"CHR.--'But what have you seen?' said Christian.
"MEN.--'Seen! Why, the Valley itself, which is as dark as pitch; we also
saw there the Hobgoblins, Satyrs, and Dragons of the Pit: we heard also in
that Valley a continual Howling and Yelling, as of a People under unutterable
misery, who there sat bound in affliction and Irons; and over that Valley
hang the discouraging clouds of Confusion; Death also doth always spread
his wings over it: in a word it is every whit dreadful, being utterly without
Order.'"--(BUNYAN'S Pilgrim's Progress.)
ALTHOUGH, owing to the kindness of my friends, life in the capital was pleasant enough to make me in no hurry to leave it, nevertheless the praises of beautiful Shiraz and the descriptions of venerable Persepolis which I so often heard were not without their effect. I began to grow restless, and to suffer a kind of dread lest, if I tarried much longer, some unforeseen event might occur to cut short my travels and to prevent me from reaching what was really the goal of my journey. After all, Persis (Fars) is really Persia, and Shiraz is the capital thereof; to visit Persia and not to reach Fars is only a degree better than staying at home. Therefore, when one morning the Nawwab came into my room to inform me that he had received instructions to proceed to Mashhad in the course of a week or two, and asked me what I would do, I replied without hesitation that I would start for the South. As he expected to leave .Teheran about 10th February, I determined to arrange my departure for the 7th, which, being my birthday, seemed to me an auspicious day for resuming my travels.
'Ali the Turk having gone South with H--, I was for a time
left without a servant. Soon after I had become the guest of the
Haji Safar-- for that was his name--received the announcement that I should start for the South in a few days with evident satisfaction. A Persian servant has everything to gain when his master undertakes a journey. In the first place his wages are raised fifty per cent. To supply him with money for his expenses on the road (jire). In the second place he receives, before starting, an additional sum of money (generally equivalent to a month's wages) to provide himself with requisites for the road, this allowance being known as pul-i-chekme va shalwar ("boots and breeches money"). In the third place he has more chance of making himself indispensable to his master, and so obtaining increased wages. Last of all, there is probably hardly a Persian to be found who does not enjoy travelling for its own sake, though in this particular case the charm of novelty was lacking, for Haji Safar had visited not only Mecca and Kerbela, but nearly ii all the more important towns in Persia as well.
Four or five days before the date fixed for my departure, he
brought me a formidable list of necessaries for the road--
cooking-pots, with all the appliances for making pilaw; saddle-
bags, sponges, cloths, towels, whips, cups, glasses, spits, brooms,
tongs, and a host of other articles, many of which seemed to
me unnecessary, besides quantities of rice, onions, potatoes, tea,
Then began the period of activity and bustle which inevitably precedes a journey, even on the smallest scale, in the East. Every day I was down in the bazaars with Haji Safar, buying cooking utensils, choosing tobaccos, and examining the merits of saddle- bags, till I was perfectly weary of the bargaining, the delays, and the endless scrutiny of goods which had to be gone through before the outfit was complete. Indeed at last I nearly despaired of being ready in time to start on the appointed day, and resigned the management into Haji Safar's hands almost entirely, only requesting him not to invest in any perfectly useless chattels or provisions.
Another and a yet more important matter still remained, to wit,
the discovery of a muleteer possessed of a small number of
reasonably good animals, prepared to start on the day I had fixed,
and willing to make the stages as I wished. This matter I regarded
as too important to be arranged by deputy, for, when one is
travelling by oneself, the pleasantness of the journey greatly
depends on having a cheerful, communicative, and good-natured
muleteer. Such an one will beguile the way with an endless
series of anecdotes, will communicate to the traveller the weird
folklore of the desert, will point out a hundred objects of interest
which would otherwise be passed unnoticed, and will manage
to arrange the stages so as to enable him to see to the best
advantage anything worth seeing. A cross-grained, surly fellow,
on the other hand, will cast a continual gloom over the caravan,
Here I must speak a few words in favour of the much-maligned charvadar. As far as my experience goes, he is, as a rule, one of the best fellows living. During the period which elapses between the conclusion of the agreement and the actual start, he is, indeed, troublesome and vexatious beyond measure. He will invent endless excuses for making extra charges; he will put forward a dozen reasons against starting on the proposed day, or following the proposed route, or halting at the places where one desires to halt. On the day of departure he will rouse one at a preternaturally early hour, alleging that the stage is a long one, that it is eight good farsakhs at least, that it is dangerous to be on the road after dark, and the like. Then, just as you are nearly ready, he will disappear to procure some hitherto forgotten necessary for the journey, or to say farewell to his wife, or to fetch one of those scraps of sacking or ropes which supply him with an unfailing excuse for absenting himself. Finally, you will not get off till the sun is well past the meridian, and may think yourself fortunate if you accomplish a stage of ten miles.
But when once he is fairly started he becomes a different man. With the dust of the city he shakes off the exasperating manner which has hitherto made him so objectionable. He sniffs the pure exhilarating air of the desert, he strides forward manfully on the broad interminable road (which is, indeed, for the most part but the track worn by countless generations of travellers) he beguiles the tediousness of the march with songs and stories, interrupted by occasional shouts of encouragement or warning to his animals. His life is a hard one, and he has to put up with many disagreeables; so that he might be pardoned even if he lost his temper oftener than he usually does.
For some time my efforts to discover a suitable muleteer were
fruitless. I needed only three animals, and I did not wish to
attach myself to a large caravan, foreseeing that it would lead
All was now ready for the journey, and there only remained the always somewhat depressing business of leave-taking, which fully occupied my last hours in Teheran. Finally the day of departure came, but (as indeed invariably happens) endless delays arose before-I actually got off, so that it was determined that we should that day proceed no farther than Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim. (situated some five or six miles to the south of the metropolis), whence we could make a fair start on the morrow. One of my friends, a nephew of my kind host the Nawwab, announced his intention of accompanying me thus far. This ceremony of setting the traveller on his way is called badraka, while the converse-- that of going out to meet one arriving from a journey--is called istikbal. Of these two, the former is more an act of friendship and less a formality than the latter.
Persian servants having often been described as the most
sordid and rapacious of mankind, I feel that, as a mere act of
justice, I must not omit to mention the disinterested and generous
At length all was ready. The baggage-mules had started;
the last cup of tea had been drunk, and the last kalyan smoked;
and the horses stood waiting at the gate, while Haji Safar, armed
with a most formidable whip, and arrayed in a pair of enormous
top-boots, strutted about the courtyard looking eminently business-
like, and evidently in the best of spirits. As I was just about
to take my last farewells, I observed the servants engaged in
making preparations of which the object was to me totally
mysterious and inexplicable. A large metal tray was brought,
on which were placed the following incongruous objects:--A
mirror, a bowl of water with some narcissi floating in it, a plate
of flour, and a dish of sweetmeats, of the kind called shakar-panir
("sugar-cheese"). A copy of the Kur'an was next produced, and
I was instructed to kiss it first, and then to dip my hand in the
Our progress not being hampered by the presence of the baggage,
we advanced rapidly, and before 4 p.m. rode through the
gate of the city of refuge, Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim. I have already
stated that the holy shrine for which this place is famous protects
all outlaws who succeed in reaching its vicinity. In a word, the
whole town is what is called "bast" ("sanctuary"). There are,
however, different degrees of bast, the area of protection being
smaller and more circumscribed in proportion as the crime of
the refugee is greater. Murderers, for instance, cannot go outside
the courtyard of the mosque without running the risk of being
arrested; debtors, on the other hand, are safe anywhere within
the walls. It may be imagined that the populace of such a place
is scarcely the most respectable, and of their churlishness I had
convincing proof. I was naturally anxious to get a glimpse of
the mosque, the great golden dome of which forms so conspicuous
an object to the eyes of the traveller approaching .Teheran
from the west; and accordingly, as soon as we had secured
our horses in the caravansaray (for the rest of the caravan had
not yet arrived), I suggested to my companion that we should
direct our steps thither. Of course I had no intention of attempting
to enter it, which I knew would not be permitted; but I
thought no objection would be made to my viewing it from the
outside. However, we had hardly reached the entrance of the
bazaar when we were stopped and turned back. Discouraged,
but not despairing, we succeeded in making our way by a devious
and unfrequented route to the very gate of the mosque, I had,
My companion remonstrated with these churlish fellows, saying that as far as he was concerned he was a good Musulman, and had as much right in the mosque as they had. "No good Musulman would bring a Firangi infidel to gaze upon the sacred building," they replied; "we regard you as no whit better than him. Hence! begone!" As there was nothing to be gained by stopping (and, indeed, a fair prospect of being roughly handled if we remained to argue the matter), we prudently withdrew. I was much mortified at this occurrence, not only on my own account, but also because the good-nature of my companion had exposed him likewise to insult. I feel bound to state, however, that this was almost the only occasion on which I met with discourtesy of this sort during the whole time I spent in Persia.
On returning to the caravansaray we found that Haji Safar and the muleteers had arrived, the former being accompanied by a relative who had come to see him so far on his journey, and at the same time to accomplish a visit to the shrine from the precincts of which we had just been so ignominiously expelled. As it was now getting late, and as most of the gates of Teheran are closed soon after sunset, my friend bade me farewell and cantered off homewards, leaving me with a sense of loneliness which I had not experienced for some time. The excitement of feeling that I was once more on the road with my face fairly turned towards the glorious South soon, however, came to my relief, and indeed I had enough to occupy me in attempting to introduce some order into my utterly confused accounts. Before long Haji Safar, who had been busy ever since his arrival with culinary operations, brought in a supper which augured well for the comfort of the journey, so far as food was concerned
I had finished supper, and was ruminating over tea and
tobacco, when he re-entered, accompanied by his relative, who
Next day we were astir early, for there was no temptation to linger in a spot from the inhabitants of which I had met with nothing but incivility; and, moreover, I was anxious to form a better idea of the muleteers who were to be my companions for the next fortnight. However, I saw but little of them that day, as they lagged behind soon after starting passed me while I was having lunch. The road, except for several large parties of travellers whom we met, presented few points of interest; nevertheless, a curious history is attached to it, which, as it forms a significant commentary on what one may call the "Board of Public Works" in Persia, I here reproduce*.
On leaving Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim the road runs for a mile or
so as straight as an arrow towards the south. A little before it
reaches a range of low hills which lie at right angles to its course
it bifurcates. One division goes straight on and crosses the hills
above-mentioned to the caravansaray of Kinar-i-gird; the other
bends sharply to the west for about three-quarters of a mile,
thus turning the edge of the hills, and then resumes its southward
course. Of these two roads, the first is the good old direct
caravan-route, described by Vambery, which leads to Kum by
way of Kinar-i-gird, Hawz-i-Sultan, and Pul-i-Dallak; the second
is the new "improved" road made some years ago by order of
the Aminu's-Sultan, the history of which is as follows:--
* It is given in Curzon's Persia, vol. ii, pp. 2-6, but I have nevertheless
decided to let it remain here, as I wrote it before the publication of that
When the rage for superseding the venerable and commodious caravansaray by the new-fangled and extortionate mihman-khane was at its height, and when the road between Teheran and Kazvin had been adorned with a sufficient number of these evidences of civilisation, the attention of the. Aminu's-Sultan and other philanthropists was turned to the deplorable and unregenerate state of the great southern road. It was decided that, at least so far as Kum, its defects should be remedied forthwith, and that the caravansarays of Kinar-i-gird, Hawz-i-Sultan, and Pul-i-Dallak, which had for generations afforded shelter to the traveller should be replaced by something more in accordance with modern Europeanised taste. Negotiations were accordingly opened by the Aminu's-Sultan with the owners of the caravansarays in question, with a view to effecting a purchase of the land and "goodwill." Judge of the feelings of this enlightened and patriotic statesman when the owner of the caravansaray at Hawz-i-Sultan refused--yes, positively refused--to sell his heritage. Perhaps he was an old-fashioned individual, with a distaste for innovations; perhaps he merely thought that his caravansaray brought him in a better income than he was likely to get even by a judicious investment of the money now offered for it. Be this as it may, he simply declined the offer made to him by the Aminu's-Sultan, and said that he preferred to retain in his own possession the property he had inherited from his father
What was to be done? Clearly it was intolerable that the
march of civilisation should be checked by this benighted old
conservative. In the rough days of yore it might have been
possible to behead or poison him, or at least to confiscate his
property, but such an idea could not for a moment be seriously
entertained by a humane and enlightened minister of the fourteenth
century of the hijra; no, annoying and troublesome as it
was, there was nothing for it but to leave the old road in status quo
and make a new one. This was accordingly done at considerable
expense, the new road being carried in a bold curve to the west,
There seemed to be every prospect of the new road being a
complete failure, and of the benevolent intentions of the
Aminu's-Sultan being totally frustrated by this unlooked-for lack of
appreciation on the part of the travelling public, when suddenly
the mind of the perplexed philanthropist was illuminated by a
brilliant idea. Though it would not be quite constitutional to
forcibly overthrow the caravansarays on the old road, it was
evidently within the rights of a paternal government to utilise
the resources of nature as a means of compelling the refractory
"sons of the road" to do what was best for them. Luckily, these
means were not far to seek. Near the old road, between Hawz-i-
Sultan and Pul-i-Dallak, ran a river, and this river was prevented
from overflowing the low flat plain which it traversed, ere losing
itself in the sands of the Dasht-i-Kavir, by dykes solidly constructed
and carefully kept in repair. If these were removed there was
every reason to hope that the old road would be flooded and
rendered impracticable. The experiment was tried, and
succeeded perfectly. Not only the road, but an area of many
square miles round about it, was completely and permanently
submerged, and a fine lake--almost a sea--was added to the
The Aminu's-Sultan might now fairly consider that his triumph
was complete: suddenly, however, a new difficulty arose. The
management of the posts was in the hands of another minister
called the Aminu'd-Dawla, and he, like the muleteers, considered
the charges which it was proposed to make for the use of the new
(now the only) road excessive. As, however, there appeared to
be no course open to him but to submit to them (since the posts
must be maintained, and the old road was irrecoverably submerged),
the Aminu's-Sultan determined to withstand all demands
for a reduction. But the Aminu'd-Dawla was also a minister of
some ingenuity, and, having the example of his colleague fresh
in his mind, he determined not to be outdone. He therefore
made yet another road, which took a yet wider sweep towards
the west, and, transferring the post-houses to that, bade defiance
Thus it has come to pass that in place of the old straight road
to Kum there is now a caravan-road longer by some fourteen
miles, and a post-road longer by nearly twenty miles*. The last
indeed, on leaving Teheran, follows the Hamadan road for about
a stage and a half, diverging from it some distance to the southwest
of Ribat-Karim, the first post-house, and curving back
towards the east by way of Pik and Kushk-i-Bahram to join the
Aminu's-Sultan's road near the mihman-khane of Shashgird about
ten farsakhs from Kum.
* Dr Wills (Land of the Lion and the Sun) gives the distance from Teheran
to Kum by the old road as twenty-four farsakhs. The present post-road is
reckoned and charged as twenty-eight farsakhs, but they appear to me to be
very long ones.
On the second day after leaving Teheran (9th February), soon after quitting the mihman-khane of Hasanabad, we entered the dismal region called by the Persians Malaku'l-Mawt Dere (the "Valley of the Angel of Death"). Around this spot cluster most thickly the weird tales of the desert, to which I have already alluded. Indeed its only rival in this sinister celebrity is the Hazar dere ("Thousand valleys"), which lies just to the south of Isfahan. Anxious to become further acquainted with the folklore of the country, I succeeded in engaging the muleteer in conversation on this topic. The substance of what I learned was as follows:--
There are several species of supernatural monsters which haunt the gloomy defiles of the Valley of the Angel of Death. Of these the ghuls and 'ifrits are alike the commonest and the most malignant. The former usually endeavour to entice the traveller away from the caravan to his destruction by assuming the form or voice of a friend or relative. Crying out piteously for help, and entreating the unwary traveller to come to their assistance, they induce him to follow them to some lonely spot, where, suddenly assuming the hideous form proper to them, they rend him in pieces and devour him.
Another monster is the nasnas, which appears in the form of an infirm and aged man. It is generally found sitting by the side of a river, and bewailing its inability to cross. When it sees the wayfarer approaching, it earnestly entreats him to carry it across the water to the other side. If he consents, it seats itself on his shoulders, and, when he reaches the middle of the river, winds its long supple legs round his throat till he falls insensible in the water and perishes.
Besides these, there is the pa-lis ("Foot-licker"), which only
attacks those who are overtaken by sleep in the desert. It kills
its victim, as its name implies, by licking the soles of his feet till
it has drained away his life-blood. It was on one occasion
circumvented by two muleteers of Isfahan, who, being benighted
Another superstition (not, however, connected with the desert)
of which I heard at Teheran, may be mentioned in this connection.
A form of cursing used by women to each other is
"Al-at bi-zanad! "May the Al strike thee!"). The belief
concerning the Al is that it attacks women who have recently been
confined, and tries to tear out and devour their livers. To avert
this calamity various precautions are taken; swords and other
weapons are placed under the woman's pillow, and she is not
allowed to sleep for several hours after the child is born, being
watched over by her friends, and roused by cries of "Ya Maryam!"
("O Mary!") whenever she appears to be dozing off. It is worthy of note
that the Al, as well as its congeners is supposed to have flaxen hair.
The scenery through which we passed on leaving the Malaku'l-Mawt
Dere was savage and sublime. All around were wild
rugged hills, which assumed the strangest and most fantastic
shapes, and desert sparsely sown with camel-thorn. As we
reached the highest point of the road, rain began to fall sharply
and it was so cold that I was glad to muffle myself up in ulster
and rug. Now for the first time the great salt-lake made by the
Aminu's-Sultan came in view. It is of vast extent, and the
muleteers informed me that its greatest width was not less than six
farsakhs (about twenty-two miles). Beyond it stretches the weird
expanse of the Dasht-i-Kavir, which extends hence even to the
eastern frontier of Persia--a boundless waste of sand, here and
there glimmering white with incrustations of salt, and broken
The mihman-khane of 'Ali-abad, which we reached an hour or so before sunset, presents no features worthy of remark except this, that in the room allotted to me I found three books, which proved on examination to be a copy of the Kur'an, a book of Arabic prayers, and a visitors' book! It was evident that here, at least, the prototype was afforded by the Bible and prayer-book which are usually to be found in every bedroom of an English hotel, and the visitors' book which lies on the hall-table. I examined this visitors' book with some curiosity. It was filled with long rhapsodies on the Aminu's-Sultan penned by various travellers, all complimentary, as I need hardly say. "How enlightened and patriotic a minister! How kind of him to make this nice new road, and to provide it with these admirable guest- houses, which, indeed, might fairly be considered to rival, if not to excel, the best hotels of Firangistan!" I could not forbear smiling as I read these effusions, which were so at variance with the views expressed in the most forcible language by the muleteers, who had continued at intervals throughout the day to inveigh against the new road, the mihman-khanes, and their owner alike.
The next day brought us to Kum, after a long, quick march
of nearly ten hours. The muleteers were suddenly seized with one
of those fits of energetic activity to which even the most lethargic
Persians are occasionally subject, so that when, early in the
afternoon, we reached the mihman-khane of Shashgird (or Manzariyye--
the "Place of Outlook"--as it is more pretentiously styled),
and Haji Safar proposed to halt for the night, they insisted on
pushing on to the holy city, which they declared they could reach
before sundown. A lively altercation ensued, which concluded
with a bet of five krans offered by Haji Safar, and taken by the
muleteers, that we should not reach the town before sunset. The
I have already had occasion to allude to the Indo-European
Telegraph, and to mention the great kindness which I met with
from Major Wells (in whose hands the control thereof was placed),
and from all other members of the staff with whom I came in
contact. This kindness did not cease with my departure from
Teheran. A message was sent down the line to all the telegraph
stations (which are situated every three or four stages all the way
from Teheran to Bushire) to inform the residents at these (most
of whom are English) of my advent, and to ask them to extend
to me their hospitality. Although I felt some hesitation at first
in thus quartering myself without an invitation on strangers who
might not wish to be troubled with a guest, I was assured that
I need have no apprehensions on that score, and that I should be
certain to meet with a hospitable welcome. This, indeed, proved
to be the case to a degree beyond my expectations; at all the
telegraph offices I was received with a cordial friendliness and
geniality which made me at once feel at home, and I gladly
take this opportunity of expressing the deep sense of gratitude
which I feel for kindnesses the memory of which will always
The first of these telegraph stations is at Kum, and thither I at once made my way through the spice-laden twilight of the bazaars. On arriving, I was cordially welcomed by Mr Lyne and his wife, and was soon comfortably ensconced in an easy-chair before a bright fire, provided with those two great dispellers of weariness, tea and tobacco. My host, who had resided for a long while at Kum, entirely surrounded by Persians, was a fine Persian and Arabic scholar, and possessed a goodly collection of books, which he kindly permitted me to examine. They were for the most part formidable-looking treatises on Muhammadan theology and jurisprudence, and had evidently been well read; indeed, Mr Lyne's fame as a "mulla" is great, not only in Kum, but throughout Persia, and I heard his erudition warmly praised even at distant Kirman.
Perhaps it was owing to this that I met with such courtesy
and good nature from the people of Kum, of whom I had heard
the worst possible accounts. My treatment at Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim
had not given me a favourable idea of the character of holy
cities and sanctuaries, and this prejudice was supported in
this particular case by the well-known stricture of some Persian
satirist on the towns of .Kum and Kashan:
Whether the inhabitants of Kum have been grossly maligned,
or whether their respect for my host (for, so far as my experience
goes, there is no country where knowledge commands such
universal respect as in Persia) procured for me an unusual degree
of courtesy, I know not; at any rate, when we went out next day
to see the town, we were allowed, without the slightest opposition,
to stand outside the gate of the mosque and look at it to our
Besides the mosque and the potteries, I paid a visit to a castor-oil mill worked by a camel, and ascended an old minaret furnished with a double spiral staircase in a sad state of dilapidation. From this I obtained a fine view of the city and its surroundings. It has five gates, and is surrounded by a wall, but this is now broken down in many places, and the whole of the southern quarter of the town is in a very ruined condition. Altogether, I enjoyed my short stay in Kum very much, and was as sorry to leave it as I was pleased to find how much better its inhabitants are than they are generally represented to be. Their appearance is as pleasant as their manner, and I was greatly struck with the high average of good looks which they enjoy, many of the children especially being very pretty. Though the people are regarded as very fanatical, their faces certainly belie this opinion, for it seemed to me that the majority of them wore a singularly gentle and benign expression.
I could not, however, protract my stay at Kum without
subjecting my plans to considerable alteration; and accordingly
on the second day after my arrival (12th February) I again set
out on my southward journey. As I was in no hurry to bid a
Next day was beautifully fine and warm, almost like a bright June day in England. Our way still lay just beneath the hills to the west, and the road continued quite flat, for we were still skirting the edge of the great salt-strewn Dasht-i-Kavir. About mid-day we halted before the caravansaray of Shurab for lunch: here there is some verdure, and a little stream, but the water of this Is, as the name of the place implies, brackish. Soon after leaving this we met two men with great blue turbans, carelessly and loosely wound. These Haji Safar at once identified as Yezdis.
You can always tell a Yezdi wherever you see him," he explained, "and, indeed, whenever you hear him. As you may like to hear their sweet speech, I will pass the time of day with them, and ask them whence they hail and whither they are bound. So saying, he entered into a brief conversation with them, and for the first time I heard the broad, drawling, singsong speech of Yezd, which once heard can never be mistaken.
We reached the caravansaray of Sinsin quite early in the
afternoon, the stage being six light farsakhs, and the road good
and level. This caravansaray is one of those fine spacious
solidly constructed buildings which can be referred almost at
a glance, to the time of the Safavi kings, and which the tradition
of muleteers, recognising, as a rule, only two great periods in
While I was on the roof I was joined by a muleteer called Khuda-bakhsh, whom I had not noticed at the beginning of the journey, but who had cast up within the last day or two as a recognised member of our little caravan, in that mysterious and unaccountable way peculiar to his class. He entered into conversation with me, anxiously enquired whether I was not an agent of my government sent out to examine the state of the country, and refused to credit my assurances to the contrary. He then asked me many questions about America ("Yangi-dunya"-- not, as might at first sight appear, a mere corruption of the term commonly applied by us to its inhabitants, but a genuine Turkish compound, meaning "the New World"), and received my statement that its people were of the same race as myself, and had emigrated there from my own country, with manifest incredulity.
Next day brought us to another considerable town--Kashan--
after an uneventful march of about seven hours, broken by a halt
for lunch at a village called Nasrabad, at which I was supplied
with one of the excellent melons grown in the neighbourhood.
On leaving this place we fell in with two Kirmanis--an old man
and his son--who were travelling back from Hamadan, where
About 3.30 p.m. we reached Kashan, but did not enter the
town, alighting at the telegraph-office, which is situated just
outside the gate. Here I was kindly welcomed by Mr Aganor,
an Armenian, who spoke English perfectly. Though it was not
late, I did not go into the town that day, as we received a visit
from the chief of the custom-house, Mirza Huseyn Khan, who
was very pleasant and amusing. Besides this, a man came with
some manuscripts which he was anxious to sell, but there were
none of any value. In the evening I had some conversation with
my host a out the Babis, whom he asserted to be very numerous
at Yezd and Abade. At the former place, he assured me, the new
religion was making great progress even amongst the Zoroastrians.
Next morning we went for a walk in the town. Almost every town in Persia is celebrated for something, and Kashan is said to have three specialities: first, its brass-work; second, its scorpions (which, unlike the bugs of Miyane, are said never to attack strangers, but only the natives of the town); and third the extreme timorousness of its inhabitants. Concerning the latter, it is currently asserted that there formerly existed a Kashan regiment, but that, in consideration of the cowardice of its men and their obvious inefficiency, it was disbanded, and those composing it were told to return to their homes. On the following day a deputation of the men waited on the Shah, asserting that they were afraid of being attacked on the road, and begging for an escort. "We are a hundred poor fellows all alone," they said; send some horsemen with us to protect us!"
The scorpions I did not see, as it was winter; and of the alleged
cowardice of the inhabitants I had, of course, no means of
In the afternoon Mirza Huseyn Khan, the chief of the customs, came again. He had his little child of seventeen months old (to which he seemed devotedly attached) brought for me to look at, as it was suffering from eczema, and he wished for advice as to the treatment which should be adopted. Later in the evening, after the child had gone home, he returned with his secretary, Mirza 'Abdu'llah, and stayed to supper. We had a most delightful evening, the Khan being one of the most admirable conversationalists I ever met. Some of his stories I will here set down, though it is impossible for me to convey an idea of the vividness of description, wealth of illustration, and inimitable mimicry, which, in his mouth, gave them so great a charm.
"What sort of a supper are you going to give us, Aganor
Sahib?" he began; "Persian or Firangi? O, half one and half
the other: very good, that is best; for this Sahib is evidently
anxious to learn all he can about us Persians, so that he would
have been disappointed if you hadn't given him some of our
foods; while at the same time, being fresh from Firangistan, he
might perhaps not have been able to eat some of the things
which we like. How do you like our Persian food so far?"
he continued, turning to me; "for my part, I doubt if you have
anything half so nice as our pilaws and chilaws in your country.
Then there is mast-khiyar (curds and cucumbers); have you tasted
that yet? No? Well, then, you have a pleasure to come; only
after eating it you must not drink water to quench the slight
thirst which it produces, or else you will suffer for it, like Manakji
"How did he suffer for eating mast-khiyar? Well, I will tell you. You must know, then, that when he was appointed by the Parsees at Bombay to come and live in Persia and take care of the Guebres, and try to influence the Shah in their favour, he knew nothing about Persia or the Persians; for, though of course the Parsees are really Persians by descent, they have now become more like Firangis. Well, Manakji Sahib set sail for Persia, and on board the vessel (being anxious to remedy this lack of knowledge on his part) he made friends with a Persian merchant of Isfahan, who was returning to his country. In the course of the voyage the ship touched at some port, the name of which I have forgotten, and, as it was to remain there all day, the Isfahani suggested to Manakji Sahib that they should go on shore and see the town, to which proposition the latter very readily agreed. Accordingly, they landed, and, since the town was situated at a considerable distance from the harbour, hired donkeys to convey them thither. Now the day was very hot, and as the sun got higher, Manakji Sahib found the heat unbearable; so, espying a village near at hand, he suggested to his companion that they should rest there under some old ruins, which stood a little apart, until the sun had begun to decline and the heat was less oppressive. To this his companion agreed, and further suggested that he should go to the village and see if he could find something to eat, while Manakji rested amongst the ruins. So they arranged with the muleteer to halt for an hour or two, and the Isfahani went off to look for food. Presently he returned with a number of young cucumbers and a quantity of mast (curds), with which he proceeded to concoct a bowl of mast-khiyar.
"Now Manakji (like you) had never seen this compound, and
(being a man of a suspicious disposition) he began to fancy that
his companion wanted to poison him in this lonely spot, and
take his money. So when the mast-khiyar was ready, he refused
"Now certain rules must be observed in eating some of our Persian foods, and in the case of mast-khiyar these are two in number. The first rule, as I have told you, is that you must not drink anything with it or after it; for, if you do, not only will your thirst be increased, but the food will swell up in your stomach and make you think you are going to die of suffocation. The second rule is that you must lie down and go to sleep directly you have eaten it. Now Manakji Sahib was ignorant of these rules, and so, when his companion lay down and went to sleep, he, feeling somewhat thirsty, took a draught of water, and then lay down to rest. But, so far from being able to rest, he found himself attacked by a strange feeling of oppression, and his thirst soon returned twofold. So he got up and took another drink of water, and then lay down again, but now his state was really pitiable: he could hardly breathe, his stomach swelled up in a most alarming manner, and he was tormented by thirst. Then his suspicions returned with redoubled force, and he thought to himself, 'There is no doubt that my companion really has poisoned me, and has himself taken some antidote to prevent the poison from affecting him. Alas! alas! I shall certainly die in this horrible, lonely spot, and no one will know what has become of me!'
"While he was rolling about in agony, tormented by these
alarming thoughts, he suddenly became aware of a strange-
looking winged animal sitting on a wall close to him, and
apparently gloating over his sufferings. It was nodding its
head at him in a derisive mamler, and, to his excited imagination,
it seemed to be saying, as plain as words could be,
'Ahwal-i-shuma che-tawr-ast? Alwal-i-shuma che-tawr-ast?'
('How are you? How are you?') Now the animal was
nothing more than one of those little owls which are so
common in ruined places, but Manakji didn't know this, never
having seen an owl before, and thought it must certainly be
the Angel of Death come to fetch his soul. So he lay there
gazing, at it in horror, till at last he could bear it no longer, and
determined to wake his companion; 'for,' thought he, 'even
though he has poisoned me, he is after all a human being,
and his companionship will at least enable me better to bear
the presence of this horrible apparition.' So he stretched out
his foot, and gave his companion a gentle kick. Finding that
did not rouse him, he repeated it with greater force, and his
companion woke up. 'Well,' said he, 'what is the matter?'
Manakji pointed to the bird, which still sat there on the
wall, nodding its head, and apparently filled with diabolical
enjoyment at the sufferer's misery. 'Do you see that?' he
inquired. 'See it ? Of course I see it,' replied his companion,
'What of it?' Then some inkling of the nature of
Manakji's terrors and
"On hearing this Manakji was more frightened than ever; but at last his friend took pity on him, and picking up a stone threw it at the bird, which instantly flew away. 'I was only joking,' he said; 'it is nothing but an owl.' So Manakji's fears were dispelled, and he soon recovered from the mast-khiyar; but though he subsequently found out the proper way of eating it, I am not sure that he ever had the courage to try it again.
We laughed a good deal at this story, and I remarked that it was an extraordinary thing that Manakji Sahib should have been so frightened at an owl.
"Well," he said, "it is. But then in the desert, and in solitary,
gloomy places, things will frighten you that you would laugh
at in the city. I don't believe in all these stories about ghuls and
'ifrits which the charvadars tell; but at the same time I would
rather listen to them here than out there in the kavir. It is a
terrible place that kavir! All sand and salt and solitude, and tracks
not more than two feet wide on which you can walk with safety.
Have I seen anything of the kavir? No, nor do I wish to do so; hearing about it is quite sufficient for me. I was once lost in the salt-mountains near Semnan when a boy, having run away from my father, who had done something to offend me. I only remained amongst them one night, and, beyond the bitter brininess of the bright-looking streams at which I strove to quench my thirst, and the horror of the place and its loneliness, there was nothing half so bad as the kavir, yet I wouldn't go through the experience again on any account. You have probably heard plenty of stories about the desert from your charvadars on the road; nevertheless, as you seem to like hearing them, I will tell you one which may be new to you."
We begged him to give us the story, and he proceeded as follows:-- A poor man was once travelling along on foot and a one in the desert when he espied coming towards him a most terrible-looking dervish. You have very likely seen some of those wandering, wild-looking dervishes who go about all over the country armed with axes or clubs, and fear neither wild beast nor man, nor the most horrible solitudes. Well, this dervish was one of that class, only much more ferocious-looking and wild than any you ever saw; and he was moreover armed with an enormous and ponderous dub, which he kept swinging to and fro in a manner little calculated to reassure our traveller. The latter, indeed, liked the appearance of the dervish so little that he determined to climb up a tree, which fortunately stood close by, and wait till the fellow had passed.
The dervish, however, instead of passing by, seated himself
on the ground under the tree. Of course the poor traveller was
horribly frightened, not knowing how long the dervish might
choose to stop there, and fearing, moreover, that his place of
retreat might have been observed. He therefore continued to
"He next addressed himself to the second image thus: ' O Abu Bekr! Thou also wert guilty in this matter, since thou didst first occupy the place which by right belonged to 'Ali. Nevertheless thou art an old man, and it may be that thou wert but a tool in the hands of that ungodly 'Omar, whom I have just now destroyed. If it be so, tell me, that I may deal mercifully with thee. ...What! thou too art silent! Beware, or I will crush thee even as I crushed thine abettor in this offence.... Thou still refusest to answer? Then thy blood be on thine own head!' Another blow with the club, and the second figure had followed the first.
"The dervish now turned to the third figure: 'O Murtaza
'Ali,' he exclaimed, 'tell me, I pray thee, now that these wretches
who deprived thee of thy rights have met with their deserts,
how it was that thou, the chosen successor of the Prophet, didst
allow thyself to be so set aside. After all, thou didst in a manner
acquiesce in their usurpation, and I desire to know why thou
didst so, and why thou didst not withstand them even to the
death. Tell me this, therefore, I pray thee, that my difficulties
"This horror was further increased when the dervish, turning to the fourth clay figure, addressed it as follows:--'O Muhammad! O Prophet of God! Since thou didst enjoy Divine Inspiration, thou didst without doubt know what would occur after thy death. How, then, didst thou take no precautions to guard against it? Without doubt, in this, too, there is some hidden wisdom which I would fain understand, therefore I beseech thee to tell me of it Thou answerest not a word? Nay, but thou shalt answer, else even thy sacred mission shall in nowise protect thee from my just wrath.... Still thou maintainest silence? Beware, for I am in earnest, and will not be trifled with...Thou continuest to defy me? Then perish with the rest!' Another heavy blow with the club, and the figure of the Prophet disappeared into the ground, while the poor man in the tree was half-paralysed with dread, and watched with fascinated horror to see what the dervish would do next.
"Only one clay figure now remained, and to this the dervish addressed himself. 'O Allah!' he said, 'Thou who hadst knowledge of all the troubles which would befall the family of him whom Thou didst ordain to be the successor of Thy Prophet, tell me, I pray Thee, what divine mystery was concealed under that which baffles our weak comprehension!... Wilt Thou not hear my prayer?... Art Thou also silent?... Nay, Thou shalt answer me or---'
"'Wretch1' suddenly exclaimed the man in the tree, his terror
of the dervish for the moment mastered by his indignation, 'Art
thou not satisfied with having destroyed the Prophet of God, and
'Ali, his holy successor? Wilt thou also slay the Creator? Beware!
Hold thy hand, or verily the heavens will fall and crush thee!'
"On hearing this voice, apparently from the clouds, the dervish was so terrified that he uttered one loud cry, dropped his uplifted club, and fell back dead. The man in the tree now descended, and cautiously approached the body of the dervish. Being finally assured that he was really dead, he proceeded to remove his cloak, which he was surprised to find of enormous weight, so that he began to think there must be something concealed in the lining. This proved to be the case, for, as he cut it open, a hidden hoard of gold pieces poured forth on to the ground. These the poor traveller proceeded to pick up and transfer to his pockets. When he had completed this task, he raised his face to heaven and said, 'O Allah! Just now I saved Thy life by a timely interference, and for this Thou hast now rewarded me with this store of gold, for which I heartily thank Thee."'
"What a very foolish man the traveller must have been," we remarked when the story was concluded; "he certainly met with better fortune than he deserved. Of course the dervish was nothing better than a madman."
"Yes," answered the Khan, "and of the two a fool is the worse, especially as a friend, a truth which is exemplified in the story of the Gardener, the Bear, and the Snake, which well illustrates the proverb that 'A wise enemy is better than a foolish friend.' If you do not know the story I will tell it you, for it is quite short.
"Once upon a time there was a gardener, into whose garden a bear used often to come to eat the fruit. Now, seeing that the bear was very strong and formidable, the gardener deemed it better to be on good terms with it, thinking that it might prove a useful ally. So he encouraged it to come whenever it liked, and gave it as much fruit as it could eat, for which kindness the bear was very grateful.
"Now, there was also a snake which lived in a hole in the
garden wall. One day, when the snake was basking in the sun
half asleep, the gardener saw it and struck at it with a spade which
"Now, the gardener knew that the snake had escaped, and
was well aware that he had made a deadly enemy of it, so he was
afraid to go to sleep within its reach unprotected. He
communicated his apprehensions to his friend the bear, which, eager
to give some proof of its gratitude, readily offered to watch over
him while he slept. The gardener gladly accepted this offer, and
lay down to sleep; while the snake, concealed in its hole, continued
its watch, hoping for an opportunity of gratifying its revenge.
"Now, the day was hot, and the flies were very troublesome for they kept buzzing round the gardener's face, and even settling upon it. This boldness on their part annoyed the bear very much, especially when he found that he could only disperse them for a moment by a wave of his paw, and that they returned immediately to the spot from which they had been driven.
At last the bear could stand it no longer, and determined to have done with the flies once and for all. Looking round he espied a large flat stone which lay near. 'Ah, now, I have you,' he thought, as he picked up the stone and waited for the flies to settle again on the gardener's face; 'I'll teach you to molest my friend's slumbers, you miserable creatures!' Then, the flies having settled, thud! down came the stone with a mighty crash on--the gardener's head, which was crushed in like an egg-shell while the flies flew merrily away to torment some new victim and the snake crept back into its hole with great contentment muttering to itself the proverb in question, 'A wise enemy is better than a foolish friend."'
And now, just outside the walls surrounding the telegraph
" To this proposition the jackals agreed, and during the
following night the exchange was effected. In the morning,
when the people of the city woke up, they found a dog wherever
there had been a jackal on the previous night. On the third
night the jackals, being quite tired of the desert, came back to
the gates of the town, filled with pleasant anticipations of
resuming their luxurious city life. But the dogs, being very
comfortable in their new quarters, were in no hurry to quit them. So,
after waiting some time, the jackals called out to the dogs,
'Na-khush-i-shuma khub shude-e-e-e?' ('Are your sick ones well yet?'),
ending up with a whine rising and falling in cadence, just such
as you heard a minute ago, and (as Mirza 'Abdu'llah, who is a
native of Isfahan, will tell you) just such as you may hear any day
in the mouth of an Isfahani or a Yezdi. But the dogs, who are
At this point our host interrupted the conversation to tell us that supper was ready. "Supper!" exclaimed the Khan, who had already commenced another story, "Supper, indeed! Am I to have my stories cut short and spoiled by supper? No, I shall not go on with what I was saying, even though you do beg my pardon; but I will forgive you, provided always that you ask an 'English pardon' and not a 'Persian pardon."'
"What do you mean by a 'Persian pardon'?" I asked; "please explain the expression."
"No, I shall keep my word and tell you no more stories tonight, answered the Khan. "I have told you plenty already and you will probably forget them all, and me too. Now you Will remember me much better as having refused to satisfy your curiosity on this one point, and whenever you hear the expression 'Pardum-i-Irani' (so he pronounced it) you will think of Mirza Huseyn Khan of Kashan."
After supper we had some songs accompanied on the si-tar, all present, except myself, being something of musicians, and thus the evening passed pleasantly, till the guests announced that they must depart, and I was astonished to find that it was close on midnight, and high time to retire for the night.
Next day (16th February) our road continued to skirt the plain
for some twelve or fifteen miles, and then turned to the right
into the mountains. We at first ascended along a river-bed, down
which trickled a comparatively small quantity of water. I was
surprised to see that a number of dams had been constructed to
divert the water from its channel and make it flow over portions
On ascending somewhat higher, we came to a place where there was a smooth, rather deep, oblong depression in the face of the rock. Inside this, as well as on the ground beneath, were heaps of small stones and pebbles; while in every cranny and chink of the cliff around and below this spot were planted little bits of stick decorated with rags of divers colours placed there by pious passers-by. As we came up to this place, Khuda- bakhsh, the muleteer, who was a few paces in front, sprang up towards the depression, shouting "Ya 'Ali!" and drew his hand down it, thus affording an indication of the manner in which the wonderful smoothness of its walls had been produced. He then informed us that the depression in question was the mark left by the hoof of 'Ali's steed, Duldul, and that there were only two or three more such in the whole of Persia. Near the village of Gez, he added, there was the mark of 'Ali's hand in the rock. Haji Safar, on learning these facts, added his quota of pebbles to those already collected on the slope.
Proceeding onwards through very fine scenery, we suddenly
came upon a mighty wall of rock wherewith the channel of the
stream was barred, and beyond this a vast sheet of water formed
by the damming-up of the water-course. This splendid, half-
natural reservoir, which serves to keep the city of Kashan well
supplied with water during the hot, dry summer, was constructed,
like so many other useful and beneficial public works, during
the period of prosperity which Persia enjoyed under the Safavi
kings, and is known as the Band-i-Kohrud. Winding round the
right side of this great lake, we presently began to see around
us abundant signs of cultivation--plantations of trees, orchards,
and fields laid out in curious steps for purposes of irrigation, and
already green with sprouting corn. Soon we entered tortuous
About a mile farther on we came to the village of Kohrud,
where, the chapar-khane (post-house) being occupied, we found
quarters at the house of a Seyyid, who appeared to be one of
the chief men of the village. I had already heard from General
Houtum-Schindler, who possesses probably more knowledge
about the geography, ethnology and local dialects of Persia
than any man living, of the curious dialect spoken in and around
Kohrud and Natan2, and, anxious to acquire further information
about it, I mentioned the matter to my host, who at once volunteered
to bring in two or three of the people of the place to converse
with me. Accordingly, as soon as I had had tea, a man and his
son came in, and, bowing ceremoniously, took their seats by the door.
I first asked them as to the distribution of their dialect, and
the extent of the area over which it was spoken. They replied
that it was spoken with slight variations in about a dozen or
fifteen villages round about, extending on the one hand to the
little town of Natanz, in the valley to the east, and on the other
to the mountain-village of Kamsar. Of its age, history, and
relations they knew nothing definite, merely characterising it as
"Furs-i-kadim" ("Ancient Persian"). From what I subsequently
learned, I infer that it forms one branch of a dialect or language
spoken with greater or less variations over a large portion of
Persia. With the dialect of Natanz it seems almost identical, so
far as I can judge from a comparison of the specimen of
that vernacular (consisting of some thirty words) given by
I now for the first time realised the difficulty of obtaining
precise information from uneducated people with regard to their
language. In particular, it was most difficult to get them to give
me the different parts of the verbs. I would ask, for example,
"How would you say, 'I am ill'?" They gave me a sentence
which I wrote down. Then I asked, "Now, what is 'thou art
ill'?" They repeated the same sentence. "That can't be right,"
I said; " they can't both be the same." "Yes, that is right," they
answered; "if we want to say 'thou art ill' we say just what we
have told you." "Well, but suppose you were ill yourself what
would you say?" "Oh, then we should say so-and-so." This
readiness in misapprehending one's meaning and reversing what
1 Persien, Das Land und seine Bewohner, von Dr Jakob Eduard Polak, Leipzig, 1865, vol. i, p. 265. 2 On this dialect, see Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, vol. xxxv, pp. 327-414, Uber die Mundart von Jezd, by Ferdinand Justi; and ibid. vol. xxxvi, pp. 54-88, Die Parsen in Persien, ihre Sprache und einige ihrer Gebrauche, by General A. Houtum- Schindler. See also Journal Asiatique, 1888, viii serie, 11, where M. Clement Huart protests against the application of the term Dari to this dialect, which he indudes along with Kurdish, Mazandarani, the patois of Semnan, etc., under the general appellation of 'Pehlevi Musulman,' or Modern Medic.' Cf. p. 426, infra. 3 Journal Asiatique, 1885, viii serie, 6, pp. 502-545.
I here append a list of the words and expressions which I
took down during the short opportunity I had for studying the
Kohrud dialect, as I am not aware that anything has been published
on that particular branch of what M. Huart calls "Pehlevi
Musulman." For the sake of comparison, I place in parallel
columns the equivalents in the Natanz dialect given by Polak,
and those of the so-called Dari of Yezd given by General Schindler
and Justi. The transcription of these latter I have only altered
so far as appeared necessary to convey the proper pronunciation
to the English reader, e.g. in substituting the English y for the
ENGLISH PERSIAN KOHRUDI NATANZI DARI OF YEZD Father Pidar Baba .. Per, Pedar (S.)
Baba Bab, Babu (J.), Bawg (S.) Mother Madar Mune Mune (P.) Mar, Ma, Mer (S.)
ENGLISH PERSIAN KOHRUDI NATANZI DARI OF YEZD Brother Biradar Dadu .. Berar (S.)From this sample of the Kohrud dialect it will be seen that the following are some of its chief peculiarities, so far as generalisations can be drawn from so small a vocabulary:--
Dadar (old) Duhar (J.) Son Pisar Pura Pura (P.) Pur (J.)
Pur (old) Porer (S.) Daughter Dukhtar Duta Duta (P.) Duteh (J.)
Dut, Duter, Doter (S.) Child Bacha Vacha .. Vacha (S. and J.) Woman Zan Yana Yena (P.) Yen, Yenuk (S.) House Khane Kiya Ki'e (P.) Kedeh, Kedah (S.)
Kede Khada (J.) Door Dar Bar .. Bar (S. and J.) Wood Chub Chuga .. Chu (S.) Tree Dirakht Dirakht (J. and S.)
Bun (gen. in Bana Bena comp.) Water Ab O Au (P.) Vuv (Beresine, qu. by J.)1
Vo (Yezd), O (Kirman)(S.) Fire Atash Atash .. Tash (J. and S.) Apple Sib So .. Suv (J.) Garden (Raz=vine) Raz Raz [Raz=vine (S.)] Night Shab Shuye .. Sho (J. and S.) Bird .. Karge Karge (P.) Dog Sag Ispa2 .. Sabah (S.)
Seva (J.) Cat Gurba Malji Muljin (P.) Mali (S.) Snow Barf Vafra .. Vabr (Beresine, qu. by J.) To-day Imruz Iru .. Emru (J.) Yesterday Di-ruz Izze .. Heze (S.) To-morrow Ferda Hiya .. Ardah (S.) Begone! Bi-raw Bashe Bashe Ve-sho (S.)
(3) R standing before a consonant in a Persian word often stands after it in the Kohrud dialect; e.g. vafra (Pers. barf); sometimes its place is taken by L; e.g. valg (Pers. barg).
(4) G is sometirnes replaced by V; e.g. varg (Pers. gurg, wolf).
(5) P is sometimes replaced by F; e.g. asf (Pers. asp, horse).
(6) Kh sometimes drops out when it is followed by another consonant; e.g.
ba-sut (Pers. sukhte, burnt)*.
A few short sentences may be given in conclusion, without
comment or comparison. I come--Atun. He is coming to-day--
Iru ati. We are coming--Hama atima. You are coming to-night
--Isha atima. They are coming--Atanda. Come, let us go into
the country!--Burya, bashima sahra! Bring some oil here--
Rughan urge burya. Take this and give it him--Urgi bu'i de. Take
the donkey, go and load it with earth, and come here--Kha urgi,,
bashe khak bar ki burya. Throw down the blanket here and sit
down--Pa be halim ur bunu, dume huchin. Sit here--Hakum unchis.
I sat--Hochistum. He sat--Hochish. He came here--Bame ande.
I have not gone there--Nige nashtima. It was day--Ru wa bu.
My brother is ill--Dudun na-saz-a. Is your brother better?--
Ahwal-i-dudu bihtar-a? It is seven farsakhs from here to Kashan--
Ande ta Kashan haft farsanga. How far is it from here to there?--
Ande ta nige chan farsang-a? What is your name?--Ismat che-chiga?
What does he say?--Aji chi? When do you go?--Ke ashima?
Whose is this house?--Nu kiya an-i-ki-a? Where do
you belong to?--Tu ki ga egi? Whence comest thou?--Iru ki
godate? I come from Kamsar--Kamsar d'atun. How many days
is it since you left?--Chand rug-a bashte'i? It is ten days since I
left--Dah rug-a bashta'un. This wood is burned--Na chuga basut.
The fire has gone out--Atash ba-mar. 'Abdu'llah is dead--
'Abdu'llah ba marda. Take the pillow and come and put it under
* Cf. M. Huart's article on the Quatrains of Baba Tahir, Journal Asiatique,
1885, viii serie, 6, pp. 508-9. In these quatrains sute stands for sukhte;
satan for sakhtan, etc., almost uniformly.
At last I asked my informants (whose number had been greatly increased by additions from without) what they said in their language for pidar-sukhte ("burnt-father," the commonest term of abuse in Persian). "Baba-ba-sut," they cried unanimously, and with much relish; "but we have many other bad names besides that, like baba ba-mar, 'dead father,' and----"; here they poured forth a torrent of Kohrudi objurgations, which would probably have made me shudder if I had understood them. As it was, confusion being prevalent, and supper ready, Haji Safar turned them all out of the room.
That night snow fell heavily, and I was surprised to see that the Kohrudis appeared to feel the cold (though they were well wrapped up) much more than any of us did. In the morning there was a layer of snow on the ground nearly six inches deep, and much more than this in the hollows. Luckily there had been but little wind, else it might have gone hard with us. As it was, we had difficulty enough. We were delayed in starting by the purchase of a quantity of juzghand (a kind of sweetmeat made with sugar and walnuts), in which, as it was a peculiar product of the place, Haji Safar advised me to invest. Then various people had to be rewarded for services rendered, amongst these my instructors of the previous night. The people were a grasping and discontented lot, and after I had given the man who had come to teach me the elements of Kohrudi a present for himself and his son, the latter came and declared that he had not got his share, and that his father denied my having given him anything.
At last we got off, accompanied by another larger caravan
which had arrived before us on the preceding evening. The
path being completely concealed, one of the muleteers walked
in front, sounding the depth of the snow with his staff. At
first we got on at a fair pace, but as we advanced and continued
After we had surmounted the pass, things went somewhat
better; but we had been so much delayed during the ascent that
it was nearly 6 p.m., and getting dusk, before we reached the
rather bleak-looking village of Soh. Here also there is a
telegraph-office, whither I directed my steps. Mr M'Gowen, who
was in charge of the office, was out when I arrived, but I was
kindly received by his wife, an Armenian lady, and his little boy
The latter appeared to me a very clever child: he spoke not only
English, Persian, and Armenian with great fluency, but also the
dialect of Soh, which is closely allied to, if not identical with
the Kohrud vernacular. His father soon came in, accompanied
by two Armenian travellers, one of whom was Darcham Bey,
who is well known over the greater part of Persia for the assiduity
with which he searches out and buys up walnut-trees. I often
heard discussions amongst the Persians as to what use these were
put to, and why anyone found it worth while to give such large
sums of money for them. The general belief was that they were
cut into thin slices and subjected to some process which made
I had a good deal of conversation with Darcham Bey, though much less than I might have done had I been less overcome with somnolence induced by exposure to the cold. He had travelled over a great part of Persia, especially Luristan, which he most earnestly counselled me to avoid. "'The only people that I have seen worse than the Lurs," he said, "are the Kashka'is, for though the former will usually rob you if they can, and would not hesitate to murder you if you refused to give up your possessions to them, the latter, not content with this, will murder you even if you make no resistance, alleging that the world is well quit of one who is such a coward that he will not fight for his own."
Next day's march was singularly dull and uneventful, as well as bitterly cold. I had expected a descent on this side of the pass corresponding to the rapid ascent from Kashan to Kohrud, but I was mistaken: it even seemed to me that the difference in altitude between the summit of the pass and Soh was at any rate not much greater than between the former and Kohrud, while from Soh to our next halting-place, Murchekhar, the road was, to all intents and purposes, level. At the latter place we arrived about 5 p.m. It is an unattractive village of no great size. Finding the caravansaray in bad repair, I put up at the post-house, where I could find little to amuse me but two hungry-looking cats, which came and shared my supper, at first with some diffidence, but finally with complete assurance. They were ungrateful beasts, however, for they not only left me abruptly as soon as supper was over, but paid a predatory visit to my stores during the night, and ate a considerable portion of what was intended to serve me for breakfast on the morrow.
The following day's march was a good deal more interesting.
Soon after starting we saw three gazelles (ahu) grazing not more
A little farther on, at a point where the road, rising in a gentle incline, passed between two low hills before taking a bend towards the east and descending into the great plain in which lies the once magnificent city of Isfahan, we came to the ruins of a little village, amidst which stood a splendid, though somewhat dismantled caravansaray of the Safavi era. Concerning this, one of the muleteers told me a strange story, which, for the credit of the Kajar dynasty, I hope was a fiction. "The Shah, he said, was once passing this spot when his courtiers called his attention to the architectural beauty and incomparable solidity of this building. 'In the whole of Persia,' they said, no caravansaray equal to this is to be found, neither can anyone at the present day build the like of it.' 'What!' exclaimed the Shah, 'are none of the caravansarays which I have caused to be built as fine? That shall be so no longer. Destroy this building which makes men think lightly of the edifices which I have reared."' This command, if ever given, was carried out somewhat tenderly, for the destruction is limited to the porches, mouldings, turrets, and other less essential portions of the structure. But, indeed, to destroy the buildings reared by the Safavi kings would be no easy task, and could hardly be accomplished without gunpowder.
A little way beyond this we reached another ruined village,
where we halted for lunch. We were now in the Isfahan plain,
and could even discern the position of the city by the thin pall
of blue smoke which hung over it, and was thrown into relief
by the dark mountains beyond. To our left (east) was visible the
edge of the Dasht-i-Kavir, which we had not seen since entering
the Kohrud Pass. Its flat, glittering expanse was broken here and
there by low ranges of black mountains thrown up from the plain
Resuming our march after a short halt, we passed several flourishing villages on either side (amongst them, and some distance to the east of the road, Gurgab, which is so celebrated for its melons), and, about 4 p.m., reached our halting-place, Gez. I think we might without much difficulty have pushed on to Isfahan, which was now clearly visible at a distance of about ten miles ahead of us, but the muleteers were natives of Gez, and naturally desired to avail themselves of the opportunity now afforded them for visiting their families. Personally, I should have preferred making an attempt to reach the city that night, for Gez is by no means an attractive spot, and I could find no better occupation than to watch a row of about a dozen camels kneeling down in the caravansaray to receive their evening meal, consisting of balls of dough (nawale), from the hands of their drivers. Later on, Khuda-bakhsh, the second muleteer, brought me a present (pishkesh) of a great bowl of mast (curds), and two chickens.
Next day (20th February) we got off about 8.30. Khuda-bakhsh,
having received his present (in'am), testified his gratitude
by accompanying us as far as the outskirts of the village, when
I bade him farewell and dismissed him; Rahim, assisted by a
younger brother called Mahdi-Kuli, whom he had brought with
him from the village, undertaking to convey us to Isfahan. I had,
while at Teheran, received a most kindly-worded invitation from
Dr Hoernle, of the English Church Mission, to take up my abode
with him at the Mission-House during my stay in the city; and
as that was situated in the Armenian quarter of Julfa, beyond the
river Zayanda-Rud (Zinde-Rud of Hafiz), the muleteers wished
to proceed thither direct without entering the city; alleging that
the transit through the bazaars would be fraught with innumerable
delays. As, however, I was desirous of obtaining some idea
During a portion of our way to the city we enjoyed the company of a mukanni-bashi, or professional maker of kanats-- those subterranean aqueducts of which I have already spoken-- with whom I conversed for a time on the subject of his profession, since I was very desirous to learn how it was possible for men possessed of but few instruments, and those of the rudest kind, to sink their shafts with such precision. I cannot say however, that my ideas on the subject were rendered much clearer by his explanations.
As we drew nearer to the city, its numerous domes, minarets, and pigeon-towers (kaftar-khane) began to be clearly discernible, and on all sides signs of cultivation increased. We passed through many poppy-fields, where numbers of labourers were engaged in weeding. The plants were, of course, quite small at this season, for they are not ready to yield the opium till about a month after the Nawruz (i.e. about the end of April). When this season arrives the poppy-capsules are gashed or scored by means of an instrument composed of several sharp blades laid parallel. This is done early in the morning, and in the afternoon the juice, which has exuded and dried, is scraped off. The crude opium (tiryak-i- kham) thus obtained is subsequently kneaded up, purified, dried and finally made into cylindrical rolls about 1/2 inch or 1/3 inch in diameter.
At length we entered the city by the gate called Derwaze-i-
Charchu, and were soon threading our way through the bazaars,
which struck me as very fine; for not only are they lofty and
spacious, but the goods exposed for sale in the shops are for the
most part of excellent quality. The people are of a different type
to the Teheranis; they are not as a rule very dark in complexion,
At last we emerged from the bazaars into the fine spacious
square called Meydan-i-Shah. On our right hand as we entered
it was the 'Ali Kapi ("Supreme Gate"), which is the palace of the
Zillu's-Sultan, the Prince-Governor of Isfahan, of whom I have
already spoken. In front of us, at the other end of the square,
was the magnificent mosque called Masjid-i-Shah, surmounted
by a mighty dome. Quitting the Meydan at the angle between
these residences of ecclesiastical and temporal power, and traversing
several tortuous streets, we entered the fine spacious avenue
called Chahar Bagh, which is wide, straight, well-paved, surrounded
by noble buildings, planted with rows of lofty plane-trees, and
supplied with several handsome fountains. This avenue must
* See Haggard and Le Strange's Vazir of Lankuran, translation of Act I,
p. 48, and note on the same, pp. 91, 92.
On reaching the end of the Chahar Bagh we came in sight
of the river Zayanda-Rud, which separates the city of Isfahan
from the Christian suburb of Julfa. This river, though it serves
only to convert into a swamp (the Gavkhane Marsh) a large area
of the desert to the east, is at Isfahan as fine a stream as one could
wish to see. It is spanned by three bridges, of which the lowest
is called Pul-i-Hasanabad, the middle one Pul-i-si-u-sih chashme
("the bridge of thirty-three arches"), and the upper one Pul-i-
Marun, all of them solidly and handsomely built. We crossed the
river by the middle bridge, obtaining while doing so a good view
of the wide but now half-empty channel, the pebbly sides of
which were spread with fabrics of some kind, which had just been
dyed, and were now drying in the sun. The effect produced by
the variegated colours of these, seen at a little distance, was as
though the banks of the river were covered with flower-beds
On the other side of the stream was another avenue closely
resembling the Chahar Bagh, through which we had already
passed, and running in the same line as this and the bridge, viz.
towards the south. This, however, we did not follow, but turned
sharply towards the right, and soon entered Julfa, which is not
situated exactly opposite to Isfahan, but somewhat higher up the
river. It is a large suburb, divided into a number of different
quarters, communicating with one another by means of gates,
and traversed by narrow, tortuous lanes planted with trees; in
many cases a stream of water runs down the middle of the road
dividing it in two. After passing through a number of these lanes