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350                  JOURNEYS IN KURDISTAN      LETTER xxxn

and sweet voices of European women, and lights   and
warm welcomes.

Bitlis, November 12.—This is the most romantically-
situated city that I have seen in Western Asia. The dreamy
impressions of height and depth received on the night of
my arrival were more than realised the following morning.
Even to the traveller arriving by daylight Bitlis must
come as a great surprise, for it is situated in a hole upon
which the upper valley descends with a sudden dip.
The Bitlis-chai or Eastern Tigris passes through it in a
series of raging cataracts, and is joined in the middle of
the town by another torrent tumbling down another wild
valley, and from this meeting of the waters massive stone
houses rise one above another, singly, and in groups and
terraces, producing a singularly striking effect. Five
valleys appear to unite in Bitlis and to radiate from
a lofty platform of rock supported on precipices, the
irregular outlines of which are emphasised by walls and
massive square and circular towers, the gigantic ruins
of Bitlis Castle.

The massiveness of the houses is remarkable, and
their courtyards and gardens are enclosed by strong
walls. Every gate is strengthened and studded with
iron, every window is heavily barred, all are at a consider-
able height, and every house looks as if it could stand
a siege. There is no room to spare; the dwellings are
piled tier above tier, and the flagged footways in front
of them hang on the edges of precipices. Twenty
picturesque stone bridges, each one of a single arch,
span the Tigris and the torrents which unite with it.
There are ancient ruins scattered through the town,
It claims immense antiquity, and its inhabitants ascribe
its castle and some of its bridges to Alexander the Great,
but antiquarians attribute the former either to the
Saracens or to the days when an ancient Armenian city