled vehicles. There are
hackney carriages. A tramway carrying thousands of passengers weekly
has been laid down from the _Maidan_ or central square to one of the
southern gates. There are real streets paved with cobble stones, and
bordered with definite sidewalks, young trees, and shops. There is a
railroad about four miles long, from the city to the village of Sheikh
Abdul Azim. There are lamp-posts and fittings, though the light is
somewhat of a failure. There is an organised city police, in smart
black uniforms with violet facings, under the command of Count
Monteforte, an Italian. Soldiers in Europeanised uniforms abound, some
of them, the "Persian Cossacks," in full Russian uniforms; and
military bands instructed by a French bandmaster play European airs,
not always easily recognisable, for the pleasure of the polyglot

All ordinary business can be transacted at the Imperial Bank, which,
having acquired the branches and business of the New Oriental Bank,
bids fair to reign supreme in the commercial world of Persia, the
Shah, who has hitherto kept his hoards under his own eye, having set
an example of confidence by becoming a depositor.

European tailors, dressmakers, and milliners render a resort to Europe
unnecessary. There are at least two hotels where a European may exist.
About five hundred European carriages, many of them Russian, with
showy Russian horses harnessed _à la Russe_, dash about the streets
with little regard to pedestrians, though an accident, if a European
were the offender, might lead to a riot. The carriages of the many
Legations are recognisable by their outriders, handsomely-dressed

But even the European quarter and its newish road, on which are many
of the Legations, some of the foreign shops, and the fine compound and
handsome buildings of the Imperial Bank, has a Persian admixture. Some
of the stately houses of official and rich Persians are there, easily
recognisable by their low closed gateways and general air of
seclusion. Many of these possess exquisite gardens, with fountains and
tanks, and all the arrangements for the out-of-doors life which
Persians love. In the early spring afternoons the great sight of the
road outside the British Legation is the crowd of equestrians, or
rather of the horses they ride. However much the style of street,
furniture, tastes, art, and costume have been influenced by Europe,
fortunately for picturesque effect the Persian, even in the capital,
retains the Persian saddle and equipments.

From later observation I am inclined to think very highly of the
hardiness and stamina of the Persian horse, though at the time of my
visit to Tihran I doubted both. Such showy, magnificent-looking
animals, broken to a carriage which shows them to the best advantage,
fine-legged, though not at the expense of strength, small-eared,
small-mouthed, with flowing wavy manes, "necks clothed with thunder,"
dilated nostrils showing the carmine interior, and a look of scorn and
high breeding, I never saw elsewhere. The tail, which in obedience to
fashion we mutilate and abridge, is allowed in Persia its full
development, and except in the case of the Shah's white horses, when
it is dyed magenta, is perfectly beautiful, held far from the body
like a flag. The arched neck, haughty bearing, and easy handling which
Easterns love are given by very sharp bits; and a crowd of these
beautiful animals pawing the ground, prancing, caracoling, walking
with a gait as though the earth were too vulgar for their touch, or
flashing past at a gallop, all groomed to perfection and superbly
caparisoned, ridden by men who know how to ride, and who are in
sympathy with their animals, is one of the fascinations of Tihran.

Creeping along by the side-walk is often seen a handsome pacing
saddle-mule, or large white ass, nearly always led, carrying a Persian
lady attended by servants--a shapeless black bundle, with what one
supposes to be the outline of a hand clutching the enshrouding black
silk sheet tightly over her latticed white mask: so completely
enveloped that only a yellow shoe without a heel, and a glimpse of a
violet trouser can be seen above the short stirrups.

Another piece of Orientalism unaffected by Western influence is the
music performed daily at sunset in the upper stories of some of the
highly-decorated tiled gateways which lead into and out of the
principal squares. This is evoked from drums, fifes, cymbals, and huge
horns, and as the latter overpower all the former, the effect is much
like that of the braying of the colossal silver horns from the roofs
of the Tibetan _lamaserais_. Many people suppose that this daily
homage to the setting sun is a relic of the ancient fire or sun

Two great squares, one of them with a tank in the middle with a big
gun at each corner, artillery barracks on three sides, and a number of
smooth-bore twenty-four-pounder guns on the fourth, are among the
features of Tihran. In this great _Maidan_ there are always soldiers
in multifarious uniforms lounging, people waiting for the tram-cars,
and Royal footmen, whose grotesque costumes border on the ridiculous.
They are indeed a fitting accompaniment to the Royal horses with their
magenta tails and spots, for they wear red coats with ballet-dancer
skirts and green facings, green knee-breeches, white stockings, and
tall stiff erections resembling a fool's cap on the head, topped by
crests suggestive of nothing but a cock's comb.

A gateway much ornamented leads from the artillery square, or _Maidan
Topkhaneh_, by a short road shaded with trees to the Citadel or Ark,
which is an immense enclosure, rather mangy and unprepossessing in its
exterior, which contains the palace of the Shah, the arsenal, certain
public offices, the royal colleges, etc. Over the gateway floats
rather grandly the Royal standard, bearing the Lion and the Sun in
yellow on a green ground.

The Shah's palace is very magnificent, and the shady gardens,
beautifully kept, with their fountains and tanks of pale blue tiles,
through which clear water constantly moves, are worthy of a Royal
residence. From the outside above the high wall the chief feature is a
very lofty pavilion, brilliantly and elaborately painted, with walls
inclining inwards, and culminating in two high towers. This striking
structure contains the _andarun_ or _haram_ of the sovereign and his
private apartments.

This hasty sketch exhausts those features of Tihran which naturally
arrest the stranger's attention. There is no splendour about it
externally, but there is splendour within it, and possibly few
European residences can exceed in taste and magnificence the palaces
of the Minister of Justice (the _Muschir-u-Dowleh_), the
_Naib-es-Sultan_, the _Zil-es-Sultan_, and a few others, though I
regret that much of the furniture has been imported from Europe, as it
vexes the eye more or less with its incongruity of form and colouring.
The current of European influence, which is affecting externals in
Tihran, is not likely now to be stemmed. Eastern civilisation is
doomed, and the transition period is not beautiful, whatever the
outcome may be.

So much for what is within the walls. That which is outside deserves a
passing notice as the environment of the capital. The sole grandeur of
the situation lies in the near neighbourhood of the Shimran
mountains--a huge wall, white or brown according to the season, with
some irrigated planting near its base, which is spotted with villages
and the _yailaks_ not only of the numerous Legations but of rich
Europeans and Persians. Otherwise the tameless barbarism of a desert,
which man has slashed, tunnelled, delved, and heaped, lies outside the
city walls, deformed by the long lines of _kanaats_--some choked,
others still serviceable--by which the city is supplied with water
from the mountains, their shafts illustrating the Scriptural
expression "ruinous heaps." In the glare of the summer sun, with the
mercury ranging from 95° to 110° in the shade, and with the heated
atmosphere quivering over the burning earth, these wastes are
abandoned to carcasses and the vultures which fatten on them, and
travelling is done at night, when a breeze from the Shimran range
sends the thermometer down from 10° to 15°.

Curving to the south-west of Tihran, the mountains end in a bare
ridge, around the base of which, according to many archæologists, lie
vestiges of the ancient city of Rhages, known in later days as Rhei.
A tomb of brick with angular surfaces, sacred to the memory of an
ancient and romantic attachment, remains of fortifications, and the
Parsee cemetery on a ledge overlooking these remains, break the
monotony of the waste in that direction.

This cemetery, or "Tower of Silence," a white splash on the brown
hillside, is visible from afar. The truncated cones which in many
places mark seats of the ancient Zoroastrian worship have been
mentioned here and there, but it is only in Tihran and Yezd that the
descendants of the ancient fire-worshippers are found in such numbers
as to be able to give prominence to their ancient rites of sepulture.
Probably throughout Persia their number does not exceed 8000. Their
head resides in Tihran. They bear a good character for uprightness,
and except in Yezd, where they weave rich stuffs, they are chiefly
agriculturists. They worship firelight and the sun on the principles
symbolised by both, they never use tobacco, and it is impolite to
smoke in their presence because of the sacredness of fire.

Their belief has been, and is, that to bury the dead in the earth is
to pollute it; and one among the reasons of the persecution of the
early Christians by the Zoroastrians was their abhorrence of the
desecration of the ground produced by the modes of Christian burial.

This "Tower of Silence" near Tihran is a large round edifice of
whitewashed mud and stone. On the top of it, a few feet below the
circular parapet, the dead are laid to be devoured by birds and
consumed by exposure to the elements. The destiny of the spirit is
supposed to be indicated by the eye which is first devoured by the
fowls of the air, the right eye signifying bliss.

In a northern direction, to which the eye always turns to be refreshed
by the purity of the icy cone of Demavend, or to watch the rosy light
deepening into purple on the heights of Shimran, are palaces and
country seats in numbers, with a mass of irrigated plantations
extending for twenty miles, from Van[=e]k on the east to Kamarani[=e]h
on the west. These are reached by passing through the Shimran gate,
the most beautiful of the outer gates, tiled all over with yellow,
black, blue, and green tiles in conventional designs, and with an
immense coloured mosaic over the gateway representing Rust[=e]m,
Persia's great mythical hero, conquering some of his enemies.

On the slopes of the hills are palaces and hunting seats of the Shah,
beginning with the imposing mass of the Kasr-i-Kaj[=a]r, on a low
height, surrounded by majestic groves, in which are enormous tanks.
Palaces and hunting seats of ministers and wealthy men succeed each
other rapidly, a perfect seclusion having been obtained for each by
the rapid growth of poplars and planes, each dwelling carrying out in
its very marked individuality a deference to Persian custom, and each
if possible using running water as a means of decoration. Many of
these palaces are princely, and realise some of the descriptions in
the _Arabian Nights_, with the beauty of their decorated architecture,
the deep shade of their large demesnes, the cool plash of falling
water, the songs of nightingales, and the scent of roses--sensuous
Paradises in which the Persian finds the summer all too short.

Beyond this enchanting region, and much higher up on the mountain
slopes, are the hunting grounds of the Shah and his sons, well stocked
with game and rigidly preserved; for the Shah is a keen sportsman, and
is said to prefer a free life under canvas and the pleasures of the
chase to the splendid conventionalities of the Court of Tihran.

The two roads and the many tracks which centre in the capital after
scoring the desert for many miles around it, are a feature of the
landscape not to be overlooked, the Meshed, Resht, Bushire, and Tabriz
roads being the most important, except the route from Baghdad by
Kirmanshah and Hamadan, which in summer can be travelled by caravans
in twenty-eight days, and by which many bulky articles of value, such
as pianos, carriages, and valuable furniture, find their way to

These are some of the features of the environments of Tihran. A
traveller writing ten years hence may probably have to tell that the
city has extended to its walls, that Western influence is nearly
dominant in externals, and possibly that the _concessionaires_ who for
years have been hanging about the Palace in alternations of hope and
despondency have made something of their concessions, and that goods
reach the capital in another way than on the backs of animals.


[25] A volume of travels in Persia would scarcely be complete without
some slight notice of the northern capital; but for detailed modern
accounts of it the reader should consult various other books,
especially Dr. Wills' and Mr. Benjamin's, if he has not already done

[26] There are _only_ two roads, properly so called, in Persia, though
in the summer wheeled carriages with some assistance can get from
place to place over several of the tracks. These two are the road from
Kûm to the capital, formerly described, and one from Kasvin to the
capital, both under 100 miles in length. Goods are everywhere carried
on the backs of animals.

The distance between Bushire and Tihran is 698 miles.

  The summer freight per ton is          £14 1  8
  The winter         do.                  20 2  0

The distance between Tihran and Resht on the Caspian is 211 miles.

  The summer freight per ton is           £4 0  5-4/5
  The winter         do.                   8 0 11-3/5

  From the Caspian to the Persian Gulf the summer
     freight per ton is                  £18 2  3
  The winter         do.                  28 3  4
    inclusive of some insignificant charges.

The time taken for the transit of goods between Bushire and Tihran is
forty-two days, and between Resht and Tihran twelve days.

The cost per ton by rail, if taken at Indian rates, between the Gulf
and the Caspian, would be £3:11:10.

On these figures the promoters of railway enterprise in Persia build
their hopes.



Three weeks have passed quickly by since that terrible ride from
Husseinabad. The snow is vanishing from the Shimran hills, the spring
has come, and I am about to leave the unbounded kindness and
hospitality of this house on a long and difficult journey. It is very
pleasant to go away carrying no memories but those of kindness,
received not only from Europeans and Americans, but from Persians,
including the Amin-es-Sultan and the Muschir-u-Dowleh.

It is impossible to bear away other than pleasant impressions of
Tihran society. Kindness received personally always sways one's
impressions of the people among whom one is thrown, and even if I had
any unfavourable criticisms to make I should not make them.

Society, or rather I should say the European population, is divided
into classes and knots. There are the eleven American missionaries,
whose duties and interests lie apart from those of the rest of the
community, the diplomatic body, which has a monopoly of political
interests, the large staff of the Indo-European telegraph, married and
single, with Colonel Wells at its head, and the mercantile class, in
which the manager and _employés_ of the Imperial Bank may be included.
Outside of these recognised classes there is a shifting body of
passing travellers, civil and military, and would-be _concessionaires_
and adventurers, besides a few Europeans in Persian employment.

From four to five hundred Europeans is a large foreign settlement, and
it is a motley one, very various in its elements, "and in their
idiosyncrasies, combinations, rivalries, and projects is to be found
an inexhaustible fund of local gossip," writes Mr. Curzon in one of
his recent brilliant letters to the _Times_, "as well as almost the
sole source of non-political interest."

Outside of the diplomatic circle the relations of England and Russia
with each other and with the Shah afford a topic of ceaseless
interest. England is just now considered to be in the ascendant, so
far as her diplomacy is concerned, but few people doubt that Russian
policy will eventually triumph, and that North Persia at least will be

One or two specially pleasant things I must mention. Sir H. Drummond
Wolff kindly wrote asking permission from the Shah for me to see his
Museum, _i.e._ his treasure-house, and we, that is the Minister, the
whole party from the Legation, and Dr. Odling of the telegraph staff
and Mrs. Odling, went there yesterday. There was a great crowd outside
the Palace gates, where we were received by many men in scarlet. The
private gardens are immense, and beautifully laid out, in a more
formal style than I have hitherto seen, with straight, hard gravel
walks, and straight avenues of trees. The effect of the clear running
water in the immense tanks lined with blue tiles is most agreeable and
cool. Continuous rows of orange trees in tubs, and beds of narcissus,
irises, and tulips, with a wealth of trellised roses just coming into
leaf, are full of the promise of beauty. These great pleasure gardens
are admirably kept, I doubt whether a fallen leaf would not be
discovered and removed in five minutes.

The great irregular mass of the Palace buildings on the garden front
is very fine, the mangy and forlorn aspect being confined to the side
seen by the public. The walls are much decorated, chiefly with glazed
and coloured tiles geometrically arranged, and the general effect is

The "Museum," properly the audience chamber, and certainly one among
the finest halls in the world, is approached by a broad staircase of
cream-coloured alabaster. We were received by the Grand Vizier's two
brothers, and were afterwards joined by himself and another high

The decorations of this magnificent hall are in blue and white stucco
of the hard fine kind, hardly distinguishable from marble, known as
_gatch_, and much glass is introduced in the ceiling. The proportions
of the room are perfect. The floor is of fine tiles of exquisite
colouring arranged as mosaic. A table is overlaid with beaten gold,
and chairs in rows are treated in the same fashion. Glass cases round
the room and on costly tables contain the fabulous treasures of the
Shah and many of the Crown jewels. Possibly the accumulated splendours
of pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, basins and vessels
of solid gold, ancient armour flashing with precious stones, shields
studded with diamonds and rubies, scabbards and sword hilts incrusted
with costly gems, helmets red with rubies, golden trays and vessels
thick with diamonds, crowns of jewels, chains, ornaments (masculine
solely) of every description, jewelled coats of mail dating back to
the reign of Shah Ismaël, exquisite enamels of great antiquity, all in
a profusion not to be described, have no counterpart on earth. They
are a dream of splendour not to be forgotten.

One large case contains the different orders bestowed on the Shah, all
blazing with diamonds, a splendid display, owing to the European
cutting of the stones, which brings out their full beauty. There are
many glass cases from two to three feet high and twelve inches or more
broad, nearly full of pearls, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds,
flashing forth their many-coloured light--treasures not arranged, but
piled like tea or rice. Among the extraordinarily lavish uses of gold
and gems is a golden globe twenty inches in diameter, turning on a
frame of solid gold. The stand and meridian are of solid gold set with
rubies. The equator and elliptic are of large diamonds. The countries
are chiefly outlined in rubies, but Persia is in diamonds. The ocean
is represented by emeralds. As if all this were not enough, huge gold
coins, each worth thirty-three sovereigns, are heaped round its base.

At the upper end of the hall is the Persian throne. Many pages would
be needed for a mere catalogue of some of the innumerable treasures
which give gorgeousness to this hall. Here indeed is "Oriental
splendour," but only a part of the possessions of the Shah; for many
gems, including the Dar-i-nur or Sea of Light, the second most famous
diamond in the world, are kept elsewhere in double-locked iron chests,
and hoards of bullion saved from the revenues are locked up in vaults
below the Palace.

If such a blaze of splendour exists in this shrunken, shrivelled,
"depopulated" empire, what must have been the magnificence of the
courts of Darius and Xerxes, into which were brought the treasures of
almost "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them"? Since
seeing this treasure-house I think that many of the early descriptions
of wealth, which I have regarded as Oriental hyperbole, were literal,
and that there was a time in Persia, as in Judea, when "silver was not
accounted of." And to come down from the far off-glories of Darius,
Xerxes, and Khosroe and the Parthian kings, there have been within
almost modern times Persian sovereigns celebrated among other things
for their successful "looting" of foreign kingdoms--Shah Abbas the
great, and Nadir Shah, who scarcely two hundred years ago returned
from the sack of Delhi with gems valued at twenty millions of our

After we had seen most of what was to be seen the Vizier left us, and
we went to the room in which stands the celebrated Peacock Throne,
brought by Nadir Shah from Delhi, and which has been valued at
£2,500,000. This throne is a large stage, with parapets and a high fan
back, and is reached by several steps. It is entirely of gold enamel,
and the back is incrusted with rubies and diamonds. Its priceless
carpet has a broad border, the white arabesque pattern of which is
formed of pearls closely stitched. You will think that I am lapsing
into Oriental exaggeration!

While we were admiring the beautiful view of the gardens from the
windows of this room, Hassan Ali Khan, better known as "the Nawab,"
suggested that we should retire, as the Shah is in the habit of
visiting and enjoying his treasures at a later hour. However, at the
foot of the stairs on the threshold of the vestibule stood the Shah,
the "King of Kings," the "Asylum of the Universe," and that his
presence there was not an accident was shown by the fact that the
Grand Vizier was with him.

Sir Henry advanced, attended by "the Nawab," and presented me, lifting
his hat to the king, who neither then nor when he left us made the
slightest inclination of his head. Hassan Ali Khan, in answer to a
question, mentioned some of my travels, and said that with His
Majesty's permission I wished to visit the Bakhtiari country.[27] The
king pushed up his big horn spectacles and focused his eyes, about
which there is something very peculiar, upon me, with a stare which
would have been disconcerting to a younger person, asked if I were
going to travel alone in his dominions, and if fitting arrangements
had been made; if I had been in Pekin, and had visited Borneo and the
Celebes; said a few other things, and then without a bow turned round
abruptly and walked down the garden with the Amin-es-Sultan.

This accidental and informal presentation was a very pleasant
incident. The Shah is not what I expected from his various portraits.
His manner (though he was said to be very affable on this occasion)
has neither Eastern nor Western polish. He is a somewhat rough-looking
man, well on in middle life, rather dark in complexion, and wearing a
thick dark moustache, probably dyed, as is the custom. The long
twisted moustache conceals the expression of his mouth, and the
spectacles with thick horn rims that of his eyes. He was very simply
dressed. The diamond aigrette and sword with jewelled hilt with which
pictures and descriptions have familiarised us were absent, and this
splendid monarch, the heir of splendour, and the possessor of fabulous
treasures, wore the ordinary Persian high cap of Astrakan lambskin
without any ornament, close-fitting dark trousers with a line of gold
braid, a full-skirted coat of dull-coloured Kerman silk brocade, loose
and open, under which were huddled one or more coats. A watch-chain
composed of large diamonds completed his costume. He did not wear
gloves, and I noticed that his hands, though carefully attended to,
were those of a man used to muscular exercise, strong and wiry.

As the sovereign and his prime minister walked away, it was
impossible not to speculate upon coming events: what will happen, for
instance, when Nasr-ed-Din, possibly the ablest man in the country
which he rules, and probably the best and most patriotic ruler among
Oriental despots, goes "the way of all the earth"? and again, whether
Ali Askar Khan, who has held his post for five years, and who at
thirty-two is the foremost man in Persia after the king, will weather
the storm of intrigue which rages round his head, and resist the
undermining influence of Russia?

I have had two interesting conversations with him, and he was good
enough to propose success to my journey at a dinner at the Legation;
and though, as he does not speak French, the services of an
interpreter were necessary, he impressed me very favourably as a man
of thought, intelligence, and patriotism.

He made one remark which had a certain degree of pathos in it. After
speaking of the severe strictures and harsh criticisms of certain
recent writers, which he said were very painful to Persians, he added,
"I hope if you write you will write kindly, and not crush the
aspirations of my struggling country as some have done."

This Amin-es-Sultan, the faithful or trusted one of the sovereign, the
Grand Vizier or Prime Minister, the second person in the empire, who
unites in his person at this time the ministries of the Treasury, the
Interior, the Court, and Customs, is of humble antecedents, being the
son of a man who was originally an inferior attendant on the Shah in
his hunting expeditions, and is the grandson of an Armenian captive.
Certain persons of importance are bent upon his overthrow, and it can
only be by the continued favour and confidence of the Shah that he can
sustain himself against their intrigues, combined with those of

My visit to the Palace terminated with the sight of another
throne-room opening upon the garden in which a few days hence, with
surroundings of great magnificence, the Shah will receive the
congratulations of the diplomatic corps, and afterwards give a general
audience to the people.

This is an annual ceremony at the festival of No Ruz when the Persian
New Year begins, at the time of the spring solstice, and is probably a
relic of the Zoroastrian worship, though the modern Persians, as
Mohammedans, allege that it is observed to celebrate the birthday of
the Prophet's mother.[28]

Some hours after the close of a splendid ceremony in the audience
chamber, chiefly religious, at which the Shah burns incense on a small
brazier, he descends to the garden, and walking alone along an avenue
of Royal Guards, with the crown of the Kaj[=a]rs, blazing with jewels,
carried in front of him, he seats himself on an alabaster throne, the
foreign ministers having been received previously. This throne is a
large platform, with a very high back and parapets of bold stone
fretwork, supported on marble lions and other figures, and is ascended
by three or four steps.

The populace, which to the number of many thousands are admitted into
the garden, see him seated on his throne, their absolute master, the
lord of life and death. A voice asks if they are content, and they say
they are. A hymn of congratulation is sung, a chief of the Kaj[=a]r
tribe offers the congratulations of the people of Persia, the Hakim of
the people hands the king a jewelled _kalian_, which he smokes, and
showers of gold fall among the populace.

The British Minister is understood to be at this time the most
powerful foreigner in Persia; and as we drove through the crowd which
had assembled at the Palace gates, he was received with all Oriental
marks of respect.

All my intercourse with Persians here has been pleasant, and if I
mention one person particularly, it is owing to a certain interest
which attaches to himself and his possible future, and because some
hours spent at his splendid palace were among the pleasantest of the
many pleasant and interesting ones which I shall hereafter recall.

Yahia Khan, Minister of Justice and Commerce, whose official title is
Muschir-u-Dowleh, was formerly Minister of Foreign Affairs, but
forfeited the confidence of the British Government in supposed
connection with the escape of Ayoub Khan, and being suspected of
Russian proclivities, which he denies, lost his position. He speaks
French perfectly, is credited with very great abilities, and not only
has courteous and charming manners, but thoroughly understands the
customs of Europe.

As the possessor of one of the most magnificent palaces in Persia,
married to the Shah's sister, his son, a youth of eighteen, married to
a daughter of the Vali-'ahd, the heir-apparent, and as the brother of
Mirza Hussein Khan--for long Grand Vizier and _Sipah Salar_, or
Commander-in-Chief, whose gorgeous mosque, scarcely finished, the
finest mosque built in late years by any but a royal personage,
adjoins his house, Yahia Khan is in every way an important personage.

He is the fourth husband of the Shah's sister, who has had a tragic
life and is a very accomplished woman. Her first husband, Mirza
Taghi, when Prime Minister, attempted reforms which would have tended
to diminish the hideous corruption which is the bane of Persian
officialism, and consequently made many enemies, who induced the Shah,
then a young man, to depose him. Worse than deposition was
apprehended, and as it was not etiquette to murder a husband of a
royal princess in her presence, his wife, who loved him, watched him
night and day with ceaseless vigilance for some weeks. But the fatal
day at last came, and a good and powerful man, whose loss is said to
have been an irreparable one to Persia, was strangled by the Shah's
messengers, it is said, in the bath.

Her son, who has married the Shah's grand-daughter, is courteous like
his father, but is apparently without his force.

The Muschir-u-Dowleh invited me to breakfast, along with General
Gordon and Hassan Ali Khan. The _dejeûner_ was altogether in European
style, except that in the centre of the table, among lilies and
irises, a concealed fountain sent up jets of rose-water spray. Sèvres
and Dresden porcelain, the finest damask, and antique and exquisitely
beautiful silver adorned the table. The cooking was French. The wines
and liqueurs, an innovation on Moslem tables now common, but of recent
date, were both French and Persian. The service was perfection. The
host conversed both thoughtfully and agreeably, and expressed himself
remarkably well in French.

Afterwards we were invited to go over the palace and its grounds,
which are remarkably beautiful, and then over the magnificent mosque.
Shiah mosques are absolutely tabooed to Christians; but as this has
not yet been used for worship, our entrance was not supposed to
desecrate it. When quite finished it will be one of the most
magnificent buildings dedicated to religious use in the world, and its
four tile-covered minarets, its vast dome, and arches and façades in
tiled arabesques and conventional patterns and exquisite colouring,
show that the Persian artist when adequately encouraged has not lost
his old feeling for beauty.

Besides the mosque there is a fine building, the low roof of which is
supported by innumerable columns, all of plain brick, resembling a
crypt, which will be used for winter worship. In addition, a lavish
endowment has provided on the grounds a theological college and a
hospital, with most, if not all, of the funds needed for their
maintenance; and on every part of the vast pile of buildings the
architect has lavished all the resources of his art.

No houses are to my thinking more beautiful and appropriate to the
climate and mode of living than those of the upper classes of
Persians, and the same suitability and good taste run down through the
trading classes till one reaches the mud hovel, coarse and un-ideal,
of the workman and peasant.

My memory does not serve me for the details of the Muschir-u-Dowleh's
palace, which, though some of the rooms are furnished with European
lounges, tables, and chairs in _marqueterie_ and brocade, is
throughout distinctively Persian; but the impression produced by the
general _coup d'oeil_, and by the size, height, and perfect
proportion of the rooms, galleries, staircases, and halls, is quite
vivid. The rooms have dados of primrose-coloured Yezd alabaster in
slabs four feet high by three broad, clouded and veined most
delicately by nature. The banqueting hall is of immense size, and the
floor is covered with a dark fawn _namad_ three-quarters of an inch
thick, made, I understood, in one piece eighty feet long by fifty
broad. The carpets are the most beautiful which can be turned out by
Persian looms, and that is saying a great deal.

The roofs, friezes, and even the walls of this house, like those of
others of its class, have a peculiarity of beauty essentially Persian.
This is the form of _gatch_ or fine stucco-work known as _ainah
karee_. I saw it first at Baghdad, and now at Tihran wonder that such
beautiful and costly decoration does not commend itself to some of our
millionaires. Arches filled with honeycomb decoration, either pure
white or tastefully coloured and gilded, are among the architectural
adornments which the Alhambra borrowed from Persia. My impression is
that this exquisite design was taken from snow on the hillsides, which
is often fashioned by a strong wind into the honeycomb pattern.

But the glory of this form of decoration reaches its height when,
after the _gatch_ ceiling and cornice or deep frieze have been
daringly moulded by the workman into distinct surfaces or facets, he
lays on mirrors while the plaster is yet soft, which adhere, and even
at their edges have scarcely the semblance of a joining. Sometimes,
as in the new summer palace of the Shah's third son, the
Naib-es-Sultaneh, the whole wall is decorated in this way; but I
prefer the reception-rooms of Yahia Khan, in which it is only brought
down a few feet. Immense skill and labour are required in this process
of adornment, but it yields in splendour to none, flashing in
bewildering light, and realising the fabled glories of the palaces of
the _Arabian Nights_. One of the _salons_, about sixty feet by fifty,
treated in this way is about the most beautiful room I ever saw.

The Persian architect also shows great art in his windows. He masses
them together, and by this means gives something of grandeur even to
an insignificant room. The beauty of the designs, whether in fretwork
of wood or stone, is remarkable, and the effect is enhanced by the
filling in of the interstices with coloured glass, usually amber and
pale blue. So far as I have seen, the Persian house is never
over-decorated, and however gorgeous the mirror-work, or involved the
arrangement of arches, or daring the dreams in _gatch_ ceilings and
pillars, the fancy of the designer is always so far under control as
to give the eye periods of rest.

Under the palace of the Muschir-u-Dowleh, as under many others, is a
sort of glorified _serdab_, used in hot weather, partly under ground,
open at each end, and finished throughout with marble, the roof being
supported on a cluster of slender pillars with capitals picked out in
gold, and the air being cooled by a fountain in a large marble basin.
But this _serdab_ is far eclipsed by a summer hall in the palace of
the Shah's third son, which, as to walls and ceiling, is entirely
composed of mirror-work, the floor of marble being arranged with
marble settees round fountains whose cool plash even now is delicious.
The large pleasure gardens which surround rich men's houses in the
city are laid out somewhat in the old French style of formality, and
are tended with scrupulous care.

I did not see the _andarun_ of this or any house here, owing to the
difficulty about an interpreter, but it is not likely that the ladies
are less magnificently lodged than their lords. The _andarun_ has its
own court, no one is allowed to open a window looking upon it, it is
as secluded as a convent. No man but the master of the house may
enter, and when he retires thither no man may disturb him. To all
inquirers it is a sufficient answer to say that he is in the
_andarun_. To the Shah, however, belongs the privilege of looking upon
the unveiled face of every woman in Persia. The domestic life of a
Moslem is always shrouded in mystery, and even in the case of the
Shah "the fierce light that beats upon a throne" fails to reveal to
the outer world the number of wives and women in his _andarun_, which
is variously stated at from sixty to one hundred and ninety.

It is not easy in any Eastern city to get exactly what one wants for a
journey, especially as a European cannot buy in the bazars; and the
servant difficulty has been a great hindrance, particularly as I have
a strong objection to the regular interpreter-servant who has been
accustomed to travel with Europeans.

I have now got a Persian cook with sleepy eyes, a portion of a nose,
and a grotesquely "hang-dog" look. For an interpreter and personal
attendant I have an educated young Brahmin, for some years in British
post-office service in the Gulf, and lately a teacher in the American
school here. He speaks educated English, and is said to speak good
Persian. He has never done any "menial" work, but is willing to do
anything in order to get to England. He has a frank, independent
manner and "no nonsense about him." Taking him is an experiment.[29]

     I. L. B.


[27] Some of the Bakhtiari khans or princes, with their families, are
kept by the Shah as hostages in and round Tihran for the loyalty of
their tribes, the conquest of these powerful nomads not being so
complete as it might and possibly will be.

[28] On the eve of the day, the last of a festival of ten days, the
common people kindle rows of bonfires and leap over them; and, though
not on the same day, but on the night of the 25th of February, sacred
in the Armenian Church as the day of the presentation of our Lord in
the temple, large bonfires are lighted on the mud roofs of the
Armenians of the Persian and Turkish cities, and the younger members
of the households dance and sing and leap through the flames.
Meanwhile the Moslems close their windows, so that the sins which the
Christians are supposed to be burning may not enter. Whether these
"Beltane fires" are a relic of the ancient fire worship or of still
older rites may be a question. Among the Christians the custom is
showing signs of passing away.

[29] An experiment I never regretted. Mirza Yusuf was with me for nine
months, and I found him faithful, truthful, and trustworthy, very
hard-working, minimising hardships and difficulties, always cheerful,
and with an unruffled temper, his failings being those of a desk-bred
man transplanted into a life of rough out-doorishness.


     KÛM, _March 23_.

This so far is a delightful journey. All the circumstances are
favourable. A friend who was sending his servants, horses, and baggage
to Isfahan has lent me a thoroughbred, and with a trustworthy young
soldier as my escort I do not trouble myself about the caravan at all,
and get over much of the ground at a gallop. The roads have nearly
dried up, the country looks cheerful, travellers are numerous, living
and dead, the sun is bright but the air is cool and bracing, and the
insects are still hybernating, Mirza Yusuf is getting into my "ways,"
and is very pleasant. I did not think that I could have liked Persian
travelling so well. A good horse and a good pace make an immense
difference. It is not the custom for European ladies to travel
unattended by European gentlemen in Persia, but no objection to my
doing so was made in the highest quarters, either English or Persian,
and so far there have been no difficulties or annoyances.

I left the British Legation at noon four days ago. The handsome Arab,
with a sheepskin coat rolled on the front of the saddle, holsters, and
Persian housings, looked like a life-guardsman's horse. I nearly came
to grief as soon as I got out of the Legation gate; for he would not
stand my English snaffle, and reared and threw himself about, and my
spur touching him as he did so made him quite wild, and I endured
much apprehension all through Tihran, expecting to find myself on the
rough pavement; but I took off the offending spur, and rode him on the
sharp bit he is used to, and when we were outside the gate he
quietened down, and I had a long gallop.

How different it all looks! No more floundering through mud! The trees
of Abdul Azim are green. Caravans are moving fast and cheerily. Even
the dead on their last journey look almost cheerful under the sunny
skies. We did not reach Husseinabad till long after dark. It was so
unspeakably dark that my horse and I fell off the road into deep
water, and we passed the caravanserai without knowing that we were
near it.

The usual disorder of a first night was somewhat worse than usual. The
loads were mixed up, and the servants and _charvadars_ were
quarrelling, and I did not get my dinner till ten; but things are all
right now, and have been since the following morning, when I assumed
the reins of government and saw the mules loaded myself, an efficient
interpreter making my necessary self-assertion intelligible.

Though the spring has set in, most of the country between this and
Tihran looks a complete desert. In February it was a muddy waste--it
is now a dusty waste, on which sheep, goats, and camels pick up a gray
herbage, which without search is not obvious to the human eye, and
consists mostly of wormwood and other bitter and aromatic plants. Off
the road a few tulips and dwarf irises coming up out of the dry ground
show the change of season.

I came for some distance on one day by a road which caravans avoid
because of robbers. It crosses a reddish desert with a few salt
streams and much saline efflorescence, a blasted region without a
dwelling or patch of cultivation. Yet a four-mile gallop across one
part of it was most inspiriting. As the two Arabs, excited by the
pace, covering great spaces of ground with each powerful stride,
dashed over the level gravel I thought, "They'll have fleet steeds
that follow"; but no steed or rider or bird or beast was visible
through all that hungry land. We passed also close to a salt lake on
the Kavir, seen in the distance on the former journey, near which are
now pitched a quantity of Ilyat tents, all black. The wealth of these
nomads is in camels, sheep, and goats. Though the camps, five in
number, were small, they had over 200 camels among them.

Where four weeks ago there was deep mud there is now the glittering
semblance of unsullied snow, and the likeness of frost crystals fills
the holes. _Miles_ of camels loaded with cotton march with stately
stride in single file, the noble mountain camel, with heavy black fur
on neck, shoulder, fore-arm, and haunch, and kindly gentle eyes,
looking, as he is, the king of baggage animals, not degraded by
servitude, though he may carry 800 lbs.

Some of the sights of the road were painful. For instance, just as I
passed a caravan of the dead bound for Kûm a mule collided with
another and fell, and the loosely-put-together boxes on its back gave
way and corpses fell out in an advanced stage of decomposition. A
camel just dead lay in a gully. On a ledge of rock above it seven
gorged vultures (not the bald-headed) sat in a row. They had already
feasted on him to repletion. I passed several dead camels, and one
with a pleading pathetic face giving up the ghost on the road.

Yesterday I rode in here from the magnificent caravanserai of
Shashgird, sixteen miles in three hours before lunch, and straight
through the crowded bazars to the telegraph office unmolested, an
Afghan camel-driver's coat, with the wool outside, having proved so
good a disguise that the _gholam_ who was sent to meet me returned to
his master saying that he had not seen a lady, but that a foreign
soldier and _sahib_ had come into Kûm.

When my visit was over and I had received from Mr. Lyne the route to
Isfahan, and such full information about rooms, water, and supplies as
will enable me to give my own orders, and escape from the tyranny of
the _charvadars_, having sent the horses to the caravanserai I
disguised myself as a Persian woman of the middle class in the dress
which Mrs. Lyne wears in the city, a thick white _crêpe_ veil with
open stitch in front of the eyes, a black sheet covering me from head
to foot, the ends hanging from the neck by long loops, and held with
the left hand just below the eyes, and so, though I failed to imitate
the totter and shuffle of a Persian lady's walk, I passed unnoticed
through the long and crowded streets of this fanatical city, attended
only by a _gholam_, and at the door of my own room was prevented from
entering by the servants till my voice revealed my identity.

Twice to-day I have passed safely through the city in the same
disguise, and have even lingered in front of shops without being
detected. Mr. and Mrs. Lyne have made the two days here very pleasant,
by introducing me to Persians in whose houses I have seen various
phases of Persian life. On reaching one house, where Mrs. Lyne arrived
an hour later, I was a little surprised to be received by the host in
uniform, speaking excellent French, but without a lady with him.

He had been very kind to Hadji, who, he says, is rich and has three
wives. The poor fellow's lungs have been affected for two years, and
the affection was for the time aggravated by the terrible journey. He
talked a good deal about Persian social customs, especially polygamy.

He explained that he has only one wife, but that this is because he
has been fortunate. He said that he regards polygamy as the most
fruitful source of domestic unhappiness, but that so long as
marriages are made for men by their mothers and sisters, a large sum
being paid to the bride's father, a marriage is really buying "a pig
in a poke," and constantly when the bride comes home she is ugly or
bad-tempered or unpleasing and cannot manage the house. "This," he
said, "makes men polygamists who would not otherwise be so.

"Then a man takes another wife, and perhaps this is repeated, and then
he tries again, and so on, and the house becomes full of turmoil.
There are always quarrels in a polygamous household," he said, "and
the children dispute about the property after the father's death." Had
he not been fortunate, and had not his wife been capable of managing
the house, he said that he must have taken another wife, "for," he
added, "no man can bear a badly-managed house."

I thought of the number of men in England who have to bear it without
the Moslem resource.

A lady of "position" must never go out except on Fridays to the
mosque, or with her husband's permission and scrupulously veiled and
guarded, to visit her female friends. Girl-children begin to wear the
_chadar_ between two and three years old, and are as secluded as their
mothers, nor must any man but father or brother see their faces. Some
marry at twelve years old.

"La vie des femmes dans la Perse est très triste," he said. The
absence of anything like education for girls, except in Tihran, and
the want of any reading-book but the Koran for boys and girls, he
regards as a calamity. He may be a pessimist by nature: he certainly
has no hope for the future of Persia, and contemplates a Russian
occupation as a certainty in the next twenty years.

After a long conversation I asked for the pleasure, not of seeing his
wife, but the "mother of his children," and was rewarded by the sight
of a gentle and lovely woman of twenty-one or twenty-two, graceful in
every movement but her walk, exquisitely refined-looking, with a most
becoming timidity of expression, mingled with gentle courtesy to a
stranger. She was followed by three very pretty little girls. The
husband and wife are of very good family, and the lady has an
unmistakably well-bred look.

Though I knew what to expect in the costume of a woman of the upper
classes, I was astonished, and should have been scandalised even had
women only been present. The costume of ladies has undergone a great
change in the last ninety years, and the extreme of the fashion is as
lacking in delicacy as it is in comfort. However, much travelling
compels one to realise that the modesty of the women of one country
must not be judged of by the rules of another, and a lady costumed as
I shall attempt to describe would avert her eyes in horror by no means
feigned from an English lady in a Court or evening-dress of to-day.

The under garment, very much _en évidence_, is a short chemise of
tinselled silk gauze, or gold-embroidered muslin so transparent as to
leave nothing to the imagination. This lady wore a skirt of flowered
silver brocade, enormously full, ten or twelve yards wide, made to
stand nearly straight out by some frills or skirts of very stiffly
starched cotton underneath, the whole, not even on a waistband round
the waist, but drawn by strings, and suspended over the hips, the
skirts coming down to within a few inches of the knee, leaving the
white rounded limbs uncovered. The effect of this exaggerated
_bouffante_ skirt is most singular. White socks are worn. Over the
transparent _pirah[=a]n_, or chemise, she wore a short velvet jacket
beautifully embroidered in gold, with its fronts about ten inches
apart, so as to show the flowered chemise. Her eyebrows were
artificially curved and lengthened till they appeared to meet above
her nose, her eyelashes were marked round with _kohl_, and a band of
blue-black paint curving downwards above the nose crossed her
forehead, but was all but concealed by a small white square of silk
_crêpe_, on the head and brow and fastened under the chin by a brooch.

Had she been in another house she would have worn a large square of
gold-embroidered silk, with the points in front and behind, and
fastened under the chin. Under the _crêpe_ square there was a small
skull-cap of gold-embroidered velvet, matching her little zouave
jacket, with an aigrette of gems at the side. Her arms were covered
with bracelets, and a number of valuable necklaces set off the beauty
of her dazzlingly white neck.

Persian ladies paint, or rather smear, but her young pure complexion
needed no such aids. Her front hair, cut to the level of her mouth,
hung down rather straight, and the remainder, which was long, was
plaited into many small glossy plaits. Contrary to custom, it was
undyed, and retained its jet-black colour. Most Persian ladies turn it
blue-black with indigo, or auburn with _henna_, and with the latter
the finger-nails and palms of the hands are always stained.

Her jewellery was all of solid gold; hollow gold and silver ornaments
being only worn by the poor. She wore a chain with four scent caskets
attached to it exhaling attar of roses and other choice perfumes.

She was a graceful and attractive creature in spite of her costume.
She waited on her husband and on me, that is, she poured out the tea
and moved about the room for hot water and _bonbons_ with the feeble,
tottering gait of a woman quite unaccustomed to exercise, and to whom
the windy wastes outside the city walls and a breezy gallop are quite
unknown. The little girls were dressed in the style of adults, and
wore tinselled gauze _chad[=a]rs_ or _chargats_.

After seeing a good deal of home life during some months in Persia, I
have come to the conclusion that there is no child life. Swaddled till
they can walk, and then dressed as little men and women, with the
adult tyrannies of etiquette binding upon them, and in the case of
girls condemned from infancy to the seclusion of the _andarun_, there
is not a trace of the spontaneity and nonsense which we reckon as
among the joys of childhood, or of such a complete and beautiful child
life as children enjoy in Japan. There does not appear to be any child
talk. The Persian child from infancy is altogether interested in the
topics of adults; and as the conversation of both sexes is said by
those who know them best to be without reticence or modesty, the
purity which is one of the greatest charms of childhood is absolutely
unknown. Parental love is very strong in Persia, and in later days the
devotion of the mother to the boy is amply returned by the grown-up
son, who regards her comfort as his charge, and her wishes as law,
even into old age.

When tea was over the host retired with the remark that the ladies
would prefer to amuse themselves alone, and then a Princess and
another lady arrived attended by several servants. This Princess came
in the black silk sheet with a suggestion of gold about its border
which is the street disguise of women of the richer classes, and she
wore huge bag-like violet trousers, into which her voluminous skirts
were tucked.

She emerged from these wrappings a "harmony" in rose colour--a comely
but over-painted young woman in rose and silver brocade skirts, a rose
velvet jacket embroidered in silver, a transparent white muslin
_pirah[=a]n_ with silver stars upon it, and a _chargat_ of white
muslin embroidered in rose silk.

She and the hostess sat on a rug in front of a fire, and servants now
and then handed them _kalians_. The three little girls and the guest's
little girl were in the background. The doors were then fastened and a
number of servants came in and entertained their mistresses. Two sang
and accompanied themselves on a sort of tambourine. Tea was handed
round at intervals. There was dancing, and finally two or three women
acted some little scenes from a popular Persian play. By these
amusements, I am told, the women of the upper classes get rid of time
when they visit each other; and they spend much of their lives in
afternoon visiting, taking care to be back before sunset. After a long
time the gentle hostess, reading in my face that I was not enjoying
the performances, on which indeed unaccustomed English eyes could not
look, brought them to a close, and showed me some of her beautiful
dresses and embroidered fabrics.

Putting on my disguise and attended by a servant I walked a third time
unrecognised and unmolested through the crowded bazars, through the
gate and across the bridge, when a boy looked quite into my shroud,
which I was not perhaps clutching so tightly as in the crowd, and
exclaiming several times _Kafir_, ran back into the city. I did not
run, but got back to the "hotel" as fast as possible.

It is very noisy, and my room being on the ground floor, and having
three doors, there is little peace either by day or night. Thirteen
days from the _No Ruz_ or New Year, which was March 21, are kept as a
feast before the severe fast of the Ramazan, and this city of pilgrims
is crowded, and all people put on new clothes, the boys being chiefly
dressed in green.

To-morrow I begin my journey over new ground.

     I. L. B.


     KASHAN, _March 26_.

I have seen the last of Kûm and hotels and made roads for many months.
So much the better! I had to ride the whole length of the bazars and
the city, a mile and a half, but the camel-driver's coat served again
as a disguise, and I heard no remarks except from two boys. Indeed I
am delighted to find that the "foreign soldier" who rides in front of
me attracts so much curiosity that I pass in his wake unnoticed.

The ruinous condition of Kûm is fearful. Once outside the houses and
bazars which surround the shrine of Fatima, the town is mostly rubbish
and litter, with forlorn, miserable houses created out of the rubbish,
grouped near festering pools; broken causeways infamously paved, full
of holes, heaps of potsherds, bones obtruding themselves, nothing to
please and everything to disgust the eye and sadden the spirit,
religious intolerance, a diminished population, and desolation.

The pottery bazar, abounding in blue glazed ware of graceful shapes,
and a number of shrines of saints, are the only objects of interest.
The domes of the latter were once covered with blue tiles, but these
have nearly all peeled off, leaving the universal mud--a mud so
self-asserting everywhere that Persia may be called the "Great Mud
Land." The cherry and apricot trees are in full bloom, but as yet
there is little greenery round Kûm, and the area of cultivation is
very limited.

I am now on the road which, with the exception of that from Tihran to
Resht, is best known to travellers,[30] but I cannot help sketching it
briefly, though the interests are few considering the distance
travelled, 280 miles from Tihran to Isfahan. I now see Persia for the
first time; for traversing a country buried in snow is not seeing it.
It would be premature to express the opinion that the less one sees of
it the more one is likely to admire it.

I have been _en route_ for a week under the best possible
circumstances--the nights always cool, the days never too warm, the
accommodation tolerable, the caravan in excellent working order, no
annoyances, and no grievances. The soldier who attends me arranges
everything for my comfort, and is always bright and kind. I have no
ambition to "beat the record," but long gallops on a fine Arab horse
turn marches of from twenty-two to thirty miles into delightful
morning rides of from three and a half to four and a half hours, with
long pleasant afternoons following them, and sound sleep at night.
These are my halcyon days of Persian travelling; and yet I cannot
write that Persia is beautiful.

It is early spring, and tulips and irises rise not out of a carpet of
green but, to use the descriptive phrase of Isaiah, "as a root out of
a dry ground," the wormwood is dressed in its gray-green, the buds of
the wild dwarf-almond show their tender pink, the starry blossom of
the narcissus gleams in moist places, the sky is exquisitely blue, and
shining cloud-masses fleck the brown hillsides with violet shadows.
Where there is irrigation carpets of young wheat cover the ground; but
these, like the villages, occur only at long intervals, for the road
passes mainly through a country destitute of water, or rather of
arrangements for storing it.

As to natural trees there are none, and even the bushes are few and
unlovely, chiefly camel thorn and a rigid and thorny tamarisk. Beyond
Kûm there is no made road. A track worn by the caravans of ages
exists,--sometimes parallel ruts for a width of half a mile, sometimes
not two yards wide, and now and then lapsing into illegibility. There
are large and small caravanserais of an inferior class along the
route, and _chapar khanas_ at intervals. Water is often bad and
sometimes brackish. It is usually supplied from small brick
_abambars_, or covered reservoirs. Milk is hard to obtain, often
impossible; at some places fowls can be bought for eightpence each,
and "flap jacks" everywhere.

Except the snowy cone of Demavend, with purple ranges curtaining his
feet, no special object of admiration exists; the plains are reddish,
yellowish, barren, gravelly, or splotched with salt; the ranges of
hills, which are never far off (for Persia is a land of mountains),
are either shapeless and gravelly, or rocky, rugged, and splintered,
their hue reddish and purplish, their sides scored by the spring rush
of wasted torrents, their aspect one of complete desolation, yet not
without a certain beauty at this season--rose-flushed in the early
morning, passing through shades of cobalt and indigo through the day,
and dying away at sunset in translucent amethyst against a sky of
ruddy gold.

But, take away the atmospheric colouring--which the advancing heat
will abolish--and the plain English of the route is this, that in
every direction, far as the eye can reach, the country is a salt waste
or a gravelly waste, with a few limited oases of cultivation on the
plains and in the folds of the hills, always treeless, except round a
few of the villages, where there are small groves of poplars and
willows. The villages are clusters of mud hovels, scarcely
distinguishable from the wastes, and many of them are ruined and
deserted, oppressive exactions or a failure of water being common
reasons for a migration. These dismal ruins are shapeless heaps of
mud, the square towers of the square walls alone retaining any
semblance of form.

Long lines of choked _kanaats_, denoted by their crumbling shafts,
attest the industrious irrigation of a former day. Tracks wind wearily
among shrunken villages, or cross ridges of mud or gravel to take
their unlovely way over arid stony plains. Unwatered tracts of land,
once cultivated, as the _kanaats_ show, but now deserts of sand and
stones, send up gyrating clouds of gritty dust.

Such is Persia between its two capitals; and yet I repeat that in cool
weather, and on a good horse, the journey is a very pleasant one. Most
European men ride _chapar_, that is, post; but from what I see of the
_chapar_ horses, I would not do it for the sake of doubling the
distance travelled in the day, and therefore cannot describe either
its pleasures or tortures from experience.

On certain roads, as from Tihran to Shiraz, there are post stations
(_chapar khana_) with horses and men at distances of from twenty to
twenty-five miles, with a charge of one _kran_ (eightpence) per
_farsakh_ (four miles) for each horse engaged, an order having been
previously obtained from a government official. Besides your own horse
you have to take one for the _shasgird chapar_, or post-boy, who has
to take the horses back, and one for the servant. The two latter carry
the very limited kit, which includes a long cotton bag, which, being
filled with chopped straw at night, forms the traveller's bed. The
custom is to ride through all the hours of daylight whenever horses
are to be got, doing from sixty to ninety miles a day, always
inspired by the hope of "cutting the record," even by half an hour,
and winning undying fame.

The horses, which are kept going at a canter so long as they can be
thrashed into one, are small and active, and do wonders; but from the
strain put upon them, bad feeding, sore backs, and general
dilapidation and exhaustion, are constantly tumbling down. Several
times I have seen wretched animals brought into the yards, apparently
"dead beat," and after getting some chopped straw and a little barley
thrashed into a canter again for twenty-five miles more, because the
traveller could not get a remount. They often fall down dead under
their riders, urged by the heavy _chapar_ whip to the last.

Riding _chapar_, journeying in a _taktrawan_ or litter, or in a
_kajaweh_, or riding caravan pace, by which only about thirty miles a
day can be covered, are the only modes of travelling in Persia, though
I think that with capable assistance a carriage might make the journey
from Tihran as far as Kashan.

I lodge in the _chapar khanas_ whenever I can. They consist of mud
walls fourteen feet high, enclosing yards deep in manure, with
stabling for the _chapar_ horses on two sides, and recesses in their
inner walls for mangers. The entrance is an arched gateway. There are
usually two dark rooms at the sides, which the servants occupy and
cook in, and over the gateway is the _balakhana_, an abortive tower,
attained by a steep and crumbling stair, in which I encamp. The one
room has usually two doors, half-fitting and non-shutting, and perhaps
a window space or two, and the ashes of the last traveller's fire.

Such a breezy rest just suits me, and when my camp furniture has been
arranged and I am enjoying my "afternoon tea," I feel "monarch of all
I survey," even of the boundless desert, over which the cloud shadows
chase each other till it purples in the light of the sinking sun. If
there is the desert desolation there is also the desert freedom.

The first halt was delicious after the crowds and fanaticism of Kûm. A
broad plain with irrigated patches and a ruinous village was passed;
then came the desert, an expanse of camel-brown gravel thickly strewn
with stones, with a range of low serrated brown hills, with curious
stratification, on the east. A few caravans of camels, and the _haram_
of the Governor of Yezd in closely-covered _kajawehs_, alone broke the
monotony. Before I thought we were half-way we reached the _abambars_,
the small brown caravanserai, and the _chapar khana_ of Passangh[=a]m,
having ridden in three hours a distance on which I have often expended

Cool and breezy it was in my room, and cooler and breezier on the flat
mud roof; and the lifting of some clouds in the far distance to the
north, beyond the great sweep of the brown desert, revealed the mighty
Elburz range, white with new-fallen snow. At Sinsin the next evening
it was gloriously cold. There had been another heavy snowfall, and in
the evening the Elburz range, over a hundred miles away, rose in
unsullied whiteness like a glittering wall, and above it the colossal
cone of Demavend, rose-flushed.

The routine of the day is simple and easy. I get the caravan off at
eight, lie on the floor for an hour, gallop and walk for about half
the march, rest for an hour in some place, where Mahboud, the soldier,
always contrives to bring me a glass of tea, and then gallop and walk
to the halting-place, where I rest for another hour till the caravan
comes in. I now know exactly what to pay, and by giving small presents
get on very easily.

There were many uncomfortable prophecies about the annoyances and
rudenesses which a lady travelling alone would meet with, but so far
not one has been fulfilled. How completely under such circumstances
one has to trust one's fellow-creatures! There are no fastenings on
the doors of these breezy rooms, and last night there was only the
longitudinal half of a door, but I fell asleep, fearing nothing worse
than a predatory cat.

The last two days' marches have been chiefly over stony wastes, or
among low hills of red earth, gray gravel, and brown mud, with low
serrated ranges beyond, and farther yet high hills covered with snow,
after which the road leaves the hills and descends upon a pink plain,
much of the centre of which is snow-white from saline efflorescence.
The villages Kasseinabad, Nasrabad, and Aliabad are passed on the
plain, with small fruit trees and barley surrounding them, and great
mud caravanserais at intervals, only remarkable for the number of
camels lying outside of them in rows facing each other. In the fresh
keen air of evening the cone of Demavend was painted in white on the
faint blue sky, reddening into beauty as the purple-madder shadows
deepened over the yellow desert.

Tea made with saltish water, and salt sheep's milk, have been the only
drawbacks of the six days' march.

Not far from Kashan we entered on a great alluvial plain formed of
fine brown earth without a single stone--a prolific soil if it had
water, as the fruit trees and abundant crops of young wheat round the
villages show. So level, and on the whole so smooth, is this plain
that it possesses the prodigy of a public conveyance, an omnibus with
four horses abreast, which makes its laborious way with the aid of
several attendants, who lift the wheels out of holes, prevent it from
capsizing, and temporarily fill up the small irrigation ditches which
it has to cross. Its progress is less "by leaps and bounds" than by
jolts and rolls, and as my Arab horse bounded past I wondered that six
men could be found to exchange the freedom of the saddle for such a
jerky, stuffy box.

Five hundred yards from the gate of Kashan there is a telegraph
station of the Indo-European line, where M. du Vignau and his wife
expected me, and have received me with great kindness and hospitality.
The electricians at these stations are allowed to receive guests in
what is known as the "Inspectors' Room," and they exercise this
liberty most kindly and generously. Many a weary traveller looks back
upon the "Inspectors' Room" as upon an oasis in the desert of dirt;
and though I cannot class myself just now with "weary travellers," I
cordially appreciate the kindness which makes one "at home," and the
opportunity of exchanging civilised ideas for a few hours.

I must not go beyond Kashan without giving a few words to the Persian
section of the Indo-European telegraph line, one of the greatest
marvels of telegraph construction, considering the nature of the
country which the line traverses. Tihran is the centre of telegraphic
control, and the residence of Colonel Wells, R.E., the Director, with
a staff of twenty telegraphists, who work in relays day and night, and
a Medical Officer. Julfa is another place of importance on the line,
and at Shiraz there is another Medical Officer.

The prompt repair of the wires in cases of interruption is carefully
arranged for. At suitable places, such as Kûm, Soh, Kashan, and other
towns or villages from fifty to eighty miles apart, there are control
or testing stations, each being in charge of a European telegraphist,
who has under him two Persian horsemen, who have been well trained as
linesmen. At stated hours the clerks place their instruments in
circuit, and ascertain if all is right.

If this testing reveals any fault, it can be localised at once, and
horsemen are despatched from the control stations on either side of
it, with orders to ride rapidly along the line until they meet at the
fault and repair it. As the telegraph crosses passes such as
Kuhr[=u]d, at an altitude of over 8000 feet, the duties of both
inspectors and linesmen are most severe, full not only of hardship but
of danger in terrible winter storms and great depths of snow, yet on
their ceaseless watchfulness and fidelity the safety of our Indian
Empire may some day depend.

The skill brought to bear upon the manipulation of this Government
line from the Gulf, and throughout the whole system of which it is a
part, is wonderful. Messages from any part of the United Kingdom now
reach any part of India in less than an hour and a half, and in only
about one word in two hundred does even the most trifling mistake
occur in transmission, a result all the more surprising when it is
remembered that the telegrams are almost entirely either in code or
cypher, and that over 1000 are transmitted in the course of a day.

Among these are the long despatches continually passing between the
Viceroy of India and the India Office on vitally important subjects,
and press telegrams of every noteworthy event. The "exhaustive
summary" of Indian news which appears weekly in the _Times_,
accompanied by a commentary on events, is an altogether un-padded
telegram, and is transmitted with punctuation complete, and even with
inverted commas for quotations.[31]

The English staff, numbering from fifty to sixty men, is scattered
along a line of 1900 miles. Some of them are married, and most occupy
isolated positions, so far as other Europeans are concerned. It is the
universal testimony of Englishmen and Persians that the relations
between them have been for many years of the most friendly character,
full of good-will and mutual friendly offices, and that the continual
contact brought about by the nature of the duties of the electricians
has been productive not of aversion and distrust, but of cordial
appreciation on both sides.

     I. L. B.


[30] It is new to me, however, and may be new to a large proportion of
the "untravelled many" for whom I write.

[31] Major-General Sir R. Murdoch Smith, K.C.M.G., late Director of
the Persian section of the Indo-European telegraph, read a very
interesting paper upon it before the Royal Scottish Geographical
Society on December 13, 1888,--a _Sketch of the History of Telegraphic
Communication between the United Kingdom and India_.

LETTER XI (_Continued_)

Kashan is one of the hottest places on the great Persian plateau, but
has the rare luxury of a good water supply brought from a reservoir
some distance off in the Kuhr[=u]d mountains. It has a much-diminished
population, said now to number 30,000 souls. Much of it is in ruins,
and much more is ruinous. It has a thriving colony of Jews. It is
noted for its silks and velvets; but the modern productions are
regarded by judges as degenerate. It is still famous for its work in
copper and for its great copper bazar.

Silk produced at Resht is brought here to be spun and dyed. Then it is
sent to Sultanabad to be woven into carpets, and is brought back again
to have the pile cut by the sharp instruments used for cutting velvet
pile, and the finished carpets are sent to Tihran for sale. They are
only made in small sizes, and are more suitable for _portières_ than
for laying on the floor. The colouring is exquisite, and the metallic
sheen and lustre are unique. Silk carpets are costly luxuries. The
price of even a fairly good one of very small size is £50, the silk
alone costing £20.

Kashan is a great place for _curio_ buyers, who enlist the Jews in
their service. There are some valuable antiques in this
house--embroideries, carpet squares in silk, glass whose greenish
colour and grace of form remind me of Venetian glass, enamels on
porcelain, tiles, metal inlaying and damascening, pierced brasswork,
and many other articles of _vertu_, the art of making which is either
lost or has greatly degenerated.

It is unaccountable, but it is certain that the secret of producing
the higher types of beauty in various arts, especially the Keramic,
died out more than one hundred and fifty years ago, and that there are
no circumstances of that date to account for its decease, except that
it is recorded that when the Afghan conqueror Mahmoud destroyed
Isfahan he massacred the designers of _reflêt_ tiles and other Keramic
beauties, because they had created works which gave great umbrage to
the Sunni sect to which he belonged.

These _reflêts_, for which collectors give fabulous sums, are
intrinsically beautiful, both in the elegant conceptions of their
designs and the fantastic richness of their colouring. There are
designs in shades of brown on a lapis-lazuli ground, or in blue and
green on a purple or umber ground, some of them star-shaped, with a
pure white border composing the rest of the square, on which are
inscribed phrases from the Koran. Looked at from above or frontwise,
one exclaims, "What a beautiful tile!" but it is on turning it to the
light that one's stereotyped phrases of admiration are exchanged for
silence in presence of a singular iridescence which transfigures the
tile, making it seem to gleam from within with golden purples and rosy

The mosaic tiles are also beautiful, especially where the mosaic is on
a lapis-lazuli or canary-yellow ground, neither of them reproducible
at this day; and this also refers to other shades of blue, and to
various reds and browns of exceeding richness, the art of making which
has been lost for a century. But enough of art!

Possibly there may be a resurrection for Persian art; but in the
meantime aniline dyes, tawdry European importations, and Western
models without either grace or originality are doing their best to
deprave it here, as elsewhere.

Roads from Tihran, Gulpaigan, Yezd, and Isfahan meet here, and it is
something of what the Americans call "a distributing point," but it is
a most uninviting place, in situation and general aspect, and its
unsightly mud ruins, as in other Persian cities, are eloquent of
nothing but paralysis and retrogression.

_Murcheh Khurt, Palm Sunday, March 30._--Three very pleasant marches,
equal to seventy-six miles, have brought me here, and now Isfahan is
only two days off, and it will end my palmy days of Persian

The first day's march from Kashan was only seven _farsakhs_ (the
_parasang_ of Xenophon), twenty-eight miles, but it is equivalent to
thirty-five, owing to the roughness of the road and the long ascent.
There was scarcely any ground for galloping, the way was lost once,
and the march took over eight hours.

The track, for only in places did it attain to the dignity of a
bridle-road, lay for hours over a stony desert, and then entered the
mountains, where I halted for an hour at the once magnificent
caravanserai of Gaberabad, in a romantic situation, but falling fast
into ruins, and deserted for no reason, so far as I could make out,
but that people used to be robbed and have their throats cut there.

Beyond it the scenery became very wild, and the rocks and mountains
highly coloured and snow-patched, and after ascending along the side
of a stream and up a causewayed sort of stair past the reservoir which
supplies Kashan with water, we entered the rising valley of Kuhr[=u]d,
where the snow came nearly down to the road, and every slope was
terraced and every level cultivated, and young wheat was springing and
fruit orchards flourished, with green sward under the branches, and
great poplars in picturesque groups towered above the lower woods.

We lost the way in the snow, and then took to the pebbly river as the
safest track, and had an hour of fumbling in water and snow under
apple and pear trees for the halting-place. The twilight of a frosty
evening was coming on when we reached the village of Kuhr[=u]d--500
houses in terraces on a mountain side, and clustering round a fort on
a projecting spur.

It is surrounded and interpenetrated by groves of walnut, apricot,
cherry, peach, plum, apple, pear, poplar, and vine, with roses
climbing over everything and planted in rows like vines, and through
it passes a fair, bright stream of living water, a stream "whose
waters fail not," turning the mountain valley into an oasis. But at
that altitude of something like 7000 feet, the buds are only just
swelling, and the crimson catkins of the hazels were the only reminder
of spring. It is the one place that I should care to revisit.

The snow was piled in great heaps in the village and against the wall
of the very wretched, ruinous _chapar khana_ in which I sought rest
and shelter. Mahboud went up to the loft over the gateway, and came
down looking dejected, mustering English enough to say, "No, no, mem
Sahib!" I actually had to occupy one of the two gateway rooms, an
inferior stable, without the smallest window hole, and no door except
two unconnected boards with which one could cover a part of the
doorway. Even when these were not put up a candle was necessary. It
was freezing hard, but one could not have a fire because there was no
smoke-hole. The walls were slimily and inkily black from the smoke of
the fires of people who were less particular than I am. The dust and
rubbish of the floor were swept into one corner. If one wanted a
place to store boxes in, and looked into that room, one would exclaim
dubiously, "Well, it _might_ do for glass and china!"

Mahboud put a rug on the floor and brought a bowl of delicious milk,
and with an inverted saddle for a pillow I rested quite comfortably,
being too tired to be impatient, till Mirza Yusuf arrived with my
luxuries, and the news that the caravan could not get in for another
hour, for that several of the mules had fallen and the loads were
slipping round constantly. Indeed it was ten before I had dinner. It
is very fortunate to have an attendant always cheerful, never fussy,
caring nothing for personal comfort, and always ready to interpret.

The _ketchuda_ called with the usual proffer of service, "I am your
sacrifice," etc., and induced me to buy some of the specialties of
Kuhr[=u]d, rose-water in bottles without corks, and a paste made of
rose-water, pounded walnuts, and sugar. The rose-water is not very
clear, but it has much of the overpowering, lingering odour of attar
of roses.

Kuhr[=u]d seems prosperous. Besides exporting large quantities of
rose-water and walnut paste formed into blocks and done up in white
skins, it sends wheat and fruit in abundance to Kashan.

Freedom, good sleep, and satisfactory travelling make up for all
annoyances but vermin, and these are still hybernating. In that
precarious privacy I slept soundly, and got the caravan off at eight
the next morning--a glorious winter morning, the icy roads and the
snow-covered valley glittering with frost crystals. We lost the way
again among the pretty orchards, then got into a valley between high
mud mountains, whose shapelessness is now judiciously concealed by
snow from one to three feet deep, through which a track has been
broken a foot wide. It is six miles from Kuhr[=u]d to the summit of
the Kuhr[=u]d Pass, which is over 8000 feet, and it grew very cold
and gray, and ragged masses of cloud swept angrily round the

On the steepest part of the ascent it was extremely slippery, and the
horses not being roughed slipped badly, and I was just fearing an
accident to my borrowed horse and planning some method of dismounting
when down he came on his nose and then on the side of his head, and
fell several times again in his struggles to get up, his feet slipping
from under him. When he did succeed in getting on his legs I was
convinced that he had cut his knees, and slipped off him somehow to
examine them; but my fears were groundless, and I had great difficulty
in getting out of the drift into which I had descended, which was
nearly up to my shoulders. His nose was bleeding a little, but that
was all.

There was no way of remounting on a path a foot wide between walls of
snow, and besides I was afraid of another accident, so I slipped the
snaffle rein over his head and led him. It was horribly slippery, and
having nails in my boots I fell several times just under his feet, but
the sweet creature always stopped when I fell.

From the top there was a truly fearful view of "blackness, darkness,
and tempest," inky mists, white mountain-tops showing momentarily
through them to be lost again, and great sheets of very deep snow.
Soon the gathering storm burst, a "blizzard" in which the snow was
quite blinding, snow drifting and hissing as it went by, the wind
tempestuous, mountains, valleys, path obliterated, even the soldier in
front of me constantly lost to sight. An hour of this and I could walk
no more, and somehow scrambled into the saddle.

At the foot of the descent the sky cleared, the sun shone, and we
picked up the caravan, which had had rather a hard time. The
succeeding route was through an absolutely uninhabited and
uninhabitable country, clay and mud hills, purple, red, gray, pink,
brown, an utter desolation, till we came in sight of the good-sized
and at a distance imposing-looking village of Soh in a keen wind with
frequent snow showers. Soh is a telegraph testing station.

The electrician was absent, but had kindly left directions that I was
to be received, and I found a most comfortable guest-room quite ready.
A little later an Englishman riding _chapar_ to Isfahan threw a packet
of English letters in at my door--a delightful surprise, which made
havoc of the rest of the evening.

The desolation of this part of the route may be judged of from the
fact that except the village of Kuhr[=u]d there is not an inhabited
house for forty-six miles. The country traversed reminds me much of
the least interesting part of the route from Lesser Tibet into Kulu.

Yesterday morning there was ice, and the roads were very slippery on
the gradual descent from the plain which opens out after passing
Bideshk, the _chapar_ station, an hour from Soh. The twenty-four
miles' ride over this gravelly waste, quite uninhabited, was very
pleasant, as it was possible to gallop much of the way, and besides
the beauty of the atmospheric colouring the mirage occurring in most
remarkable forms rendered monotony impossible.

There were no caravans on the road, but I met several dervishes, and
there is one here to whom I have given what he demanded--a night's
lodging. He carries a large carved almsholder; and the panther skin on
his shoulders, the knotted club, and his lean, hungry, fanatical face
give him a dangerous look. All I have seen on this march have worn
long matted bushy hair, often covering their shoulders, an axe in the
girdle, and peculiar turbans decorated with phrases from the Koran.
They are the "mendicant friars" of Persia, and are under vows of
poverty. Some are said to be learned; but they object to discussing
religious matters with infidels, and almost nothing is known as to
their beliefs. They hold universally the sanctity of idleness, and the
duty of being supported by the community. The lower classes hold them
in reverence, and the upper, though they are apt to loathe them, treat
them with great respect, for fear of laying themselves open to the
charge of laxity in religious matters.

  [Illustration: A DERVISH.]

Many of them deal in charms, and are consulted as astrologers. Some
are professed tellers of stories, to which I am told no European could
degrade himself by listening, but which are most palatable to a
village audience; and at this moment this unwelcome guest of mine has
a crowd listening to a narrative partly told and partly acted.

They are credited with many vices, among the least of which are hazy
ideas as to mine and thine, opium and bhang smoking to excess, and

They have recognised heads or chiefs, to whom they show great
deference. One of their vows is that of obedience; and besides paying
to the chief a part of the alms they receive, he gives them orders as
to the houses they are to infest, and though the nuisance is not so
common as formerly, a dervish at the door is still a sign of being
great or rich, or both. Their cries, and their rude blasts on the
buffalo horn, which is a usual part of their equipment, are most
obnoxious. In the larger towns, such as Kûm and Kirmanshah, there are
shops for the sale of their outfit--the tiger and panther skins, the
axes, the knotted clubs, the almsbowls, etc.

Some are respectable, and enjoy much consideration, and I hope that
many even of those whom a careful writer has called "disgusting
vagabonds" are not humbugs; but the presumption is so much the other
way that I am always glad when the ground admits of galloping past
them, otherwise the dervish comes forward, with his knotted club much
_en évidence_, with many compliments and good wishes, or else silently
extends his almsholder, ejaculating _Huk_ ("my right"). I usually have
the means of appeasing, if not of satisfying him, but on the rare
occasions when I have had no money the yells and maledictions have
been awful.

The light and profane use of the Divine name is universal. The
dervishes curse, but every one uses the name _Allah_ wherever they can
bring it in. The _Ya Allah_, as an expression of fatigue, or
discontent, or interest, or nothing, is heard all day, and the boy who
drives a cow, or a team, or a mule in a caravan, cries _Ya Allah_
incessantly as an equivalent of "go along," and the gardener pushing
his spade into the ground, the chopper with every blow of the axe, the
labourer throwing up bricks, ejaculates the same. _Mashallah_,
_Inshallah_, interlard all conversation. When men are building, the
perpetual sing-song of phrases such as these is heard, "Brother, in
God's name toss me a brick," the other replying, "Brother, in God's
name here is a brick."

The vocabulary of abuse is also very large, and often involves serious
reflections on the female relatives of the person abused. I hear such
harmless phrases as "son of a burnt father," "son of a dog,"
"offspring of a pig," etc., on all occasions.

Murcheh Khurt is a large village with a good deal of cultivation about
it, a mosque or more, a _hammam_, a _chapar khana_, and a
caravanserai. Here again I found that the smart foreign soldier
attracted all the notice, and that before the people ceased to wonder
at him I had passed them. The _chapar khana_ was full of men, so I
have had to sink to the level of a recessed den with a manger in front
in a ruinous caravanserai crowded with Persian travellers, muleteers,
mules, horses, and asses, and the courtyard half-choked with ruins. I
had not seen the inside of one of these dens before. Travellers have
exhausted the vocabulary of abuse upon them; possibly they deserve it
in the "vermin season"; but there is nothing worse than a square and
perfectly dark room, with unplastered walls blackened by the smoke and
cobwebs of ages, and a door which will not fasten.

The air is cool and the sky blue, and sitting at the open door is very
pleasant. Mahboud and two of the servants caught cold at Kuhr[=u]d and
are ill, and my Arab has a chill too. He is a very stupid horse. His
gentle eyes never change their expression, and his small ears rarely
move. He has little sense or affection, but when he is patted his
proud neck takes on a loftier arch. Gentle as he is to people he is a
brute to other horses. He would like to fight every one of them, to
stand on his hind-legs and grapple them round the shoulders with his
fore-feet and bite their necks, roaring and squealing all the time. He
and Mahboud's horse are inveterate enemies, and one of the few
difficulties of the journey is the keeping them from a regular
stand-up fight.

This village is an oasis in the desert. I have been through its gates,
barely wide enough to admit an ass loaded with brushwood, with the
_seraidar_ and Mirza, walked through its narrow alleys, and
inadvertently stumbled into a mosque where a great crowd of women were
listening to a story of one of the twelve Imams told by a _mollah_,
looked down upon it and over the adjacent country from a house roof,
visited several houses, in which some of the inmates were ill and
desired "Feringhi medicine," had a long conversation with the
_ketchuda_, who came to see me to ask for eye lotion, and with the
_seraidar_, and altogether have had quite a pleasant day.

_Chapar Khana, Gez._--I am sitting in one of the three doorless
doorways of my loft, grieving that the journey is just over, and that
this is the last night of the exhilarating freedom of the desert. I
rode twenty-four miles before one o'clock to-day, over a level
uncultivated plain, bordered as usual by ranges of mountains. In fact,
while I write of levels and plains it must be understood that Persia
is chiefly a land of hills rising from a table-land from 3400 feet to
6000 feet in altitude, and that the traveller is rarely, if ever, more
than fourteen or fifteen miles from mountains from 2000 to 6000 feet
above the plain from which they rise, crowned by Demavend, whose
imposing summit is 18,600 feet above the sea. The hills beyond Isfahan
have assumed lofty proportions, and some of the snowy mountains of
Luristan are to be seen in the far distance.

It is nearly an unmitigated waste between Murcheh Khurt and Gez,
destitute even of tufts of wormwood; but the latter part of the march
is through a stoneless alluvial desert of dry friable soil, soft
springy galloping ground which water would turn into a paradise of
fertility; and water there has once been, for not far from the road
are the remains of some _kanaats_.

The questions naturally arise in a traveller's mind, first, what
becomes of the enormous amount of snow which falls on the mountains;
and next, how in a country so arid as the plateaus of Central Asia
water for irrigation, and for the basins and fountains which abound in
rich men's houses, is obtained.

Wells, unless the artesian borings shortly to be begun in the Tihran
desert should be successful, are all but unknown, except for supplying
drinking water, and there are scarcely any reservoirs, but ingenuity
has devised a plan of subterranean water-channels, which besides their
other advantages prevent loss by evaporation. Tihran has thirty-five
of them, and the water which they distribute is naturally expensive,
as the cost of making them is great.

It is on the slope of a hill that the spring is found which is the
original source of supply; this is tapped at some depth, and its
waters are led along a tunnel about four feet high by two feet wide
lined with baked pottery where the ground is soft, and having a slight
fall to the next spring or well, which may be from twenty-five to even
sixty yards off.

As the labourers dig they draw up the earth and arrange it in a circle
round the shaft, and as they come to water they draw up the mud and
pour it on the top of the earth, where it dries and hardens, and
below, the water is conducted as a running underground stream across
great plains, its progress marked by mounds which have been compared
to ant-hills and craters, but to my thinking are more like the shafts
of disused mines.

Hundreds of these _kanaats_ are seen, ruined and dry, and are the
resort of porcupines and jackals. To construct a _kanaat_ may call a
village or series of villages into being. The letting it fall to ruin
is one cause of deserted villages. Those which are not lined require
annual repairs, which are now going on, but frequently the complete
fall of the roof destroys the fall of the water, and the tunnel
becomes irreparable.

The peasants are obliged to buy the water, for they cannot steal it,
and the making of a _kanaat_ is often a lucrative speculation. Pigeons
live in them, and many of them are full of fish, which foreigners
amuse themselves by poisoning by throwing a mixture of _cocculus
indicus_ with dough down the wells, when the poisoned but wholesome
fish rise to the surface. They usually recover when they are left in
the water. Dr. Wills describes them as having a muddy taste. The
_kanaats_ are a feature of Persia.

Ever since leaving Kûm all the dry and hard parts of the road have
been covered with the industrious "road beetle," which works, like the
ant, in concert, and carries on its activities at all seasons,
removing from the road to its nest all the excreta of animals, except
in regions where even animal fuel is so exceptionally scarce that boys
with asses and ponies follow caravans for the same purpose. These
beetles hover over the road on the wing, and on alighting proceed to
roll the ball towards the nest, four or five of them standing on their
hind-legs and working it forwards, or else rolling it with their heads
close to the ground. Their instinct is wonderful, and they attract the
attention of all travellers. They are about the size of a small
walnut. Otherwise there is little of animated life to be seen on this

No day has had fewer noticeable objects. Two or three _abambars_,
several caravanserais in absolute ruins, and a magnificent one in
partial ruins are its record.

Gez consists of this post-house and a decaying caravanserai. From the
roof as I write I watch the grooming of a whole row of _chapar_
horses. As each pad is removed there is a horrid revelation of wounds,
deep ulcers, sores often a foot long, and in some cases the white
vertebræ of the spine are exposed. These are the wretched animals
which often carry men from fourteen to seventeen stone who ride fifty
miles in a day. It is hard enough even with extreme carefulness to
keep the back of a horse all right on a continuous journey, but I
never before saw animals ridden in such a state. They wince pitifully
when their pads are put on again.

The desert is all around, purpling in the sunset, sweeping up to low
broken ridges, and to some higher hills in the north-west covered with
new-fallen snow. That the waste only requires water to make it
prolific is apparent, for below these walls wheat is growing
luxuriantly in some deep pits, irrigated from a dirty ditch out of
which the drinking water comes. Nothing can be got, except by sending
to a village a mile away.

Four of the men are ill, one with inflammation of the eyes, another
with an abscess, and a third, a very strong man, with something like
bilious fever, and a _charvadar_ with malarial fever. The strong man's
moans often become howls. He insists that he shall die to-night. These
two afternoons have been much taken up with making poultices and
medicines, and I shall be glad for the poor fellows to reach Isfahan
and the care of a competent doctor.

_Julfa, April 2._--I daresay this journey seems longer to you than it
did to me. It was very pleasant, and its goal is pleasant, and a most
kind welcome and the refinement of cultured English people go far to
compensate for the loss of the desert freedom and the easy stride of
the Arab horse.

I started the caravan at nine yesterday, with two men with bandaged
eyes, and other two hardly able to sit on their mules; Mahboud, who is
really more seriously ill than any of them, keeping up his pluck and
capableness to the last. The man who threatened to die at Gez was
very much better the next morning.

Soon after leaving Gez the country changes its aspect, the road
becomes very bad, and passes through nine miles of rich
cultivation--wheat, barley, opium, and vegetables growing abundantly;
orchards are numerous, villages with trees and gardens succeed each
other rapidly, water abounds, and before the gate of Isfahan is
reached, domes and minarets rising among cypresses, planes, and
poplars indicate the remains of the former capital of Persia.

Inside the shabby gateway the road to Julfa lies among rows of mean
mud houses, heaps of ruins, and shabby provision bazars; and that mile
or more of Isfahan was the one disagreeable part of the journey.

It was about the last day of the holidays, and the bazars, alleys, and
open spaces were full of men in gay attire, and companies of shrouded
women were moving along the quieter roads. It was too warm for the
sheepskin coat which had served me so well at Kûm, and I had dressed
with some regard to European sensibilities. The boys began to shout "A
Feringhi woman! a Nazarene woman!" and then to call bad names; then
men began to make up fiendish laughs,[32] and the howls and outcries
gathered strength as I went on at the inevitable foot's pace, spitting
being quite common, poor Mahboud constantly turning to me a perturbed
wretched face, full of annoyance at the insults of his co-religionists,
which it would have been dangerous to resent. It was a bad half-hour.

Before passing the residence of the Amir-i-Panj (the commander of
5000) near the Julfa gate the uproar died away, and once through the
gate and in the _Chahar Bagh_ (four gardens) there was peace. A bad
road of cobble stones, with a double avenue of once magnificent
planes, some once ornamental tanks, very high walls, pierced by
storied gates, ornamented with wild designs on plaster in flaring
colours, above which a blue dome is a conspicuous object, leads to a
handsome bridge of thirty-three arches, with a broad level roadway,
and corridors for foot passengers on either side, over the Zainderud,
then came fields with springing wheat, a few houses, a narrow alley,
and two or three miles from Isfahan the gate of its Armenian suburb,

At once on crossing the bridge there was a change. Ruddy,
cheery-looking unveiled women in red gowns, and pure white _chadars_
completely enveloping their persons, moved freely about, and the men
wore neither the becoming turban nor the ominous scowl of Islam. In
the quaint narrow streets were churches with open vestibules, through
which pictures of the thorn-crowned Christ and of sweet-faced Madonnas
were visible; priests in black robes and women in white glided along
the narrow roads. There was the fresher, purer air of Christianity,
however debased and corrupted. In the low-browed churches divine
honours are paid to a crowned and risen Christ, and the white-robed
women have been baptized into His name. Never again will the Julfa
alleys be so peaceful and lovable as yesterday, when they offered a
haven from the howling bigots of Isfahan.

Dr. Bruce has not returned from Baghdad, but Mrs. and Miss Bruce
welcomed me very kindly, and I am already forgetting my unpleasant
reception. I. L. B.


[32] I can imagine now what a hellish laugh that was with which "they
laughed Him to scorn."

I was a month in Julfa, but never saw anything more of Isfahan, which
is such a fanatical city that I believe even so lately as last year
none of the ladies of the European community had visited it, except
one or two disguised as Persian women.


     JULFA, _April 17_.

Mr. George Curzon wrote of Julfa: "The younger Julfa is a place wholly
destitute of superficial attractions, consisting as it does of a
labyrinth of narrow alleys closed by doors and plentifully perforated
with open sewers. Life there is 'cabined, cribbed, confined' to an
intolerable degree, and it is a relief to escape from its squalid

I dare not write thus if I would! It is now the early spring. The
"sewers" are clear rapid streams, margined by grass and dandelions,
and shaded by ash trees and pollard willows in their first flush of
green. The "narrow alleys" are scrupulously clean, and there is
neither mud nor dust. If I go up on the roof I see a cultivated oasis,
gardens prolonged indefinitely concealing the desert which lies
between them and the bold mountain ranges which surround this lofty
and breezy plain. Every breeze is laden with the delicious odour of
the bean blossom. A rapid river spanned by noble bridges hurries
through the oasis it has helped to create, and on its other side the
domes and minarets of Isfahan rise out of masses of fine trees, and
bridges and mosques, minarets and mountains, are all seen through a
most exquisite pink mist, for hundreds of standard peach trees are in
full bloom, and look where one may everything is _couleur de rose_.

I quite admit that Julfa consists of a "labyrinth of alleys." I can
never find my way about it. One alley with its shady central stream
(or "sewer"), its roughly paved paths on either side, its mud walls
pierced by low doors, is very much like another, and however lucky one
may be in "happening on" the right road, it is always a weary time
before one escapes from between mud walls into the gardens and
wheatfields, to the blossoming beans, and the exquisite wild-flowers
among the wheat.

As to the "cabined, cribbed, confined" life, I can give no testimony
from personal knowledge. All life in European settlements in the East
appears to me "cabined, cribbed, confined," and greatly devoid of
external interests. Perhaps Julfa is deficient in the latter in an
eminent degree, and in a very small foreign community people are
interested chiefly in each other's affairs, sayings, and doings. Lawn
tennis, picnics, and dinner parties are prevalent, the ordinary
etiquette of European society prevails, and in all cases of need the
residents are kind to each other both in life and death.

The European society is divided into three circles--the missionaries,
the mercantile community, and the telegraph staff. The British agent,
Mr. Aganoor, is an Armenian.[33] No Christians, Armenian or European,
live in Isfahan, and it is practically _défendu_ to European women.
This transpontine restriction undoubtedly narrows the life and
interests of Julfa. It is aggravating and tantalising to be for ever
looking at a city of 60,000 or 70,000 people, the fallen capital of
the Sufari dynasty, and never be able to enter it.

This Christian town of Julfa has a certain accessible historic
interest. Shah Abbas, justly surnamed the Great, conceived the
sagacious project of introducing among his Persian subjects at
Isfahan--then, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, a
magnificent capital--the Christian habits of trading, sagacity, and
thrift, for then as now the Armenians had commercial dealings with
China, India, and Europe, and had imported several arts into Persia.

This project he carried out in truly despotic fashion by moving almost
the whole population of Julfa on the Araxes, on the modern
Russo-Persian frontier, to the banks of the Zainderud, making over to
it the best lands in the neighbourhood of Isfahan. Many years later
the new Julfa was a place with twenty-four churches, great prosperity,
and an estimated population of 40,000. Its agriculturists were
prosperous market-gardeners for the huge city of Isfahan, and it had
likewise a great trading community, and was renowned for the making of
jewellery and watches.

It has now a dwindling population of about 3000, chiefly elderly men,
women, and girls, the young men, after receiving a good education in
the Church Mission and other schools, flying from its stagnation to
India, Java, and even Europe. The twenty-four churches are reduced to
twelve, and these with the vast cemetery in the desert at the base of
Kuh Sufi are its chief objects of interest, apart from those which are
human and living.

_April 22._--The peach blossoms have long since fallen, but perhaps I
still see Julfa _couleur de rose_, even after three weeks, so very
great is the kindness under this roof, and so fully is my time
occupied with various interests, and the preparations for a difficult

This, as you know, is the Church Mission House. Dr. Bruce has been
here for twenty years, and until lately, when the Archbishop of
Canterbury's mission to the Assyrian Christians began its work at
Urmi, near the Turkish frontier in the north-west, this was the only
English mission in the Empire. It was contemplated as a mission to the
Mohammedans, but in this respect has been an apparent failure. It is
true that much prejudice has been disarmed, and, as I have heard from
some leading Mohammedans, Dr. Bruce's zeal and good works have won
their respect. A large part of the Bible has been translated into
Persian and very widely circulated through the adjacent country by
means of colporteurs of the British and Foreign Bible Society. His
preaching of Christianity is listened to respectfully, and even with
interest, wherever he itinerates, and Moslems daily call on him, and
show much friendliness, but the results, as results are usually
estimated, are _nil_--that is, no Mohammedans openly profess

There is actual though not legal toleration, but Moslem children may
not attend a mission school, and a Moslem who becomes a Christian
loses his means of living, and probably his life is sacrificed to

In consequence of these difficulties, and certain encouragements in
another direction, the _ostensible_ work of the mission is among
Armenians. Dr. Bruce has not been afraid of incurring the stigma of
being a proselytiser, and has a large congregation of Armenians
worshipping after the English form, ninety-four being communicants of
the Church of England. On Easter Eve there was an evening Communion,
and the great row of women kneeling at the rail in the pure white
robes which cover them from head to foot, and then moving back to
their places in the dim light, was very picturesque and beautiful.

Good works have been added one after another, till the mission is now
a very large establishment. The C.M.S. has been liberal to this, its
only Persian agency, and Dr. Bruce, having private means, has
generously expended them largely on missionary work in Julfa.

The chief features of the compounds are the church, which is both
simple and ecclesiastical in its exterior and interior, and the
library adjoining it, where Dr. Bruce works at the translation of the
Old Testament into Persian and the revision of the New, aided by a
_munshi_, and where through much of the day he is receiving Moslems,
some of whom come to inquire into Christianity, others for religious
disputations, and a third and numerous class out of mere friendliness.
The latter are generally invited into the Mission House, and are
regaled with coffee and _kalians_, in orthodox Persian fashion. Among
the latter visitors has been the Amir-i-Panj, who came to ask me to
call on his wife, accompanied by a general of cavalry, whose name I
cannot spell, and who speaks French remarkably well.

Among the other buildings are those of the Medical Mission, which
include a roomy courtyard, where the animals which carry the patients
are tethered, rooms for the doctor, a well-arranged dispensary and
consulting-room, with waiting-rooms for both sexes, and rooms above in
which serious surgical cases are received for treatment, and where at
present there are eleven patients, although just now there is no
European doctor, and they are being treated by the native assistants,
most kindly helped by Dr. Scully of the telegraph staff. This hospital
and dispensary are largely taken advantage of by Moslems, who highly
appreciate this form of Christian benevolence.

The boys' school, with 205 pupils, has been a great benefit to Julfa.
The head-master, Mr. Johannes, was educated in England and was
formerly a master of the Nassik School in India. This school provides
the education of one of our best middle-class schools, and the
teaching is thorough. _Smattering_ would be infinitely despised by
teachers and pupils. In this thorough fashion Latin, French, the first
four books of Euclid, and algebra are taught to the young men of the
upper form. The boys have a large playground, with a great tank for
bathing, and some of the equipments of a gymnasium, a vaulting pole,
parallel bars, etc.

The girls' schools, containing 100 girls, have their own courtyard,
and they need enlarging, though the process has been more than once
repeated. Mrs. Aidin, an English teacher, is at their head, and
exercises that strong influence which love and firmness give. The
girls are a mass of red, a cool red, without yellow, and when they
disperse they enliven the Julfa alleys with their carnation dresses
and pure white _chadars_. The education is solid and suitable, and
special attention is given to needlework.

Besides these there is an orphanage, begun for the benefit of those
whose parents died in the famine, in which are twenty boys. Outside
are many other works, a Bible House, from which colporteurs at
intervals proceed on journeys, a Young Men's Christian Association, or
something like it, etc. etc.

Now as to the Mission House itself, which has to accommodate Dr.,
Mrs., and Miss Bruce, Mr. Carless, a clerical missionary, and two
English lady missionaries. So much has been written lately about the
"style of living" of missionaries, their large houses, and somewhat
unnecessary comfort in general, that I am everywhere specially
interested in investigating the subject, having formed no definite
opinion on the question whether living as natives or living as
Europeans is the more likely mode of producing a salutary impression.

The Mission House here is a native building, its walls and ceilings
simply decorated with pale brown arabesques on a white ground. There
are a bedroom and parlour, with an ante-room between giving access to
both from the courtyard, a storeroom, and a kitchen. Across the court
are servants' quarters and a guest-room for natives. Above these,
reached by an outside stair, are a good room, occupied by Mr. Carless
as study and bedroom, and one small guest-room. Another stair leads to
two rooms above some of the girls' school premises, having enclosed
alcoves used as sleeping and dressing rooms. These are occupied by two
ladies. One room serves as eating-room for the whole mission party, at
present six in number, and as drawing-room and workroom. Books, a
harmonium, Persian rugs on the floor, and just enough furniture for
use constitute its "luxury."

There are two servants, both of course men, and all the ladies do some
housework. At present the only horse is the dispensary horse, a beast
of such rough and uneven paces that it is a penance to ride him. The
food is abundant, well cooked, and very simple.

The life, all round, is a very busy one. Visitors are never refused at
any hour. The long flat mud roofs from which one can see the gardens
and the hills are used for exercise, otherwise some of the party would
never have anything better than mud walls for their horizon, and life
in courtyards is rather depressing for Europeans. I have told facts,
and make no comments, and it must be remembered that both Dr. Bruce
and Miss V----, a lady of rare devotion who has lately arrived,[34] are
to a certain extent "honorary" missionaries, and have the means, if
they had the desire, of surrounding themselves with comforts.

This is about the twenty-third mission circle with which I have become
acquainted during the last eight months, and I see in nearly all the
same difficulties, many of them of a nature which we can hardly
realise at home.

Women coming to the East as missionaries are by far the greatest
sufferers, especially if they are young, for Eastern custom, which in
their position cannot be defied with advantage, limits free action and
abridges all the comforts of independence. Thus a woman cannot take a
walk or a ride or go to a house without a trusty man-servant in
attendance on her, and this is often inconvenient, so she does not go
out at all, contenting herself with a walk on the roof or in the

The wave of enthusiasm on which a lady leaves her own country soon
spends its force. The interest which has centred round her for weeks
or even months is left behind. The enthusiastic addresses and farewell
meetings, the journey "up the country" with its excitement and
novelties, and the cordial welcome from the mission circle to which
she is introduced, soon become things of the past. The circle, however
kind, has its own interests and work, and having provided her with a
_munshi_, necessarily goes on its own way more or less, and she is
left to face the fearful difficulties of languages with which ours has
no affinity, in a loneliness which is all the more severely felt
because she is usually, for a time at least, one nominally of a family

Unless she is a doctor or nurse she can do nothing till she has
learned the language, and the difficulty of learning is increased by
the loss of the flexible mind and retentive memory which are the
heritage of extreme youth. The temptation is to "go at it" violently.
Then come the aching head, the loss of sleep, the general lassitude
and nervousness, and the self-questionings as to whether she was right
in leaving her fruitful work in England.

Then, instead of realising the truth of the phrases used at
home--"multitudes flocking as the doves to their windows"--"fields
white unto the harvest," etc.--she finds that the work instead of
seeking her has to be made by her most laboriously, and oftentimes
the glowing hope of telling of the Redeemer's love and death to
throngs of eager and receptive listeners is fulfilled in the drudgery
of teaching sewing and the rudiments of English during the first year.

It is just this first year under which many women succumb. Then how
many of the failings and weaknesses of the larger world must be
epitomised in a mission group exposed, as Mr. Heyde of Kyelang
feelingly said, "to the lowering influence of daily contact with a
courteous and non-repulsive Heathenism and Mohammedanism"!
Missionaries are not likely to possess, as they certainly are the last
to claim, superior sanctity, and the new-comer, dreaming of a circle
in all respects consecrated, finds herself among frictions, strong
differences as to methods of working, not always gently expressed, and
possible jealousies and criticisms, and an exaggeration of the
importance of trifles, natural where large events are rare. A
venerable American missionary in Turkey said, "Believe me, the
greatest trial of missionaries is missionaries."

The small group is frequently destitute of social resources outside
itself, it is cut off from friendly visits, services, lectures, music,
new books, news, and the many recreative influences which all men
regard as innocent. The life-work seems at times thrown away, the
heat, the flies, and the mosquitos are depressing and exhausting, and
in the case of young women, especially till they can use the language
colloquially, there is little if any outside movement. Is it wonderful
that supposed slights, tiffs, criticisms which would be utterly
brushed away if a good walk in the open or a good gallop were
possible, should be brooded over till they attain a magnitude which
embitters and depresses life?

A man constantly finds the first year or two very trying till he has
his tools--the language--at command, and even men at times rub each
other the wrong way, but a man can take a good walk or a solitary
gallop, or better still, a week of itinerating among the villages.
People speak of the dangers and privations of missionary life. I think
that these are singularly over-estimated. But the trials which I have
alluded to, and which, with the hot climates and insufficient
exercise, undermine the health of very many female missionaries,
cannot be exaggerated, and demand our deep sympathy.

I do not think that the ordinary pious woman, the successful and
patient worker in district visiting, Bible classes, mothers' meetings,
etc., is necessarily suited to be a foreign missionary, but that a
heart which is a well-spring of human love, and a natural "enthusiasm
of humanity" are required, as well as love to the Master, the last
permeating and sanctifying the others, and giving them a perennial
freshness. Fancy G. G---- grumbling and discontented and magnifying
unpropitious trifles, when her heart goes out to every Chinawoman she
sees in a perfect passion of love![35]

With the _medical_ missionary, whether man or woman, the case is
different. The work seeks the worker even before he is ready for it,
claims him, pursues him, absorbs him, and he is powerful to heal even
where he is impotent to convert.

I have been to the hospital to see a woman from the Kuhr[=u]d
mountains, who was brought here to undergo an operation. She had spent
all her living on native physicians without result, and her husband
has actually sold his house to get money to give his wife a last
chance of recovery. Fifteen years ago this man nearly took Dr. Bruce's
life. Now, he says, "The fruits of Christianity are good."

Daily the "labyrinth of alleys" becomes denser with leafage, and the
sun is hot enough to make the shade very pleasant, while occasional
showers keep the greenery fresh. Indeed it is warm enough in my room
to make the cool draught from the _b[=a]dg[=i]r_ very pleasant. These
wind-towers are a feature of all Persian cities, breaking the monotony
of the flat roofs.

Letters can be sent once a week from Isfahan, and there is another
opportunity very safe and much taken advantage of, the "Telegraph
_chapar_," a British official messenger, who rides up and down between
Bushire and Tihran at stated intervals. The Persian post is a wretched
institution, partaking of the general corruption of Persian
officialism, and nowhere, unless _registered_, are letters less safe
than in Tihran.[36] I shall send this, scrappy as it is, as I may not
be here for another week's mail.

     I. L. B.


[33] Since my visit Mr. Preece, then, and for many previous years, the
superintending electrician of this section of the Indo-European
telegraph, has been appointed Consul, the increasing dimensions of
English interests and the increasing number of resident British
subjects rendering the creation of a Consulate at Isfahan a very
desirable step.

[34] A few weeks later she died, her life sacrificed, I think, to
over-study of a difficult language, and the neglect of fresh air and

[35] These sentences were written nearly a year ago, but many
subsequent visits to missions have only confirmed my strong view of
the very trying nature of at least the early period of a lady
missionary's life in the East, and of the constant failure of health
which it produces; of the great necessity there is for mission boards
to lay down some general rules of hygiene, which shall include the
duty of riding on horseback, for more rigorous requirements of
vigorous _physique_ in those sent out, and above all, that the
_natural characteristics_ of those who are chosen to be "epistles of
Christ" in the East shall be such as will not only naturally and
specially commend the Gospel, but will stand the wear and strain of
difficult circumstances.

[36] Nearly all my non-registered letters to England failed to reach
their destination.


     JULFA, _April 29_.

Each day has been completely filled up since I wrote, and this is
probably the last here. My dear old Cabul tent, a _shuldari_, also
Indian, and a servants' tent made here on a plan of my own, are
pitched in one of the compounds to exercise the servants in the art,
and it really looks like going after many delays.

A few festivities have broken the pleasant monotony of life in this
kindly and hospitable house--dinner parties, European and Armenian; a
picnic on the Kuh Sufi, from which there is a very fine panoramic view
of the vast plain and its surrounding mountains, and of the immense
ruins of Isfahan and Julfa, with the shrunken remains of both; and a
"church picnic."

From Kuh Sufi is seen how completely, and with a sharp line of
definition, the arid desert bounds the green oasis of cultivated and
irrigated gardens which surround the city, and which are famous for
the size and lusciousness of their fruit. From a confusion of ruinous
or ragged walls of mud, of ruined and modern houses standing
complacently among heaps of rubbish, and from amidst a greenery which
redeems the scene, the blue tiled dome of the Masjid-i-Shah, a few
minarets, and the great dome of the Medresseh, denuded of half its
tiles, rise conspicuously. Long lines of mud streets and
caravanserais, gaunt in their ruin, stretch into the desert, and the
city once boasting of 650,000 inhabitants and a splendid court
survives with a population of less than 80,000 at the highest

The "church picnic" was held in a scene of decay, but 260 people, with
all the women but three in red, enlivened it. It was in the grounds of
the old palace of Haft Dast, in which Fatteh Ali Shah died, close to
one of the three remarkable bridges of Isfahan, the Pul-i-Kaj[=u].
These bridges are magnificent. Their construction is most peculiar,
and their roadways being flat they are almost unique in Persia.

The Pul-i-Kaj[=u], though of brick, has stone piers of immense size,
which are arched over so as to form a level causeway. On this massive
structure the upper bridge is built, comprising a double series of
rooms at each pier with doorways overlooking the river, and there are
staircases and rooms also in the upper piers.

The Chahar Bagh bridge is also quaint and magnificent, with its
thirty-three arches, some of them very large, its corridors for foot
passengers, and chambers above each pier, each chamber having three
openings to the river. These bridges have a many-storied look, from
their innumerable windows at irregular altitudes, and form a grand
approach to the city.

As at first, so now at last the most impressive thing to me about the
Zainderud next to its bridges is the extent to which rinsing, one of
the processes of dyeing, is carried on upon its shingle flats. Isfahan
dyed fabrics are famous and beautiful, heavy cottons of village make
and unbleached cottons of Manchester make being brought here to be
dyed and printed.

There is quite a population of dyers, and now that the river is fairly
low, many of them have camped for the season in little shelters of
brushwood erected on the gravel banks. For fully half-a-mile these
banks are covered with the rinsers of dyed and printed calicoes, and
with mighty heaps of their cottons. Hundreds of pieces after the
rinsing are laid closely together to dry, indigo and turquoise blue,
brown and purple madder, Turkey red and saffron predominating, a vile
aniline colour showing itself here and there. Some of the smaller
dyers have their colour vats by the river, but most of the cotton is
brought from Isfahan, ready dyed, on donkeys' backs, with the rinsers
in attendance.

Along the channels among the shingle banks are rows of old millstones,
and during much of the day a rinser stands in front of each up to his
knees in water. His methods are rough, and the cotton must be good
which stands his treatment. Taking in his hands a piece of soaked
half-wrung cotton, from fifteen to twenty yards long, he folds it into
five feet and bangs it on the millstone with all his might, roaring a
tuneless song all the time, till he fails from fatigue. The noise is
tremendous, and there will be more yet, for the river is not nearly at
its lowest point. When the piece has had the water beaten out of it a
boy spreads it out on the gravel, and keeps it wet by dashing water
over it, and then the process of beating is repeated. The coloured
spray rising from each millstone in the bright sunshine is very
pretty. Each rinser has his watchdog to guard the cottons on the bank,
and between the banging, splashing, and singing, the barking of the
dogs and the shouts of the boys, it is a noisy and cheery scene.

I have heard that certain unscrupulous English makers were in the
habit of sending "loaded" cottons here, but that the calico printers
have been a match for them, for the calico printer weighs his cloth
before he buys it, washes and dries it, and then weighs it again. A
man must "get up very early" if he means to cheat a Persian.

The patterns and colours are beautiful. Quilts, "table-cloths" (for
use on the floor), and _chadars_ are often things of exquisite beauty.
Indeed I have yielded to temptation, and to gratify my own tastes have
bought some beautiful "table-cloths" for Bakhtiari women, printed
chiefly in indigo and brown madder on a white ground.

The temptations are great. I really need many things both for my own
outfit and for presents to the Bakhtiaris, and pedlars come every day
and unpack their tempting bundles in the small verandah. No Europeans
and no women of the upper classes can enjoy the delights of shopping
in Persia, consequently the pedlar is a necessary institution.

Here they are of the humbler sort. They have learned that it is
useless to display rich Turkestan and Feraghan carpets, gold and
silver jewellery, inlaid arms, stuffs worked with gold thread, or any
of the things which tempt the travelling Feringhi, so they bring all
sorts of common fabrics, printed cambrics, worthless woollen stuffs,
and the stout piece cottons and exquisitely-printed cotton squares of

At almost any hour of the day a salaaming creature squatting at the
door is seen, caressing a big bundle, which on seeing you he pats in a
deprecating manner, looks up appealingly, declares that he is your
"sacrifice," and that with great trouble and loss he has got just the
thing the _khanum_ wants. If you hesitate for one moment the bundle is
opened, and on his first visit he invariably shows flaring Manchester
cottons first; but if you look and profess disgust, he produces
cottons printed here, strokes them lovingly, and asks double their
value for them. You offer something about half. He recedes and you
advance till a compromise is arrived at representing the fair price.

But occasionally, as about a table-cloth, if they see that you admire
it very much but will not give the price asked, they swear by Allah
that they will not abate a fraction, pack up their bundle, and move
off in well-simulated indignation, probably to return the next day to
offer the article on your own terms. Mrs. Bruce has done the
bargaining, and I have been only an amused looker-on. I should prefer
doing without things to the worry and tedium of the process of buying

The higher class of pedlars, such as those who visit the _andaruns_ of
the rich, go in couples, with a donkey or servant to carry their

I mentioned that the Amir-i-Panj had called and had asked me to visit
his wife. I sent a message to say that my entrance into Isfahan had
been so disagreeable that I should be afraid to pass through its gates
again, to which he replied that he would take care that I met with no
incivility. So an afternoon visit was arranged, and he sent a splendid
charger for me, one of the finest horses I have seen in Persia, a
horse for Mirza Yusuf, and an escort of six cavalry soldiers, which
was increased to twelve at the city gate. The horse I rode answered
the description--"a neck clothed with thunder,"--he was perfectly
gentle, but his gait was that of a creature too proud to touch the
earth. It was exhilarating to be upon such an animal.

The cavalry men rode dashing animals, and wore white Astrakan high
caps, and the _cortège_ quite filled up the narrow alley where it
waited, and as it passed through the Chahar Bagh and the city gate,
with much prancing and clatter, no "tongue wagged" either of dervish
or urchin.

At the entrance to the Amir's house I was received by an
_aide-de-camp_ and a number of soldier-servants, and was "conducted"
into a long room opening by many windows upon a beautiful garden full
of peach blossom, violets, and irises; the table was covered with
very pretty confectionery, including piles of _gaz_, a favourite
sweetmeat, made of manna which is chiefly collected within eighty
miles of Isfahan. Coffee was served in little cups in filigree gold
receptacles, and then the Amir-i-Panj appeared in a white uniform,
with a white lambskin cap, and asked "permission to have the honour of
accompanying me to the _andarun_."

Persian politeness is great, and the Amir, though I think he is a Turk
and not a Persian, is not deficient in it. Such phrases as "My house
is purified by your presence, I live a thousand years in this visit,"
etc., were freely used.

This man, who receives from all a very high character, and whom
Moslems speak of as a "saint," is the most interesting Moslem I have
met. In one sense a thoroughly religious man, he practises all the
virtues which he knows, almsgiving to the extent of self-denial,
without distinction of creed, charity in word and deed, truth, purity,
and justice.

I had been much prepossessed in his favour not only from Dr. Bruce's
high opinion of him but by the unbounded love and reverence which my
interpreter has for him. Mirza Yusuf marched on foot from Bushire to
Isfahan, without credentials, an alien, and penniless, and this good
man hearing of him took him into his house, and treated him as a
welcome guest till a friend of his, a Moslem, a general in the Persian
army, also good and generous, took him to Tihran, where he remained as
his guest for some months, and was introduced into the best Persian
society. From him I learned how beautiful and pure a life may be even
in a corrupt nation. When he bowed to kiss the Amir's hand, with
grateful affection in his face, his "benefactor," as he always calls
him, turned to me and said, "He is to me as a dear son, God will be
with him."

The garden is well laid out, and will soon be full of flowers. The
Amir seemed to love them passionately. He said that they gave rest and
joy, and are "the fringes of the garment of God." He could not cut
them, he said, "Their beauty is in their completeness from root to
petals, and cutting destroys it."

A curtained doorway in the high garden wall, where the curtains were
held aside by servants, leads into the court of the _andarun_, where
flowers again were in the ascendant, and vines concealed the walls.
The son, a small boy, met us and kissed my hand. Mirza had told me
that he had never passed through this wall, and had never seen the
ladies, but when I proposed to leave him outside, the Amir said he
would be welcome, that he wished for much conversation, and for his
wife to hear about the position and education of women in England.

The beautiful reception-room looked something like home. The pure
white walls and honeycombed ceiling are touched and decorated with a
pale shade of blue, and the ground of the patterns of the rich carpets
on the floor is in the same delicate colour, which is repeated in the
brocaded stuffs with which the divans are covered. A half-length
portrait of the Amir in a sky-blue uniform, with his breast covered
with orders, harmonises with the general "scheme" of colour. The
_takchahs_ in the walls are utilised for vases and other objects in
alabaster, jade, and bronze. A tea-table covered with sweetmeats, a
tea equipage on the floor, and some chairs completed the furnishing.

The Amir stood till his wife came in, and then asked permission to sit
down, placing Mirza, who discreetly lowered his eyes when the lady
entered, and never raised them again, on the floor.

She is young, tall, and somewhat stout. She was much rouged, and her
eyes, to which the arts of the toilet could add no additional beauty,
were treated with _kohl_, and the eyebrows artificially extended. She
wore fine gray socks, white skin-fitting tights, a black satin skirt,
or rather flounce, embroidered in gold, so _bouffante_ with flounces
of starched crinoline under it that when she sat down it stood out
straight, not even touching the chair. A chemise of spangled gauze,
and a pale blue gold-embroidered zouave jacket completed a costume
which is dress, not clothing. The somewhat startling effect was toned
down by a beautiful Constantinople silk gauze veil, sprigged in pale
pink and gold, absolutely transparent, which draped her from head to

I did not get away in less than two hours. The Amir and Mirza, used to
each other's modes of expression, found no difficulties, and Mirza
being a man of education as well as intelligence, thought was conveyed
as easily as fact. The lady kept her fine eyes lowered except when her
husband spoke to her.

The chief topics were the education and position of women in England,
religion, politics, and the future of Persia, and on all the Amir
expressed himself with a breadth and boldness which were astonishing.
How far the Amir has gone in the knowledge of the Christian faith I
cannot say, nor do I feel at liberty to repeat his most interesting
thoughts. A Sunni, a liberal, desiring complete religious liberty,
absolutely tolerant to the _B[=a]bis_, grateful for the kindness shown
to some of them by the British Legation, and for the protection still
given to them at the C.M.S. house, admiring Dr. Bruce's persevering
work, and above all the Medical Mission, which he regards as "the
crown of beneficence" and "the true imitation of the life of the Great
Prophet, Jesus," all he said showed a strongly religious nature, and a
philosophical mind much given to religious thought. "All true
religions aim at one thing," he said, "to make the heart and life

He asked a good deal about my travels, and special objects of interest
in travelling, and was surprised when I told him that I nearly always
travel alone; but after a moment's pause he said, "I do not understand
that you were for a moment alone, for you had everywhere the love,
companionship, and protection of God."

He regards as the needs of Persia education, religious liberty (the
law which punishes a Moslem with death for embracing Christianity is
still on the statute-book), roads, and railroads, and asked me if I
had formed any opinion on the subject. I said that it appeared to me
that security for the earnings of labour, and equal laws for rich and
poor, administered by incorruptible judges, should accompany
education. I much fear that he thinks incorruptible judges a vision of
a dim future!

The subject of the position of women in England and the height to
which female education is now carried interested him extremely. He
wished his wife to understand everything I told him. The success of
women in examinations in art, literature, music, and other things, and
the political wisdom and absolutely constitutional rule of Queen
Victoria, all interested him greatly. He asked if the women who took
these positions were equally good as wives and mothers? I could only
refer again to Queen Victoria. An Oriental cannot understand the
position of unmarried women with us, or dissociate it from religious
vows, and the Amir heard with surprise that a very large part of the
philanthropic work which is done in England is done by women who
either from accident or design have neither the happiness nor the
duties of married life. He hopes to see women in Persia educated and
emancipated from the trammels of certain customs, "but," he added,
"all reform in this direction must come slowly, and grow naturally out
of a wider education, if it is to be good and not hurtful."

He asked me what I should like to see in Isfahan, but when I mentioned
the prison he said he should be ashamed to show it, and that except
for political offences imprisonment is not much resorted to, that
Persian justice is swift and severe--the bastinado, etc., not

Afterwards I paid a similar visit to the house of Mirza Yusuf's other
"benefactor," also a good and charitable man, who, as he speaks French
well, acted as interpreter in the _andarun_.

A few days later the Amir-i-Panj, accompanied by General Faisarallah
Khan, called on Dr. Bruce and on me, and showed how very agreeable a
morning visit might be made, and the following day the Amir sent the
same charger and escort for me, and meeting him and Dr. Bruce in the
Chahar Bagh, we visited the _Medresseh_, a combined mosque and
college, and the armoury, where we were joined by two generals and
were afterwards entertained at tea in the Standard Room, while a
military band played outside. The Amir had ordered some artificers
skilled in the brass-work for which Isfahan is famous to exhibit their
wares in one of the rooms at the armoury, and in every way tried to
make the visit more agreeable than an inspection of the jail! He
advises me not to wear a veil in the Bakhtiari country, and to be "as
European as possible."

The armoury, of which he has had the organising, does not fall within
my province. There are many large rooms with all the appliances of war
in apparently perfect order for the equipment of 5000 men.

With equal brevity I pass over the _Medresseh_, whose silver gates and
exquisite tiles have been constantly described. Decay will leave
little of this beautiful building in a few years. The tiles of the
dome, which can be seen for miles, are falling off, and even in the
halls of instruction and in the grand mosque under the dome, which are
completely lined and roofed by tiles, the making of some of which is a
lost art, one may augur the approach of ruin from the loss or breakage
here and there. In the rooms or cells occupied by the students, who
study either theology or law, there are some very fine windows
executed in the beautiful tracery common to Persia and Kashmir, but
the effect of beauty passing into preventible decay is very mournful.

Isfahan too I barely notice, for the best of all reasons, that I have
not seen it! Though a fourth part of it is in ruins, and its
population is not an eighth of what it was in the days of Shah Abbas,
it is a fairly thriving commercial emporium with an increasing British
trade. Indeed here Russian commercial influence may be said to cease,
and that of England to become paramount. It is the paradise of
Manchester and Glasgow cottons: woollen goods come from Austria and
Germany, glass from Austria, crockery from England, candles and
kerosene represent Russia. Our commercial supremacy in Isfahan cannot
be disputed. I am almost tired of hearing of it. Opium, tobacco,
carpets from the different provinces, and cotton and rice for native
consumption, are the chief exports. Opium is increasingly grown round
the city, and up the course of the Zainderud. Of the 4500 cases
exported, worth £90 a case, three-fourths go to China. Its cultivation
is so profitable and has increased so rapidly to the neglect of food
crops that the Prince Governor has issued an order that one part of
cereals shall be sown for every four of the opium poppy.

The cotton in the bazars, through which one can walk under cover for
between two and three miles, is of the best quality, owing to the
successful measures taken by the calico printers to defeat the roguery
of the cheating manufacturers. All the European necessaries and many
of the luxuries of life are obtainable, and the Isfahan bazars are the
busiest in Persia except those of Tabriz.

It is only fair to this southern capital to say that if one can walk
over two miles under the roofs of its fine bazars, one can ride for
many miles among its ruins, which have desolation without stateliness,
and are chiefly known for the production of the excellent wild
asparagus which is used lavishly on European tables at this season.

The "Persian Versailles," the Palace of Forty Pillars, each pillar
formed of shafts enriched with colour and intricate work, and resting
on a marble lion, the shaking Minarets, the Masjid-i-Shah with its
fine dome of peacock-blue tiles, all falling into premature decay,
remain to attest its former greatness; the other noble palaces,
mosques, caravanserais, and _Medressehs_ are ruinous, the superb
pleasure gardens are overgrown with weeds or are used for vetches and
barley, the tanks are foul or filled up, the splendid plane trees have
been cut down for fuel, or are dragging out a hollow existence--every
one, as elsewhere in Persia, destroys, no one restores. The armoury is
the one exception to the general law of decay.

Yet Isfahan covered an area of twenty-four miles in circumference, and
with its population of 650,000 souls was until the seventeenth century
one of the most magnificent cities of the East. Its destruction last
century by an Afghan conqueror, who perpetrated a fifteen days'
massacre, and the removal of the court to Tihran, have reduced it to a
mere commercial centre, a "distributing point," and as such, its
remains may take a new lease of life. It has a newspaper called the
_Farhang_, which prints little bits of news, chiefly personal. Its
editor moves on European lines so far as to have "interviewed" me!

There are manufactures in Isfahan other than the successful printing
and dyeing of cottons; viz., earthenware, china, brass-work, velvet,
satin, tents, coarse cottons, glass, swords, guns, pistols, jewellery,
writing paper and envelopes, silk brocades, satins, gunpowder,
bookbinding, gold thread, etc.

The plateau on which Isfahan stands, about seventy miles from east to
west and twenty from north to south, and enclosed by high mountains
with a striking outline, lies 5400 feet above the sea. The city has a
most salubrious climate, and is free from great extremes both of heat
and cold. The Zainderud, on whose left bank it is situated, endows
much of the plain with fertility on its way to its undeserved doom in
a partially-explored swamp.

This Christian town, called a suburb, though it is really two and a
half miles from Isfahan, is a well-built and well-peopled nucleus. It
is not mixed up with ruins as Isfahan is. They have a region to
themselves chiefly in the direction of the Kuh Sufi. My impression of
it after a month is that it is clean and comfortable-looking, Mr.
Curzon's is that it is "squalid." I prefer mine!

It is a "city of waters." Streams taken from a higher level of the
Zainderud glide down nearly all its lanes, shaded by pollard
mulberries, ash, elm, and the "sparrow-tongue" willow, which makes the
best firewood, and being "planted by the rivers of water," grows so
fast that it bears lopping annually, and besides affording fuel
supplies the twigs which are used for roofing such rooms as are not

The houses, some of which are more than three centuries old, are built
of mud bricks, the roofs are usually arched, and the walls are from
three to five feet thick. All possess planted courtyards and
vineyards, and gardens into which channels are led from the streams in
the streets. These streams serve other purposes: continually a group
of Armenian women may be seen washing their clothes in them, while
others are drinking or drawing water just below. The lanes are about
twenty feet wide and have narrow rough causeways on both sides of the
water-channel. It is difficult on horseback to pass a foot passenger
without touching him in some of them.

Great picturesqueness is given to these leafy lanes by the companies
of Armenian women in bright red dresses and pure white robes, slowly
walking through them at all hours of daylight, visions of bright eyes
and rosy cheeks. I have never yet seen a soiled white robe! Long blank
mud walls, low gateways, an occasional row of mean shops, open porches
of churches, dim and cool, and an occasional European on foot or
horseback, and groups of male Armenians, whose dress so closely
approaches the European as to be without interest, and black-robed
priests gliding to the churches are all that is usually to be seen. It
sounds dull, perhaps.

Many of the houses of the rich Armenians, some of which are now let to
Europeans, are extremely beautiful inside, and even those occupied by
the poorer classes, in which a single lofty room can be rented for
twopence a week, are very pretty and appropriate. But no evidence of
wealth is permitted to be seen from the outside. It is only a few
years since the Armenians were subject to many disabilities, and they
have even now need to walk warily lest they give offence. As, for
instance, an Armenian was compelled to ride an ass instead of a horse,
and when that restriction was relaxed, he had to show his inferiority
by dismounting from his horse before entering the gates of Isfahan.

They were not allowed to have bells on their churches, (at Easter I
wished they had none still), but now the _Egglesiah Wang_ (the great
church) has a fine campanile over 100 feet high in its inner court.
The ancient mode of announcing the hours of worship is still
affectionately adhered to, however. It consists of drumming with a
mallet on a board hanging from two posts, and successfully breaks the
sleep of the neighbourhood for the daily service which begins before

The Armenians, like the rich Persians, prudently keep to the low
gateways, which, with the absence of windows and all exterior
ornament, give the lanes so mean an aspect, and tend to make one
regard the beauty and even magnificence within with considerable

In England a rich man, partly for his own delectation, and partly, if
he be "the architect of his own fortune," to impose his position
ocularly on his poorer neighbours, displays his wealth in all ways and
on most occasions. In Persia his chief pleasure must be to hoard it
and contemplate it, for any unusual display of it in equipages or
furnishings is certain to bring down upon him a "squeeze," at Tihran
in the shape of a visit from the Shah with its inevitable
consequences, and in the Provinces in that of a requisition from the

For a man to "enlarge his gates" is to court destruction. Poor men
have low gates, which involve stooping, to prevent rich men's servants
from entering their houses on horseback on disagreeable errands.
Christian churches have remarkably low doors elsewhere than in Julfa,
to prevent the Moslems from stabling their cattle in them. Rich men
affect mean entrances in order not to excite the rapacity of
officialism, according to the ancient proverb, "He that exalteth his
gate seeketh destruction" (Proverbs xvii. 19). Only Royal gates and
the gates of officials who represent Royalty are high.

The Armenian merchants have, like the Europeans, their offices in
Isfahan. The rest of the people get their living by the making and
selling of wine, keeping small shops, making watches and jewellery,
carpentering, in which they are very skilful, and market-gardening;
they are thrifty and industrious, and there is very little real

The selling of wine does not conduce to the peace of Julfa. A mixture
of sour wine and _arak_, a coarse spirit, is very intoxicating, and
Persians, when they do drink, drink till they are drunk, and the
abominable concealed traffic in liquor with the Moslems of the town is
apt to produce disgraceful brawls.

Wine can be bought for fourpence a quart, but the upper classes make
their own, and it costs less than this. Wines are both red and white,
and one red wine is said to be like good Chianti. The Armenians tipple
and also get drunk, priests included. It is said that some of the jars
used in fermenting are between 200 and 300 years old.

The excellent education given in the C.M.S. schools has had the effect
of stimulating the Armenian schools, and of producing among the young
men a large emigration to India, Batavia, Constantinople, and even
England. Only the dullards as a rule remain in Julfa. Some rise high
in Persian and even in Turkish employment.

The Armenian women are capital housewives and very industrious. In
these warm evenings the poorer women sit outside their houses in
groups knitting. The knitting of socks is a great industry, and a
woman can earn 4s. a month by it, which is enough to live upon.

In Julfa, and it may be partly owing to the presence of a European
community, the Christians have nothing to complain of, and, so far as
I can see, they are on terms of equality with the Persians.

However, Isfahan is full of religious intolerance which can easily be
excited to frenzy, and the arrogance of the _mollahs_ has increased
since the fall from almost regal state of the Zil-i-Sultan, the Shah's
eldest son, into the position of a provincial governor, for he curbed
them somewhat, and now the restraint is removed. However, it is
against the Jews and the _B[=a]bis_, rather than the Christians, that
their hostility is directed.

A few weeks ago some _B[=a]bis_ were peaceably returning to a
neighbouring village, when they were attacked, and seven of their
number were massacred under atrocious circumstances, the remainder
taking refuge for a time in the British Telegraph office. Several of
both sexes who escaped are in concealment here in a room in the
Hospital compound, one of them with a broken jaw.

The hiding of these _B[=a]bis_ has given great umbrage to the bigots
of Isfahan, though the Amir-i-Panj justified it on all grounds, and
about the time I arrived it was said that a thousand city fanatics
purposed to attack the mission premises. But at one of the mosques
there is a _mollah_, who with Gamaliel-like wisdom urged upon them
"that if 300 Moslems were killed nothing would happen, but if a single
European were killed, what then?"[37]

I cannot close this letter without a few words on the Armenian
churches, some of which I visited with Mr. and Dr. Aganoor, and others
with Dr. Bruce. The ceremony representing the washing of the
disciples' feet on the Armenian Holy Thursday was a most magnificent
one as regards the antique splendour and extreme beauty of the
vestments and jewels of the officiating bishop, but the feet, which
are washed in rose-water and anointed, are not, as in Rome, those of
beggars, but of neophytes costumed in pure white. Incense,
embroideries, crowds of white-robed women, and other accessories made
the function an imposing one.

The Cathedral, a part of the Monastery, has a narrow winding approach
and a thick door, for ecclesiastics were not always as safe as they
are now. In the outer court is the campanile before mentioned. The
floor is paved with monumental slabs, and among the graves are those
of several Europeans. Piles of logs look as if the Julfa carpenters
seasoned their wood in this court!

The church is divided by a rail into two compartments. The dome is
rich with beaten gold, and the dado is of very fine tiles, which
produce a striking effect. The embroideries and the carpets, some of
which are worth fabulous sums, are between two and three centuries
old. The vestments and ornaments of the priests are very fine, and
suggest the attire of the Aaronic priesthood.

It is a striking building, and the amount of gold and colour, toned
into a certain harmony by time, produces a gorgeous effect. The outer
compartment has a singular interest, for 230 years ago its walls were
decorated with religious paintings, on a large scale, of events in
Bible history, from the creation downwards. Some are copies, others
original, and they are attributed to Italian artists. They are well
worth careful study as representing the conceptions which found favour
among the Armenian Christians of that day. They are terribly
realistic, but are certainly instructive, especially the illustrations
of the miracles and parables.

In one of the latter a man with a huge beam sticking out of one eye is
represented as looking superciliously with the other at a man with an
insignificant spike projecting. The death of Dives is a horrible
representation. His soul, in the likeness of a very small nude
figure, is represented as escaping from the top of his head, and is
being escorted to the entrance of the lower regions by a flight of
small black devils. The idea of the soul emerging from the top of the
head is evidently borrowed from the Moslems.

Our Lord is, I think, everywhere depicted as short, dark, and
dark-haired, with eyebrows much curved, and a very long upper lip,
without beauty or dignity, an ordinary Oriental workman.

_The_ picture of the Cathedral is an enormous canvas, representing the
day when "before Him shall be gathered all nations." The three persons
of the Trinity are there, and saints and angels are portrayed as
worshipping, or as enjoying somewhat earthly but perfectly innocent

In this the conception is analogous to those celebrated circular
pictures in which the Buddhistic future is unrolled, and which I last
saw in the monasteries of Lesser Tibet. The upper or heavenly part is
insignificant and very small, while the torments of the lost in the
lower part are on a very large scale, and both the devils and the nude
human sufferers in every phase of anguish have the appearance of life
size. The ingenuity of torment, however, is not nearly so great, nor
are the scenes so revolting as those which Oriental imagination has
depicted in the Buddhist hells. A huge mythical monster represents the
mouth of hell, and into his flaming and smoking jaws the impenitent
are falling. Does any modern Armenian believe that any of those whose
bones lie under the huge blocks of stone in the cemetery in the red
desert at the foot of Kuh Sufi have passed into "this place of

The other church which claims one's interest, though not used for
worship, is that of St. George, the hero of the fraudulent contract
in bacon, as well as of the dragon fight, to whom the Armenians as
well as ourselves render singular honour.

This church is a great place for "miracles" of healing, and cells for
the sick who come from a distance are freely provided. In a covered
court are some large stones in a group, one of them evidently the
capital of a column. Two of them have cavities at the top, and the
sick kneel before them, and as the voluble women who were there told
us, "they first pray to God and then to the stones," and finally pour
water into these cavities and drink it. The cure is either
instantaneous or occurs at any time within fifteen days, and in every
case the patient hears the voice of St. George telling him to go home
when it is complete.

These stones, according to the legend told by the women and popularly
believed by the uneducated, took it into their heads to come from
Etchmiadzin in Armenia, the residence of the _Catholicos_, in one
night, and deposited themselves where the church now stands. Seven
times they were taken into Faraidan, eighty miles from Julfa, and as
often returned, and their manifest predilection was at last rewarded
by a rest of centuries. There were a number of sick people waiting for
healing, for which of course fees are bestowed.

The Armenians, especially the women, pay great attention to the
externals of their religion. Some of its claims are very severe, such
as the daily service before daylight, winter and summer, and the long
fasts, which they keep with surprising loyalty, _i.e._ among the poor
in towns and in the villages. For at least one-sixth of the year they
are debarred from the use of meat or even eggs, and are permitted only
vegetable oils, fruits, vegetables, and grain. Spirits and wine,
however, are not prohibited.

I really believe that their passionate attachment to their venerable
church, the oldest of all national churches, is fostered by those
among them who have ceased to believe its doctrines, as a necessity of
national existence. I doubt very much whether the "Reformed"
congregations, which have been gathered out here and elsewhere, would
survive the withdrawal of foreign aid. Rather, I think, they would
revert to the original type.

Superstitions without number are mixed up with their beliefs, and are
countenanced by the priests. The _meron_ or holy oil used in baptism
and for other purposes has the stamp of charlatanism upon it. It is
made in Etchmiadzin.

Rose leaves are collected in an immense vat, which is filled with
water, and at a set time the monks and nuns form a circle round it,
and repeat prayers till "fermentation" begins. They claim that the
so-called fermentation is a miracle due to the prayers offered. Oil,
probably attar of roses, rises to the surface, and this precious
_meron_ is sent to the Armenian churches throughout the world about
once in four or five years. In Persia those who bear it are received
with an _istikbal_ or procession of welcome.

It is used not only in baptism and other rites but at the annual
ceremony of washing the Cross at Christmas, when some of it is poured
into the water and is drunk by the worshippers. In the villages they
make a paste by mixing this water and oil with earth, which is made
into balls and kept in the houses for "luck." If a dog licks a bowl or
other vessel, and thus renders it unclean, rubbing it round with one
of these balls restores it to purity.

At a village in Faraidan there is an ancient New Testament, reputed to
be of the sixth century. To this MS. people come on pilgrimage from
all quarters, even from Fars, Tihran, and Armenia, to be healed of
their diseases, and they make offerings to it, and practically render
it worship.

To go and pray on a newly-made grave is a remedy for childlessness
much resorted to by childless wives. When two boys fight, and one of
them is hurt, or when any one is injured by a dog or by a tree
falling, they wash the damaged person in water, and then throw the
water over the boy, dog, or tree which has been the cause of the
injury, believing that in this way the mischief is transferred.

When any one is ill of fright and the cause is not known, the nuns
come to the house, and pour wax into a basin of boiling water, noting
the form it takes, such as a snake, a dog, or a frog. In a case lately
they went out and killed a snake, for the thing whose form the wax
takes ought to be killed; but as this might often be difficult or
unsuitable, they compromise the matter by throwing the water (not
boiling, I hope) over the nearest dog or toad, or anything else which
is supposed to be the culprit.

On the first Monday in Lent the women wash their knitting needles for
luck in a stream which runs through Julfa. The children educated in
the Mission schools laugh at these and many other superstitions.

The dress of the Armenian women is very showy, but too much of a
_huddle_. Red is the dominant colour, a carnation red with white
patterns sprawling over it, They wear coloured trousers concealed by a
long skirt. The visible under-garment is a long, "shaped" dress of
Turkey red. Over this is worn a somewhat scanty gown of red and white
cotton, open in front, and very short-waisted, and over this a plain
red pelisse or outer garment, often quilted, open in front, gashed up
the sides, and falling below the knees. Of course this costume is
liable to many modifications in the way of material, and embroidered
jackets, heavily trimmed with jewellery and the like. As fashion is
unchanging the acquisition and hoarding of garments are carried to a
great extent.

There are two marked features of Armenian dress, one, the massive
silver girdle made of heavy chased-silver links four inches long by
two deep, often antique and always of antique design, which falls much
below the waist in front, and is used to confine the ends of the white
sheet which envelops an Armenian woman out of doors, so that it may
hang evenly all round. The other is a skull-cap of embroidered silk or
cloth, placed well back on the head above the many hanging plaits in
which the hair is worn, with a black velvet coronet in front, from
which among the richer women rows of coins depend. This, which is very
becoming to the brilliant complexion and comely face below it, is in
its turn covered by a half handkerchief, and over this is gracefully
worn, when not gracelessly clutched, a _chadar_ or drapery of printed
cambric or muslin. A white band bound across the chin up to the lips
suggests a broken jaw, and the _tout ensemble_ of the various
wrappings of the head a perennial toothache.

     I. L. B.


[37] I have written nothing about this fast-increasing sect of the
_B[=a]bis_, partly because being a secret sect, I doubt whether the
doctrines which are suffered to leak out form really any part of its
esoteric teaching, and partly because those Europeans who have studied
the _B[=a]bis_ most candidly are diametrically opposed in their views
of their tenets and practice, some holding that their aspirations are
after a purer life, while others, and I think a majority, believe that
their teachings are subversive of morality and of the purity of
domestic life.


     JULFA, _April 30_.

You will be tired of Julfa though I am not. I fully expected to have
left it a fortnight ago, but unavoidable delays have occurred. My
caravan and servants started this morning, and I leave myself in a few

Upon my horse I have bestowed the suggestive name of _Screw_. He is
fairly well-bred, big-headed, big-eared, small-bodied, bright bay,
fine-coated, slightly flat-footed, and with his fore hoofs split in
several places from the coronet nearly to the shoe. He is an undoubted
_yabu_, and has carried loads for many a day. He has a long stride,
shies badly, walks very fast, canters easily, and at present shows no
tendency to tumble down.[38]

I have had pleasant rides alone, crossing the definite dividing line
between the desert and the oasis of cultivation and irrigation,
watching the daily development of the various crops and the brief life
of the wild flowers, creeping through the green fields on the narrow
margins of irrigating ditches, down to the Pul-i-Kaj[=u], and
returning to the green lanes of Julfa by the bright waters of the
Zainderud crimsoning in the setting sun.

For in the late cool and breezy weather, not altogether free from
clouds and showers, there have been some gorgeous sunsets, and
magnificent colouring of the depth and richness which people call
tropical, has blazed extravagantly; and from the violet desert to the
indigo storm-clouds on the still snow-patched Kuhr[=u]d mountains,
from the vivid green of the oasis to the purple crags in dark relief
against a sky of flame, all things have been new.

Two Sundays witnessed two incidents, one the baptism of a young Moslem
in a semi-private fashion, who shortly afterwards renounced
Christianity, and the other that of a respectable Mohammedan merchant
in Isfahan, who has long pleaded for baptism, presenting himself at
the altar rails at the Holy Communion, resolved that if he were not
permitted to confess Christ as Divine in one way he would in another.
He was passed over, to my great regret, if he be sincere, but I
suppose the Rubric leaves no choice.[39]

I have written little about my prospective journey because there has
been a prolonged uncertainty about it, and even now I cannot give any
definite account of the project, except that the route lies through an
altogether mountainous region, in that part of the province of
Luristan known in Persia colloquially as the "Bakhtiari country," from
being inhabited by the Bakhtiari Lurs, chiefly nomads. The pros and
cons as to my going have been innumerable, and the two people in
Persia who know the earlier part of the route say that the character
of the people makes it impossible for a lady to travel among them. On
the other hand, I have the consent and help of the highest
authorities, Persian and English, and shall not go too far, but shall
return to Isfahan in case things should turn out as is feared. The
exploration of a previously unexplored region will be in itself
interesting, but whether there will be sufficient of the human
interests, which I chiefly care for, I doubt; in that case the journey
will be dull.

At all events I shall probably have to return here in two months,[40]
but such a journey for myself and two servants in such a region
requires extensive preparations, and I have brought all my own
travelling "dodges" into requisition, with a selection of those of
other people.

It is considered desirable to carry stores from Isfahan for forty
days, except flour and rice, which can be obtained a week's march from
here. At the British Legation I was kindly supplied with many tins of
preserved meat, and milk, and jam, and besides these I am only taking
a quantity of Edwards' Desiccated Soup, portable and excellent, twelve
pounds of tea, and ten pounds of candles. The great thing in planning
is to think of what one can do without. Two small bottles of saccharin
supply the place of forty pounds of sugar.

Two _yekdans_ contain my stores, cooking and table utensils and
personal luggage, a waterproof bag my bedding, and a divided
packing-case, now empty, goes for the flour and rice. Everything in
the _yekdans_ is put up in bags made of the coarse cotton of the
country. The tents and tent-poles, which have been socketed for easier
transport on crooked mountain paths, and a camp-bed made from a
Kashmiri pattern in Tihran, are all packed in covers made from the
gunny bags in which sugar is imported, and so are double sets of
large and small iron tent-pegs.

Presents for the "savages" are also essential, and I have succeeded in
getting 100 thimbles, many gross of small china buttons which, it is
said, they like to sew on children's caps, 1000 needles, a quantity of
Russian thread, a number of boxes with mirror tops, two dozen
double-bladed knives, and the same number of strong scissors, Kashmir
_kamarbands_, gay handkerchiefs for women's heads, Isfahan printed
"table-cloths," dozens of bead bracelets and necklaces, leather purses
and tobacco pouches, and many other things.

I take three tents, including a _shuldari_, five feet square, and only
weighing ten pounds. My kit is reduced to very simple elements, a
kettle, two copper pots which fit into each other, a frying pan,
cooking knife and spoon, a tray instead of a table, a chair, two
plates, a teacup and saucer, a soup plate, mug, and teapot, all of
course in enamelled iron, a knife, fork, and two spoons. This is ample
for one person for any length of time in camp.

For this amount of baggage and for the sacks of flour and rice,
weighing 160 lbs., which will hereafter be carried, I have four mules,
none heavily laden, and two with such light loads that they can be
ridden by my servants. These mules, two _charvadars_, and a horse are
engaged for the journey at two _krans_ (16d.) a day each, the owner
stipulating for a _bakhsheesh_ of fifty _krans_, if at the end I am
satisfied. This sum is to cover food and all risks.

The animals are hired from a well-known _charvadar_, who has made a
large fortune and is regarded as very trustworthy; Dr. Bruce calls him
the "prince of _charvadars_." He and his son are going on the "trip."
He has a quiet, superior manner, and when he came to judge of the
weight of my loads, he said they were "very good--very right," a more
agreeable verdict than muleteers are wont to pass upon baggage.[41]

The making of the contract with Hadji involved two important
processes, the writing of it by a scribe and the sealing of it. The
scribe is one of the most important persons in Persia. Every great man
has one or more, and every little man has occasion for a scribe's
services in the course of a year. He is the trusted depositary of an
infinity of secrets. He moves with dignity and deliberation, his
"writer's inkhorn" pendent from his girdle, and his physiognomy has
been trained to that reticent, semi-mysterious expression common to
successful solicitors in England.

Writing is a fine art in Persia. The characters are in themselves
graceful, and lend themselves readily to decoration. The old
illuminated MSS. are things of beauty; even my contract is ornamental.
The scribe holds the paper in his left hand, and uses a reed pen with
the nib cut obliquely, writing from right to left. The ink is thick,
and is carried with the pens in a _papier-maché_ inkhorn.

Hadji tells me with much pride that his son, Abbas Ali, can write "and
will be very useful."

Sealing is instead of signing. As in Japan, every adult male has his
seal, of agate or cornelian among the rich, and of brass or silver
among the poor. The name is carefully engraved on the seal at a cost
of from a half-penny to 18s. a letter. Tihran is celebrated for its
seal-cutters. No document is authentic without a seal as its

Hadji took the contract and applied it to his forehead in token of
respect, touched the paper with his tongue to make it moist and
receptive, waved it in the air to rid it of superfluous moisture,
wetted his fingers on a spongy ball of silk full of Indian ink in the
scribe's inkstand, rubbed the ink on the seal, breathed on it, and
pressed it firmly down on the paper, which he held over the forefinger
of his left hand. The smallest acts in Persia are regulated by rigid

The remaining portion of my outfit, but not the least important,
consists of a beautiful medicine chest of the most compact and
portable make, most kindly given to me by Messrs. Burroughes and
Wellcome, containing fifty small bottles of their invaluable
"tabloids," a hypodermic syringe, and surgical instruments for simple
cases. To these I have added a quantity of quinine, and Dr. Odling at
Tihran gave me some valuable remedies. A quantity of bandages, lint,
absorbent cotton, etc., completes this essential equipment. Among the
many uncertainties of the future this appears certain, that the
Bakhtiaris will be clamorous for European medicine.

I have written of my servants. Mirza Yusuf pleases me very much,
Hassan the cook seems quiet, but not active, and I picture to myself
the confusion of to-night in camp, with two men who know nothing about
camp life and its makeshifts!

Whatever the summer brings, this is probably my last letter written
from under a roof till next winter. I am sorry to leave Julfa and
these kind friends, but the prospect of the unknown has its charms.

     I. L. B.


[38] _Screw_ never became a friend or companion, scarcely a comrade,
but showed plenty of pluck and endurance, climbed and descended
horrible rock ladders over which a horse with a rider had never passed
before, was steady in fords, and at the end of three and a half months
of severe travelling and occasional scarcity of food was in better
condition than when he left Julfa.

[39] He has since been baptized, but for safety had to relinquish his
business and go to India, where he is supporting himself, and his
conduct is satisfactory.

[40] I never returned, and only at the end of three and a half months
emerged from the "Bakhtiari country" at Burujird after a journey of
700 miles.

[41] Hadji Hussein deserves a passing recommendation. I fear that he
is still increasing his fortune and has not retired. The journey was a
very severe one, full of peril to his mules from robbers and dangerous
roads, and not without risk to himself. With the exception of a few
Orientalisms, which are hardly worth recalling, he was faithful and
upright, made no attempt to overreach, kept to his bargain, was
punctual and careful, and at Burujird we parted good friends. He was
always most respectful to me, and I owe him gratitude for many
kindnesses which increased my comfort. It is right to acknowledge that
a part of the success of the journey was owing to the efficiency of
the transport.


In introducing the following journal of a summer spent in Luri-Buzurg
or Greater Luristan by a few explanatory notes, I desire to
acknowledge the labours of those travellers who have preceded me over
some of the earlier portions of the route, and my obligations to those
careful explorers of half a century ago, who turned the light of
modern research upon the antiquities of Lower Elam and the condition
of its modern inhabitants, and whose earnestness and accuracy the
traveller in Upper Elam and the Bakhtiari country may well desire to

For the correction of those portions of my letters which attempt to
describe a part of mountainous Luristan previously unexplored, I am
deeply indebted to a recent unpublished Geographical Report, to which
any geographical interest which they may possess is altogether due.
For the customs and beliefs of the Bakhtiaris I have had to depend
entirely on my own investigations, made through an intelligent and
faithful interpreter, whose desire for accuracy was scarcely exceeded
by my own.

The accompanying sketch map represents an area of 15,000 square miles,
lying, roughly speaking, between Lat. 31° and 34° N., and between
Long. 48° and 51° E., and covering a distance of 300 miles from the
Khana Mirza to Khuramabad.

The itinerary covers a distance of about 700 miles, a journey of three
and a half months, chiefly in the region of the Upper Karun and its
affluents, among which must be included the head-waters of the

During this time the Karun was traced, wherever the nature of its bed
admitted of it, from the gorge of Dupulan, below which several
travellers have investigated and reported its extraordinary windings,
up to the Sar-Cheshmeh-i-Kurang, its reputed source, a vigorous
fountain spring with an altitude of 8000 feet in the steep limestone
face of the north-eastern side of the Zard Kuh range, and upwards to
its real source in the Kuh-i-Rang or "variegated mountain."

The Ab-i-Diz was found to carry off the water of a larger area than
had been supposed; the north-west branches, the Ab-i-Burujird and the
Kamandab, which drain the well-watered plain of Silakhor, almost
yielding in importance to the Guwa and Gokun, which, uniting to form
what, for convenience' sake, was termed the Ab-i-Basnoi, receive the
drainage of the upper part of Faraidan, an important district of
Persia proper.

A lake of marvellously coloured water, two and a half miles long by
one mile wide, very deep, and with a persistent level, was found to
occupy a hollow at the inner foot of the grand mountain Shuturun, and
this, having no native name, was marked on the map as Lake Irene.

The Bakhtiari mountains are chains of precipitous parallel ranges,
generally running north-west and south-east, the valleys which divide
them and carry off their waters taking the same directions as far as
the Kuh-i-Rang, where a remarkable change takes place, noticed in
Letter XVII. This great mountain region, lying between the lofty
plateau of Central Persia and the plains of Khuzistan, has continuous
ranges of singular steepness, but rarely broken up into prominent
peaks, the Kuh-i-Rang, the Kuh-i-Shahan, the Shuturun Kuh, and Dalonak
being detached mountains.

The great ranges of the Kuh-i-Sukhta, the Kuh-i-Gerra, the Sabz Kuh,
the Kala Kuh, and the Zard Kuh were crossed and recrossed by passes
from 8000 to 11,000 feet in altitude; many of the summits were
ascended, and the deep valleys between them, with their full-watered,
peacock-green streams, were followed up wherever it was possible to do
so. The magnificent mountain Kuh-i-Rang was ascertained to be not only
a notable water-parting, but to indicate in a very marked manner two
distinct mountain systems with remarkable peculiarities of drainage,
as well as to form a colossal barrier between two regions which, for
the sake of intelligible description, were called "Upper Elam" and
the "Bakhtiari country."

The same authority, for the same purpose, designated the two main and
highest chains of mountains by the terms "Outer" and "Inner" ranges,
the former being the one nearest the great Persian plateau, the latter
the chain nearest to the Khuzistan plains. The conjectural altitudes
of the peaks in this hitherto unexplored region have been brought down
by some thousands of feet, and the "eternal snow" with which rumour
had crested them has turned out a myth, the altitude of the highest
summit being estimated at only a trifle over 13,000 feet.

The nearly continuous ranges south-east of the Kuh-i-Rang are pierced
for the passage of water by a few remarkable rifts or _tangs_--the
Outer range by the Tang-i-Ghezi, the outlet of the Zainderud towards
Isfahan, and the Tang-i-Darkash Warkash, by which the drainage of the
important districts of the Chahar Mahals passes to the Karun, the
Inner range being pierced at the Tang-i-Dupulan by the Karun itself.
North-west of the Kuh-i-Rang the rivers which carry the drainage of
certain districts of south-west Persia to the sea pierce the main
mountain ranges at right angles, passing through magnificent gorges
and chasms from 3000 to 5000 feet in depth.

Among the mountains, but especially in the formation south-east of the
Kuh-i-Rang, there are many alpine valleys at altitudes of from 7000 to
8500 feet, rich summer pastures, such as Gurab, Chigakhor, Shorab, and
Cheshmeh Zarin.

Some of the valleys are of considerable width, many only afford room
for narrow tracks above the streams by which they are usually watered,
while others are mere rifts for torrents and are inaccessible. Among
the limestone ranges fountain springs are of frequent occurrence,
gushing out of the mountain sides with great volume and
impetuosity--the perennial sources of perennial streams.

Much of the country is absolutely without wood, producing nothing fit
even for fuel but the _Astragalus verus_ and the _Astragalus
tragacantha_. This is especially the case on the outer slopes of the
Outer range, which are formed of rocky ribs with a covering of gravel,
and are "barren, treeless, waterless, and grassless." From the same
crest to the outer slopes of the Inner range, which descend on
Khuzistan, there are splendid pasturage, abundant water, and extensive
forests in the deep valleys and on the hill slopes.[43]

The trees, however, can rarely be defined as "forest trees." They are
small in girth and are usually stunted and wizened in aspect, as if
the conditions of their existence were not kindly.

Flowers are innumerable in the months of May and June, beginning with
the tulip, the iris, the narcissus, and a small purple gladiolus, and
a little later many of the hillsides above an altitude of 7000 feet
are aflame with a crimson and terra-cotta _Fritillaria imperialis_,
and a carnation-red anemone, while the margins of the snow-fields are
gay with pink patches of an exquisite alpine primula. Chicory, the
dark blue centaurea, a large orange and yellow snapdragon, and the
scarlet poppy attend upon grain crops there as elsewhere, and the
slopes above the upper Karun are brilliant with pink, mauve, and
white hollyhocks. But it must be admitted that the chief interest of
many of the flowers is botanical only. They are leathery, woolly,
thorny, and sticky, adapted rather for arid circumstances than to
rejoice the eye.

Among the economic plants observed were the _Centaurea alata_, which
grows in singular abundance at a height of from 5500 to 7000 feet, and
is cut and stacked for fodder; a species of celery of very strong
flavour, which is an important article of food for man and beast, and
the flower-stalks of which, six feet high, are woven into booths by
some of the tribes; the blue linum, red madder, the _Eryngium
cæruleum_, which is cut and stacked for fodder; a purple garlic, the
bulbs of which are eaten; liquorice, and the _Ferula asafetida_ in
small quantities.

It is a surprise to the traveller to find that a large area is under
cultivation, and that the crops of wheat and barley are clean, and up
to the Persian average, and that the removal of stones and a laborious
irrigation system are the work of nomads who only occupy their
_yailaks_ for five months of the year. It may be said that nearly
every valley and hill-slope where water is procurable is turned to
account for grain crops.

No part of the world in this latitude is fuller of streams and
torrents, but three only attain to any geographical dignity--the
Zainderud, or river of Isfahan, which after a course full of promise
loses itself ignominiously in a partially-explored swamp; the Karun,
with its Bakhtiari tributaries of the Ab-i-Bazuft, the Darkash
Warkash, the Ab-i-Sabzu, and the Dinarud; and the Ab-i-Diz, which has
an important course of its own before its junction with the Karun at
Bandakir. None of these rivers are navigable during their course
through the Bakhtiari mountains. They are occasionally spanned by
bridges of stone or wickerwork, or of yet simpler construction.

With the exception of the small area of the Outer range, which
contains the head-waters of the Zainderud, the Bakhtiari country
proper consists of the valleys of the upper Karun and its tributaries.

The tracks naturally follow the valleys, and are fairly easy in their
gradients to the south-east of the Kuh-i-Rang. To the north-west,
however, being compelled to cross rivers which pierce the ranges at
right angles to their directions, ascents and descents of several
thousand feet are involved at short intervals, formed of rock ladders,
which may be regarded as "impassable for laden animals."

The so-called roads are nothing better than tracks worn in the course
of centuries by the annual passage of the nomads and their flocks to
and from their summer pastures. In addition to the tracks which follow
the lie of the valleys, footpaths cross the main ranges where foothold
can be obtained.

There are but two bridle tracks which deserve mention as being
possible for caravan traffic between Isfahan and Shuster, one crossing
the God-i-Murda at a height of 7050 feet and the Karun at Dupulan, the
other, which considerably diminishes the distance between the two
commercial points, crossing the Zard Kuh by the Cherri Pass at an
altitude of 9550 feet and dropping down a steep descent of over 4000
feet to the Bazuft river. These, the Gurab, and the Gil-i-Shah, and
Pambakal Passes, which cross the Zard Kuh range at elevations of over
11,000 feet, are reported as closed by snow for several months in
winter. In view of the cart-road from Ahwaz to Tihran, which will pass
through the gap of Khuramabad, the possible importance of any one of
these routes fades completely away.

The climate, though one of extremes, is healthy. Maladies of locality
are unknown, the water is usually pure, and malarious swamps do not
exist. Salt springs produce a sufficiency of salt for wholesome use,
and medicinal plants abound. The heat begins in early June and is
steady till the end of August, the mercury rising to 102° in the shade
at altitudes of 7000 feet, but it is rarely oppressive; the nights are
cool, and greenery and abounding waters are a delightful contrast to
the arid hills and burning plains of Persia. The rainfall is scarcely
measurable, the snowfall is reported as heavy, and the winter
temperatures are presumably low.

There are few traces of a past history, and the legends connected with
the few are too hazy to be of any value, but there are remains of
bridges of dressed stone, and of at least one ancient road, which must
have been trodden by the soldiers of Alexander the Great and Valerian,
and it is not impossible that the rude forts here and there which the
tribesmen attribute to mythical heroes of their own race may have been
built to guard Greek or Roman communications.

The geology, entomology, and zoology of the Bakhtiari country have yet
to be investigated. In a journey of three months and a half the only
animals seen were a bear and cubs, a boar, some small ibex, a blue
hare, and some jackals. Francolin are common, and storks were seen,
but scarcely any other birds, and bees and butterflies are rare. It is
the noxious forms of animated life which are abundant. There are
snakes, some of them venomous, a venomous spider, and a stinging
beetle, and legions of black flies, mosquitos, and sand-flies infest
many localities.

This area of lofty ranges, valleys, gorges, and alpine pasturages is
inhabited by the Bakhtiari Lurs, classed with the savage or
semi-savage races, who, though they descend to the warmer plains in
the winter, invariably speak of these mountains as "their country." On
this journey nearly all the tribes were visited in their own
encampments, and their arrangements, modes of living, customs, and
beliefs were subjects of daily investigation, the results of which are
given in the letters which follow.

Their own very hazy traditions, which are swift to lose themselves in
the fabulous, represent that they came from Syria, under one chief,
and took possession of the country which they now inhabit. A later
tradition states that a descendant of this chief had two wives equally
beloved, one of whom had four sons, and the other seven; and that
after their father's death the young men quarrelled, separated, and
bequeathed their quarrel to posterity, the seven brothers forming the
Haft Lang division of the Bakhtiaris, and the four the Chahar

The Haft Lang, though originally far superior in numbers, weakened
their power by their unending internal conflicts, and in 1840, when
Sir A. H. Layard visited a part of Luristan not embraced in this
route, and sojourned at Kala-i-Tul, the power and headship of Mehemet
Taki Khan, the great chief of their rivals the Chahar Lang, were
recognised throughout the region.

The misfortunes which came upon him overthrew the supremacy of his
clan, and now (as for some years past) the Haft Lang supply the ruling
dynasty, the Chahar Lang being, however, still strong enough to decide
any battles for the chieftainship which may be fought among their
rivals. Time, and a stronger assertion of the sovereignty of Persia,
have toned the feud down into a general enmity and aversion, but the
tribes of the two septs rarely intermarry, and seldom encamp near each
other without bloodshed.

The great divisions of the Bakhtiaris, the Haft Lang, the Chahar Lang,
and the Dinarunis, with the dependencies of the Janiki Garmsir, the
Janiki Sardsir, and the Afshar tribe of Gunduzlu, remain as they were
half a century ago, when they were the subject of careful
investigation by Sir A. H. Layard and Sir H. Rawlinson.

The tribes (as enumerated by several of the Khans without any
divergence in their statements) number 29,100 families, an increase in
the last half-century. Taking eight to a household, which I believe to
be a fair estimate, a population of 232,800 would be the result.[45]

A few small villages of mud hovels at low altitudes are tenanted by a
part of their inhabitants throughout the winter, the other part
migrating with the bulk of the flocks; and 3000 families of the two
great Janiki divisions are _deh-nishins_ or "dwellers in cities,"
_i.e._ they do not migrate at all; but the rest are nomads, that is,
they have winter camping-grounds in the warm plains of Khuzistan and
elsewhere, and summer pastures in the region of the Upper Karun and
its affluents, making two annual migrations between their _garmsirs_
and _sardsirs_ (hot and cold quarters).

Though a pastoral people, they have (as has been referred to
previously) of late years irrigated, stoned, and cultivated a number
of their valleys, sowing in the early autumn, leaving the crops for
the winter and early spring, and on their return weeding them very
carefully till harvest-time in July.

They live on the produce of their flocks and herds, on leavened cakes
made of wheat and barley flour, and on a paste made of acorn flour.

In religion they are fanatical Moslems of the Shiah sect, but combine
relics of nature worship with the tenets of Islam.

The tribes, which were to a great extent united under the judicious
and ambitious policy of Mehemet Taki Khan and Hussein Kuli Khan,
nominally acknowledge one feudal head, the Ilkhani, who is associated
in power with another chief called the Ilbegi. The Ilkhani, who is
appointed by the Shah for a given period, capable of indefinite
extension, is responsible for the tribute, which amounts to about two
_tumans_ a household, and for the good order of Luri-Buzurg.

The Bakhtiaris are good horsemen and marksmen. Possibly in
inter-tribal war from 10,000 to 12,000 men might take the field, but
it is doubtful whether more than from 6000 to 8000 could be relied on
in an external quarrel.

The Khan of each tribe is practically its despotic ruler, and every
tribesman is bound to hold himself at his disposal.

As concerns tribute, they are under the government of Isfahan, with
the exception of three tribes and a half, which are under the
government of Burujird.

They are a warlike people, and though more peaceable than formerly,
they cherish blood-feuds and are always fighting among themselves.
Their habits are predatory by inclination and tradition, but they have
certain notions of honour and of regard to pledges when voluntarily

They deny Persian origin, but speak a dialect of Persian. Conquered
by Nadir Shah, who took many of them into his service, they became
independent after his death, until the reign of Mohammed Shah. Though
tributary, they still possess a sort of _quasi_ independence, though
Persia of late years has tightened her grip upon them, and the Shah
keeps many of their influential families in Tihran and its
neighbourhood as hostages for the good behaviour of their clans.

Of the Feili Lurs, the nomads of Luri-Kushak or the Lesser Luristan,
the region lying between the Ab-i-Diz and the Assyrian plains, with
the province of Kirmanshah to the north and Susiana to the south,
little was seen. These tribes are numerically superior to the
Bakhtiaris. Fifty years ago, according to Sir H. Rawlinson, they
numbered 56,000 families.

They have no single feudal chieftain like their neighbours, nor are
their subdivisions ruled, as among them, by powerful Khans. They are
governed by _Tushmals_ (lit. "master of a house") and four or five of
these are associated in the rule of every tribal subdivision. On such
occasions as involve tribal well-being or the reverse, these
_Tushmals_ consult as equals.

Sir H. Rawlinson considered that the Feili Lur form of government is
very rare among the clan nations of Asia, and that it approaches
tolerably near to the spirit of a confederated republic. Their
language, according to the same authority, differs little from that of
the Kurds of Kirmanshah.

Unlike the Bakhtiaris, they neglect agriculture, but they breed and
export mules, and trade in carpets, charcoal, horse-furniture, and

In faith they are Ali Ilahis, but are grossly ignorant and religiously
indifferent; they show scarcely any respect to Mohammed and the Koran,
and combine a number of ancient superstitions and curious sacrificial
rites with a deep reverence for Sultan Ibrahim, who under the name of
_B[=a]b[=a] Buzurg_ (the great father) is worshipped throughout

For the tribute payable to Persia no single individual is responsible.
The sum to be levied is distributed among the tribes by a general
council, after which each subdivision apportions the amount to be paid
by the different camps, and the _Rish-Sefid_ (lit. gray-beard) or head
of each encampment collects from the different families according to
their means.

The task of the Persian tax-collector is a difficult one, for the
tribes are in a state of chronic turbulence, and fail even in
obedience to their own general council, and the collection frequently
ends in an incursion of Persian soldiers and a Government raid on the
flocks and herds. Many of these people are miserably poor, and they
are annually growing poorer under Persian maladministration.

The Feili Lurs are important to England commercially, because the
cart-road from Ahwaz to Tihran, to be completed within two years,
passes partly through their country,[47] and its success as the future
trade route from the Gulf depends upon their good-will, or rather
upon their successful coercion by the Persian Government.


[42] The writers who have dealt with some of the earlier portions of
my route are as follows: Henry Blosse Lynch, Esq., _Across Luristan to
Ispahan--Proceedings of the R.G.S._, September 1890. Colonel M. S.
Bell, V.C., _A Visit to the Karun River and Kûm--Blackwood's
Magazine_, April 1889. Colonel J. A. Bateman Champain, R.E., _On the
Various Means of Communication between Central Persia and the
Sea--Proceedings of the R.G.S._, March 1883. Colonel H. L. Wells,
R.E., _Surveying Tours in South-Western Persia--Proceedings of
R.G.S._, March 1883. Mr. Stack, _Six Months in Persia_, London, 1884.
Mr. Mackenzie, _Speech--Proceedings of R.G.S._, March 1883. The
following among other writers have dealt with the condition of the
Bakhtiari and Feili Lurs, and with the geography of the region to the
west and south-west of the continuation of the great Zagros chain,
termed in these notes the "Outer" and "Inner" ranges of the Bakhtiari
mountains, their routes touching those of the present writer at
Khuramabad: Sir H. Rawlinson, _Notes of a March from Zohab to
Khuzistan in 1836--Journal of the R.G.S._, vol. ix., 1839. Sir A. H.
Layard, _Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia, including
a residence among the Bakhtiari and other wild tribes_, 2 vols.,
London, 1887. Baron C. A. de Bode, _Travels in Luristan and
Arabistan_, 2 vols., London, 1845. W. F. Ainsworth (Surgeon and
Geologist to the Euphrates Expedition), _The River Karun_, London,
1890. General Schindler travelled over and described the Isfahan and
Shuster route, and published a map of the country in 1884.

[43] Among the trees and shrubs to be met with are an oak (_Quercus
ballota_), which supplies the people with acorn flour, the _Platanus_
and _Tamariscus orientalis_, the jujube tree, two species of elm, a
dwarf tamarisk, poplar, four species of willow, the apple, pear,
cherry, plum, walnut, gooseberry, almond, dogwood, hawthorn, ash,
lilac, alder, _Paliurus aculeatus_, rose, bramble, honeysuckle, hop
vine, grape vine, _Clematis orientalis_, _Juniperus excelsa_, and

[44] In Persian _haft_ is seven, and _chakar_ four.

[45] This computation is subject to correction. Various considerations
dispose the Ilkhani and the other Khans to minimise or magnify the
population. It has been stated at from 107,000 to 275,000 souls, and
by a "high authority" to different persons as 107,000 and 211,000

[46] Sir. H. Rawlinson sums up Bakhtiari character in these very
severe words: "I believe them to be individually brave, but of a cruel
and savage character; they pursue their blood-feuds with the most
inveterate and exterminating spirit, and they consider no oath or
obligation in any way binding when it interferes with their thirst for
revenge; indeed, the dreadful stories of domestic tragedy that are
related, in which whole families have fallen by each other's hands (a
son, for instance, having slain his father to obtain the
chiefship--another brother having avenged the murder, and so on, till
only one individual was left), are enough to freeze the blood with

"It is proverbial in Persia that the Bakhtiaris have been obliged to
forego altogether the reading of the _F[=a]htihah_ or prayer for the
dead, for otherwise they would have no other occupation. They are also
most dexterous and notorious thieves. Altogether they may be
considered the most wild and barbarous of all the inhabitants of
Persia."--"Notes on a March from Zohab to Khuzistan," _Journal of the
R.G.S._, vol. ix. Probably there is an improvement since this verdict
was pronounced. At all events I am inclined to take a much more
favourable view of the Bakhtiaris than has been given in the very
interesting paper from which this quotation is made.

[47] A report to the Foreign Office (No. 207) made by an officer who
travelled from Khuramabad to Dizful in December 1890, contains the
following remarks on this route.

"As to the danger to caravans in passing through these hills, I am
inclined to believe that the Lurs are now content to abandon robbery
with violence in favour of payments and contributions from timid
traders and travellers. They hang upon the rear of a caravan; an
accident, a fallen or strayed pack animal, or stragglers in difficulty
bring them to the spot, and, on the pretence of assistance given, a
demand is made for money, in lieu of which, on fear or hesitation
being shown, they obtain such articles as they take a fancy to.

"The tribes through whose limits the road runs have annual allowances
for protecting it, but it is a question whether these are regularly
paid. It can hardly be expected that the same system of deferred and
reduced payments, which unfortunately prevails in the Persian public
service, should be accepted patiently by a starving people, who have
long been given to predatory habits, and this may account for
occasional disturbance. They probably find it difficult to understand
why payment of taxes should be mercilessly exacted upon them, while
their allowances remain unpaid. It is generally believed that they
would take readily to work if fairly treated and honestly paid, and I
was told that for the construction of the proposed cart-road there
would be no difficulty in getting labourers from the neighbouring Lur



I left Julfa on the afternoon of April 30, with Miss Bruce as my guest
and Mr. Douglas as our escort for the first three or four days. The
caravan was sent forward early, that my inexperienced servants might
have time to pitch the tents before our arrival.

Green and pleasant looked the narrow streets and walled gardens of
Julfa under a blue sky, on which black clouds were heavily massed here
and there; but greenery was soon exchanged for long lines of mud
ruins, and the great gravelly slopes in which the mountains descend
upon the vast expanse of plain which surrounds Isfahan, on which the
villages of low mud houses are marked by dark belts of poplars,
willows, fruit-trees, and great patches of irrigated and cultivated
land, shortly to take on the yellow hue of the surrounding waste, but
now beautifully green.

Passing through Pul-i-Wargun, a large and much wooded village on the
Zainderud, there a very powerful stream, affording abundant water
power, scarcely used, we crossed a bridge 450 feet long by twelve feet
broad, of eighteen brick arches resting on stone piers, and found the
camps pitched on some ploughed land by a stream, and afternoon tea
ready for the friends who had come to give us what Persians call "a
throw on the road." I examined my equipments, found that nothing
essential was lacking, initiated my servants into their evening
duties, especially that of tightening tent ropes and driving tent pegs
well in, and enjoyed a social evening in the adjacent camp.

The next day's journey, made under an unclouded sky, was mainly along
the Zainderud, from which all the channels and rills which nourish the
vegetation far and near are taken. A fine, strong, full river it is
there and at Isfahan in spring, so prolific in good works that one
regrets that it should be lost sixty miles east of Isfahan in the
Gas-Khana, an unwholesome marsh, the whole of its waters disappearing
in the _Kavir_. Many large villages with imposing pigeon-towers lie
along this part of its course, surrounded with apricot and walnut
orchards, wheat and poppy fields, every village an oasis, and every
oasis a paradise, as seen in the first flush of spring. On a slope of
gravel is the Bagh-i-Washi, with the remains of an immense enclosure,
where the renowned Shah Abbas is said to have had a menagerie. Were it
not for the beautiful fringe of fertility on both margins of the
Zainderud the country would be a complete waste. The opium poppy is in
bloom now. The use of opium in Persia and its exportation are always
increasing, and as it is a very profitable crop, both to the
cultivators and to the Government, it is to some extent superseding

Leaving the greenery we turned into a desert of gravel, crossed some
low hills, and in the late afternoon came down upon the irrigated
lands which surround the large and prosperous village of Riz, the
handsome and lofty pigeon-towers of which give it quite a fine
appearance from a distance.

These pigeon-towers are numerous, both near Isfahan and in the
villages along the Zainderud, and are everywhere far more imposing
than the houses of the people. Since the great famine, which made a
complete end of pigeon-keeping for the time, the industry has never
assumed its former proportions, and near Julfa many of the towers are
falling into ruin.

The Riz towers, however, are in good repair. They are all built in the
same way, varying only in size and height, from twenty to fifty feet
in diameter, and from twenty-five to eighty feet from base to summit.
They are "round towers," narrowing towards the top. They are built of
sun-dried bricks of local origin, costing about two _krans_ or 16d. a
thousand, and are decorated with rings of yellowish plaster, with
coarse arabesques in red ochre upon them. For a door there is an
opening half-way up, plastered over like the rest of the wall.

Two walls, cutting each other across at right angles, divide the
interior. I am describing from a ruined tower which was easy of
ingress. The sides of these walls, and the whole of the inner surface
of the tower, are occupied by pigeon cells, the open ends of which are
about twelve inches square. According to its size a pigeon-tower may
contain from 2000 to 7000, or even 8000, pairs of pigeons. These birds
are gray-blue in colour.

A pigeon-tower is a nuisance to the neighbourhood, for its occupants,
being totally unprovided for by their proprietor, live upon their
neighbours' fields. In former days it must have been a grand sight
when they returned to their tower after the day's depredations. "Who
are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?"
probably referred to a similar arrangement in Palestine.

The object of the towers is the preservation and collection of "pigeon
guano," which is highly prized for the raising of early melons. The
door is opened once a year for the collection of this valuable manure.
A large pigeon-tower used to bring its owner from £60 to £75 per
annum, but a cessation of the great demand for early melons in the
neighbourhood of Isfahan has prevented the re-stocking of the towers
since the famine.

Our experiences of Riz were not pleasant. One of the party during a
short absence from his tent was robbed of a very valuable scientific
instrument. After that there was the shuffling sound of a multitude
outside the tent in which Miss Bruce and I were resting, and women
concealed from head to foot in blue and white checked sheets,
revealing but one eye, kept lifting the tent curtain, and when that
was laced, applying the one eye to the spaces between the lace-holes,
whispering and tittering all the time. Hot though it was, their
persevering curiosity prevented any ventilation, and the steady gaze
of single eyes here, there, and everywhere was most exasperating. It
was impossible to use the dressing tent, for crowds of boys assembled,
and rows of open mouths and staring eyes appeared between the _fly_
and the ground. Vainly Miss Bruce, who speaks Persian well and
courteously, told the women that this intrusion on our privacy when we
were very tired was both rude and unkind. "We're only women," they
said, "_we_ shouldn't mind it, we've never seen so many Europeans
before." Sunset ended the nuisance, for then the whole crowd, having
fasted since sunrise, hurried home for food.

The great fast of the month of Ramazan began before we left Julfa.
Moslems are not at their best while it lasts. They are apt to be
crabbed and irritable; and everything that can be postponed is put off
"till after Ramazan."

Much ostentation comes out in the keeping of it; very pious people
begin to fast before the month sets in. A really ascetic Moslem does
not even swallow his saliva during the fast, and none but very old or
sick people, children, and travellers, are exempt from the obligation
to taste neither food nor water, and not even to smoke during
daylight, for a whole month. The penance is a fearful one, and as the
night is the only time for feasting, the Persians get through as much
of the day as possible in sleep.

Welcome indeed is the sunset. With joy men fill their pipes and drink
tea as a prelude to the meal eaten an hour afterwards. Hateful is the
dawn and the cry an hour before it, "Water! oh, water and opium!"--the
warning to the faithful to drink largely and swallow an opium pill
before sunrise. The thirst even in weather like this, and the
abstention from smoking, are severer trials than the fasting from
food. The Persian either lives to smoke, or smokes to live.

Although travellers are nominally exempt from the fast from water at
least, pious Moslems do not avail themselves of the liberty. Hadji
Hussein, for instance, is keeping it as rigidly as any one, and, like
some others, marches with the end of his _pagri_ tucked over his mouth
and nose, a religious affectation, supposed to prevent the breaking of
the fast by swallowing the animalculæ which are believed to infest the

Beyond Riz, everywhere there are arid yellow mountains and yellow
gravelly plains, except along the Zainderud, where fruit-trees, wheat,
and the opium poppy relieve the eyes from the glare. We took leave of
the Zainderud at Pul-i-Kala, where it is crossed by a dilapidated but
passable and very picturesque stone bridge of eight arches, and the
view from the high right bank of wood, bridge, and the vigorous green
river is very pretty.

Little enough of trees or greenery have we seen since. This country,
like much of the great Iranian plateau, consists of high mountains with
broad valleys or large or small plateaux between them, absolutely
treeless, and even now nearly verdureless, with scattered oases wherever
a possibility of procuring water by means of laboriously-constructed
irrigation canals renders cultivation possible.

Water is scarce and precious; its value may be gathered from the
allusions made by the Persian poets to fountains, cascades, shady
pools, running streams, and bubbling springs. Such expressions as
those in Scripture, "rivers of waters," "a spring of water whose
waters fail not," convey a fulness of meaning to Persian ears of which
we are quite ignorant. The first inquiry of a Persian about any part
of his own country is, "Is there water?" the second, "Is the water
good?" and if he wishes to extol any particular region he says "the
water is abundant all the year, and is sweet, there is no such water

The position of a village is always determined by the water supply,
for the people have not only to think of water for domestic purposes,
but for irrigating their crops, and this accounts for the packing of
hamlets on steep mountain sides where land for cultivation can only be
obtained by laborious terracing, but where some perennial stream can
be relied on for filling the small canals. The fight for water is one
of the hardest necessities of the Persian peasant. A water famine of
greater or less degree is a constant peril.

Land in Persia is of three grades, the wholly irrigated, the partially
irrigated, and the "rain-lands," usually uplands, chiefly suited for
pasturage. The wholly irrigated land is the most productive. The
assessments for taxes appear to leave altogether out of account the
relative fertility of the land, and to be calculated solely on the
supply of water. A winter like the last, of heavy snow, means a
plenteous harvest, _i.e._ "twelve or fourteen grains for one," as the
peasants put it; a scanty snowfall means famine, for the little rain
which falls is practically of scarcely any use.

The plan for the distribution of water seems to be far less
provocative of quarrels than that of some other regions dependent on
irrigation, such as Ladak and Nubra. Where it is at all abundant, as
it is in this Zainderud valley, it is only in the great heats of
summer that it is necessary to apportion it with any rigidity. It is
then placed in the hands of a _mirab_ or water officer, who allows it
to each village in turn for so many days, during which time the
villages above get none, or the _ketchudas_ manage it among themselves
without the aid of a _mirab_, for the sad truth, which is applicable
to all Persian officialism, applies in the _mirab's_ case, that if a
village be rich enough to bribe him it can get water out of its turn.

The blessedness of the Zainderud valley is exceptional, and the
general rule in the majority of districts is that the water must be
carefully divided and be measured by "_tashts_," each _tasht_ being
equivalent to the use of the water supply for eleven minutes.

"This space of time is estimated in a very ancient fashion by floating
a copper bowl with a needle hole in the bottom in a large vessel of
water. The _tasht_ comes to an end as the bowl sinks. The distribution
is regulated by the number of _tashts_ that each man has a right to.
If he has a right to twenty he will receive water for three and
three-quarter hours of the day or night every tenth day." Land without
water in Persia is about as valuable as the "south lands" were which
were given to Caleb's daughter.

So far as I can learn, the Persian peasant enjoys a tolerable security
of tenure so long as he pays his rent. A common rate of rent is
two-thirds of the produce, but on lands where the snow lies for many
months, even when they are "wet lands," it is only one-third; but this
system is subject to many modifications specially arising out of the
finding or non-finding of the seed by the owner, and there is no
uniformity in the manner of holding land or in assessing the taxes or
in anything else, though the system established 1400 years ago is
still the basis of the whole.[48]

The line between the oasis and the desert is always strongly marked
and definite. There is no shading away between the deep green of the
growing wheat and the yellow or red gravel beyond. The general
impression is one of complete nakedness. The flowers which in this
month bloom on the slopes are mostly stiff, leathery, and thorny. The
mountains themselves viewed from below are without any indication of
green. The usual colouring is grayish-yellow or a feeble red,
intensifying at sunset, but rarely glorified owing to the absence of

It is a very solitary route from Pul-i-Kala, without villages, and we
met neither caravans nor foot passengers. The others rode on, and I
followed with two of the Bakhtiari escort, who with Rustem Khan, a
minor chief, had accompanied us from Julfa. These men were most
inconsequent in their proceedings, wheeling round me at a gallop,
singing, or rather howling, firing their long guns, throwing
themselves into one stirrup and nearly off their horses, and one who
rides without a bridle came up behind me with his horse bolting and
nearly knocked me out of the saddle with the long barrel of his gun.
When the village of Charmi came in sight I signed to them to go on,
and we all rode at a gallop, the horsemen uttering wild cries and
going through the pantomime of firing over the left shoulders and
right flanks of their horses.

The camps were pitched on what might be called the village green.
Charmi, like many Persian villages, is walled, the wall, which is
much jagged by rain and frost, having round towers at intervals, and a
large gateway. Such walls are no real protection, but serve to keep
the flocks and herds from nocturnal depredators. Within the gate is a
house called the Fort, with a very fine room fully thirty feet long by
fifteen high, decorated with a mingled splendour and simplicity
surprising in a rural district. The wall next the courtyard is
entirely of very beautiful fretwork, filled in with amber and pale
blue glass. The six doors are the same, and the walls and the
elaborate roof and cornices are pure white, the projections being
"picked out" in a pale shade of brown, hardly darker than amber.

The following morning Miss Bruce left on her return home, and Mr.
Douglas and I rode fourteen miles to the large village of Kahva Rukh,
where we parted company. It is an uninteresting march over formless
gravelly hills and small plains thinly grassed, until the
Gardan-i-Rukh, one of the high passes on the Isfahan and Shuster
route, is reached, with its extensive view of brown mountains and
yellow wastes. This pass, 7960 feet in altitude, crossing the
unshapely Kuh-i-Rukh, is the watershed of the country, all the streams
on its southern side falling into the Karun. It is also the entrance
to the Chahar Mahals or four districts, Lar, Khya, Mizak, and
Gandaman, which consist chiefly of great plains surrounded by
mountains, and somewhat broken up by their gravelly spurs.

Beyond, and usually in sight, is the snow-slashed Kuh-i-Sukhta range,
which runs south-east, and throws out a spur to Chigakhor, the summer
resort of the Bakhtiari chiefs. The Chahar Mahals, for Persia, are
populous, and in some parts large villages, many of which are Armenian
and Georgian, occur at frequent intervals, most of them treeless, but
all surrounded by cultivated lands. The Armenian villages possess
so-called relics and ancient copies of the Gospels, which are
credited with the power of working miracles.[49]

The Chahar Mahals have been farmed to the Ilkhani of the Bakhtiaris
for about 20,000 _tumans_ (£6000) a year, and his brother, Reza Kuli
Khan, has been appointed their governor. Thus on crossing the Kahva
Rukh pass we entered upon the sway of the feudal head of the great
Bakhtiari tribes.

We camped outside the village, my tents being pitched in a ruinous
enclosure. The servants are in the habit of calling me the _Hak[=i]m_,
and the report of a Frank _Hak[=i]m_ having arrived soon brought a
crowd of sick people, who were introduced and their ailments described
by a blue horseman, one of the escort.

His own child was so dangerously ill of pneumonia that I went with him
to his house, put on a mustard poultice, and administered some Dover's
powder. The house was crammed and the little suffering creature had
hardly air to breathe. The courtyard was also crowded, so that one
could scarcely move, all the people being quite pleasant and friendly.
I saw several sick people, and was surprised to find the village
houses so roomy and comfortable, and so full of "plenishings." It was
in vain that I explained to them that I am not a doctor, scarcely even
a nurse. The fame of Burroughes and Wellcome's medicine chest has
spread far and wide, and they think its possessor _must_ be a
_Hak[=i]m_. The horseman said that medicine out of that chest would
certainly cure his child.[50] I was unable to go back to the tea which
had been prepared in the horseman's house, on which he expressed great
dismay, and said I must be "enraged with him."

Persians always use round numbers, and the _ketchuda_ says that the
village has 300 Persian houses, and 100 more, inhabited during the
winter by Ilyats. It has mud walls with towers at intervals, two
mosques, a clear stream of water in the principal street, some very
good houses with _balakhanas_, and narrow alleys between high mud
walls, in which are entrances into courtyards occupied by animals, and
surrounded by living-rooms. The only trees are a few spindly willows,
but wheat comes up to the walls, and at sunset great herds of cattle
and myriads of brown sheep converge to what seems quite a prosperous

_May 5._--Yesterday, Sunday, was intended to be a day of rest, but
turned out very far from it. After the last relay of "patients" left
on Saturday evening, and the last medicines had been "dispensed," my
tent was neatly arranged with one _yekdan_ for a table, and the other
for a washstand and medicine stand. The latter trunk contained some
English gold in a case along with some valuable letters, and some
bags, in which were 1000 _krans_, for four months' travelling. This
_yekdan_ was padlocked. It was a full moon, the other camps were quite
near, all looked very safe, and I slept until awakened by the
sharpness of the morning air.

Then I saw but one _yekdan_ where there had been two! Opening the
tent curtain I found my washing apparatus and medicine bottles neatly
arranged on the ground outside, and the trunk without its padlock
among some ruins a short distance off. The money bags were all gone,
leaving me literally penniless. Most of my store of tea was taken, but
nothing else. Two men must have entered my tent and have carried the
trunk out. Of what use are any precautions when one sleeps so
disgracefully soundly? When the robbery was made known horsemen were
sent off to the Ilkhani, whose guest I have been since I entered his
territory, and at night a Khan arrived with a message that "the money
would be repaid, and that the village would be levelled with the
ground!" Kahva Rukh will, I hope, stand for many years to come, but
the stolen sum will be levied upon it, according to custom.

The people are extremely vexed at this occurrence, and I would rather
have lost half the sum than that it should have happened to a guest.
In addition to an escort of a Khan and four men, the Ilkhani has given
orders that we are not to be allowed to pay for anything while in the
country. This order, after several battles, I successfully disobey.
This morning, before any steps were taken to find the thief, and after
all the loads were ready, officials came to the camps, and, by our
wish, every man's baggage was unrolled and searched. Our servants and
_charvadars_ are all Moslems, and each of them took an oath on the
Koran, administered by a _mollah_, that he was innocent of the theft.

_Ardal, May 9._--I left rather late, and with the blue horseman, to
whom suspicion generally pointed, rode to Shamsabad, partly over
gravelly wastes, passing two mixed Moslem and Armenian villages on a
plain, on which ninety ploughs were at work on a stiff whitish soil.

Shamsabad is a most wretched mud village without supplies, standing
bare on a gravelly slope, above a clear quiet stream, an affluent of
the Karun. This country has not reached that stage of civilisation in
which a river bears the same name from mouth to source, and as these
streams usually take as many names as there are villages on their
course, I do not burden my memory with them. There is a charming
camping-ground of level velvety green sward on the right bank of the
river, with the towering mass of Jehanbin (sight of the world), 12,000
feet high, not far off. This lawn is 6735 feet above the sea, and the
air keen and pleasant. The near mountain views are grand, and that
evening the rare glory of a fine sunset lingered till it was merged in
the beauty of a perfect moonlight.

After leaving Shamsabad the road passes through a rather fine defile,
crosses the Shamsabad stream by a ten-arched bridge between the
Kuh-i-Zangun and the Kuh-i-Jehanbin, and proceeds down a narrow valley
now full of wild flowers and young wheat to Khariji, a village of
fifty houses, famous for the excellent quality of its opium. From
Khariji we proceeded through low grassy hills, much like the South
Downs, and over the low but very rough Pasbandi Pass into an irrigated
valley in which is the village of Shalamzar. I rode through it alone
quite unmolested, but two days later the Sahib, passing through it
with his servants, was insulted and pelted, and the people said,
"Here's another of the dog party." These villagers are afflicted with
"divers diseases and torments," and the crowd round my tent was
unusually large and importunate. In this village of less than fifty
houses nearly all the people had one or both eyes more or less
affected, and fourteen had only one eye.

Between Shalamzar and Ardal lies the lofty Gardan-i-Zirreh, by which
the Kuh-i-Sukhta is crossed at a height of 8300 feet. The ascent
begins soon after leaving the village, and is long and steep--a nasty
climb. The upper part at this date is encumbered with snow, below
which primulas are blooming in great profusion, and lower down
leathery flowers devoid of beauty cover without adorning the hillside.
Two peasants went up with me, and from time to time kindly handed me
clusters of small raisins taken from the breasts of dirty felt
clothing. On reaching the snow I found Rustem Khan's horse half-buried
in a drift, so I made the rest of the ascent on foot. The snow was
three feet deep, but for the most part presented no difficulties, even
to the baggage animals.

At the summit there were no green things except some plants of
_artemisia_, not even a blade of grass, but among the crevices
appeared small fragile snow-white tulips with yellow centres, mixed
with scarlet and mauve blossoms of a more vigorous make. At that great
height the air was keen and bracing, and to eyes for months accustomed
to regions buried in dazzling snow and to glaring gravelly wastes,
there was something perfectly entrancing about the view on the
Bakhtiari side. Though treeless, it looked like Paradise. Lying at the
foot of the pass is the deep valley of Seligun, 8000 feet high, with
the range of the Kuh-i-Nassar to the south, and of the Kuh-Shah-Purnar
to the north--green, full of springs and streams, with two lakes
bringing down the blue of heaven to earth, with slopes aflame with the
crimson and terra-cotta _Fritillaria imperialis_, and levels one
golden glory with a yellow ranunculus. Rich and dark was the green of
the grass, tall and deep on the plain, but when creeping up the
ravines to meet the snows, short green sward enamelled with tulips.
Great masses of naked rock, snow-slashed, and ranges of snow-topped
masses behind and above, walled in that picture of cool serenity, its
loneliness only broken by three black tents of Ilyats far away. So I
saw Seligun, but those who see it a month hence will find only a brown
and dusty plain!

The range we crossed divides the Chahar Mahals from the true Bakhtiari
country, a land of mountains which rumour crests with eternal snow, of
unexplored valleys and streams, of feudal chiefs, of blood feuds, and
of nomad tribes moving with vast flocks and herds.

Mehemet Ali, a new and undesirable acquisition, was loaded with my
_shuldari_, and we clambered down the hillside, leading our horses
amidst tamarisk scrub and a glory of tulips, till we reached the
level, when a gallop brought us to the camps, pitched near a vigorous
spring in the green flower-enamelled grass.

That halt was luxury for man and beast. Later the air was cool and
moist. The sun-lit white fleeces which had been rolling among the
higher hills darkened and thickened into rain-clouds, drifting
stormily, and only revealing here and there through their rifts
glimpses of blue. A few flocks of sheep on the mountains, and the
mules and horses revelling knee-deep in the juicy grass, were the sole
representatives of animated life. It was a real refreshment to be away
from the dust of mud villages, and to escape from the pressure of
noisy and curious crowds, and the sight of sore eyes.

Towards evening, a gallop on the Arabs with the Bakhtiari escort took
us to the camp of the lately-arrived Ilyats. Orientals spend much of
their time in the quiet contemplation of cooking pots, and these
nomads were not an exception, for they were all sitting round a
brushwood fire, on which the evening meal of meat broth with herbs was
being prepared. The women were unveiled. Both men and women are of
quite a different type from the Persians. They are completely clothed
and in appearance are certainly only semi-savages. These tents
consisted of stones rudely laid to a height of two feet at the back,
over which there is a canopy with an open front and sides, of woven
goat's-hair supported on poles. Such tents are barely a shelter from
wind and rain, but in them generations of Ilyats are born and die,
despising those of their race who settle in villages.

There were great neutral-tint masses of rolling clouds, great banks of
glistering white clouds, a cold roystering wind, a lurid glow, and
then a cloudy twilight. _Hak[=i]m_ threw up his heels and galloped
over the moist grass, the Bakhtiaris, two on one horse, laughed and
yelled--there was the desert freedom without the desert. It was the
most inspiriting evening I have spent in Persia. Truth compels me to
add that there were legions of black flies.

In the early morning, after riding round the south-east end of the
valley, we passed by the lake Seligun or Albolaki, banked up by a
revetment of rude masonry. The wind was strong, and drove the
foam-flecked water in a long line of foam on the shore. Red-legged
storks were standing in a row fishing. Cool scuds of rain made the
morning homelike. Then there was a hill ascent, from which the view of
snowy mountains, gashed by deep ravines and backed by neutral-tint
clouds, was magnificent, and then a steep and rocky defile, which
involved walking, its sides gaudy with the _Fritillaria imperialis_,
which here attains a size and a depth of colouring of which we have no

In this pass we met a large number of Ilyat families going up to their
summer quarters, with their brown flocks of sheep and their black
flocks of goats. Their tents with all their other goods were packed in
convenient parcels on small cows, and the women with babies and big
wooden cradles were on asses. The women without babies, the elder
children, and the men walked.

Whatever beauty these women possessed was in the Meg Merrilees style,
with a certain weirdness about it. They had large, dark, long eyes,
with well-marked eyebrows, artificially prolonged, straight prominent
noses, wide mouths with thin lips, long straight chins, and masses of
black hair falling on each side of the face. Their dress consisted of
enormously full dark blue cotton trousers, drawn in at the ankles, and
suspended over the hips, not from the waist (the invariable custom in
Persia), and loose sleeved vests, open in front. The adult women all
wear a piece of cotton pinned on the head, and falling over the back
and shoulders. The men had their hair in many long plaits, hanging
from under felt skull-caps, and wore wide blue cotton trousers, white
or printed cotton shirts over these, and girdles in which they carried
knives, pipes, and other indispensables. All wore shoes or sandals of
some kind. These men were very swarthy, but the younger women had rich
brunette complexions, and were unveiled.

Some bad horse-fights worried the remainder of the march, which
included the ascent of an anemone-covered hill, 7700 feet high, from
which we got the first view of the Ardal valley, much cultivated, till
it narrows and is lost among mountains, now partly covered with snow.
In the centre is a large building with a tower, the spring residence
of the Ilkhani, whose goodwill it is necessary to secure. Through a
magnificent gorge in the mountains passes the now famous Karun. A
clatter of rain and a strong wind greeted our entrance into the
valley, where we were met by some horsemen from the Ilkhani.

The great Ardal plateau is itself treeless, though the lower spurs of
the Kuh-i-Sabz on the south side are well wooded with the _belut_, a
species of oak. There is much cultivation, and at this season the
uncultivated ground is covered with the great green leaves of a fodder
plant, the _Centaurea alata_, which a little later are cut, dried,
and stacked. The rivers of the plateau are the Karun and Sabzu on the
south side, and the river of Shamsabad, which brings to the Karun the
drainage of the Chahar Mahals, and enters the valley through a
magnificent _tang_ or chasm on its north side, called Darkash Warkash.
The village of Ardal is eighty-five miles from Isfahan, on the Shuster
caravan route, and is about 200 from Shuster. Its altitude is 5970
feet, its Long. 50° 50´ E. and its Lat. 32° N.

On arriving here the grandeur of the Ilkhani's house faded away.
Except for the fortified tower it looks like a second-rate
caravanserai. The village, such as there is of it, is crowded on a
steep slope outside the "Palace." It is a miserable hamlet of low
windowless mud hovels, with uneven mud floors, one or two feet lower
than the ground outside, built in yards with ruinous walls, and full
of heaps and holes. It is an _olla podrida_ of dark, poor, smoky mud
huts; narrow dirt-heaped alleys, with bones and offal lying about;
gaunt yelping dogs; bottle-green slimy pools, and ruins. The people
are as dirty as the houses, but they are fine in physique and face, as
if only the fittest survive. There is an _imamzada_, much visited on
Fridays, on an adjacent slope. The snow lies here five feet deep in
winter, it is said.

When we arrived the roofs and balconies of the Ilkhani's house were
crowded with people looking out for us. The Agha called at once, and I
sent my letter of introduction from the Amin-es-Sultan. Presents
arrived, formal visits were paid, the Ilkhani's principal wife
appointed an hour at which to receive me, and a number of dismounted
horsemen came and escorted me to the palace. The chief feature of the
house is a large audience-chamber over the entrance, in which the
chief holds a daily _durbar_, the deep balcony outside being usually
thronged by crowds of tribesmen, all having free access to him. The
coming and going are incessant.

  [Illustration: CASTLE OF ARDAL.]

The palace or castle is like a two-storied caravanserai, enclosing a
large untidy courtyard, round which are stables and cow-houses, and
dens for soldiers and servants. In the outer front of the building are
deep recessed arches, with rooms opening upon them, in which the
Isfahan traders, who come here for a month, expose their wares.
Passing under the Ilkhani's audience-chamber by a broad arched passage
with deep recesses on both sides, and through the forlorn uneven
courtyard, a long, dark arched passage leads into a second courtyard,
where there is an attempt at ornament by means of tanks and willows.
Round this are a number of living-rooms for the Ilkhani's sons and
their families, and here is the _andarun_, or house of the women. On
the far side is the Fort, a tall square tower with loopholes and

A Cerberus guards the entrance to the _andarun_, but he allowed Mirza
to accompany me. A few steps lead up from the courtyard into a lofty
oblong room, with a deep cushioned recess containing a fireplace. The
roof rests on wooden pillars. The front of the room facing the
courtyard is entirely of fretwork filled in with pale blue and amber
glass. The recess and part of the floor were covered with very
beautiful blue and white grounded carpets, made by the women. The
principal wife, a comely wide-mouthed woman of forty, advanced to meet
me, kissed my hand, raised it to her brow, and sat down on a large
carpet squab, while the other wives led me into the recess, and seated
me on a pile of cushions, taking their places in a row on the floor
opposite, but scarcely raising their eyes, and never speaking one
word. The rest of the room was full of women and children standing,
and many more blocked up the doorways, all crowding forward in spite
of objurgations and smart slaps frequently administered by the
principal wife.

The three young wives are Bakhtiaris, and their style of beauty is
novel to me--straight noses, wide mouths, thin lips, and long chins.
Each has three stars tattooed on her chin, one in the centre of the
forehead, and several on the back of the hands. The eyebrows are not
only elongated with indigo, but are made to meet across the nose. The
finger-nails, and inside of the hands, are stained with henna. The
hair hangs round their wild, handsome faces, down to their
collar-bones, in loose, heavy, but not uncleanly masses.

Among the "well-to-do" Bakhtiari women, as among the Persians, the
hair receives very great attention, although it is seldom exhibited.
It is naturally jet black, and very abundant. It is washed at least
once a week with a thin paste of a yellowish clay found among the
Zard-Kuh mountains, which has a very cleansing effect.

But the women are not content with their hair as it is, and alter its
tinge by elaborate arts. They make a thick paste of henna, leave it on
for two hours, and then wash it off. The result is a rich auburn tint.
A similar paste, made of powdered indigo leaves, is then plastered
over the hair for two hours. On its removal the locks are dark green,
but in twenty-four hours more they become a rich blue-black. The
process needs repeating about every twenty days, but it helps to fill
up the infinite leisure of life. It is performed by the bath

In justice to my sex I must add that the men dye their hair to an
equal extent with the women, from the shining blue-black of the Shah's
moustache to the brilliant orange of the beard of Hadji Hussein, by
which he forfeits, though not in Persian estimation, the respect due
to age.

Some of the Ilkhani's children and grand-children have the hair dyed
with henna alone to a rich auburn tint, which is very becoming to the
auburn eyes and delicate paleness of some of them.

The wives wore enormously full black silk trousers, drawn tight at the
ankles, with an interregnum between them and short black vests, loose
and open in front; and black silk sheets attached to a band fixed on
the head enveloped their persons. They have, as is usual among these
people, small and beautiful hands, with taper fingers and nails
carefully kept. The chief wife, who rules the others, rumour says, was
also dressed in black. She has a certain degree of comely dignity
about her, and having seen something of the outer world in a
pilgrimage to Mecca viâ Baghdad, returning by Egypt and Persia, and
having also lived in Tihran, her intelligence has been somewhat
awakened. The Bakhtiari women generally are neither veiled nor
secluded, but the higher chiefs who have been at the capital think it
_chic_ to adopt the Persian customs regarding women, and the inferior
chiefs, when they have houses, follow their example.

My conversation with the "queen" consisted chiefly of question and
answer, varied by an occasional divergence on her part into an
animated talk with Mirza Yusuf. Among the many questions asked were
these: at what age our women marry? how many wives the Agha has? how
long our women are allowed to keep their boys with them? why I do not
dye my hair? if I know of anything to take away wrinkles? to whiten
teeth? etc., if our men divorce their wives when they are forty? why
Mr. ---- had refused a Bakhtiari wife? if I am travelling to collect
herbs? if I am looking for the plant which if found would turn the
base metals into gold? etc.

She said they had very dull lives, and knew nothing of any customs but
their own; that they would like to see the Agha, who, they heard, was
a head taller than their tallest men; that they hoped I should be at
Chigakhor when they were there, as it would be less dull, and she
apologised for not offering tea or sweetmeats, as it is the fast of
the Ramazan, which they observe very strictly. I told them that the
Agha wished to take their photographs, and the Hadji Ilkhani along
with them. They were quite delighted, but it occurred to them that
they must first get the Ilkhani's consent. This was refused, and one
of his sons, whose wife is very handsome, said, "We cannot allow
pictures to be made of our women. It is not our custom. We cannot
allow pictures of our women to be in strange hands. No good women have
their pictures taken. Among the tribes you may find women base enough
to be photographed." The chief wife offered to make me a present of
her grandson, to whom I am giving a tonic, if I can make him strong
and cure his deafness. He is a pale precocious child of ten, with
hazel eyes and hair made artificially auburn.

When the remarkably frivolous conversation flagged, they brought
children afflicted with such maladies as ophthalmia, scabies, and sore
eyes to be cured, but rejected my dictum that a copious use of soap
and water must precede all remedies. Among the adults headaches, loss
of appetite, and dyspepsia seem the prevailing ailments. Love potions
were asked for, and charms to bring back lost love, with special
earnestness, and the woful looks assumed when I told the applicants
that I could do nothing for them were sadly suggestive. There could
not have been fewer than sixty women and children in the room, many,
indeed most of them, fearfully dirty in dress and person. Among them
were several negro and mulatto slaves. When I came away the balconies
and arches of the Ilkhani's house were full of men, anxious to have a
good view of the Feringhi woman, but there was no rudeness there, or
in the village, which I walked through afterwards with a courtesy
escort of several dismounted horsemen.

After this the Ilkhani asked me to go to see a man who is very ill,
and sent two of his retainers with me. It must be understood that
Mirza Yusuf goes with me everywhere as attendant and interpreter. The
house was a dark room, with a shed outside, in a filthy yard, in which
children, goats, and dogs were rolling over each other in a foot of
powdered mud. Crowds of men were standing in and about the shed. I
made my way through them, moving them to right and left with my hands,
with the recognised supremacy of a _Hak[=i]m_! There were some wadded
quilts on the ground, and another covered a form of which nothing was
visible but two feet, deadly cold. The only account that the
bystanders could give of the illness was, that four days ago the man
fainted, and that since he had not been able to eat, speak, or move.
The face was covered with several folds of a very dirty _chadar_. On
removing it I was startled by seeing, not a sick man, but the open
mouth, gasping respiration, and glassy eyes of a dying man. His
nostrils had been stuffed with moist mud and a chopped aromatic herb.
The feet were uncovered, and the limbs were quite cold. There was no
cruelty in this. The men about him were most kind, but _absolutely

I told them that he could hardly survive the night, and that all I
could do was to help him to die comfortably. They said with one
clamorous voice that they would do whatever I told them, and in the
remaining hours they kept their word. I bade them cleanse the mud from
his nostrils, wrap the feet and legs in warm cloths, give him air, and
not crowd round him. Under less solemn circumstances I should have
been amused with the absolute docility with which these big
savage-looking men obeyed me. I cut up a blanket, and when they had
heated some water in their poor fashion, showed them how to prepare
fomentations, put on the first myself, and bathed his face and hands.

He was clothed in rags of felt and cotton, evidently never changed
since the day they were put on, though he was what they call
"rich,"--a great owner of mares, flocks, and herds,--and the skin was
scaly with decades of dirt. I ventured to pour a little sal-volatile
and water down his throat, and the glassy eyeballs moved a little. I
asked the bystanders if, as Moslems, they would object to his taking
some spirits medicinally? They were willing, but said there was no
_arak_ in the Bakhtiari country, a happy exemption! The Agha's
kindness supplied some whisky, of which from that time the dying man
took a teaspoonful, much diluted, every two hours, tossed down his
throat with a spoon, Allah being always invoked. There was no woman's
gentleness to soothe his last hours. A wife in the dark den inside was
weaving, and once came out and looked carelessly at him, but men did
for him all that he required with a tenderness and kindness which were
very pleasing. Before I left they asked for directions over again, and
one of the Ilkhani's retainers wrote them down.

At night the Ilkhani sent to say that the man was much better and he
hoped I would go and see him. The scene was yet more weird than in the
daytime. A crowd of men were sitting and standing round a fire outside
the shed, and four were watching the dying man. The whisky had revived
him, his pulse was better, the fomentation had relieved the pain, and
when it was reapplied he had uttered the word "good." I tried to make
them understand it was only a last flicker of life, but they thought
he would recover, and the Ilkhani sent to know what food he should

At dawn "death music," wild and sweet, rang out on the still air; he
died painlessly at midnight, and was carried to the grave twelve hours

When people are very ill their friends give them food and medicine (if
a _Hak[=i]m_ be attainable), till, in their judgment, the case is
hopeless. Then they send for a _mollah_; who reads the Koran in a very
loud sing-song tone till death ensues, the last thirst being
alleviated meantime by _sharbat_ dropped into the mouth. Camphor and
other sweet spices are burned at the grave. If they burn well and all
is pure afterwards, they say that the deceased person has gone to
heaven; if they burn feebly and smokily, and there is any
unpleasantness from the grave, they say that the spirit is in
perdition. A Bakhtiari grave is a very shallow trench.

The watchers were kind, and carried out my directions faithfully. I
give these minute details to show how much even simple nursing can do
to mitigate suffering among a people so extremely ignorant as the
Bakhtiaris are not only of the way to tend the sick, but of the
virtues of the medicinal plants which grow in abundance around them. A
medical man itinerating among their camps with a light hospital tent
and some simple instruments and medicines could do a great deal of
healing, and much also to break down the strong prejudice which exists
against Christianity. Here, as elsewhere, the _Hak[=i]m_ is respected.
Going in that capacity I found the people docile, respectful, and even
grateful. Had I gone among them in any other, a Christian Feringhi
woman would certainly have encountered rudeness and worse.

The Ilkhani, who has not been in a hurry to call, made a formal visit
to-day with his brother, Reza Kuli Khan, his eldest son Lutf, another
son, Ghulam, with bad eyes, and a crowd of retainers. The Hadji
Ilkhani,--Imam Kuli Khan, the great feudal chief of the Bakhtiari
tribes, is a quiet-looking middle-aged man with a short black beard, a
parchment-coloured complexion, and a face somewhat lined, with a
slightly sinister expression at times. He wore a white felt cap, a
blue full-skirted coat lined with green, another of fine buff
kerseymere under it, with a girdle, and very wide black silk trousers.

He is a man of some dignity of deportment, and his usual expression is
somewhat kindly and courteous. He is a devout Moslem, and has a
finely-illuminated copy of the Koran, which he spends much time in
reading. He is not generally regarded as a very capable or powerful
man, and is at variance with the Ilbegi, who, though nominally second
chief, practically shares his power. In fact, at this time serious
intrigues are going on, and some say that the adherents of the two
chiefs would not be unwilling to come to open war.

  [Illustration: IMAM KULI KHAN.]

The greatest men who in this century have filled the office of Ilkhani
both perished miserably. The fate of Sir H. Layard's friend, Mehemet
Taki Khan, is well known to all readers of the _Early Recollections_,
but it was possibly less unexpected than that of Hussein Kuli Khan,
brother of the present Ilkhani, and father of the Ilbegi Isfandyar
Khan. This man was evidently an enlightened and able ruler; he
suppressed brigandage with a firm hand, and desired to see the
Mohammerah-Shuster-Isfahan route fairly opened to trade. He went so
far as to promise Mr. Mackenzie, of one of the leading Persian Gulf
firms, in writing, that he would hold himself personally responsible
for the safety of caravans in their passage through his territory, and
would repay any losses by robbery. He agreed to take a third share of
the cost of the necessary steamers on the Karun, and to furnish 100
mules for land transport between Shuster and Isfahan.[51]

It appears that Persian jealousy was excited by his enterprising
spirit; he fell under the displeasure of the Zil-es-Sultan, and in
1882 was put to death by poison while on his annual visit of homage.
The present Ilkhani, who succeeded him, warned possibly by his
brother's fate, is said to show little, if any, interest in commercial
enterprise, and to have made the somewhat shrewd remark that the
English "under the dress of the merchant often conceal the uniform of
the soldier."

In 1888 the Shah relented towards Hussein Kuli Khan's sons, the eldest
of whom, Isfandyar Khan, had been in prison for seven years, and they
with their uncle, Reza Kuli Khan, descended with their followers and a
small Persian army upon the plain of Chigakhor, where they surprised
and defeated the Hadji Ilkhani. His brother, Reza, was thereupon
recognised by the Shah as Ilkhani, and Isfandyar as Ilbegi, with the
substance of power. Another turn of the wheel of fortune, and the
brothers became respectively Ilkhani and Governor of the Chahar
Mahals, and their nephew is reinstated as Ilbegi.[52]

The Ilkhani's word is law, within broad limits, among the numerous
tribes of Bakhtiari Lurs who have consented to recognise him as their
feudal head, and it has been estimated that in a popular quarrel he
could bring from 8000 to 10,000 armed horsemen into the field. He is
judge as well as ruler, but in certain cases there is a possible
appeal to Tihran from his decisions. He is appointed by the Shah, with
a salary of 1000 _tumans_ a year, but a strong man in his position
could be practically independent.

It can scarcely be supposed that the present Ilkhani will long retain
his uneasy seat against the intrigues at the Persian court, and with a
powerful and popular rival close at hand. It is manifestly the
interest of the Shah's government to weaken the tribal power, and
extinguish the authority and independence of the principal chiefs, and
the Oriental method of attaining this end is by plots and intrigues at
the capital, by creating and fomenting local quarrels, and by
oppressive taxation. It is not wonderful, therefore, that many of the
principal Khans, whose immemorial freedom has been encroached upon in
many recent years by the Tihran Government, should look forward to a
day when one of the Western powers will occupy south-west Persia, and
give them security.

The _Hadji_ Ilkhani, for the people always prefix the religious title,
discussed the proposed journey, promised me an escort of a horseman
and a _tufangchi_, or foot-soldier, begged us to consider ourselves
here and everywhere as his guests, and to ask for all we want, here
and elsewhere. His brother, Reza Kuli Khan, who has played an
important part in tribal affairs, resembles him, but the sinister look
is more persistent on his face. He was much depressed by the fear that
he was going blind, but on trying my glasses he found he could see.
The surprise of the old-sighted people when they find that spectacles
renew their youth is most interesting.

Another visitor has been the Ilbegi, Isfandyar Khan. Though not tall,
he is very good-looking, and has beautiful hands and feet. He is able,
powerful, and ambitious, inspires his adherents with great personal
devotion, and is regarded by many as the "coming man." He was in
Tihran when I was in Julfa, and hearing from one of the Ministers that
I was about to visit the Bakhtiari country, he wrote to a general of
cavalry in Isfahan, asking him to provide me with an escort if I
needed it. I was glad to thank him for his courtesy in this matter,
and for more substantial help. Before his visit, his retainer, Mansur,
brought me the money of which I had been robbed in Kahva Rukh! This
man absolutely refused a present, saying that his liege lord would
nearly kill him if he took one. Isfandyar Khan welcomed me kindly,
regretting much that my first night under Bakhtiari rule should have
been marked by a robbery. He said that before his day the tribesmen
not only robbed, but killed, and that he had reduced them to such
order that he was surprised as well as shocked at this occurrence. I
replied that it occurred in a Persian village, and that in many
countries one might be robbed, but in none that I knew of would such
quick restitution be made.

In cases of robbery, the Ilkhani sends round to the _ketchudas_ or
headmen of the camps or villages of the offending district, to replace
the money, as in my case, or the value of the thing taken, after which
the thief must be caught if possible. When caught, the headmen consult
as to his punishment, which may be the cutting off of a hand or nose,
or to be severely branded. In any case he must be for the future a
marked man. I gather that the most severe penalties are rarely
inflicted. I hope the fine of 800 _krans_ levied on Kahva Rukh may
stimulate the people to surrender the thief. I agreed to forego 200
_krans_, as Isfandyar Khan says that his men raised all they could,
and the remaining sum would have to be paid by himself.

After a good deal of earnest conversation he became frivolous! He
asked the Agha his age, and guessed it at thirty-five. On being
enlightened he asked if he dyed his hair, and if his teeth were his
own. Then he said that he dyed his own hair, and wore artificial
teeth. He also asked my age. He and Lutf and Ghulam, the Ilkhani's
sons, who accompanied him, possess superb watches, with two dials, and
an arrangement for showing the phases of the moon.

Having accepted an invitation from the Ilbegi to visit him at Naghun,
a village ten miles from Ardal, accompanied by Lutf and Ghulam, we
were ready at seven, the hour appointed, as the day promised to be
very hot. Eight o'clock came, nine o'clock, half-past nine, and on
sending to see if the young Khans were coming, the servants replied
that they had "no orders to wake them." So we Europeans broiled three
hours in the sun at the pleasure of "barbarians"!

During the Ramazan these people revel from sunset to sunrise, with
feasting, music, singing, and merriment, and then they lie in bed till
noon or later, to abridge the long hours of the fast. "Is it such a
fast that I have chosen?" may well be asked.

The noise during the night in the Ilkhani's palace is tremendous. The
festivities begin soon after sunset and go on till an hour before
dawn. Odours agreeable to Bakhtiari noses are wafted down to my tent,
but I do not find them appetising. An eatable called _zalabi_ is in
great request during the Ramazan. It is made by mixing sugar and
starch with oil of sesamum, and is poured on ready heated copper
trays, and frizzled into fritters. Masses of eggs mixed with rice,
clarified butter, and jams, concealing balls of highly-spiced
mincemeat, _kabobs_, and mutton stewed with preserved lemon juice and
onions are favourite dishes at the Ilkhani's.

Besides the music and singing, the "Court" entertains itself nightly
with performing monkeys and dancing men, besides story-tellers, and
reciters of the poetry of Hafiz. It is satisfactory to know that the
uproarious merriment which drifts down to my tent along with odours of
perpetual frying, owes none of its inspiration to alcohol, coffee and
_sharbat_ being the drinks consumed.

We rode without a guide down the Ardal valley, took the worst road
through some deep and blazing gulches, found the sun fierce, and the
treelessness irksome, saw much ploughing, made a long ascent, and
stopped short of the village of Naghun at a large walled garden on the
arid hillside, which irrigation has turned into a shady paradise of
pear, apricot, and walnut trees, with a luxurious undergrowth of roses
and pomegranates. The young Khans galloped up just as we did, laughing
heartily at having slept so late. All the village men were gathered to
see the Feringhis, and the Ilbegi and his brothers received us at the
garden gate, all shaking hands. Certainly this Khan has much power in
his face, and his dignified and easy manner is that of a leader of
men. His dress was becoming, a handsome dark blue cloak lined with
scarlet, and with a deep fur collar, over his ordinary costume.

So much has been said and written about the Bakhtiaris being "savages"
or "semi-savages," that the entertainment which followed was quite a
surprise to me. Two fine canopy tents were pitched in the shade, and
handsome carpets were laid in them, and under a spreading walnut tree
a _karsi_, or fire cover, covered with a rug, served as a table, and
cigarettes, a bowl of ice, a glass jug of _sharbat_, and some tumblers
were neatly arranged upon it. Iron chairs were provided for the
European guests, and the Ilbegi, his brothers, the Ilkhani's sons, and
others sat round the border of the carpet on which they were placed.
There were fully fifty attendants. Into the midst of this masculine
crowd, a male nurse brought the Ilbegi's youngest child, a dark,
quiet, pale, wistful little girl of four years old, a daintily-dressed
little creature, with a crimson velvet cap, and a green and crimson
velvet frock. She was gentle and confiding, and liked to remain with

After a long conversation on subjects more or less worth speaking
upon, our hosts retired, to sleep under the trees, leaving us to eat,
and a number of servants brought in a large _karsi_ covered with food.
Several yards of blanket bread, or "flapjacks," served as a
table-cloth, and another for the dish-cover of a huge _pillau_ in the
centre. Cruets, plates, knives and forks, iced water, Russian
lemonade, and tumblers were all provided. The dinner consisted of
_pillau_, lamb cutlets, a curried fowl, celery with sour sauce,
clotted cream, and sour milk. The food was well cooked and clean, and
the servants, rough as they looked, were dexterous and attentive.

After dinner, by the Ilbegi's wish, I paid a visit to the ladies of
his _haram_. Naghun rivals the other villages of the tribes in
containing the meanest and worst permanent habitations I have ever
seen. Isfandyar Khan's house is a mud building surrounding a
courtyard, through which the visitor passes into another, round which
are the women's apartments. Both yards were forlorn, uneven, and
malodorous, from the heaps of offal and rubbish lying under the hot
sun. I was received by fifteen ladies in a pleasant, clean,
whitewashed apartment, with bright rugs and silk-covered pillows on
the floor, and glass bottles and other ornaments in the _takchahs_.

At the top of the room I was welcomed, not by the principal wife, but
by a portly middle-aged woman, the Khan's sister, and evidently the
duenna of the _haram_, as not one of the other women ventured to
speak, or to offer any courtesies. A chair was provided for me with a
_karsi_ in front of it, covered with trays of _gaz_ and other
sweetmeats. Mirza and a male attendant stood in the doorway, and
outside shoals of women and children on tip-toe were struggling for a
glance into the room. Several slaves were present, coal-black,
woolly-headed, huge-mouthed negresses. The fifteen ladies held their
gay _chadars_ to their faces so as to show only one eye, so I sent
Mirza behind a curtain and asked for the pleasure of seeing their
faces, when they all unveiled with shrieks of laughter.

The result was disappointing. The women were all young, or youngish,
but only one was really handsome. The wives are brunettes with long
chins. They wore gay _chadars_ of muslin, short gold-embroidered
jackets, gauze chemises, and bright-coloured balloon trousers. Three
of the others wore black satin balloon trousers, black silk jackets,
yellow gauze vests, and black _chadars_ spotted with white. These
three were literally moon-faced, like the representations of the moon
on old clocks, a type I have not yet seen. All wear the hair brought
to the front, where it hangs in wavy masses on each side of the face.
They wore black silk gold-embroidered skull-caps, set back on their
heads, and long chains of gold coins from the back to the ear, with
two, three, or four long necklaces of the same in which the coins were
very large and handsome. One wife, a young creature, was poorly
dressed, very dejected-looking, and destitute of ornaments. Her mother
has since pleaded for something "to bring back her husband's love."
The eyebrows were painted with indigo and were made to meet in a point
on the bridge of the nose. Each had one stained or tattooed star on
her forehead, three on her chin, and a galaxy on the back of each

Before Mirza reappeared they huddled themselves up in their _chadars_
and sat motionless against the wall as before. After tea I had quite a
lively conversation with the Khan's sister, who has been to Basrah,
Baghdad, and Mecca.

Besides the usual questions as to my age, dyeing my hair, painting my
face, etc., with suggestions on the improvement which their methods
would make on my eyes and eyebrows, she asked a little about my
journeys, about the marriage customs of England, about divorce, the
position of women with us, their freedom, horsemanship, and
amusements. She said, "We don't ride, we sit on horses." Dancing for
amusement she could not understand. "Our servants dance for us," she
said. The dancing of men and women together, and the evening dress of
Englishwomen, she thought contrary to the elementary principles of
morality. I wanted them to have their photographs taken, but they
said, "It is not the custom of our country; no good women have their
pictures taken, we should have many things said against us if we were
made into pictures."

They wanted to give me presents, but I made my usual excuse, that I
have made a rule not to receive presents in travelling; then they said
that they would go and see me in my tent at Chigakhor, their summer
quarters, and that I could not refuse what they took in their own
hands. They greatly desired to see the Agha, of whose imposing
_physique_ they had heard, but they said that the Khan would not like
them to go to the garden, and that their wish must remain ungratified.
"We lead such dull lives," the Khan's sister exclaimed; "we never see
any one or go anywhere." It seems that the slightest development of
intellect awakens them to the consciousness of this deplorable
dulness, of which, fortunately, the unawakened intelligence is
unaware. As a fact, two of the ladies have not been out of the Ardal
valley, and are looking forward to the migration to the Chigakhor
valley as to a great gaiety.

They asked me if I could read, and if I made carpets? They invariably
ask if I have a husband and children, and when I tell them that I am a
widow and childless, they simulate weeping for one or two minutes, a
hypocrisy which, though it proceeds from a kindly feeling, has a very
painful effect. Their occupation in the winter is a little
carpet-weaving, which takes the place of our "fancy-work." They also
make a species of _nougat_, from the manna found on the oaks on some
of their mountains, mixed with chopped almonds and rose-water. When I
concluded my visit they sent a servant with me with a tray of this and
other sweetmeats of their own making.

The party in the garden was a very merry one. The Bakhtiaris love fun,
and shrieked with laughter at many things. This jollity, however, did
not exclude topics of interesting talk. During this time _Karun_, a
handsome chestnut Arab, and my horse _Screw_ had a fierce fight, and
Karim, a Beloochi, in separating them had his arm severely crunched
and torn, the large muscles being exposed and lacerated. He was
brought in faint and bleeding and in great pain, and will not be of
any use for some time. The Agha asked the Ilbegi for two lads to go
with him to help his servants. The answer was, "We are a wandering
people, Bakhtiaris cannot be servants, but some of our young men will
go with you,"--and three brothers joined us there, absolute savages in
their ways. A cow was offered for the march, and on the Agha jocularly
saying that he should have all the milk, the Ilbegi said that I should
have one to myself, and sent two. He complained that I did not ask for
anything, and said that I was their guest so long as I was in their
country, and must treat them as brothers and ask for all I need.
"Don't feel as if you were in a foreign land" he said; "we love the

     I. L. B.


[48] The readers interested in such matters will find much
carefully-acquired information on water distribution, assessments, and
tenure of land in the second volume of the late Mr. Stack's _Six
Months in Persia_.

[49] Some of the legends connected with these objects are grossly
superstitious. At Shurishghan there is a "Holy Testament," regarding
which the story runs that it was once stolen by the Lurs, who buried
it under a tree by the bank of a stream. Long afterwards a man began
to cut down the tree, but when the axe was laid to its root blood
gushed forth. On searching for the cause of this miracle the Gospels
were found uninjured beneath. It is believed that if any one were to
take the Testament away it would return of its own accord. It has the
reputation of working miracles of healing, and many resort to it
either for themselves or for their sick friends, from Northern Persia
and even from Shiraz, as well as from the vicinity, and vows are made
before it. The gifts presented to it become the property of its

[50] And so it did, though it was then so ill that it seemed unlikely
that it would live through the night, and I told them so before I gave
the medicine, lest they should think that I had killed it.

[51] _Proceedings of R.G.S._, vol. v. No. 3, New Series.

[52] I am indebted for the information given above to a valuable paper
by Mr. H. Blosse Lynch, given in the _Proceedings of the R.G.S._ for
September 1890.


     ARDAL, _May 14_.

The week spent here has passed rapidly. There is much coming and
going. My camp is by the side of a frequented pathway, close to a
delicious spring, much resorted to by Ilyat women, who draw water in
_mussocks_ and copper pots, and gossip there. The Ilyats are on the
march to their summer quarters, and the steady tramp of their flocks
and herds and the bleating of their sheep is heard at intervals
throughout the nights. Sometimes one of their horses or cows stumbles
over the tent ropes and nearly brings the tent down. Servants of the
Ilkhani with messages and presents of curds, celery pickled in sour
cream, and apricots, go to and fro. Sick people come at intervals all
day long, and the medicine chest is in hourly requisition.

The sick are not always satisfied with occasional visits to the
_Hak[=i]m's_ tent: a man, who has a little daughter ill of jaundice,
after coming twice for medicine, has brought a tent, and has
established himself in it with his child close to me, and a woman with
bad eyes has also pitched a tent near mine; at present thirteen people
come twice daily to have zinc lotion dropped into their eyes. The fame
of the "tabloids" has been widely spread, and if I take common powders
out of papers, or liquids out of bottles, the people shake their heads
and say they do not want those, but "the fine medicines out of the
leather box." To such an extent is this preference carried that they
reject decoctions of a species of _artemisia_, a powerful tonic,
unless I put tabloids of permanganate of potash (Condy's fluid) into
the bottle before their eyes.

They have no idea of the difference between curable and incurable
maladies. Many people, stone blind, have come long distances for
eye-lotion, and to-night a man nearly blind came in, leading a man
totally blind for eight years, asking me to restore his sight. The
blind had led the blind from a camp twenty-four miles off!
Octogenarians believe that I can give them back their hearing, and men
with crippled or paralysed limbs think that if I would give them some
"Feringhi ointment," of which they have heard, they would be restored.
Some come to stare at a Feringhi lady, others to see my tent, which
they occasionally say is "fit for Allah," and the general result is
that I have very little time to myself.

The Ardal plateau is really pretty at this season, and I have had many
pleasant evening gallops over soft green grass and soft red earth. The
view from the tent is pleasant: on the one side the green slopes which
fall down to the precipices which overhang the Karun, with the snowy
mountains, deeply cleft, of the region which is still a geographical
mystery beyond them; on the other, mountains of naked rock with grass
running up into their ravines, and between them and me billows of
grass and wild flowers. A barley slope comes down to my tent. The
stalks are only six inches long, and the ears, though ripe, contain
almost nothing. Every evening a servant of the Ilkhani brings three
little wild boars to feed on the grain. Farther down the path are the
servants' and muleteers' camps, surrounded by packing-cases,
_yekdans_, mule-bags, nose-bags, gear of all kinds, and the usual
litter of an encampment.

The men, whether Indian, Persian, Beloochi, or Bakhtiari, are all
quiet and well-behaved. The motto of the camps is "Silence is golden."
Hadji Hussein is quiet in manner and speech, and though he has seven
muleteers, yells and shouts are unknown.

There is something exciting in the prospect of travelling through a
region much of which is unknown and unmapped, and overlooked hitherto
by both geographical and commercial enterprise; and in the prospective
good fortune of learning the manners and customs of tribes untouched
by European influence, and about whose reception of a Feringhi woman
doleful prophecies have been made.

_Tur, May 18._--The last day at Ardal was a busy one. Several of the
Khans called to take leave. I made a farewell visit to the Ilkhani's
_haram_; people came for medicines at intervals from 5 A.M. till 9
P.M.; numberless eye-lotions had to be prepared; stores, straps,
ropes, and equipments had to be looked to; presents to be given to the
Ilkhani's servants; native shoes, with webbing tops and rag soles, to
be hunted for to replace boots which could not be mended, and it was
late before the preparations were completed. During the night some of
my tent ropes were snapped by a stampede of mules, and a heavy
thunderstorm coming on with wind and rain, the tent flapped about my
ears till dawn.

It was very hot when we left the next morning. The promised escort was
not forthcoming. The details of each day's march have been much alike.
I start early, taking Mirza with me with the _shuldari_, halt usually
half-way, and have a frugal lunch of milk and biscuits, read till the
caravan has passed, rest in my tent for an hour, and ride on till I
reach the spot chosen for the camp. Occasionally on arriving it is
found that the place selected on local evidence is unsuitable, or the
water is scanty or bad, and we march farther. The greatest luxury is
to find the tent pitched, the camp bed put up, and the kettle boiling
for afternoon tea. I rest, write, and work till near sunset, when I
dine on mutton and rice, and go to bed soon after dark, as I breakfast
at four. An hour or two is taken up daily with giving medicines to
sick people.

There are no villages, but camps occur frequently. The three young
savages brought from Naghun are very amusing from the savage freedom
of their ways, but they exasperate the servants by quizzing and
mimicking them. The cows are useless. Between them they give at most a
teacupful of milk, and generally none. Either the calves or the boys
take it, or the marches are too much for them. In the Ilyat camps
there is plenty, but as it is customary to mix the milk of sheep,
goats, and cows, and to milk the animals with dirty hands into dirty
copper pots, and almost at once to turn the milk into a sour mass,
like whipped cream in appearance, by shaking it with some "leaven" in
a dirty goat-skin, a European cannot always drink it. Indeed, it goes
through every variety of bad taste.

The camps halt on Sundays, and the men highly appreciate the rest.
They sleep, smoke, wash and mend their clothes, and are in good humour
and excellent trim on Monday morning, and the mules show their
unconscious appreciation of a holiday by coming into camp kicking and

The baggage animals are fine, powerful mules and horses, with not a
sore back among them. The pack saddles and tackle are all in good
order. The caravan is led by a horse caparisoned with many bells and
tassels, a splendid little gray fellow, full of pluck and fire, called
Cock o' the Walk. He comes in at the end of a long march, arching his
neck, shaking his magnificent mane, and occasionally kicking off his
load. Sometimes he knocks down two or three men, dashes off with his
load at a gallop, and even when hobbled manages to hop up to the two
Arabs and challenge them to a fight. These handsome horses have some
of the qualities for which their breed is famous, and are as
surefooted as goats, but they are very noisy, and they hate each other
and disturb the peace of the camp by their constant attempts to fight.
My horse, _Screw_, can go wherever a mule can find foothold. He is
ugly, morose, a great fighter, and most uninteresting. The donkeys and
a fat retriever are destitute of "salient points."

Hadji Hussein, the _charvadar_, has elevated his profession into an
art. On reaching camp, after unloading, each muleteer takes away the
five animals for which he is responsible, and liberates them, with the
saddles on, to graze. After a time they drive them into camp, remove
the saddles, and groom them thoroughly, while the saddler goes over
the equipments, and does any repairs that are needed. After the
grooming each muleteer, having examined the feet of his animals,
reports upon them, and Hadji replaces all lost shoes and nails. The
saddles and the _juls_ or blankets are then put on, the mules are
watered in batches of five, and are turned loose for the night to
feed, with two muleteers to watch them by turns. Hadji, whose soft
voice and courteous manners make all dealings with him agreeable,
receives his orders for the morrow, and he with his young son, Abbas
Ali, and the rest of the muleteers, camp near my tent, cook their
supper of blanket bread with _mast_ or curds, roll their heads and
persons in blankets, put their feet to the fire, and are soon asleep,
but Hadji gets up two or three times in the night to look after his
valuable property.

At 4 A.M. or earlier, the mules are driven into camp, and are made
fast to ropes, which are arranged the previous night by pegging them
down in an oblong forty feet by twenty. Nose-bags with grain are put
on; and as the loads are got ready the mules are loaded, with Hadji's
help and supervision. No noise is allowed during this operation.

After an hour or more the caravan moves, led by Cock o' the Walk,
usually with two men at his head to moderate his impetuosity for a
time, with a guide; and Hadji on his fine-looking saddle mule looks
after the safety of everything. He is punctual, drives fast and
steadily, and always reaches the camping-ground in good time. When he
gets near it he dismounts, and putting on the air of "your most
obedient servant," leads in Cock o' the Walk. He is really a very
gentlemanly man for his position, but is unfortunately avaricious, and
though he has amassed what is, for Persia, a very large fortune, he
wears very poor clothes, and eats sparingly of the poorest food. He is
a big man of fifty, wears blue cotton clothing and a red turban, is
very florid, and having a white or very gray beard, has dyed it an
orange red with henna.

My servants have fallen fairly well into their work, but are
frightfully slow. All pitch the tents, and Hassan cooks, washes, packs
the cooking and table equipments, and saddles my horse. Mirza Yusuf
interprets, waits on me, packs the tent furnishings, rides with me,
and is always within hearing of my whistle. He is good, truthful, and
intelligent, sketches with some talent, is always cheerful, never
grumbles, is quite indifferent to personal comfort, gets on well with
the people, is obliging to every one, is always ready to interpret,
and though well educated has the good sense not to regard any work as
"menial." Mehemet Ali, the "superfluity," is a scamp, and, I fear,
dishonest. The servants feed themselves on a _kran_ (8d.) a day,
allowed as "road money." Sheep are driven with us, and are turned into
mutton as required. Really, they follow us, attaching themselves to
the gray horses, and feeding almost among their feet. My food
consists of roast mutton, rice, _chapatties_, tea, and milk, without
luxuries or variety. Life is very simple and very free from
purposeless bothers. The days are becoming very hot, but the nights
are cool. The black flies and the sand-flies are the chief tormentors.

On leaving Ardal we passed very shortly into a region little traversed
by Europeans, embracing remarkable gorges and singularly abrupt turns
in ravines, through which the Karun, here a deep and powerful stream,
finds its way. A deep descent over grassy hills to a rude village in a
valley and a steep ascent took us to the four booths, which are the
summer quarters of our former escort, Rustem Khan, who received us
with courteous hospitality, and regaled us with fresh cow's milk in a
copper basin. He introduced me to twelve women and a number of
children, nearly all with sore eyes. There is not a shadow of privacy
in these tents, with open fronts and sides. The carpets, which are
made by the women, serve as chairs, tables, and beds, and the low wall
of roughly-heaped stones at the back for trunks and wardrobe, for on
it they keep their "things" in immense saddle-bags made of handsome
rugs. The visible furniture consists of a big copper bowl for food, a
small one for milk, a huge copper pot for clarifying butter, and a
goat-skin suspended from three poles, which is jerked by two women
seated on the ground, and is used for churning butter and making

A steep ascent gives a superb view of a confused sea of mountains, and
of a precipitous and tremendous gorge, the Tang-i-Ardal, through which
the Karun passes, making a singularly abrupt turn after leaving a
narrow and apparently inaccessible cañon or rift on the south side of
the Ardal valley. A steep zigzag descent of 600 feet in less than
three-quarters of a mile brings the path down to the Karun, a deep
bottle-green river, now swirling in drifts of foam, now resting
momentarily in quiet depths, but always giving an impression of volume
and power. Large and small land turtles abound in that fiercely hot
gorge of from 1000 to 2000 feet deep. The narrow road crosses the
river on a bridge of two arches, and proceeds for some distance at a
considerable height on its right bank. There I saw natural wood for
the first time since crossing the Zagros mountains in January, and
though the oak, ash, and maple are poor and stunted, their slender
shade was delicious. Roses, irises, St. John's wort, and other flowers
were abundant.

The path ascends past a clear spring, up steep zigzags to a graveyard
in which are several stone lions, rudely carved, of natural size,
facing Mecca-wards, with pistols, swords, and daggers carved in relief
on their sides, marking the graves of fighting men. On this
magnificent point above the Karun a few hovels, deserted in summer,
surrounded by apricot trees form the village of Duashda Imams, which
has a superb view of the extraordinary and sinuous chasm through which
the Karun passes for many miles, thundering on its jagged and fretted
course between gigantic and nearly perpendicular cliffs of limestone
and conglomerate. Near this village the pistachio is abundant, and
planes, willows, and a large-leaved clematis vary the foliage.

Leaving the river at this point, a somewhat illegible path leads
through "park-like" scenery, fair slopes of grass and flowers
sprinkled with oaks singly or in clumps, glades among trees in their
first fresh green, and evermore as a background gray mountains slashed
with snow.

In the midst of these pretty uplands is the Ilyat encampment of
Martaza, with its black tents, donkeys, sheep, goats, and big fierce
dogs, which vociferously rushed upon _Downie_, the retriever, and were
themselves rushed upon and gripped by a number of women. The people,
having been informed of our intended arrival by Reza Kuli Khan, had
arranged a large tent with carpets and cushions, but we pitched the
camps eventually on an oak-covered slope, out of the way of the noise,
curiosity, and evil odours of Martaza. Water is very scarce there,
three wells or pools, fouled by the feet of animals, being the only

I rested on my _dhurrie_ under an oak till the caravan came up. It was
a sweet place, but was soon invaded, and for the rest of the day quiet
and privacy were out of the question, for presently appeared a fine,
florid, buxom dame, loud of speech, followed by a number of women and
children, all as dirty as it is possible to be, and all crowded round
me and sat down on my carpet. This _Khanum Shirin_ is married to the
chief or headman, but being an heiress she "bosses" the tribe. She
brought up bolsters and quilts, and begged us to consider themselves,
the whole region, and all they had as _pishkash_ (a present from an
inferior to a superior), but when she was asked if it included
herself, she blushed and covered her face. After two hours of somewhat
flagging conversation she led her train back again, but after my tent
was pitched she reappeared with a much larger number of women,
including two betrothed girls of sixteen and seventeen years old, who
are really beautiful.

These maidens were dressed in clean cotton costumes, and white veils
of figured silk gauze enveloped them from head to foot. They unveiled
in my tent, and looked more like _houris_ than any women I have seen
in the East; and their beauty was enhanced by the sweetness and
maidenly modesty of their expression. I wished them to be
photographed, and they were quite willing, but when I took them
outside some men joined the crowd and said it should not be, and that
when their betrothed husbands came home they would tell them how bold
and bad they had been, and would have them beaten. Although these
beauties had been most modest and maidenly in their behaviour, they
were sent back with blows, and were told not to come near us again.
The Agha entertained the _Khanum Shirin_ for a long time, and the
conversation was very animated, but when he set a very fine musical
box going for their amusement the lady and the rest of the crowd
became quite listless and apathetic, and said they much preferred to
talk. When their prolonged visit came to an end the _Khanum_ led her
train away, with a bow which really had something of graceful dignity
in it.

The next morning her husband, the _Mollah-i-Martaza_, and his son,
mounted on one horse, came with us as guides, and when we halted at
their camp the _Khanum_ took the whip out of my hand and whipped the
women all round with it, except the offending beauties, who were not
to be seen. The _mollah_ is a grave, quiet, and most respectable-looking
man, more like a thriving merchant than a nomad chief, though he does
carry arms. He is a devout Moslem, and is learned, _i.e._ he can read
the Koran.

In a short time the woodland beauty is exchanged for weedy hills and
slopes strewn with boulders. Getting other guides at an Ilyat camp, we
ascended Sanginak, a mountain 8200 feet high, from the top of which a
good idea of the local topography is gained. The most striking
features are the absence of definite peaks and the tremendous gorges
and abrupt turns of the Karun, which swallows in its passage all minor
streams. Precipitous ranges of great altitude hemmed in by ranges yet
loftier, snow-covered or snow-patched, with deep valleys between them,
well grassed and often well wooded, great clefts, through which at
some seasons streams reach the Karun; mountain meadows spotted with
the black tents of Ilyats, and deserted hovels far below, with patches
of wheat and barley, make up the landscape.

These hills are covered with celery of immense size. The leaves are
dried and stacked for fodder, and the underground stalks, which are
very white, are a great article of food, both fresh and steeped for a
length of time in sour milk. After resting in some Ilyat tents, where
the people were friendly and dirty, we had a most tiresome march over
treeless hills covered with herbs, and down a steep descent into the
Gurab plain, on which a great wall of rocky mountains of definite and
impressive shapes descends in broken spurs. My guide, who had never
been certain about the way, led me wrong. No tents were visible, the
nomads I met had seen neither tents nor caravan. Two hours went by in
toiling round the bases of green hills, and then there was the joyful
surprise of coming upon my tent pitched, the kettle boiling, the mules
knee-deep in food, close by the Chesmeh-i-Gurab, a copious spring of
good water, of which one could safely drink.

This Gurab plain, one of very many lying high up among these Luristan
mountains, is green and pretty now--a sea of bulbs and grass, but is
brown and dusty from early in June onwards. It is about four miles
long by nine or ten broad, and is watered by a clear and wonderfully
winding stream, which dwindles to a thread later on. The nomads are
already coming up.

The rest was much broken by the critical state of Karim's arm, which
was swelled, throbbing, and inflamed all round the wound inflicted by
_Karun_ on May 13, and he had high fever. It was a helpless
predicament, the symptoms were so like those of gangrene. I thought he
would most likely die of the hot marches. It was a very anxious night,
as all our methods of healing were exhausted, and the singular
improvement which set in and has continued must have been the work of
the Great Physician, to whom an appeal for help was earnestly made.
The wound is daily syringed with Condy's fluid, the only antiseptic
available, and has a drainage tube. To-day I have begun to use
eucalyptus oil, with which the man is delighted, possibly because he
has heard that it is very expensive, and that I have hardly any left!

Yesterday I had the amusement of shifting the camps to another place,
and Hadji was somewhat doubtful of my leadership. On arriving at the
beautiful crystal spring which the guide had indicated as the
halting-place for Sunday, I found that it issued from under a mound of
grass-grown graves, was in the full sun blaze, and at the lowest part
of the plain. The guide asserted that it was the only spring, but
having seen a dark stain of vegetation high among the hills, I halted
the caravan and rode off alone in search of the water I hoped it
indicated, disregarding the suppressed but unmistakably sneering
laughter of the guide and _charvadars_. In less than a mile I came
upon the dry bed of a rivulet, a little higher up on a scanty,
intermittent trickle, higher still on a gurgling streamlet fringed by
masses of blue scilla, and still higher on a small circular spring of
very cold water, with two flowery plateaux below it just large enough
for the camps, in a green quiet corrie, with the mountains close
behind. Hadji laughed, and the guide insisted that the spring was not
always there. A delightful place it is in which to spend Sunday
quietly, with its musical ripple of water, its sky-blue carpet of
scilla, its beds of white and purple irises, its slopes ablaze with
the _Fritillaria imperialis_, and its sweet, calm view of the green
Gurab plain and the silver windings of the Dinarud.

Above the spring is the precipitous hill of Tur, with the remains of
a rude fort on its shattered rocky summit. Two similar ruins are
visible from Tur, one on a rocky ledge of an offshoot of the
Kuh-i-Gerra, on the other side of the Dinarud valley, the other on the
crest of a noble headland of the Sanganaki range, which is visible
throughout the whole region. The local legend concerning them is that
long before the days of the Parthian kings, and when bows and arrows
were the only weapons known, iron being undiscovered, there was in the
neighbourhood of Gurab a king called Faruk Padishah, who had three
sons, Salmon, Tur, and Iraj. It does not appear to be usual among the
Bakhtiaris for sons to "get on" together after their father's death,
and the three youths quarrelled and built these three impregnable
forts--Killa Tur, the one I examined, Killa Iraj, and Killa Salmon.

The beautiful valley was evidently too narrow for their ambition, and
leaving their uncomfortable fastnesses they went northwards, and
founded three empires, Salmon to the Golden Horn, where he founded
Stamboul, Tur to Turkistan, and Iraj became the founder of the Iranian

Killa Tur is a stone building mostly below the surface of the
hill-top, of rough hewn stone cemented with lime mortar of the
hardness of concrete. The inner space of the fort is not more than
eighty square yards. The walls are from three to six feet thick.

_Chigakhor, May 31._--The last twelve days have been spent in marching
through a country which has not been traversed by Europeans, only
crossed along the main track. On leaving the pleasant camp of Tur we
descended to the Gurab plain, purple in patches with a showy species
of garlic, skirted the base of the Tur spur, and rode for some miles
along the left bank of the Dinarud, which, after watering the plain of
Gurab, sparkles and rushes down a grassy valley bright with roses and
lilies, and well wooded with oak, elm, and hawthorn. This river,
gaining continually in volume, makes a turbulent descent to the Karun
a few miles from the point where we left it. This was the finest day's
march of the journey. The mountain forms were grander and more
definite, the vegetation richer, the scenery more varied, and a
kindlier atmosphere pervaded it. In the midst of a wood of fine walnut
trees, ash, and hawthorn, laced together by the tendrils of vines, a
copious stream tumbles over rocks fringed with maiden-hair, and
sparkles through grass purple with orchises. This is the only time
that I have seen the one or the other in Persia, and it was like an
unexpected meeting with dear friends.

Crossing the Dinarud on a twig bridge, fording a turbulent affluent,
which bursts full fledged from the mountain side, and ascending for
some hours through grassy glades wooded with oak and elm, we camped
for two days on the alpine meadow of Arjul, scantily watered but now
very green. Oak woods come down upon it, the vines are magnificent,
and there is some cultivation of wheat, which is sown by the nomads
before their departure in the late autumn, and is reaped during their
summer sojourn. There are no tents there at present, yet from camps
near and far, on horseback and on foot, people came for eye-lotions,
and remained at night to have them dropped into their eyes.

The next morning I was awakened at dawn by Mirza's voice calling to
me, "Madam, Hadji wants you to come down and sew up a mule that's been
gored by a wild boar." Awfully gored it was. A piece of skin about ten
inches square was hanging down between its forelegs, and a broad wound
the depth of my hand and fully a foot long extended right into its
chest, with a great piece taken out. I did what I could, but the
animal had to be left behind to be cured by the Mollah-i-Martaza, who
left us there. Another misfortune to Hadji was the loss of the fiery
leader of the caravan, Cock o' the Walk, but late at night he was
brought into camp at Dupulan quite crestfallen, having gone back to
the rich pastures which surround the Chesmeh-i-Gurab. The muleteer who
went in search of him was attacked by some Lurs and stripped of his
clothing, but on some men coming up who said his master was under the
protection of the Ilkhani, his clothes and horse were returned to him.

The parallel ranges with deep valleys between them, which are such a
feature of this country, are seen in perfection near Arjul. Some of
the torrents of this mountain region are already dry, but their broad
stony beds, full of monstrous boulders, arrest the fury with which at
times they seek the Karun. One of these, the Imamzada, passes through
the most precipitous and narrow gorge which it is possible to travel,
even with unloaded mules. The narrow path is chiefly rude rock
ladders, threading a gorge or chasm on a gigantic scale, with a
compressed body of water thundering below, concealed mainly by gnarled
and contorted trees, which find root-hold in every rift. Where the
chasm widens for a space before narrowing to a throat we forded it,
and through glades and wooded uplands reached Arjul, descending and
crossing the torrent by the same ford on the march to Dupulan the next

Owing to the loss of two baggage animals and the necessary
re-adjustment of the loads, I was late in starting from Arjul, and the
heat as we descended to the lower levels was very great, the
atmosphere being misty as well as sultry. Passing upwards, through
glades wooded with oaks, the path emerges on high gravelly uplands
above the tremendous gorge of the Karun, the manifold windings of
which it follows at a great height. From the first sight of this river
in the Ardal valley to its emergence at Dupulan, just below these
heights, it has come down with abrupt elbow-like turns and singular
sinuosities--a full, rapid, powerful glass-green volume of water,
through a ravine or gorge or chasm from 1000 to 2000 feet in depth,
now narrowing, now widening, but always _the_ feature of the
landscape. It would be natural to use the usual phrase, and write of
the Karun having "carved" this passage for itself, but I am more and
more convinced that this is not the case, but that its waters found
their way into channels already riven by some of those mighty
operations of nature which have made of this country a region of walls
and clefts.

  [Illustration: THE KARUN AT DUPULAN.]

A long, very steep gravelly descent leads from these high lands down
to the Karun, and to one of the routes--little used, however--from
Isfahan to Shuster. It is reported as being closed by snow four months
of the year. The scenery changed its aspect here, and for walls and
parapets of splintered rock there are rounded gravelly hills and
stretching uplands.

The three groups of most wretched mud hovels which form the village of
Dupulan ("Two Bridge Place") are on an eminence on the left bank of
the Karun, which emerges from its long imprisonment in a gorge in the
mountains by a narrow passage between two lofty walls of rock so
smooth and regular in their slope and so perfect a gateway as to
suggest art rather than nature. This river, the volume of which is
rapidly augmenting on its downward course, is here compressed into a
width of about twenty yards.

At this point a stone bridge, built by Hussein Kuli Khan, of one large
pointed arch with a smaller one for the flood, and a rough roadway
corresponding to the arch in the steepness of its pitch, spans the
stream, which passes onwards gently and smoothly, its waters a deep
cool green. Below Dupulan the Karun, which in that direction has been
explored by several travellers, turns to the south-west, and after a
considerable bend enters the levels above Shuster by a north-westerly
course. Near the bridge the Karun is joined by the Sabzu, a very
vigorous torrent from the Ardal plain, which is crossed by a twig
bridge, safer than it looks.

The camps were pitched in apricot orchards in the Sabzu ravine, near
some _elægnus_ trees, which are now bearing their sweet gray and
yellow blossoms, which will be succeeded by auburn tresses of a woolly
but very pleasant fruit. Dupulan has an altitude of only 4950 feet,
and in its course from the Kuh-i-Rang to this point the Karun has
descended about 4000 feet. Though there was a breeze, and both ends of
my tent and the _kanats_ were open, the mercury was at 86° inside, and
at 5 A.M. at 72° outside (on May 21). There were no supplies, and even
milk was unattainable.

The road we followed ascends the Dupulan Pass, which it crosses at a
height of 6380 feet. The path is very bad, hardly to be called a path.
The valley which it ascends is packed with large and small boulders,
with round water-worn stones among them, and such track as there is
makes sharp zigzags over and among these rocks. _Screw_ was very
unwilling to face the difficulties, which took two hours to surmount.
The ascent was hampered by coming upon a tribe of Ilyats on the move,
who at times blocked up the pass with their innumerable sheep and
goats and their herds of cattle. Once entangled in this migration, it
was only possible to move on a few feet at a time. It straggled along
for more than a mile,--loaded cows and bullocks, innumerable sheep,
goats, lambs, and kids; big dogs; asses loaded with black tents and
short tent-poles on the loads; weakly sheep tied on donkeys' backs,
and weakly lambs carried in shepherds' bosoms; handsome mares, each
with her foal, running loose or ridden by women with babies seated on
the tops of loaded saddle-bags made of gay rugs; tribesmen on foot
with long guns slung behind their shoulders, and big two-edged knives
in their girdles; sheep bleating, dogs barking, mares neighing, men
shouting and occasionally firing off their guns, the whole ravine
choked up with the ascending tribal movement.

Half-way up the ascent there is a most striking view of mountain
ranges cleft by the great chasm of the Karun. The descent is into the
eastern part of the Ardal valley, over arid treeless hillsides
partially ploughed, to the village of Dehnau, not yet deserted for the
summer. Fattiallah Khan expected us, and rooms were prepared for me in
the women's house, which I excused myself from occupying by saying
that I cannot sleep under a roof. I managed also to escape partaking
of a huge garlicky dinner which was being cooked for me.

The Khan's house or fort, built like all else of mud, has a somewhat
imposing gateway, over which are the men's apartments. The roof is
decorated with a number of ibex horns. Within is a rude courtyard with
an uneven surface, on which servants and negro slaves were skinning
sheep, winnowing wheat, clarifying butter, carding wool, cooking, and
making cheese. The women's apartments are round the courtyard, and
include the usual feature of these houses, an _atrium_, or room
without a front, and a darkish room within. The floor of the _atrium_
was covered with brown felts, and there was a mattress for me to sit
upon. The ruling spirit of the _haram_ is the Khan's mother, a comely
matron of enormous size, who occasionally slapped her son's four young
and comely wives when they were too "forward." She wore a short
jacket, balloon-like trousers of violet silk, and a black coronet, to
which was attached a black _chadar_ which completely enveloped her.

The wives wore figured white _chadars_, print trousers, and strings
of coins. Children much afflicted with cutaneous maladies crawled on
the floor. Heaps of servants, negro slaves, old hags, and young girls
crowded behind and around, all talking at once and at the top of their
voices, and at the open front the village people constantly assembled,
to be driven away at intervals by a man with a stick. A bowl of cow's
milk and some barley bread were given to me, and though a remarkably
dirty negress kept the flies away by flapping the milk bowl with a
dirty sleeve, I was very grateful for the meal, for I was really
suffering from the heat and fatigue.

A visit to a _haram_ is not productive of mutual elevation. The women
seem exceedingly frivolous, and are almost exclusively interested in
the adornment of their persons, the dress and ailments of their
children, and in the frightful jealousies and intrigues inseparable
from the system of polygamy, and which are fostered by the servants
and discarded wives. The servile deference paid by the other women to
the reigning favourite before her face, and the merciless persistency
of the attempts made behind her back to oust her from her position,
and the requests made on the one hand for charms or potions to win or
bring back the love of a husband, and on the other for something which
shall make the favourite hateful to him, are evidences of the misery
of heart which underlies the outward frivolity.

The tone of Fattiallah Khan's _haram_ was not higher than usual. The
ladies took off my hat, untwisted my hair, felt my hands, and shrieked
when they found that my gloves came off; laughed immoderately at my
Bakhtiari shoes, which, it seems, are only worn by men; put their
rings on my fingers, put my hat on their own heads, asked if I could
give them better hair dyes than their own, and cosmetics to make their
skins fair; paid the usual compliments, told me to regard everything
as _pishkash_, asked for medicines and charms, and regretted that I
would not sleep in their house, because, as they said, they "never
went anywhere or saw anything."

They have no occupation, except occasionally a little embroidery. They
amuse themselves, they said, by watching the servants at work, and by
having girls to dance before them. They find the winter, though spent
in a warm climate, very long and wearisome, and after dark employ
female professional story-tellers to entertain them with love stories.
At night the elder lady sent three times for a charm which should give
her daughter the love of her husband. She is married to another Khan,
and I recalled her as the forlorn-looking girl without any jewels who
excited my sympathies in his house.

Marriages are early among these people. They are arranged by the
parents of both bride and bridegroom. The betrothal feast is a great
formality. The "settlements" having been made by the bridegroom's
father and mother, they distribute sweetmeats among the members of the
bride's family, and some respectable men who are present tie a
handkerchief round the head of the bride, and kiss the hands of her
parents as a sign of the betrothal. The engagement must be fulfilled
by the bride's parents under pain of severe penalties, from which the
bridegroom's parents are usually exempt. But, should he prove
faithless, he is a marked man. It appears that "breach of promise of
marriage" is very rare. The betrothal may take place at the tenderest
age, but the marriage is usually delayed till the bride is twelve
years old, or even older, and the bridegroom is from fifteen to

The "settlements" made at the betrothal are paid at the time of
marriage, and consist of a sum of money or cattle, mares, or sheep,
according to the circumstances of the bridegroom's parents. It is
essential among all classes that a number of costumes be presented to
the bride. After the marriage is over her parents bestow a suit of
clothes on her husband, but these are usually of an inferior, or, as
my interpreter calls them, of a "trivial" description.

A Bakhtiari marriage is a very noisy performance. For three days or
more, in fact as long as the festivities can be afforded, the
relations and friends of both parties are assembled at the tents of
the bride's parents, feasting and dancing (men and women on this
occasion dancing together), performing feats of horsemanship, and
shooting at a mark. The noise at this time is ceaseless. Drums,
tom-toms, reeds, whistles, and a sort of bagpipe are all in
requisition, and songs of love and war are chanted. At this time also
is danced the national dance, the _chapi_, of which on no other
occasion (except a burial) can a stranger procure a sight for love or
money. It is said to resemble the _arnaoutika_ of the modern Greeks;
any number of men can join in it. The dancers form in a close row,
holding each other by their _kamarbands_, and swinging along sidewise.
They mark the time by alternately stamping the heel of the right and
left foot. The dancers are led by a man who dances apart, waving a
handkerchief rhythmically above his head, and either singing a war
song or playing on a reed pipe. After the marriage feast the bride
follows her husband to his father's tent, where she becomes subject to
her mother-in-law.

The messenger, after looking round to see that there were no
bystanders, very mysteriously produced from his girdle a black,
flattish oval stone of very close texture, weighing about a pound,
almost polished by long handling. He told me that it was believed that
this stone, if kept in one family for fifty years and steadily worn
by father and son, would then not only turn to gold, but have the
power of transmuting any metal laid beside it for five years, and he
wanted to know what the wisdom of the Feringhis knew about it.

I went up to my camp above the village and tried to rest there, but
the buzz of a crowd outside and the ceaseless lifting of curtains and
_kanats_ made this quite impossible. When I opened the tent I found
the crowd seated in a semicircle five rows deep, waiting for
medicines, chiefly eye-lotion, quinine, and cough mixtures. These
daily assemblages of "patients" are most fatiguing. The satisfaction
is that some "lame dogs" are "helped over stiles," and that some
prejudice against Christians is removed.

After this Fattiallah Khan, with a number of retainers, paid a formal
visit to the Agha, who kindly sent for me, as I do not receive any but
lady visitors in my tent. The Khan is a very good-looking and
well-dressed man of twenty-eight, very amusing, and ready to be
amused. He was very anxious to be doctored, but looked the opposite of
a sick man. He and Isfandyar Khan were in arms against the Ilkhani two
years ago, and a few men were shot. He looked as if he were very sorry
not to have killed him.

The Bakhtiaris have an enormous conceit of themselves and their
country. It comes out in all ways and on all occasions, and their war
stories and songs abound in legends of singular prowess, one Bakhtiari
killing twenty Persians, and the like. They represent the power of the
Shah over them as merely nominal, a convenient fiction for the time
being, although it is apparent that Persia, which for years has been
aiming at the extinction of the authority of the principal chiefs, has
had at least a partial success.

At such interviews a private conversation is impossible. The manners
are those of a feudal _régime_. Heaps of retainers crowd round, and
even join in the conversation. A servant brought the Khan a handsome
_kalian_ to smoke three times. He also took tea. A great quantity of
opium for exportation is grown about Dehnau, and the Khan said that
the cultivation of it is always increasing.

From Dehnau the path I took leads over gravelly treeless hills,
through many treeless gulches, to the top of a great gorge, through
which the Sabzu passes as an impetuous torrent. The descent to a very
primitive bridge is long and difficult, a succession of rocky zigzags.
Picturesqueness is not a usual attribute of mud villages, but the view
from every point of Chiraz, the village on the lofty cliffs on the
other side of the stream, is strikingly so. They are irregularly
covered with houses, partly built on them and partly excavated out of
them, and behind is a cool mass of greenery, apricot orchards,
magnificent walnut and mulberry trees, great standard hawthorns loaded
with masses of blossom, wheat coming into ear, and clumps and banks of
canary-yellow roses measuring three inches across their petals. Groups
of women, in whose attire Turkey red predominated, were on the house
roofs. Wild flowers abounded, and the sides of the craggy path by
which I descended were crowded with leguminous and umbelliferous
plants, with the white and pink dianthus, and with the thorny
_tussocks_ of the gum tragacanth, largely used for kindling, now in
full bloom.

As I dragged my unwilling horse down the steep descent, his bridle was
taken out of my hands, and I was welcomed by the brother of Fattiallah
Khan, who, with a number of village men escorted me over the twig
bridge, and up to an exquisite halting-place under a large mulberry
tree, where the next two hours were spent in receiving visitors. It
is evident that these fine orchards must have been the pleasure-ground
of some powerful ruler, and the immense yellow roses are such as grow
in one or two places in Kashmir, where they are attributed to

The track from Chiraz for many miles follows up the right bank of the
Sabzu at a great height, descends occasionally into deep gulches,
crosses the spurs of mountains whose rifts give root-hold to contorted
"pencil cedars," and winds among small ash trees and hawthorns, or
among rich grass and young wheat, which is grown to a considerable
extent on the irrigated slopes above the river. It is a great surprise
to find so much land under cultivation, and so much labour spent on
irrigation channels. Some of these canals are several miles in length,
and the water always runs in them swiftly, and the right way, although
the "savages" who make them have no levels or any tools but spades.

Mountains, much scored and cañoned by streams, very grand in form, and
with much snow still upon them, rise to a great height above the
ranges which form the Sabzu valley. From Chaharta, an uninteresting
camping-ground by the river, I proceeded by an elevated and rather
illegible track in a easterly direction to the meeting of two streams,
forded the Sabzu, and camped for two days on the green slope of Sabz
Kuh, at a height of 8100 feet, close to a vigorous spring whose waters
form many streamlets, fringed by an abundance of pink primulas, purple
and white orchises, white tulips, and small fragrant blue irises.

Lahdaraz is in the very heart of mountain ranges, and as the Ilyats
have not yet come up so high, there were no crowds round my tent for
medicine, but one sick woman was carried thither eleven miles on the
back of her husband, who seemed tenderly solicitous about her.

On Monday I spent most of the day 1000 feet higher, in most
magnificent scenery on an imposing scale of grandeur. The guide took
us from the camp through herbage, snow, and alpine flowers, up a
valley with fine mountains on either side, terminating on the brink of
a gigantic precipice, a cloven ledge between the Kuh-i-Kaller and a
stupendous cliff or headland, Sultan Ibrahim, over 12,000 feet, which
descends in shelving masses to an abyss of tremendous depth, where
water thunders in a narrow rift. The Sabz Kuh, or "green mountain"
range, famous for the pasturage of its higher slopes, terminates in
Sultan Ibrahim, and unites at its eastern end with the Kuh-i-Kaller, a
range somewhat higher. On the east side of this huge chasm rises
another range of peaks, with green shelves, dark rifts, and red
precipices, behind which rise another, and yet another, whose blue,
snow-patched summits blended with the pure cool blue of the sky. In
the far distance, in a blue veil, lies the green-tinted plain of Khana
Mirza, set as an emerald in this savage scenery, with two ranges
beyond, and above them the great mountain mass of the Riji, whose
snowy peaks were painted faintly on a faint blue heaven.

That misty valley, irrigated and cultivated, with 100 villages of the
Janiki tribe upon it, is the only fair spot in the savage landscape.
Elsewhere only a few wild flowers and a gnarled juniper here and there
relieve the fierce, blazing verdurelessness of these stupendous
precipices. Never, not even among the Himalayas, have I seen anything
so superlatively grand, though I have always imagined that such scenes
must exist somewhere on the earth. A pair of wild sheep on a ledge, a
serpent or two, and an eagle soaring sunwards represented animate
nature, otherwise the tremendous heights above, the awful depths
below, the snowy mountains, and the valley with its smile, were given
over to solitude and silence, except for the dull roar of the torrent
hurrying down to vivify the Khana Mirza plain.

After leaving Lahdaraz the path followed the course of the Sabzu
through grass and barley for a few miles. Then there is an abrupt and
disagreeable change to yellow mud slopes and high mud mountains deeply
fissured, the scanty herbage already eaten down by Ilyat flocks--a
desolate land, without springs, streams, or even Ilyat tents. Then
comes a precipice at an altitude of 7500 feet, through a cleft in
which, the Tang-i-Wastagun, the road passes, and descends to the plain
of Gandaman as something little better than a sheep track on a steep
hillside above a stream. The heat was fierce. A pair of stout
gardening gloves does not preserve the hands from blistering.
Spectacles with wire gauze sides have to be abandoned as they threaten
to roast the eyes. In this latitude, 32°, the heat of the sun at noon
is tremendous. At the precipice top I crept into a hole at the base of
a rock, for "the shadow of a great rock in a weary land," till the
caravan staggered up. It was difficult to brave the sun's direct rays.
He looked like a ball of magnesium light, white and scintillating, in
the unclouded sky.

On crossing the Tang-i-Wastagun we left behind the Bakhtiari country
proper for a time, and re-entered the Chahar Mahals, with their mixed
village population of Persians and Armenians. The descent from the
Tang-i-Wastagun is upon a ruined Armenian village with a large
graveyard. The tombstones are of great size, ten feet long by three
feet broad and three feet high, sarcophagus-shaped, and on each stone
are an Armenian epitaph and a finely-engraved cross. The plain of
Gandaman or Wastagun is a very large one, over 7000 feet in altitude,
and is surrounded mainly by high mountains still snow-patched, but to
the north by low rocky hills. Much of it is irrigated and under
cultivation, and grows heavy crops of wheat and barley. The pasturage
is fine and abundant, and the people breed cattle and horses. The
uncultivated slopes are now covered with red tulips and a purple
_allium_, and even the dry gravel added largely to the daily
increasing botanical collection.

  [Illustration: ALI JAN.]

The camps were pitched on green turf near three springs, a quiet
place, but there was little rest. We were hardly settled before there
was a severe fight among the horses, my sour-tempered _Screw_ being
the aggressor. This was hardly quieted when there was a sharp
"scrimmage" between the _charvadars_ and the Agha's three young
savages, in which one of them, Ali Jan, was badly beaten, and came to
me to have a bleeding face and head dressed. After that the people
began to come in from the villages for eye-washes and medicines. They
have no bottles, nor have I, and the better-off bring great copper
jugs and basins for an ounce or two of lotion! A very poor old woman
much afflicted with ophthalmia said she had three sisters all blind,
that she had nothing for lotion, nothing in the world but a copper
cooking pot, and she cried piteously. I had nothing to give her, and
eventually she returned with an egg-shell, with the top neatly chipped
off. It is the custom to raise the hands to heaven and invoke
blessings on the _Hak[=i]m's_ head, but I never received so many as
from this poor creature.

The ride to the village of Gandaman, where we halted for two days, was
an agreeable one. After being shut up among mountains and precipices,
space and level ground to gallop over are an agreeable change, and in
the early morning the heat was not excessive. The great plain was a
truly pastoral scene. Wild-looking shepherds with long guns led great
brown flocks to the hills; innumerable yokes of black oxen, ploughing
with the usual iron-shod, pointed wooden share, turned over the rich
black soil, making straight furrows, and crossing them diagonally;
mares in herds fed with their foals; and shepherds busily separated
the sheep from the goats.

Close to the filthy walled Armenian village of Kunak there is a
conical hill with a large fort, in ruinous condition, upon it, and not
far off are the remains of an Armenian village, enclosed by a square
wall with a round tower at each corner. This must have been until
recently a place of some local importance, as it is approached by a
paved causeway, and had an aqueduct, now ruinous, carried over the
river on three arches. Not only the plain but the hill-slopes up to a
great height are cultivated, and though the latter have the
precariousness of rain-lands, the crops already in ear promise well.

Crossing a spur which descends upon the north side of the plain, we
reached Gandaman, a good-looking walled Moslem village of 196 houses,
much planted, chiefly with willows, and rejoicing in eight springs,
close together, the overflow of which makes quite a piece of water. It
has an _imamzada_ on an eminence and is fairly prosperous, for besides
pastoral wealth it weaves and exports carpets, and dyes cotton and
woollen yarn with madder and other vegetable dyes. The mountain view
to the south-west is very fine.

I was in my tent early, but there was little rest, for crowds of
people with bad eyes and woful maladies besieged it until the evening.
At noon a gay procession crossed the green camping-ground, four mares
caparisoned in red trappings, each carrying two women in bright
dresses, but shrouded in pure white sheets bound round their heads
with silver chains. The _ketchuda_ of the Armenian village of
Libasgun, two miles off, accompanied them, and said that they came to
invite me to their village, for they are Christians. Then they all
made the sign of the Cross, which is welcome in this land as a bond of

Cleanly, comely, large-eyed, bright-cheeked, and wholesome they
looked, in their pure white _chadars_, gay red dresses, and
embroidered under-vests. They had massive silver girdles, weighing
several pounds, worn there only by married women, red coronets, heavy
tiaras of silver, huge necklaces of coins, and large filigree silver
drops attached down the edges of their too open vests. Their heavy
hair was plaited, but not fastened up. Each wore a stiff
diamond-shaped piece of white cotton over her mouth and the tip of her
nose. They said it was their custom to wear it, and they would not
remove it even to eat English biscuits! They managed to drink tea by
veiling their faces with their _chadars_ and passing the cup
underneath, but they turned their faces quite away as they did it.
They had come for the day, and had brought large hanks of wool to
wind, but the headman had the tact to take them away after arranging
for me to return the visit in the evening.

He seemed an intelligent man. Libasgun, with its 120 houses, is,
according to his account, a prosperous village, paying its tax of 300
_tumans_ (£100) a year to the Amin-ud-Daulat, and making a present
only to the Ilkhani. It has 2000 sheep and goats, besides mares and
cattle. It has an oil mill, and exports oil to Isfahan. The women
weave carpets, and embroider beautifully on coarse cotton woven by
themselves, and dyed indigo blue and madder red by their Gandaman
neighbours. This man is proud of being a Christian. Among the
Armenians Christianity is as much a national characteristic as pride
of race and strict monogamy. He remarked that there are no sore eyes
in Libasgun, and attributed it to the greater cleanliness of the
people and to the cross signed in holy oil upon their brows in

I rode to this village in the late afternoon, and was received with
much distinction in the _balakhana_ of the _ketchuda's_ house, where I
was handed to the seat of honour, a bolster at the head of the
handsomely-carpeted room. It soon filled with buxom women in red, with
jackets displaying their figures, or want of figures, down to their
waists. From the red velvet coronets on their heads hung two graduated
rows of silver coins, and their muslin _chadars_ were attached to
their hair with large silver pins and chains. Magnificent necklaces of
gold coins were also worn.


Forty women sat on the floor in rows against the wall. Each had rosy
cheeks, big black eyes, and a diamond-shaped white cloth over her
mouth. The uniformity was shocking. They stared, not at me, but at
nothing. They looked listless and soulless, only fit to be what they
are--the servants of their husbands. When they had asked me my age,
and why I do not dye my hair, the conversation flagged, for I could
not get any information from them even on the simplest topics. Hotter
and hotter grew the room, more stolid the vacancy of the eyes, more
grotesque the rows of white diamonds over the mouths, when the happy
thought occurred to me to ask to see the embroidered aprons, which
every girl receives from her mother on her marriage. Two mountains of
flesh obligingly rolled out of the room, and rolled in again bringing
some beautiful specimens of needlework. This is really what is known
as "Russian embroidery," cross stitch in artistic colours on coarse
red or blue cotton. The stomachers are most beautifully worked. The
aprons cover the whole of the front and the sides of the dress. The
mothers begin to embroider them when their daughters are ten. The
diamond-shaped cloth is put on by girls at eight or nine. The women
would not remove it for a moment even to oblige a guest. The perpetual
wearing of it is one of their religious customs, only prevailing,
however, in some localities. They say that when our Lord was born His
mother in token of reverence took a cloth and covered her mouth, hence
their habit.

When the _ketchuda_ arrived he found the heat of the room unbearable
and proposed an adjournment to the lower roof, which was speedily
swept, watered, and carpeted.

An elaborate banquet had been prepared in the hope that the Agha would
pay them a visit, and they were much mortified at his non-appearance.
The great copper basins containing the food were heaped together in
the middle of the carpets, and the guests, fifty in number, sat down,
the men on one side, and the women on the other, the wives of the
_ketchuda_ and his brothers serving. There were several _samovars_
with tea, but only three cups. A long bolster was the place of honour,
and I occupied it alone till the village priests arrived,--reverend
men with long beards, high black head-dresses, and full black cassocks
with flowing sleeves. All the guests rose, and remained standing till
they had been ceremoniously conducted to seats. I found them very
agreeable and cultured men, acquainted with the varying "streams of
tendency" in the Church of England, and very anxious to claim our
Church as a sister of their own. This banquet was rather a gay scene,
and on a higher roof fully one hundred women and children dressed in
bright red stood watching the proceedings below.

I proposed to see the church, and with the priests, most of the
guests, and a considerable following of the onlookers, walked to it
through filthy alleys. This ancient building, in a dirty and
malodorous yard, differs externally from the mud houses which surround
it only in having two bells on a beam. The interior consists of four
domed vaults, and requires artificial light. A vault with a raised
floor contains the altar and a badly-painted altar-piece representing
the B. V.; a rail separates the men, who stand in front, from the
women, who stand behind. A Liturgy and an illuminated medieval copy of
the Gospels, of which they are very proud, are their only treasures.
They have no needlework, and the altar cloth is only a piece of
printed cotton. Nothing could well look poorer than this small, dark,
vacant building, with a few tallow candles without candlesticks giving
a smoky light.

They have two daily services lasting from one to two hours each, and
Mass on Sunday is protracted to seven hours! The priests said that all
the men, except two who watch the flocks, and nearly all the women are
at both services on Sunday, and that many of the men and most of the
women are at both daily services, one of which, as is usual, begins
before daylight. There is no school. The fathers teach their boys to
read and write, and the mothers instruct their girls in needlework.

After visits to the priests' houses, a number of villagers on
horseback escorted me back to Gandaman. The heat of those two days was
very great for May, the mercury marking 83° in the shade at 10 A.M.
One hundred and thirteen people came for medicines, and in their
eagerness they swarmed round both ends of the tent, blocking out all
air. The ailments were much more varied and serious than among the

  [Illustration: WALL AND GATE OF LIBASGUN.]

The last march was a hot and tedious one of eighteen miles, along an
uninteresting open valley, much ploughed, bounded by sloping
herbage-covered hills, surmounted by parapets of perpendicular rock.
After passing the large Moslem village of Baldiji, we re-entered the
Bakhtiari country, ascended to the Bakhtiari village of Dastgird,
descended to the plain of Chigakhor, skirted its southern margin, and
on its western side, on two spurs of the great Kuh-i-Kaller range,
with a ravine between them, the camps were pitched. In two days most
of the tents were blown down, and were moved into two ravines with a
hill between them, on which the Sahib on his arrival pitched his camp.

My ravine has a spring, with exactly space for my tent beside it, and
a platform higher up with just room enough for the servants. A strong
stream, rudely brawling, issuing from the spring, disturbs sleep.
There is no possibility of changing one's position by even a six-feet
stroll, so rough and steep is the ground. Mirza bringing my meals from
the cooking tent has a stick to steady himself. At first there was
nothing to see but scorched mountains opposite, and the green plain on
which the ravine opens, but the _Hak[=i]m's_ tent was soon discovered,
and I have had 278 "patients"! Before I am up in the morning they are
sitting in rows one behind another on the steep ground, their horses
and asses grazing near them, and all day they come. One of the chiefs
of the Janiki tribe came with several saddle and baggage horses and
even a tent, to ask me to go with him to the great plain of Khana
Mirza, three days' march from here, to cure his wife's eyes, and was
grieved to the heart when I told him they were beyond my skill. He
stayed while a great number of sick people got eye-lotions and
medicines, and then asked me why I gave these medicines and took so
much trouble. I replied that our Master and Lord not only commanded us
to do good to all men as we have opportunity, but Himself healed the
sick. "You call Him Master and Lord," he said; "He was a great
Prophet. _Send a Hak[=i]m to us in His likeness._"

I have heard so much of Chigakhor that I am disappointed with the
reality. There are no trees, most of the snow has melted, the
mountains are not very bold in their features, the plain has a sort of
lowland look about it, and though its altitude is 7500 feet, the days
and even nights are very hot. The interest of it lies in it being the
summer resort of the Ilkhani and Ilbegi, a fact which makes it the
great centre of Bakhtiari life. As many as 400 tents are pitched here
in the height of the season, and the coming and going of Khans and
headmen with tribute and on other business is ceaseless.

The plain, which is about seven miles long by three broad, is quite
level. Near the south-east end is a shallow reedy mere, fringed by a
fertile swampiness, which produces extraordinary crops of grass far
out into the middle of the level.

Near the same end is a rocky eminence or island, on which is the
fortress castle of the Ilkhani. The "season" begins in early June,
when the tribes come up from the warm pastures of Dizful and Shuster,
to which they return with their pastoral wealth in the autumn, after
which the plain is flooded and frozen for the winter. At the north end
are the villages of Dastgird and Aurugun and a great deal of irrigated
land producing wheat. Except at that end the plain is surrounded by
mountains; on its southern side, where a part of the Sukhta range
rises into the lofty peak of Challeh Kuh, with its snow-slashes and
snow-fields, they attain an altitude of 12,000 or 13,000 feet.

It is not easy, perhaps not possible, to pass through the part of the
Bakhtiari country for which we are bound, without some sort of
assistance from its feudal lords, a responsible man, for instance, who
can obtain supplies from the people. Therefore we have been detained
here for many days waiting for the expected arrival of the Ilkhani. A
few days ago a rumour arrived, since unhappily continued, that things
were in confusion below, owing to the discovery of a plot on the part
of the Ilkhani to murder the Ilbegi. Stories are current of the number
of persons "put out of the way" before he attained his present rank
for the second time, and it is not "Bakhtiari custom" to be
over-scrupulous about human life. No doubt his nephew, the Ilbegi, is
a very dangerous rival, and that his retainers are bent on seeing him
in a yet higher position than he now occupies.

A truce has been patched up, however, and yesterday the Ilkhani and
Isfandyar Khan arrived together, with their great trains of armed
horsemen, their _harams_, their splendid studs, their crowds of
unmounted retainers, their strings of baggage mules and asses laden
with firewood, and all the "rag, tag, and bobtail" in attendance on
Oriental rulers. Following them in endless nocturnal procession come
up the tribes, and day breaks on an ever-increasing number of brown
flocks and herds, of mares, asses, dogs, black tents, and household
goods. When we arrived there were only three tents, now the green
bases of the mountains and all the platforms and ravines where there
are springs are spotted with them, in rows or semicircles, and at
night the camp fires of the multitude look like the lights of a city.
Each clan has a prescriptive right to its camping-ground and pasture
(though both are a fruitful source of quarrels), and arrives with its
_ketchuda_ and complete social organisation, taking up its position
like a division of an army.

When in the early morning or afternoon the tribe reaches the
camping-ground, everything is done in the most orderly way. The
infants are put into their cradles, the men clear the ground if
necessary, drive the pegs and put up the poles, and if there be
wood--of which there is not a stick here--they make a fence of loose
branches to contain the camp, but the women do the really hard work.
Their lords, easily satisfied with their modicum of labour, soon
retire to enjoy their pipes and the endless gossip of Bakhtiari life.


After the ground has been arranged the tents occupy invariably the
same relative position, whether the camp is in a row, a semicircle, a
circle, or streets, so that the cattle and flocks may easily find
their owners' abodes without being driven. The tents, which are of
black goats' hair cloth, are laid out and beaten, and the women spread
them over the poles and arrange the rest, after which the inside is
brushed to remove the soot. In a good tent, reed screens are put up to
divide the space into two or more portions, and some of the tribes
fence round the whole camp with these screens, leaving one opening,
and use the interior for a sheepfold. The small bushes are grubbed up
for fuel. The women also draw the water, and the boys attend to the
flocks. Many of the camps, however, have neither fences nor environing
screens, and their inmates dwell without any attempt at privacy, and
rely for the safety of their flocks on big and trustworthy dogs, of
which every camp has a number.

When they move the bulk of the labour again falls on the women. They
first make the baggage into neat small packages suited for the backs
of oxen; then they take up the tent pegs, throw down the tents, and
roll them up in the reed screens, all that the men undertake being to
help in loading the oxen. It is only when a division halts for at
least some days that this process is gone through. In fine weather, if
a tribe is marching daily to its summer or winter camping-grounds, the
families frequently sleep in the open.

The chief's tent is always recognisable by its size, and is
occasionally white. I have seen a tent of a wealthy Khan fully sixty
feet long. A row of poles not more than ten feet high supported the
roof, which was of brown haircloth, the widths united by a coarse open
stitch. On the windward side the roof was pinned down nearly to the
top of a loosely-laid wall of stones about three feet high. The
leeward side was quite open, and the roof, which could be lowered if
necessary, was elevated and extended by poles six feet high. If the
tent was sixty feet long, it was made by this arrangement twenty feet
broad. At the lower end was a great fire-hole in the earth, and the
floor of the upper end was covered with rugs, quilts, and pillows, the
household stuff being arranged chiefly on and against the rude stone

The process of encamping for a camp of seventy tents takes about two
hours, and many interruptions occur, especially the clamorous demands
of unweaned infants of mature years. De-camping the same number of
tents takes about an hour. A free, wild life these nomads lead, full
of frays and plots, but probably happier than the average lot.

Below the castle is the great encampment of the chiefs, brown tents
and white bell tents, among which the tall white pavilion of the
Ilkhani towers conspicuously. The Ilkhani and Ilbegi called on me, and
as they sat outside my tent it was odd to look back two years to the
time when they were fighting each other, and barely two weeks to the
discovery of the plot of the dark-browed Ilkhani to murder his nephew.
The Ilkhani's face had a very uncomfortable expression. Intrigues
against him at Tihran and nearer home, the rumoured enmity of the
Prime Minister, the turbulence of some of the tribes, the growing
power of the adherents of Isfandyar Khan, and his own baffled plot to
destroy him must make things unpleasant. Several of the small Khans
who have been to see me expect fighting here before the end of the
summer. The Ilkhani had previously availed himself of the resources of
my medicine chest, and with so much benefit that I was obliged to
grant a request which deprived me of a whole bottle of "tabloids."

In the evening I visited the ladies who are in the castle leading the
usual dull life of the _haram_, high above the bustle which centres
round the Ilkhani's pavilion, with its crowds of tribesmen, mares and
foals feeding, tethered saddle horses neighing, cows being milked,
horsemen galloping here and there, firing at a mark, asses bearing
wood and flour from Ardal being unloaded--a bustle masculine solely.

Isfandyar Khan, with whose look of capacity I am more and more
impressed, and Lutf received us and led us to the great pavilion,
which is decorated very handsomely throughout with red and blue
_appliqué_ arabesques, and much resembles an Indian _durbar_ tent. A
brown felt carpet occupied the centre. The Ilkhani, who rose and shook
hands, sat on one side and the Ilbegi on the other, and sons, Khans,
and attendants to the number of 200, I daresay, stood around. We made
some fine speeches, rendered finer, doubtless, by Mirza; repeated an
offer to send a doctor to itinerate in the country for some months in
1891, took the inevitable tea, and while the escorts were being
arranged for I went to the fort.

It is the fortress of the Haft Lang, one great division of the
Bakhtiari Lurs, which supplies the ruling dynasty. The building is a
parallelogram, flanked by four round towers, with large casemates and
a keep on its southern side. It has two courtyards, surrounded by
stables and barracks, but there is no water within the gates, and
earthquakes and neglect have reduced much of it to a semi-ruinous
condition. Over the gateway and along the front is a handsome suite of
well-arranged balconied rooms, richly decorated in Persian style, the
front and doors of the large reception-room being of fretwork filled
in with amber and pale blue glass, and the roof and walls are covered
with small mirrors set so as to resemble facets, with medallion
pictures of beauties and of the chase let in at intervals. The effect
of the mirrors is striking, and even beautiful. There were very
handsome rugs on the floor, and divans covered with Kashan velvet; but
rugs, divans, and squabs were heaped to the depth of some inches with
rose petals which were being prepared for rose-water, and the
principal wife rose out of a perfect bed of them.

These ladies have no conversation, and relapse into apathy after
asking a few personal questions. Again they said they wished to see
the Agha, of whose height and prowess many rumours had reached them,
but when I suggested that they might see him from the roof or balcony
they said they were afraid. Again they said they had such dull lives,
and regretted my departure, as they thought they might come and see my
tent. I felt sorry for them, sorrier than I can say, as I realised
more fully the unspeakable degradation and dulness of their lives. A
perfect rabble of dirty women and children filled the passages and

On one of my last evenings I rode, attended only by Mirza, to the
village of Dastgird to see two women whose husband desired medicines
for them. This village is piled upon the hillside at the north end of
the valley and a traveller can be seen afar off. I had never visited
any of the camps so slenderly escorted, and when I saw the roofs
covered with men and numbers more running to the stream with long guns
slung behind their backs and big knives in their girdles, I was much
afraid that they might be rude in the absence of a European man, and
that I should get into trouble. At the stream the _ketchuda_, whose
wives were ill, and several of the principal inhabitants met me. They
salaamed, touched their hearts and brows, two held my stirrups, others
walked alongside, and an ever-increasing escort took me up the steep
rude alley of the village to the low arch by which the headman's
courtyard--all rocks, holes, and heaps--is entered.

Dismounting was a difficulty. Several men got hold of _Screw_, one
made a step of his back, another of his knee, one grasped my foot, two
got hold of my arms, all shouting and disputing as to how to proceed,
but somehow I was hauled off, and lifted by strong arms up into the
_atrium_, the floor of which was covered with their woven rugs, across
which they led me to an improvised place of honour, a _karsi_ covered
with a red blanket. A brass _samovar_ was steaming hospitably on the
floor, surrounded by tea-glasses, trays, and sugar. The chief paid me
the usual Persian compliment, "Your presence purifies the house;" men
crowded in, shrouded women peeped through doorways; they served me on
bended knees with tea _à la Russe_, and though they shouted very loud,
and often all together, they made me very cordially welcome. They send
their flocks with some of their people to warmer regions for the
winter, but the chief and many families remain, though the snow is
from seven to nine feet deep, according to their marks on a post.

I rode to the camp where the wives were, with the Khan and a number of
men on foot and on horseback, a messenger having been sent in advance.
In the village the great sheep-dogs, as usual, showed extreme
hostility, and one, madder than the rest, a powerful savage, attacked
me, fixing his teeth in my stirrup guard, and hanging on. The Khan
drew a revolver and shot him through the back, killing him at once,
and threatened to beat the owner. _Screw_ was quite undisturbed by the

The power of the _ketchuda_ or headman of a group of families is not
absolute even in this small area. His duties are to arrange the annual
migrations, punish small crimes summarily, to report larger crimes to
the Khan, to collect the tribute, conjointly with the Khan, and to
carry out his orders among the families of his group. Private
oppression appears to be much practised among the _ketchudas_, and
under the feeble rule of Imam Kuli Khan to be seldom exposed. The
_ketchuda's_ office, originally elective, has a great tendency to
become hereditary, but at any moment the Ilkhani may declare it
elective in a special case.

Though the offices of Ilkhani and Ilbegi are held only annually at the
pleasure of the Shah, and the _ketchudas_ are properly elective, the
office of Khan or chief is strictly hereditary, though it does not
necessarily fall to the eldest son. This element of permanence gives
the Khan almost supreme authority in his tribe, and when the Ilkhani
is a weak man and a Khan is a strong one, he is practically
independent, except in the matter of the tribute to the Shah.

It was in curbing the power of these Khans by steering a shrewd and
even course among their feuds and conflicts, by justice and
consideration in the collection of the revenues, and by rendering it a
matter of self-interest for them to seek his protection and
acknowledge his headship, that Sir A. H. Layard's friend, Mohammed
Taki Khan, succeeded in reducing these wild tribes to something like
order, and Hussein Kuli Khan, "the last real ruler of the Bakhtiaris,"
pursued the same methods with nearly equal success.

But things have changed, and a fresh era of broils and rivalries has
set in, and in addition to tribal feuds and jealousies, the
universally-erected line of partisanship between the adherents of the
Ilkhani and Ilbegi produces anything but a pacific prospect. These
broils, and the prospects of fighting, are the subjects discussed at
my tent door in the evenings.

  [Illustration: A DASTGIRD TENT.]

The Dastgird encampment that evening was the romance of camp life. On
the velvety green grass there were four high black canopies, open at
the front and sides, looking across the green flowery plain, on which
the Ilkhani's castle stood out, a violet mass against the sunset gold,
between the snow-streaked mountains. There were handsome carpets,
mattresses, and bolsters; _samovars_ steaming on big brass trays, an
abundance of curds, milk, and whey, and at one end of the largest tent
there were two very fine mares, untethered, with young foals, and
children rolling about among their feet. I was placed, as usual, on
a bolster, and the tent filled with people, all shouting, and
clamouring together, bringing rheumatism ("wind in the bones"), sore
eyes, headaches ("wind in the head"), and old age to be cured. The
Khan's wife, a handsome, pathetic-looking girl, had become an
epileptic a fortnight ago. This malady is sadly common. Of the 278
people who have come for medicines here thirteen per cent have had
epileptic fits. They call them "faintings," and have no horror of
them. Eye diseases, including such severe forms as cataract and
glaucoma, rheumatism, headaches, and dyspepsia are their most severe
ailments. No people have been seen with chest complaints, bone
diseases, or cancer.

In the largest tent there was a young mother with an infant less than
twenty-four hours old, and already its eyebrows, or at all events the
place where eyebrows will be, were deeply stained and curved. At seven
or eight years old girls are tattooed on hands, arms, neck, and chest,
and the face is decorated with stars on the forehead and chin.

Though children of both sexes are dearly loved among these people, it
is only at the birth of a son that there is anything like festivity,
and most of the people are too poor to do more even then than
distribute sweetmeats among their friends and relations. The
"wealthier" families celebrate the birth of a firstborn son with
music, feasting, and dancing.

At the age of five or six days the child is named, by whispering the
Divine name in its ear, along with that chosen by the parents.

After a long visit the people all kissed my hand, raising it to their
foreheads afterwards, and the Khan made a mounting block of his back,
and rode with me to the main path. It was all savage, but the
intention was throughout courteous, according to their notions. It
became pitch dark, and I lost my way, and should have pulled _Screw_
over a precipice but for his sagacious self-will. One of the finest
sights I have seen was my own camp in a thunderstorm, with its white
tents revealed by a flash of lightning, which lighted for a second the
black darkness of the ravine.

The next morning the Khan of Dastgird's servants brought fifteen
bottles and pipkins for eye-lotions and medicines. In spite of the
directions in Persian which Mirza put upon the bottles, I doubt not
that some of the eye-lotions will be swallowed, and that some of the
medicines will be put into the eyes!

_June 8._--The last evening has come after a busy day. The
difficulties in the way of getting ready for the start to-morrow have
been great. The iron socket of my tent-pole broke, there was no smith
in the valley, and when one arrived with the Ilkhani, the Ilkhani's
direct order had to be obtained before he would finish the work he had
undertaken. I supplied the iron, but then there was no charcoal. I
have been tentless for the whole day. Provisions for forty days have
to be taken from Chigakhor, and two cwts. of rice and flour have been
promised over and over again, but have only partially arrived
to-night. Hassan has bought a horse and a cow, and they have both
strayed, and he has gone in search of them, and Mirza in search of
him, and both have been away for hours.

Of the escorts promised by the Ilkhani not one man has arrived, though
it was considered that the letter to him given me by the
Amin-es-Sultan would have obviated any difficulty on this score. An
armed sentry was to have slept in front of my tent, and a _tufangchi_
was to have been my constant attendant, and I have nobody. Of the
escort promised to the Agha not one man has appeared. In this case we
are left to do what General Schindler and others in Tihran and
Isfahan declared to be impossible, viz. to get through the country
without an escort and without the moral support of a retainer high in
the Ilkhani's service. Whether there have been crooked dealings; or
whether the Ilkhani, in spite of his promises, regards the presence of
travellers in his country with disfavour; or whether, apprehending a
collision, both the Ilkhani and Ilbegi are unwilling to part with any
of their horsemen, it is impossible to decide.

     I. L. B.


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan, Volume I (of 2) - Including a Summer in the Upper Karun Region and a Visit - to the Nestorian Rayahs" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.