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LETTER xxxn THE TRADE OF BITLIS 351
called Paghesh occupied the site of the present Bitlis.
It seems like the end of the world, though through the
deep chasms below it, through which the Tigris descends
with great rapidity to the plains, lies the highway to
Diabekir. Suggestions of the ancient world abound.
The lofty summits towering above the basin in which
this extraordinary city lies are the termination of the
Taurus chain, the Niphates of the ancients, on the highest
peak of which Milton localised the descent of Satan.1
Eemote as Bitlis seems and is, its markets are among
the busiest in Turkey, and its caravan traffic is enormous
for seven or eight months of the year. Its altitude is
only 4700 feet, and the mercury in winter rarely falls to
zero, but the snowfall is tremendous, and on the Eahwan
Plain snow frequently lies up to the top of the telegraph
poles, isolating the town and shutting up animals in their
stables and human beings in their houses for weeks, and
occasionally months, at a time. Bitlis produces a very
coarse, heavy cotton cloth which, after being dyed madder
red or dark blue, is largely exported, and is used for the
embroidered aprons which the Armenian women wear.
It also exports loupes, the walnut whorls or knots of
which I have written before, oak galls, wax, wool, and
manna, chiefly collected from the oak. The Bitlis
people, and even some Europeans, regard this as a
deposit left by the aromatic exhalations which the wind
brings in this direction from Arabia, and they say that it
lies on any plant without regard to its nature, and even
on the garments of men. The deposit is always greatest
in dry years. In addition to the white manna, obtained
by drying the leaves and allowing the saccharine matter to
fall off—and the green, the result of steeping the leaves in
water, which is afterwards strained, there is a product much
like golden syrup, which is used for the same purposes.
1 Paradise Lost, iii. 741, "Nor stayed, till on Mphates' top lie lights,"