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PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 




THE YOUNG SHAH OF PERSIA 



PERSIA AND ITS 
PEOPLE 

BY 

ELLA C. SYKES 

AUTHOR OF " THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE " 



WITH TWENTY ILLUSTRATIONS 



NEW YORK 
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1910 



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PREFACE 

THIS book is the result of two visits to Persia, 
extending over a period of about three years, 
during which I had considerable opportunities of travel 
and of mixing with the inhabitants. 

It was written with the idea of giving a popular 
description of Iran, but at the same time I have striven 
to be accurate, and where I could not rely on my 
personal knowledge I gratefully own my obligation 
to the works of Mr. Benjamin, Professor E. G. Browne, 
Lord Curzon, Sir C. Markham, Sir W. Muir, Professor 
W. Jackson, Sir L. Pelly, and Major Sykes among 
others. 

I have been particularly fortunate in having had the 
benefit of the criticism of Sir Mortimer Durand, 
formerly H.B.M.'s Minister at Tehran, his advice 
having been most valuable. 

Besides this. Major Sykes, Miss Bird, and two 
Persian gentlemen have supplied useful information ; 
Mr. H. R. Sykes has kindly allowed me to avail myself 
of his large collection of photographs, and other illus- 
trations are by Mr. Bourke and M. Sevraguine, of 
Tehran. 



viii PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

I have tried to give a truthful picture of Persia as 
it is, dwelling chiefly on those aspects which may be of 
interest to the general reader, and my principal diffi- 
culty has been to compress all that I wanted to say 
within the limits of a single volume. 

If the public finds half as much pleasure in reading 
my book as I have had in writing it I shall be more 
than rewarded. 

ELLA C. SYKES 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. SOME DESCRIPTION OF PERSIA . . I 

II. A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF THE HISTORY OF PERSIA 1 3 

III. THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT . 39 

IV. THE PERSIAN MAN . . . . .63 
V. A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 

VI. THE ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 



VII. A POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF 
PERSIA 

VIII. MUHARRAM 

IX. TRAVEL . 

X. THE PERSIAN WOMAN 

XI. COUNTRY LIFE . 

XII. THE PERSI'AN GULF AND THE KARUN RIVER 

XIII. FAUNA AND FLORA .... 

XIV. MARCO POLO IN PERSIA 

ix 



106 

122 

144 

196 
210 

224 
238 
260 



X PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XV. A GLANCE AT THE ANTIQUITIES OF PERSIA. . ^^0 

XVI. SPORT AND AMUSEMENTS .... 277 

XVII. FOUR PERSIAN POETS ..... 284 

XVIII. A SLIGHT ACCOUNT OF THE ARTS AND CRAFTS OF 

PERSIA ...... 315 

XIX. PERSIAN SUPERSTITIONS AND THE ART OF 

MEDICINE . . . . . .325 

INDEX . . . . . .341 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



THE YOUNG SHAH OF PERSIA 



A PERSIAN LADY 

PERSIAN SCHOOL, BASTINADOING AN UNRULY PUPIL 

PRISONERS ..... 

ENTRANCE TO SHRINE " IMAM REZA " 

COURTYARD OF THE SHRINE, " IMAM REZA" 

GRAVEYARD ROUND THE SHRINE OF MESHED 

POTTER'S STALL AT MESHED . 

JAGHERK VALLEY 

DASTEH OF lO™ MUHARRAM . 

A PERSIAN GENTLEMAN ON THE ROAD 

YEZD .... 

PERSIAN WOMEN IN OUTDOOR DRESS 

GABR WOMAN AND CHILD 

THRESHING 

A PERSIAN GARDEN 

RUINS OF PERSEPOLIS, PROPYLvEA OF XERXES 

A PERSIAN CARPET FACTORY . 

NOMADS WEAVING CARPETS 

PERSIAN BARBER EXTRACTING TEETH 

MAP . . . . , 



Frontispiece 



FACING PAGE 
I 

66 
84 
92 

94 
98 
104 
106 
ISO 
162 
178 
200 
208 
215 
220 
272 
320 
324 
336 
340 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

CHAPTER I 
SOME DESCRIPTION OF PERSIA 

THE Persians call themselves Irani and their land 
Iran, the word Persia being derived from the 
province of Ears or Pars, from which the Zoroastrians 
of Bombay take their name of Parsis. 

The country is also known as the " Land of the 
Lion and the Sun," and though the king of beasts 
has almost died out, yet the symbol of the Zoroas- 
trian deity shines glorious as ever, and on the national 
standard the sun is depicted with the face of a woman 
peering over the back of a lion. 

The area of Persia is estimated at 628,000 square 
miles, that is to say it is more than three times the 
size of France, and its people number only about 
nine and a half millions. Therefore it will cause no 
surprise to hear that Persia has only fifteen inhabitants 
to a square mile, and that it is possible to travel for 
days in the country without coming across a village 
or even a human being. In fact the entire population 
of this great kingdom is considerably under the joint 
populations of London, Paris, and New York. 



2 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Persia is bounded on the north by the Caspian 
Sea and Russia in Asia ; on the west by the Turkish 
Empire; on the east by Afghanistan and British 
Baluchistan, the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea 
washing its southern shores. 

Within these boundaries there are enormous diffe- 
rences in the formation of the country and the climate. 
Cyrus the Great once commented on this fact by 
remarking that at one end of his kingdom his sub- 
jects might be dying of cold, while at the other 
they were being suffocated by the intense heat. 

The centre of Persia is a vast plateau, some 2,000 
to 6,000 feet in elevation, separated from the low- 
lying lands on the Caspian and the Persian Gulf by 
formidable mountain barriers, in which are many 
splendid peaks, ranging from 13,000 to 15,000 feet 
in height. 

This table-land is crossed diagonally from north- 
west to south-east by frequent chains of mountains 
separating wide plains, and it is possible to drive 
between these ranges for some hundreds of miles. 
But if any one wishes to visit the capital Tehran or 
the holy city Meshed from Europe, he must, soon 
after leaving the Caspian, cross the Elburz mountains. 
This mighty chain runs over five hundred miles from 
west to east, and its highest peak, the extinct volcano 
Demavend, rises to a height of 20,000 feet. 

Moreover, should the traveller wish to penetrate 
into the country by way of the Persian Gulf, he 
must negotiate a formidable mountain barrier, and 
clamber over lofty passes, the kotals between Bushire 
and Shiraz always being mentioned in terms of well- 
merited obloquy. 



SOME DESCRIPTION OF PERSIA 3 

The late Dr. Blandford ^ pointed out that, as the edges 
of this huge plateau are all higher than its interior, 
hardly any of the rivers or streams find their way 
to the sea, but lose themselves in marshes, and the 
writer remembers seeing from the summit of a hill 
how the Zendeh Rud, the famous river on which 
Isfahan is built, ended abruptly in a broad, shallow 
lake on the wide plain below. 

In such a country both the temperature and the rain- 
fall vary greatly, and the feverish, moist heat of the 
regions round the Caspian and Persian Gulf is the exact 
opposite of the usually fine climate of the Plateau, where 
the exhilarating air is of such marvellous dryness and 
purity that objects can be seen at an almost incredible 
distance. The extremes of heat and cold, however, 
are very great on these uplands ; there are always 
heavy falls of snow during the winter in the northern 
provinces, and though the sun may be powerful during 
the day, yet the thermometer falls to 15° or 20° 
at night. 

In the summer the heat is often intense, and all who 
can do so migrate to the hills to escape it, the hot, 
dry winds being very trying. Sun apoplexy is not un- 
common at this season, a " touch of the sun " giving 
fever to European and native alike, and it is dangerous 
to indulge in alcohol during the heat of the day. 

Violent sandstorms are frequent in the spring in the 
" desert " provinces, and hailstorms in which the stones 
are large as marbles and deal destruction to fruit- 
trees and crops occur at the same season in the north. 
To give an idea of the changes of temperature, a 
traveller in the course of one day's march may leave 
' " Zoology of Eastern Persia." 



4 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

a frost-bound country and descend into a region of 
feathery palms, where he will find the atmosphere 
almost stifling. As to the rainfall, it has been com- 
puted that fifty inches fall annually at Resht on the 
Caspian, in contrast to the five or six inches in central 
and south-east Persia. The great bulk of the country 
is scantily watered, the rivers being few and small, 
and the lakes all salt ; therefore most of the culti- 
vation has to be carried on by means of irrigation, 
the mountain-streams being conveyed to the towns in 
subterranean aqueducts. Some of these are twenty 
miles in length, and occasionally are tunnelled at a 
great depth below the surface, needing constant care to 
prevent the endless passages getting choked up with 
earth. 

A Frenchman once said that Persia was nothing but 
a desert, which was sometimes composed of sand and at 
others of salt, and the traveller will own that the 
description is not far wrong when he notices the sterility 
of the kingdom of the Shah. In passing through the 
country he will get an impression of great barren plains 
sprinkled with the debris from the equally bare, but 
often brilliantly coloured mountain ranges that divide 
them. Not a tree, a shrub, or a blade of grass is to be 
seen, and only camel-thorn and veitch are sparsely 
dotted about on the arid ground. The monotony is 
broken at intervals in the spring by the green of the 
young crops round a town or village, but the sunken 
fields on which the wheat and barley are sown have 
no hedges, only low mud banks for the purposes of 
irrigation. Were it not for the crops, the scenery would 
be coloured in tones of ochre, burnt sienna, and neutral 
tint, and it is indescribably dreary and monotonous on 



SOME DESCRIPTION OF PERSIA 5 

the rare days when the sun is hidden. But when the 
heaven of intense turquoise blue vibrates with sunlight, 
everything is beautified, and most travellers succumb 
to the weird fascination of the landscape. 

From what has gone before, the reader will understand 
that there must be great differences in the climate and 
vegetation of the thirty-three provinces into which the 
kingdom is divided. 

Those round the Caspian grow rice, and have great 
forests, an exuberant vegetation, and numberless streams 
fed by the constant rain. 

To the north-west and west in Azerbaijan, Luristan 
and the Bakhtiari country, is a region of mountains 
which may be called the Highlands of Persia, and 
which is visited by winters of great severity, and to the 
south of the latter district is Arabistan, a province 
where the dry heat in summer reaches over 120° 
indoors, and where enormous quantities of wheat could 
be grown with the necessary irrigation. 

Along the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea the low- 
lying country has an almost intolerable damp heat 
during the greater part of the year, but is arid in the 
extreme, not being visited by the heavy rainfall of the 
Caspian provinces. Here dates are the staple food and 
chief product of the country, and Laristan, Makran, and 
Baluchistan are peopled by Arab tribes on the coast 
and by Baluchis inland. 

North of this region is the small eastern province of 
Sistan, interesting to Persians as being the home of 
their great hero Rustum, and to geographers from its 
physical conformation. As Lord Curzon writes : ^ 
". . . not only do the lakes alternately swell, recede 
' " Persia." 



6 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

and disappear — the idea of displacement covering an 
extent, according to Rawlinson, of one hundred miles 
in length by fifty miles in width — but the rivers also 
are constantly shifting their beds, sometimes taking a 
sudden fancy for what has hitherto been an artificial 
channel, but which they soon succeed in converting into 
a very good imitation of a natural channel, in order to 
perplex some geographer of the future. It is not 
surprising, therefore, that while the country owes to the 
abundant alluvium thus promiscuously showered upon 
it its store of wealth and fertility, it also contains more 
ruined cities and habitations than are perhaps to be 
found within a similar space of ground anywhere in the 
world." 

The dry heat during the summer reaches 121°, and 
the insect pests that breed in the great Hamun, or 
Lagoon, into which the river Helmand empties itself, 
make life a burden. Fortunately, however, Sistan is 
visited late in May or early in June by the beneficent 
bad-i-sud-i-bist ruz (wind of a hundred and twenty 
days), that tempers the heat and drives away the 
mosquitoes and sand-flies. It has been registered to 
blow at the rate of seventy-two miles an hour, making 
the climate bearable and not unhealthy, though the 
natives suffer a good deal from malaria. 

A glance at the map will show an enormous space 
marked Lut, or Desert, supposed to have been formerly 
a dried-up inland sea, occupying the centre of the 
country, and severing the north from the south and 
the east from the west of Persia, thus doing much to 
interrupt free communication. Half the large province 
of Khorasan in the north-east is Sahara, and such big 
towns as Kum and Kashan lie on the edge of the 



SOME DESCRIPTION OF PERSIA 7 

glittering Kavir, or salt desert, through which runs 
a river of brine ; at Yezd, the sandy hummocks of the 
waterless Lut are almost up to the walls of the city, 
reminding the traveller of the prophecy that the town 
is to be overwhelmed by the sand at some future date, 
and Kerman, two hundred miles further south-east, is only 
separated by a small cultivated area from this dreary 
waste that has to be skirted when proceeding south- 
wards into Baluchistan. It may easily be grasped what 
a tremendous obstacle to intercourse is this great desert, 
and it is partly owing to its presence that the large 
towns are more or less isolated, and that the inhabitants 
centre their interests in their particular cities and not 
in the country as a whole. In fact, so bad are the 
communications and so costly is the transport, that 
if there happen to be a famine in one district, the 
population must starve, though in other parts of the 
country there might be bumper crops. 

Perhaps what chiefly strikes the European is the 
poverty everywhere apparent. He will have read 
accounts of the splendour in which the Achsemenian 
and Sasanian monarchs lived, and traditions of the 
Golden Age of Shah Abbas are still extant, and he 
will wonder whether Persia could possibly have looked 
so hopelessly "out at elbows" as it does to-day. 
It could never have been a rich kingdom, and its 
monarchs drew a great part of their revenue from far 
more fertile provinces that owned their sway ; but still, 
wherever the traveller may go, he will find ruins of 
villages long deserted, towns surrounded by quarters 
once inhabited and now falling into decay ; even in the 
Lut there are remains of cultivation showing that the 
oases were far more frequent than they are at present, 



8 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

and in barren Baluchistan he will observe how the hills 
are terraced in many parts, the uncivilised inhabitants, 
who make no use of these long-ago labours, putting 
them down to the work of " infidels." Many writers 
consider that the terrible Mongol invasion was a blow 
from which Persia has never recovered ; but good 
government could still do much for a country in which 
the desert literally "blossoms like the rose" if it be 
irrigated. 

Under the system of the Shahs, in which every one in 
power " squeezes " to his utmost every one below him, 
there is no protection for property and no encourage- 
ment given to enterprise. Thus the country grows 
steadily poorer as the years pass by, though the prices 
of food are always on the increase, as the following 
table will show : — 



Cost of Living at Tehr 


AN IN 1880 AND l> 


900.^ 




1880 


1900 




£ s. d. 


£ s. d. 


Bread per man (6^ lbs.) 


... 3| 


9| 


Mutton „ , 


... I 2f 


029! 


Cheese „ „ 


016 


2 4| 


Milk „ 


... 4i 


9I 


Eggs per hundred 


016 


3 7i 



The writer who remembered that eggs were ten a 
penny at Kerman a dozen years ago, found that only 
three to four were to be purchased for the same sum at 
Meshed in 1909, and the old days when meat and bread 
were under a penny a pound and a chicken could be 
obtained for twopence and a diminutive lamb for four- 
pence halfpenny, were gone for good. 

' " Statesman's Year-Book, 1909." 



SOME DESCRIPTION OF PERSIA 9 

So barren is Persia at the present day that the 
uncultivated land surrounding any city looks like a 
desert, and the ruthless cutting down of the forests 
through the centuries has done much to decrease 
the naturally scanty rainfall. Coal being only found 
near the capital, wood is used everywhere for burning 
in the form of charcoal, and if no new plantations are 
laid out Persia's most thickly wooded districts will, in 
time, become as denuded of trees as is the central 
Plateau, In fact so expensive is wood in many parts, 
that much of the heating and cooking are done by 
means of the boussa, or camel-thorn, donkeys bringing 
it daily into the towns. 

In this large country, treble the area of France, there 
are only six miles of railway. Of roads, in the Euro- 
pean sense of the word, there are only four, their total 
length, when added together, being about 780 miles ; 
and these owe their existence to European enterprise. 
Practically everything is carried on the backs of camels 
and mules along the rough and often dangerous tracks 
made by the caravans during many centuries. There is 
only one navigable river, the Karun, which flows into 
the head of the Persian Gulf, and on this latter sea the 
ports are open roadsteads at which it is impossible to 
land cargo during stormy weather, only the port of 
Enzeli on the Caspian being important. 

Persia has merely single-wire telegraph lines, the 
rickety poplar poles of which are often seen lying on 
the ground, in which case the Persian official at the 
nearest station will calmly remark that the line "does 
not speak to-day." In great contrast to this is the 
British three-wire line, supported on iron posts, which 
runs from the Persian frontier on the north-west down 



lo PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

to Bushire on the Persian Gulf, from which point 
messages to India are carried by cable to Bombay, and 
this line now has a branch from Kashan to Karachi via 
British Baluchistan in order to ensure a direct overland 
connection with our Indian Empire. 

Owing to the lack of communications very little is 
done to tap the resources of the country. For example, 
Persia possesses many minerals, but as she has no rail- 
ways, roads, or navigable rivers to carry them to the 
ports or to markets, this source of wealth is almost 
untouched. The famous turquoise mines near Nishapur, 
which have been known from very early times, produce 
the only precious stones which have been found in the 
kingdom, and are most inadequately worked, and the 
valuable Caspian fisheries are leased to a Russian 
company, most of the sturgeon or salmon caught in 
abundance finding their way to Russia. 

For many years the imports of Persia have exceeded 
the exports, and this is partly owing to the slow and 
expensive methods of carriage, and still more to a 
short-sighted Government that puts obstacles in the 
way of enterprise and is suspicious of any man who 
becomes rich and does not conceal the fact. There 
is never any question of the Shah subsidising any 
private undertaking, and merchants and traders con- 
sider the " powers that be " as real benefactors if they 
will only leave their subjects to pursue their avocations 
without let or hindrance. 

Sterile as Iran appears to be, yet an able ruler might 
do great things for his country, and the Englishman 
cannot but long for a man of the type of Lord Cromer 
to be allowed a free hand in remodelling the adminis- 
tration of the kingdom. 



SOME DESCRIPTION OF PERSIA ii 

Like ourselves the Persians are of Aryan stock, and 
have the same words for father, mother, brother, and 
daughter {J)idar, madar^ bradar, and diikhtar^ ; more- 
over, the construction of their language is like English. 
A mass of Arabic words is, however, incorporated in it, 
for when Islam was forced upon Persia, at the point 
of the sword, the converts had to recite their prayers 
three times daily in Arabic, and read the Koran in 
that language, no Persian translation of the sacred 
book being permitted until of late years, when the 
innovation met with strenuous opposition from the 
priesthood. 

In appearance the true Irani is a handsome, well-built 
man with regular features and fine, dark eyes, his com- 
plexion resembling that of an Italian or Spaniard. P)Ut 
it must not be forgotten that Persia has been invaded 
again and again by the Central Asian tribes, and there- 
fore the inhabitant of Shiraz, gay and extravagant, 
nervous and excitable, a lover of poetry and horses, and 
who claims to be of pure Persian stock, is very different 
to the semi-Turkish population of the north-west or 
to the natives of Khorasan. These latter show traces 
of Mongol and Usbeg blood in their broad, flat faces, 
high cheek-bones, and in manners that are brusque and 
boorish in comparison with the refinement and polish 
of a Shirazi. 

Again the Persian Gulf is bordered by Arab tribes, 
and throughout the whole country roam a shifting 
nomad population, the Iliats, who drive their flocks and 
herds up into the hills during the spring and summer 
months, and who probably enjoy a pleasanter existence 
than any one else in Iran. Certainly they have to pay 
taxes on their flocks and herds, but they are in nowise 



12 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

" ground down " as are the villagers in many parts, 
and their sturdy women are usually adorned with 
plenty of jewellery and look the picture of health, 
in pleasant contrast to the often sickly townswomen. 



CHAPTER II 

A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF THE HISTORY OF 
PERSIA 

THE beginnings of Persian history are wrapped 
in legend, but probably about B.C. 700 the 
Medes, an Iranian race dwelling in what is now North- 
West Persia, threw off the yoke of Assyria. They left 
no record of their achievements, but we know from 
other sources that one of their kings was such a mighty 
warrior that he led his armies into Europe. Side by 
side with the Medes lived the Persians, also an Iranian 
race, and in B.C. 550 Cyrus, the Persian of the Achas- 
menian line, conquered Astyages, the Median king, 
and the empire passed from the West Iranian Medes 
to South Iranian Persians, the two countries being 
united under the name of Persia. During the rule of 
the Medes, Zoroaster, a native of Media, started the 
creed of the Fire Worshippers, his first success being 
the conversion of the King of Bactria to the new 
doctrines which spread rapidly, and though probably 
receiving a check at the time of the Persian conquest, 
yet they speedily became the established religion of 
the country under the Achasmenian dynasty. 

Cyrus, when he had strengthened his position at 
home, led his armies into Asia Minor, conquering and 



14 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

taking captive Crcesus, King of Lydia, a man famous 
in classic story for his wealth and misfortunes, and 
annexing all the Greek colonies lying in those regions. 
But his greatest exploit was the capture of Babylon, 
a city deemed to be impregnable, of immense wealth, 
and boasting a civilisation far higher than that possessed 
by the Persians. With the downfall of this capital, 
Cyrus became master of Assyria, and his conquest 
contributed to raise Persia to the chief position in 
Asia. It is interesting that this monarch is mentioned 
in Isaiah by the words, "He is my shepherd, and 
shall perform all my pleasure." ^ According to a legend, 
Cyrus retired to a fountain in Azerbaijan, where he 
disappeared for ever from the sight of men, but in 
reality he died in battle against the Turanians or 
Tartars, and Cambyses (B.C. 529-522) succeeded him 
on the throne of Iran. 

Although the new monarch increased the Persian 
Empire by the conquest of Egypt, yet he was without 
his father's ability and was cruel to boot, causing his 
brother Smerdis to be put to death secretly on suspicion 
of conspiring against him, and when he himself died 
by an accident there was no heir to the imperial crown. 
However, one of the Magi, or priests, strikingly Hke 
the murdered Smerdis, impersonated him, and ruled 
for a whole year before his imposture was discovered, 
when he was overthrown by the chief nobles of Persia, 
one of whom, under the title of Darius I., was raised to 
the vacant throne. 

And now again Persia had a monarch worthy to 
stand in the place of Cyrus, for Darius (B.C. 521-485) was 
a leader of men, a great general and a skilful ruler. He 
' Isaiah xliv. 28. 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 15 

enlarged the borders of Persia eastward as far as the 
Indus ; tried to force his way northwards into Russia — 
but here the elements obliged him to retreat — and then 
he turned his attention westwards, meeting at the hands 
of the Greeks the great reverse of his reign. The Persian 
army, mustering some fifty thousand men, all accustomed 
to war, and having hardly ever tasted defeat, was utterly 
routed on the plains of Marathon by the patriotism 
and enthusiasm of the Greeks, who could only produce 
a force one-fifth of the size of the Persian host, which 
was compelled to return ignominiously to iVsia. 

If one of the greatest monarchs that ever ruled Persia 
were powerless against the Greeks, it may hardly be 
expected that Xerxes (B.C. 485-465), who succeeded 
Darius, and was a man of ordinary ability, should do 
better than his father. However, he determined to under- 
take the adventure which has made his name notorious, 
and collected the largest army that had ever been 
known, to conquer the little people to whose genius 
the world owes so much. Every schoolboy knows 
what followed — the heroic defence of the pass of 
Thermopylae by Leonidas and his immortal Three 
Hundred ; the naval battles off Artemisium ; the 
abandonment of Athens to be burnt by the invaders, 
and the last stand of the Greeks at Salamis, hazarding 
their all upon a single battle which resulted in a crush- 
ing defeat for the Persians, and which, when followed 
by the Greek victory of Plataea, settled for centuries the 
question as to whether Asia should conquer Europe. 

On the death of Xerxes the kingdom fell into 
the hands of incompetent rulers ; Egypt was lost after 
being held by Persia for over a century, and disorder 
and anarchy were rife. Artaxerxes III. found a hard 



i6 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

task on his accession, but being a man of exceptional 
ability he almost succeeded in restoring Iran to her 
former greatness, and would probably have done so 
had he not been murdered in the full tide of his 
activities. 

Up to now the Persian arms had been carried into 
Europe, but with Darius III. (B.C. 336-329) enthroned 
at Persepolis things were reversed, and Alexander 
the Macedonian, one of the greatest generals the 
world has ever seen, led his soldiers into Asia. The 
Persian troops, splendid fighters if well led, being now 
under a monarch both cowardly and incompetent, were 
beaten at Issus and routed at Arbela. After this 
battle the Persian Empire fell into the hands of the 
conqueror, and with. the assassination of the fugitive 
Darius in B.C. 329, the Achsemenian dynasty, established 
over two centuries before by Cyrus the Great, came 
to an end. 

And now Alexander had before him the task of 
pacifying the empire that he had subdued, this being 
the more necessary as his ardent spirit longed to 
proceed to the conquest of India, though his knowledge 
of war taught him the danger of leaving a country at 
enmity with him in his rear. 

He set about his work in two ways — first by mixing 
Persian soldiers with his own regiments, and secondly 
by commanding his legionaries to marry the women 
of the country, he himself wedding Roxana, the 
daughter of a Bactrian prince, and later on, Statira, 
grand-daughter of Artaxerxes III. When this was 
done he marched into India, but to his bitter dis- 
appointment he was forced by his war-worn veterans 
to turn back before the Ganges was reached. The great 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 17 

conqueror then retraced his steps to Babylon, which 
he made his capital, and busied himself with getting 
his empire into order before his early death, leaving the 
satrapies, or governments into which Cyrus had divided 
the realm, much as they were. 

In B.C. 323 Alexander died, and immediately there 
arose fierce strife among his generals for the possession 
of the empire, the emperor's son being but a child, and 
from the Indus to the Nile there was civil war with 
its accompaniments of misery and anarchy. The less 
civilised Macedonians sought to lord it over the cul- 
tured Greeks, who had formed no small part of 
Alexander's conquering armies, and one result of this 
struggle for the mastery was the terrible episode of 
twenty-three thousand Greeks, being surprised and 
slain by the Macedonians as they were marching back 
to their native land. Out of all this discord the 
General Seleucus, seizing upon Babylon and its province, 
founded the dynasty of the Seleucidse, and the Greeks 
in Bactria revolted and formed a state in the heart 
of Asia, this kingdom lasting for a century, and even 
carrying its arms into India. 

And now we must enter upon a new period of 
Persian history. About this time certain nomad tribes 
inhabiting the steppes north of the river Atrek left 
their native country and settled in Parthia, or what 
is now known as Khorasan, a large province of 
northern Persia, and these intruders founded the 
Parthian dynasty. 

They were great fighters and wonderful horsemen, 
the expression " Parthian shot " being derived from 
their custom of pretending to fly before an enemy in 
confusion, and then turning in their saddles and shoot- 



i8 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE ' 

ing arrows at their pursuers, often defeating them 
by this ruse. In B.C. 250 these nomads had acquired 
so much territory that their chief ascended the throne 
of Parthia with the title of Arsaces I., and for more 
than four centuries he and his descendants ruled in 
Persia, and again and again put to rout the armies 
of Imperial Rome, the mistress of the western 
world. 

The Parthians, far inferior in civilisation to the 
Persians, kept few records, the historian of these times 
depending upon the coins they struck and the accounts 
furnished by Greek and Roman writers. 

Chief among their monarchs was Mithridates the 
Great (B.C. 1 71-138) who broke the power of the Seleucid 
dynasty, keeping its king a captive for the rest of his 
days, conquered the kingdom of Armenia and extended 
his realms from the Indus to the Euphrates. A signifi- 
cant fact, showing the position to which the Parthians 
had now attained, was the treaty of peace which they 
entered into with Rome, the first of many meetings 
between these two great Powers. 

In B.C. 54 Orodes being King of Parthia, Crassus, who 
was triumvir in conjunction with Caesar and Pompey, 
thought that the time was favourable for an attack on 
the Parthians, whom he imagined would prove an 
easy conquest. The Roman legions met their foes at 
Carrhae on the Euphrates, and the Parthians displayed 
their usual tactics, on this occasion concealing the main 
body of their army. Their cavalry then charged, 
made a feint of fleeing, and was hotly pursued by 
the Romans into the very jaws of the hidden troops 
that suddenly surrounded and cut them up. Then the 
Parthians attacked the infantry, forced the main body 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 19 

of the army to surrender, and slew Crassus, thus 
inflicting the greatest defeat that the Romans had 
suffered since the time of Hannibal. 

Orodes throughout the rest of his reign brought his 
country to a high pitch of power, and was the first 
Parthian monarch who took the proud Achaemenian 
title of King of Kings. 

He was, however, murdered by his son Phraates, who, 
having mounted the throne, made Ctesiphon on the 
Tigris his capital. This city was the seat of Govern- 
ment until the Mohammedan conquest, the Sasanian 
dynasty building a magnificent palace there in which 
they dwelt in almost fabulous luxury. 

In B.C. 33 Mark Antony, being eager to avenge the 
death of Crassus, and determined to add fresh lustre to 
his reputation, led a large army to the invasion of 
Parthia, taking the country altogether by surprise. 
However, he fared hardly better than his predecessor, 
and so vigorous was the opposition he encountered that 
he was obliged to retreat into Armenia, only reaching 
that country after the loss of thirty thousand of his 
troops. 

This experience made Rome leave Parthia in peace 
for over a century, and it is a remarkable fact that the 
Parthian and Persian races were the only ones that 
forced the Romans, masters of more than half the 
known world, to check their advance. 

But the fear that Parthia inspired brought about her 
undoing, for with no Roman peril to unite her people 
and keep her armies in a state of readiness, she fell into 
civil war, king after king leaving only records of blood- 
shed and discord behind him. In A.D. 63 we see a 
Parthian monarch on friendly terms with the Roman 



20 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Emperor Vespasian ; later on Trajan attempted to 
invade the kingdom, but even in its weakness he could 
make no conquest and was obliged to retire, and though 
Cassius managed to destroy Seleucia, the capital of 
Babylonia, yet neither he nor any invader could pene- 
trate to the heart of the empire. 

The last of the Parthian line was Artabanus, a man 
of such ability that he was almost able to restore his 
empire now fallen asunder through intrigue, corruption, 
and civil war. The Roman Emperor Macrinus, 
probably thinking that Parthia would fall an easy .prey 
to his arms, attempted an invasion, but his armies 
suffered two such crushing defeats that he was forced 
to sue for peace, which he purchased by paying the 
huge indemnity for those days of fifty million denarii, 
or, roughly, about ;^ 1,800,000. 

But even this tremendous victory for Parthia could 
not save her from her doom. It was nearly six hundred 
years since Alexander had subdued the last of the 
Achaemenian monarchs, and during all those centuries 
Persia proper remained merely as a province of a Greco- 
Persian or of a Parthian Empire, and it might have 
been thought that the Persians had become too insepar- 
ably welded with their conquerors to think again of 
independence. However, a quick-witted, intellectual race, 
with a great past behind it of which it is justly proud, 
and a great capacity for fighting if well led, cannot 
submit tamely to be under a nation whom it considers 
its inferior in civilisation and mental ability. Moreover, 
there was a cleavage between Parthians and Persians 
on religious grounds, the former having fallen away 
from Zoroastrianism and taken to idol-worship, while 
the latter clung to the teachings of their great Prophet. 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 21 

The restoration of Persia to her ancient position was 
the work of Ardeshir, satrap of the province of Persis, 
and supposed to be descended from the old Achaeme- 
nian dynasty through his ancestor Sasan. He revolted 
and proclaimed the independence of Persis, speedily 
annexed what is now the province of Kerman, and 
defeated Artabanus in three pitched battles, in the last 
of which the Parthian monarch was slain, and the 
Sasanian dynasty (a.D. 226-652) that was to carry Persia 
to one of the highest positions among the nations, now 
commenced. Ardeshir was soon involved in a war 
with the old enemy Rome, but he forced the legions of 
Alexander Severus to fly, and having subdued Armenia, 
which still held out for Parthia, he found himself in a 
position equal in power to the Achaemenian or Parthian 
dynasties at their prime. 

One of his first acts was the destruction of the 
Parthian idols and the restoration of the religion taught 
by Zoroaster, The entire copies of the Avesta and 
Gathas are believed to have been destroyed when 
Alexander burnt one of the palaces of Persepolis, but 
as many fragments as possible were collected, and one 
of the Magi, chosen by lot, translated the Zoroastrian 
scriptures from the archaic Median into Pahlavi, the 
spoken language of the day, and wrote them down. 
From this time the influence of the Magi became 
paramount, all other religions were persecuted, and still 
further to honour the state-religion Ardeshir stamped 
his coinage with a fire-altar and priests. 

He was succeeded by his son Shapur I. (240-273), a 
great soldier and administrator, who is principally 
remembered for the crushing defeat he inflicted on the 
Romans. The Emperor Valerian and his entire army 



22 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

were forced to surrender to the Persians, who kept 
the monarch in captivity until his death, and who 
commemorated their great victory in two rock-sculp- 
tures. 

To Shapur belongs the honour of commencing the 
famous irrigation dam at Shuster, which is still perfect 
and allows the waters of the Karun river to irrigate the 
fertile plain, thus conferring prosperity on thousands. 
During his reign the Nestorian Christians made many 
converts, and the remarkable teacher Mani founded a 
new religion, which, though hated equally by Christian 
and Zoroastrian, had much influence : in spite of 
the cruel death of its founder, there were actually 
Manichaeans until the thirteenth century, when the 
hapless Albigenses, followers of his doctrine, were ex- 
terminated in France. 

After the reign of Shapur I. a series of incapable 
kings sat on the throne, and Shapur II. succeeded to 
an empire convulsed with insurrection within its borders 
and invasion from without, but, mere boy as he was, 
he had the gift of kingship, and Persia again grew great 
under his sway. The intermittent war with Rome was 
renewed in his reign, and, as usual, the Romans were 
defeated, on this occasion their Emperor Julian being 
slain and his successor having to patch up a disgraceful 
peace, to secure the retreat of his army from Persian 
soil. The Roman legionaries were the finest soldiers 
ever known, and were practically invincible in Europe, 
yet Persia, whether under a Parthian or a Sasanian 
dynasty, hurled them again and again from her borders, 
showing of what her sons were capable. Rome sent 
her best generals and her chosen veterans to the con- 
quest of Iran, but the only result, during several cen- 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 23 

turies of warfare, was defeat, the surrender of whole 
armies, and either the death or captivity of their 
generals. 

Shapur II, was succeeded by inefficient monarchs, 
and the kingdom was rent with intrigue and corruption, 
though Bahram V., called by Persians Bahram Gor, 
from his fondness for hunting the fleet wild ass, became 
a popular hero on account of his success in checking 
the advance of a great horde of nomads, who were 
pouring into Persia from the north-east. 

Bahram, who had been brought up in youth among 
the Arabs, was a celebrated shot with the bow, and 
the Persians have a tradition that one day he actually 
nailed an antelope's hoof to its ear, as the animal was 
scratching its head. On turning to his favourite wife 
for applause, he was so greatly disgusted at her cool 
observation, " Practice makes perfect," that he sent her 
into banishment. Some years after, when on a hunting 
expedition, he was amazed at seeing a woman carry a 
full-grown cow up a flight of twenty steps, and asking 
her for an explanation of this extraordinary feat of 
strength, she remarked, " Practice makes perfect," 
and raising her veil revealed the features of his 
exiled wife, whom the monarch promptly restored to 
favour. 

Kobad, a later king, is chiefly notable for his victories 
over the Romans led by Belisarius, one of the most 
famous of their generals, and during the following reign 
the Roman Emperor was actually forced to pay tribute 
to the Sasanian monarch. 

This king, Khosru I. (531-579), raised Persia to a 
great height of power. He was equally capable as a 
warrior and as a lawgiver, had a love of knowledge, 



24 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

was tolerant to all creeds, founded a school of medicine, 
remodelled his army, the system of taxation, and re- 
paired the roads and tridges throughout the country, 
completing the famous dyke at Shuster, that Shapur 
I. had commenced. He also erected a magnificent 
palace at his capital, Ctesiphon — the remains of which 
give some idea of its former grandeur — and when he 
died after a reign of forty-eight years, he was greatly 
mourned, and has gone down to posterity with the title 
of the Just. 

The poet Saadi relates the following anecdote 
of this monarch : " When some venison was being 
cooked for Nushirvan the Just during a hunting-party, 
the royal servants found that they had forgotten the 
salt, and accordingly sent a lad to get some from the 
nearest village. The king commanded that the salt 
should be paid for, lest the village be ruined. His 
courtiers asked him how such a trivial demand as a 
handful of salt could possibly bring a village to desola- 
tion, and Nushirvan answered, 'When oppression began 
in the world it was a very small thing, but every one 
has increased it, so that at the present day it is of vast 
extent.'" And Saadi amplifies the sentence by re- 
markinsf : 



"If the king eats a single apple from a subject's orchard 
His slaves pull up the tree by its roots. 
For five eggs that a king permits to be seized 
His soldiers will snatch a thousand fowls for their spits." 

And these remarks are as true of the Persia of this 
generation as they were in the time of the great 
Khosru. 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 25 

The decline of the Sasanian Empire began after the 
death of this monarch, although his grandson obtained 
the proud title of Khosru Parvis (590-628), or the 
Conqueror, in recognition of his military successes. 

For a part of his reign he did much for the art of 
his country, fostered law and order and kept Persia 
powerful and feared by her neighbours. There are 
many traditions about his devotion to his favourite wife, 
the fair Shirin, a Christian, who kept her ascendancy 
over her husband during her whole lifetime, a remark- 
able fact in Oriental history. A favourite legend has 
it that the architect Ferhad fell desperately in love 
with the beautiful queen, and that Khosru, in jest, 
promised to yield up his wife if the youth could bore 
through the huge rock of Besitun and bring a stream 
by way of the tunnel. This was an apparently im- 
possible task, but Ferhad, nerved by love, so nearly 
succeeded, that the monarch in dismay sent a messenger 
to tell him that Shirin was dead, and the story relates 
that, on receiving the news, the architect fell headlong 
from the great rock and was dashed to pieces at its 
foot. 

In the early part of his reign Khosru Parvis was 
deposed by his rebellious general, Bahram Chubin, and 
he had to seek the aid of the Romans before he could 
recover his kingdom, which, after this interlude, he ruled 
for thirty-seven years. 

During this period he took Jerusalem and carried off 
the supposed True Cross, presenting the relic to Shirin, 
and in his reign, after the lapse of nine centuries, 
the Persians were again masters of Egypt. Not con- 
tent with this they fought unweariedly against the 
hereditary enemy Rome until the realms in Asia and 



26 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

East Africa, over which the Mistress of the West had 
held sway for centuries, were entirely wrested from her. 
No wonder that Khosru gained his title of "Conqueror," 
for at no period of her history had Persia ruled over a 
larger empire and never had she reached a higher pitch 
of civilisation, the splendour in which her emperor 
dwelt recalling the fancies of a fairy-tale. During the 
full tide of his prosperity a message was brought to 
him one day from Mecca, bidding him acknowledge a 
certain Mohammed as the Prophet of God. Not un- 
naturally the king treated the missive with contempt, 
little thinking that before many years had passed the 
followers of the writer of that letter would have swept 
away the proud Sasanian line. Sir Clements Mark- 
ham I points out that Fortune from that day averted 
her face from the man, who was at one time the 
most powerful monarch in the known world. 

In A.D. 617 his soldiers were within a mile of 
Constantinople, and if the capital of the Roman 
Empire had been taken, Europe would have lain at 
the feet of the victorious Persians. The Emperor 
Heraclius had made arrangements for escaping from 
the apparently doomed city, but his subjects forced him 
to remain, and his despair awoke in him an unsuspected 
military ability. With troops inferior in numbers to 
those of the Persians, he defeated them again and again, 
wresting from them all the provinces that they had 
conquered, and the Persian king, in spite of every 
effort, suffered nothing but reverses, and finally was 
killed by his nobles who were headed by his own 
son Siroes. 

In the whole annals of history there is perhaps no 
' " History of Persia." 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 27 

character who rose to such heights of power, brought 
his country to such a pitch of prosperity, and then 
perished so miserably, through, it appears, no fault of 
his own, though some authorities say he became 
enervated by luxury and excess. At his death eleven 
rulers succeeded one another to the vacant throne, two 
queens among the number — the first women who had 
ever held the sceptre in Persia — but their united reigns 
only amounted to five years. 

And all this time the Empire, torn by dissension, 
bloodshed, and anarchy, was tottering to its fall, and 
Yazdigird III. succeeded to an inheritance threatened 
by a foe who would exterminate both the dynasty of 
Sasan and the ancient religion of Zoroaster. 

The Arabs had engaged in battle with the Persians 
in the time of Khosru Parvis, and though the result was 
indecisive, yet they had learnt the important fact that 
the warriors of Iran were not invincible. Since then 
success and fanaticism had made the followers of the 
Prophet far stronger, and they met the forces of young 
Yazdigird on the plain of el-Kadinyyah A.D. 636. At 
this historic battle the Arabs utterly defeated the 
Persians and gained possession of their national 
standard, the blacksmith Kavah's leather apron, which 
had led the Persians into battle for a thousand years, 
since the days when the legendary Feridun had 
delivered his country from the tyranny of King Zohak, 
typifying, according to some writers, Persia's revolt 
from the Assyrian dominion. 

The Arabs found Persia, even in her decay, no 
easy conquest, and they met with a stout re- 
sistance, the gallant Yazdigird keeping up the 
struggle for some ten years after the fatal battle of 



28 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Nehavend, that left the Moslems masters of the 
country. The last Sasanian monarch was murdered 
by a miller near Merv as he fled from his foes, and 
with his death ended the great dynasty under which 
Persia had been carried to a height of power and 
prosperity only equalled under the rule of the first 
Darius. 

The wild Arabs gave their new subjects the choice 
between accepting the Koran or death, and it seems 
an irony of Fate that the followers of the pure religion 
of Zoroaster should have been forcibly " converted " 
by a race that had only just turned from the 
grossest idolatry, and that was on a far lower plane 
of civilisation than the Persians. Zoroastrianism was 
almost stamped out of the kingdom, a few adherents 
lingering on in such out-of-the-way towns as Yezd 
and Kerman, where at the present day they are 
stigmatised as Gabrs^ or infidels, but live practically 
unmolested. 

And now followed eight centuries of Persia as a 
subject kingdom, torn by wars and invasions, ruled by 
dynasty after dynasty of aliens, and laid desolate by 
the terrible Mongol hordes of Chinghiz Khan, or the 
Tartars of Timur. And yet, though her independence 
was crushed, Persia refined and civilised her rough 
conquerors, who assimilated her beautiful arts, carrying 
them into all the countries which they conquered, 
and where now they go by the name of Saracenic. 
At the Court of the Khalifs at Baghdad, Persian 
customs, music, and even dress were the fashion ; 
and the son of the famous Harun al Raschid revived 
the national Persian festival of No Ruz (New Year's 
Day). 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 29 

Firdawsi, the Homer of Persia, composed his great 
patriotic epic the " Book of Kings " about 1000 A.D. ; 
Avicenna, the famous philosopher and doctor, was his 
contemporary ; and Omar Khayyam, the astronomer- 
poet, flourished later — to give but a few names out of a 
great revival of Persian thought and literature that 
took place, and which centred in such cities as Tus, 
Nishapur, Bokhara, Merv, and Herat. 

During these centuries, as the power of the Khalifate 
at Baghdad grew weaker, various dynasties rose and 
fell in Persia. We hear of the Saffari line — the name 
taken from the occupation of its founder, a brazier of 
Sistan ; also of the Samanian dynasty whose founder, 
descended from the old Persian nobility, seized the 
north of Persia and made Bokhara his capital, and did 
his utmost to foster Persian literature, reviving the 
national spirit that had been kept in check during the 
two centuries since the Arab conquest. Later on 
Togrul, the Seljuk, led his hordes of Turks into Persia 
and founded a dynasty which produced two brilliant 
kings, Alp Arslan and his son Malik-Shah, who ruled 
well, and encouraged science and literature, and had 
for Prime Minister the famous Nizam-ul-Mulk who 
administered their domains with the utmost wisdom 
and beneficence. 

As was usual, these kings were succeeded by 
monarchs of little capacity, and their empire soon fell 
a prey to small princes who carved out petty kingdoms 
for themselves. 

In the thirteenth century Persia was invaded by the 
Mongols, and it is believed that she has never recovered 
from that awful visitation. Chinghiz Khan, the leader 
of these savage hordes, boasted that he had slain 



30 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

thirteen millions of his fellow-creatures, and making 
every allowance for exaggeration, it can be understood 
that such a tiger in human form athirst for blood, 
and with the power of gratifying his lust to the full, 
could inflict untold misery on the world. His heathen 
hordes massacred men, women, and children in cold 
blood. They gave no quarter if they took a town, 
history relating that they slew thirty thousand of the 
inhabitants of Bokhara. They razed any fine building 
to the ground, and did their best to turn fertile lands 
into a desert. The enfeebled Khalifate at Baghdad fell 
before their onslaught, and the last Khalif was put 
to death by Hulagu Khan, grandson of Chinghiz. 

Things improved for the Persians when Hulagu 
Khan became a Mohammedan, and he and his successors 
governed wisely, were tolerant to all religions, and 
encouraged science and literature, these characteristics 
being very remarkable in princes whose ancestors had 
led a savage nomad life, remote from all culture. 

The Mongol rulers were succeeded by Timur the 
Lame, who overran Persia with his Tartars towards 
the latter half of the fourteenth century, and Iran 
became a province of his vast Asiatic Empire. 

But a time of deliverance was approaching, and it is 
interesting to note that after more than eight centuries 
of bondage Persia obtained her freedom through the 
very religion that overthrew it. In the early days of 
Islam, the Mohammedans fought hotly as to who 
should succeed the Prophet, and after awhile were 
divided into two sects, Shiahs and Sunnis. The Shiahs 
contended that upon the death of Mohammed, Ali 
and his family were his lawful successors, and they 
considered that the three Khalifs who succeeded the 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 31 

Prophet were merely usurpers. After the terrible 
massacre of nearly all the descendants of AH by the 
rival faction, practically the whole Mohammedan world 
became Sunni ; but the inhabitants of Persia were 
fiercely Shiah, though usually governed by Sunni 
rulers. 

The deliverer of Persia arose in the person of Ismail, 
ruler of the town of Ardebil and descended from both 
AH and the Sasanian dynasty. The country flocked 
to his standard, and in 1499 he was proclaimed founder 
of the Sefavi dynasty, Persia from this date being an 
independent kingdom, save for one brief interval. At 
his death he left a powerful empire, which would 
probably have gone to ruin if his three immediate 
successors had not been followed by great Shah Abbas, 
whose rule is always referred to by Persians as a 
Golden Age. 

This monarch, the contemporary of our Queen 
Elizabeth and James I., was not only great as warrior 
and administrator, but he fostered the Renaissance of 
art which bloomed alike in Asia as in Europe at this 
epoch. To this day Persians attribute every fine 
building, road, or bridge to Shah Abbas, so lasting an 
impression did this monarch make on his country, 
and in the words of Chardin,' " When this prince ceased 
to live, Persia ceased to prosper." 

At his death the Sefavi dynasty produced a series of 
inefficient monarchs, and in 1722 the Afghans invaded 
the country and established themselves in the royal 
city of Isfahan, only to be dislodged by the Persian 
bandit afterwards Nadir Shah. This great soldier first 
delivered Persia from her enemies, and then, usurping 
* " Voyages en Perse." 



32 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

the crown, conquered Afghanistan and led his armies 
into India, where he sacked Delhi, the famous capital of 
the Moguls, and returned laden with almost fabulous 
treasure. 

He was assassinated before he could found a dynasty, 
and at his death, in 1747, his vast empire fell into 
anarchy: Khorasan apparently was the only province 
of Persia left in the possession of Nadir's descendants, 
the conqueror's blind grandson exercising a nominal 
sovereignty at Meshed. 

The Bakhtiari tribes, inhabiting the mountain ranges 
in the south-west supported a scion of the Sefavi line, 
who, with the aid of Kerim Khan, his able minister, 
became master of Persia with the exception of Georgia 
and Khorasan. Kerim Khan then deposed his puppet 
sovereign, and became founder of the Zend dynasty, 
taking Shiraz for his capital and ruling Persia with 
wisdom and justice for twenty years. He kept in 
subjection the powerful Kajar tribes that had Astra- 
bad on the Caspian as their headquarters and were 
of Turkish origin. At his death, however, Agha 
Mohammed Khan, the head of the Kajars, who had 
been detained in an honourable captivity at Shiraz, 
managed to escape, and put himself at the head of his 
tribe to do battle for the possession of Persia. The last 
of the Zend dynasty was the gallant Lutf Ali Khan, 
and he had for Vizier the clever Haji Ibrahim, who had 
administered the realm for the young prince's father. 
Lutf Ali Khan was possessed of indomitable courage, 
and had much capacity for war ; but he fell a victim to 
the Kajar chieftain owing to the base treachery of Haji 
Ibrahim, who intrigued against his sovereign, and 
betrayed Shiraz into the hands of his enemies. Lutf 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 33 

AH Khan was never greater than in danger and 
adversity ; and though defeated again and again by his 
powerful opponent, yet he fought on undauntedly and 
made his final stand at Kerman. Here again treachery 
overcame one of the most gallant rulers of history, 
secret foes opening the gates of Kerman to Agha 
Mohammed, who gave the city up to massacre, and it is 
stated ordered twenty, and some say seventy thousand 
pairs of human eyes to be given to him as a ransom 
from the inhabitants. 

The Zend prince cut his way through the Kajar 
troops and took refuge at Bam, where again treachery 
proved his undoing, for the Governor of that town 
delivered up his guest to the Kajar conqueror who 
put him to death in his twenty-sixth year. 

And now Persia was ruled by an alien tribe of 
Turkish origin, the members of whom are said to have 
been unable to speak the language of Iran. Agha 
Mohammed, the founder of the dynasty, took Tehran 
for his capital in order to be in touch with the Caspian 
provinces, which had always declared for the Kajars, 
and he soon established himself firmly throughout the 
country. Although his military genius is undisputed, 
he appears to have been almost superhumanly cruel and 
tyrannical. His nephew Fath AH Shah succeeded him ; 
but as he looked upon Persia as a conquered country, 
and was very avaricious, it may easily be understood 
that he did little for the improvement of his realm. 
Haji Ibrahim, who had betrayed the chivalrous Zend 
prince, was the Vizier of this second Kajar Shah ; but 
it is said that old Agha Mohammed had advised his 
nephew to get rid of a servant who had acted so 
treacherously to a former master. Therefore, when 



34 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Fath AH Shah became jealous of his minister's great 
influence, he caused him to be cruelly put to death and 
seized his wealth. During this reign the Russians, who 
had encroached upon Persia before, made war twice on 
the country, the result of which was that Persia lost 
provinces in the Caucasus and on the Caspian, and this 
sea was converted into a Russian lake, upon which any 
armed Persian vessel was forbidden. 

It may be asked how it was that the Persians, who 
had been so distinguished in the field, were now almost 
contemptible fighters? This was partly owing to the 
Kajar policy of breaking the power of the chiefs of the 
nomad tribes, such as the Bakhtiari, Ilyat, and Lur, who 
had hitherto led their own clansmen to battle and were 
great fighting men. Moreover, owing to the misgovern- 
ment of the Kajar rulers, their soldiers were usually ill- 
paid, their wages being embezzled by their superior 
officers, who gave the troops in their charge no proper 
military training and kept them short of food and 
clothing. This evil custom is, alas ! in force at the 
present day. 

When Fath Ali Shah died, after a reign of thirty- 
seven years, he had lost much Persian territory and had 
governed his country with the sole idea of getting as 
much wealth out of her for his own personal advantage 
as he could. His successor, Mohammed Shah was not 
a particularly successful monarch, and the latter's son, 
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, known as being the first Shah to 
visit Europe, though well-meaning, was not a man of 
commanding ability, and his efforts to introduce 
Western civilisation into his country were often a 
putting of new wine into old bottles. At the com- 
mencement of his reign he had a most able minister. 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 35 

who did much for the welfare of Persia, but, as is often 
the case in Oriental countries, the Shah grew jealous of 
his Vizier's influence, and put him to death, following in 
this the example of his father and great-grandfather 
who thus treated their Prime Ministers. During the 
early part of his reign, Nasr-ed-Din Shah tried to seize 
Herat, and in consequence became involved in a war 
with England, who took Bushire and engaged the 
Persian army at the mouth of the Karun river, the 
Shah's troops flying in a disgraceful confusion. After 
this Persia signed a treaty in which she yielded to all 
the demands of Great Britain, and since then the 
boundaries of her empire have been delimitated. 

After the Shah's first visit to Europe in 1874 he 
instituted a regular postal service with the aid of 
Austrians, the stamps being printed in Austria. He 
also gave a concession to the Indo-European Tele- 
graph Company, by means of which our direct com- 
munication with India passes through Persia ; and 
later allowed the Imperial Bank of Persia to be 
founded under British management. 

Military colleges at Tabriz and Tehran and a Poly- 
technic School at the capital were some of the Shah's 
schemes ; but the country as a whole was ill-governed. 
The provinces were put up at a kind of auction at 
No Ruz to the highest bidder ; the peasantry were 
heavily taxed, and nothing done to improve the 
internal communications. 

Nasr-ed-Din's European journeys and the enormous 
expenses of his great anderoon [hareem) made serious 
inroads on the exchequer, and his successor, Muzaffer- 
ed-Din, still further squandered the royal hoards in 
Europe, so that when Mohammed Ali Shah succeeded 



36 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

to the throne in 1907 he found a much-exhausted 
treasury. 

Nasr-ed-Din Shah was assassinated in 1896 by a 
religious fanatic, said to be one of the remarkable sect 
of Babis who had attempted his life during the early 
part of his reign. The Shah was possessed of some 
literary talent, and the diary of his experiences in 
Europe was published on his return to Persia, and 
is interesting to read. He was also a keen sports- 
man and a good shot and rider, and, according to his 
lights, did his best for his country. 

His son, Muzaffer-ed-Din Shah, amiable but much 
out of health, began his reign as an absolute monarch. 
Ideas of progress and liberty were, however, rife in 
Persia, the people having watched the birth of the 
Russian Duma with interest ; and the sovereign, yield- 
ing to the national desire, granted a Constitution to his 
subjects in 1906, 

Upon his death in February, 1907, his son, Moham- 
med Ali Shah, ascended the throne of Persia, and at his 
accession swore to uphold the Constitution. He did not, 
however, appreciate the curtailing of his powers by the 
National Assembly, or Majlis, and friction soon arose. 
In the December of 1907 he made an unsuccessful 
attempt to suppress it by force, and early in the 
next year his life was threatened with a bomb. Sur- 
rounded as he was by the Court camarilla, he could 
not realise that the country had awakened to Western 
ideas of progress, and in June, 1908, he took the 
extreme step of bombarding the Persian Parliament 
out of existence. 

Upon this the important commercial city of Tabriz 
flung off its allegiance to the Shah, turned out the 



A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HISTORY OF PERSIA 37 

Royalist troops, and, under the leadership of the bandit 
Sattar Khan, sustained a long siege. 

Mohammed Ali's soldiers, sent to take the city, 
deserted to the Nationalist party, and the monarch 
was obliged to have recourse to the wild Kurdish 
tribes. Tabriz, however, held out until the April of 
1909, when the Russian troops raised the siege in 
order to protect the lives of the Europeans in the 
town. 

Throughout the struggle between the Shah and his 
subjects it was noticeable that the Persians proper did 
little material service to the Nationalist cause, which 
was largely supported by revolutionaries from the 
Caucasus and by the fighting hill-tribes. Chief among 
these lattfer were the Bakhtiari, who first took posses- 
sion of the city of Isfahan and at last marched on 
Tehran. 

The Shah, who was strongly urged by both the 
British and Russian representatives to restore the 
Constitution, broke his solemn promises again and 
again; and apparently entirely failed to grasp the 
situation until it was too late. 

The Sipahdar (Commander-in-Chief), who belongs to 
the Royal Family, cast in his lot with the Nationalist 
party, and threatened Tehran from the north ; while 
the Sardar-i-Assad (brother of the chief of the 
Bakhtiaris) led his warlike tribesmen up from the 
south to invest the capital. Mohammed Ali, perhaps 
warned by the fate of the ex-Sultan of Turkey, did 
not await the result. He took refuge in the summer 
quarters of the Russian Legation outside the city, and 
by this step virtually abdicated. 

On July 16, 1909, he was formally deposed by the 



38 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

National Council, and his son, a boy of eleven, elected 
Shah in his stead. The supreme power rested in the 
hands of the Sipahdar and the Sardar-i-Assad, both 
men being imbued with Western ideas. After con- 
siderable haggling as to the allowance to be made 
to the ex-Shah, and after much discussion on the 
question of the Crown jewels, his Majesty finally 
left the capital on September loth, and made his way 
by leisurely stages to the Caspian. In future he is to 
be the guest of the Russian Government, either at 
Odessa or in the Crimea. 

It is too soon to judge how the change from an 
autocratic rule to that of a Constitutional Government 
will work ; but owing to the agreement of 1907 
between England and Russia, Persia has every chance 
of working out her own salvation. Whatever may be 
our opinion of the decadence of Persia at the present 
day, surely an empire which took its rise some five 
centuries before Christ, and is an independent kingdom 
in the twentieth century after Christ, must hold within 
it the elements of renewal ? That Persia may succeed 
in her arduous task of regeneration is the earnest wish 
of all Englishmen who take any interest in the country. 



CHAPTER III 
THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 

DURING the twenty-five centuries in which Persia 
has been a kingdom, her rulers have fixed 
their capitals at different points within the limits of 
their empire. Ecbatana (meaning Treasure-house) was 
one of the capitals of the Medes, and the summer 
dwelling-place of the Achaemenian monarchs. This 
city, with its wonderful palace, Deioces, is supposed by 
many writers to have occupied the site of the modern 
Hamadan, a town in north-west Persia. There are, 
however, no monuments or ruins in the town, save a 
battered stone lion ; and the small eminence called the 
Musalla, on which formerly stood the citadel, would not 
have afforded sufficient space for the great palace. 
However, Hamadan clings to the idea that it occupies 
the site of past glories, and it has a large colony of 
Jews, who show the so-called tombs of Esther and 
Mordecai to travellers. 

Cyrus the Great built Pasargadse for his capital, the 
ruins that still remain testifying to its former grandeur ; 
but Darius and his successors selected Persepolis as a 
site for their palaces. Shushan in Arabistan, where 
Artaxerxes Longimanus, generally identified with the 
magnificent Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther, held his 



40 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Court, was inhabited in the winter by the Achaemenian 
monarchs. 

Alexander ruled from Babylon, and the Parthians 
fixed their seat of government at Ctesiphon on the 
Tigris, where the Sasanian potentate Khosru I. built a 
splendid palace, an arch of which still stands. 

Here these monarchs held their Court in almost 
unbelievable luxury, calling themselves by such titles 
as " King of Kings," " Lord of Lords," " Glorious 
beyond all compare," or " A God among mortals." The 
Shahs of to-day have borrowed many of these proud 
epithets, which are now yet more baseless than they 
were in earlier times. They testify to the belief in 
"Divine Right of Kings," so firmly implanted in 
the Persians that even now with ideas of liberty and 
progress in the air the mass of the people hold 
to it. 

After the Mohammedan conquest, the Khalifs held 
their Court at Baghdad, and Persia was a conquered 
country, a mere appanage of the Khalifate and ruled 
by aliens for eight hundred years, until at last the 
Sefavean dynasty arose. Great Shah Abbas selected 
Isfahan for his capital, and he and his successors im- 
proved and beautified the city. Sir Anthony Sherley and 
Chardin giving us accounts of its spendours. In 1722 
it was sacked by the Afghans and never regained its 
prosperity. Nadir Shah, who delivered it, preferring 
Meshed as his place of residence, and the Zend 
dynasty making Shiraz into their seat of government. 
On the rise of the present Kajar dynasty, its founder, 
Agha Mohammed Khan, took Tehran for his capital 
in order to keep in touch with the Turkish tribe from 
which he had sprung, and Tabriz in Azerbaijan, the old 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 41 

capital of the kings of Armenia, became the home of 
the Vali Ahd, or Crown Prince, during the lifetime of 
the Shah, in order to prevent the intrigues that would 
focus round the heir apparent did he live at the Court. 

The traveller from Europe going to Tehran can 
either caravan from Erzeroum vid Erivan and Tabriz, 
or take steamer from Marseilles to Batoum on the 
Black Sea, from which port a line runs through the 
Caucasus past Tiflis to Baku on the Caspian. Here a 
Russian packet-boat takes him in about thirty hours to 
Enzeli, the port for Tehran ; but if the weather be 
rough it will be impossible to land the passengers and 
cargo in a small launch across the sand-bar that blocks 
the mouth of the harbour. In such a case the packet 
will return to Baku, and every one will be obliged to 
start afresh from the city of petroleum. When the 
traveller has landed in safety at Enzeli he will be 
surprised at the appearance of the port of Persia's 
capital, the Shah's pavilion, built like a pagoda, being the 
only building of any pretensions, and the so-called hotel 
giving a mild foretaste of the discomforts that will be 
experienced later if the visitor is new to Oriental travel. 
A great lagoon, teeming with fish and waterfowl, must 
be crossed in a rickety native boat, after which the 
craft will turn into a sluggish river, on the banks of 
which snakes glide and tortoises crawl, and will deposit 
the traveller at Pir-i-Bazaar (Bazaar of the Old 
Woman). From here the Russians have engineered 
a fairly good road right up to the capital, and it is 
therefore possible to drive the two hundred odd 
miles to, Tehran in thirty-six hours, with relays of 
horses. 

At a short distance Resht looks strangely like an 



42 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

English village with its red-tiled roofs buried in trees ; 
for Gilan is one of the wettest parts of Persia, and the 
mud-built houses in use elsewhere would not stand 
in situ for a week in this district on account of the 
ncessant rain. 

The " English " appearance of the town is still 
further carried out by the green fields and the hedges 
bordering the roads. But charming as the whole place 
looks on a sunny day, the curse of malaria hangs over 
it, and the experienced traveller doses himself with 
quinine, and is not surprised that the inhabitants have 
a sickly look when he sees the rice-fields in which men 
and women work knee-deep in water and from which 
rises a deadly miasma. The first part of his onward 
journey lies through a vast forest with long, grassy 
" rides " stretching away into the luxuriant vegetation, 
this wooded belt being part of the great jungle which 
reaches to Astrabad, and is in all some four hundred 
miles in length. Here are to be found tigers, panthers, 
boar, stags, and game of all kinds. But this is not Persia 
proper, and the traveller will soon reach the spurs of 
the Elburz range, which opposes a barrier between 
the sea and the Plateau, the second part of his 
journey consisting of a series of steep ascents and 
sharp descents, as the road winds upwards, and below 
him the river rushes impetuously along its bed. He 
has now left the trees, the waterfalls, the masses of fern, 
and the hampering mud behind him, and is in a sterile 
country with mountains rising up on all sides and 
barren of vegetation. The splendid colouring of the 
forest will have given place to a landscape tinted in 
shades of dun and ochre, but vaulted with a sky of the 
intense blue of the turquoise, and laved by an air 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 43 

very different to the moist heat of the rainy zone. It is 
a keen, exhilarating air that courses like wine through 
his veins and makes him impervious to the jolts and 
jars of his carriage and his halts in rest-houses often 
swarming with vermin, and where practically no food is 
to be purchased. 

The third part of his journey to the capital is across 
the great Plateau of Persia, which rises to a height 
of two thousand to six thousand feet, and stretches 
some eight hundred miles from north to south, and 
he will soon arrive at Kasvin, his first Persian town. 
In spite of its imposing gateway and its, for Persia, up- 
to-date hotel, the town has an air of desolation and 
decay, owing to the ruined appearance of its monu- 
ments. Not far from it is Alamut, the famous strong- 
hold of Hasan-i-Sabbah, the Chief of the Assassins, 
who took Kasvin, and whose successors were given the 
title of " Old Man of the Mountain " by the Crusaders. 
There is a legend ^ that Hasan-i-Sabbah was at 
school with the poet Omar Khayyam, and the Nizam- 
i-Mulk the great Vizier of the Seljuks, and that the 
three comrades made a compact that the one who suc- 
ceeded best in life should help the others. Therefore, 
when the Nizam-ul-Mulk was at the height of his 
power, his former school-fellows reminded him of his 
promise, Omar receiving from him a yearly pension 
and devoting himself to study, but Hasan-i-Sabbah 
demanding a post at Court which he used to try and 
compass the downfall of his benefactor. Being found 
out he fled, joined the sect of the Ismailis, and some 

^ Professor E. G. Browne (" Literary History of Persia") shows 
from chronological evidence that this picturesque story has no 
foundation in fact. 



44 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

years later the great Vizier fell a victim to the dagger 
of one of Hasan's emissaries. 

The Ismailis were a secret sect of the Shiahs, its 
members on being initiated binding themselves by 
most solemn oaths to obey every command of their 
superiors, and professing that they were followers of 
Ismail, whom they regarded as the Seventh Imam. This 
creed found many supporters, and in 107 1 young 
Hasan-i-Sabbah joined the faction and henceforth flung 
himself with all the force of his genius into the work 
of spreading the tenets of his faith far and wide, and 
undermining the power of Islam. 

Devoted followers flocked to him, and some years 
later he actually seized Alamut, an almost impregnable 
stronghold near Kasvin, which became henceforth the 
centre of the Ismaili power ; later on he took the city 
of Kasvin itself. 

The followers of Hasan were called Assassins, the 
name said to be derived from their habit of taking the 
intoxicating drug hashish, or Indian hemp, and they 
became feared throughout the Mohammedan world, 
for no prominent man was secure from their daggers ; 
they also killed harmless citizens at random to inspire 
terror of their order. Marco Polo, who gives an account 
of the Assassins, says that when a youth was recruited 
he was intoxicated with hashish and then conveyed 
to a lovely garden where he was tended by girls of 
surpassing beauty. When he recovered his senses he 
would find himself in the room in which he had been 
initiated, and he would be told by the " Old Man of 
the Mountain" (the Grand Master) that he had been 
vouchsafed a glimpse of the glories of the Paradise which 
was reserved for all true Ismailis after death. This 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 45 

supposed vision nerved thousands to perform the most 
dangerous behests of their Master and also the most 
revolting ; for there is a gruesome legend of how an 
Ismaili, in the guise of a blind beggar, lured citizens of 
Isfahan night after night to a certain house where 
his accomplices, lying in wait, murdered and stripped 
their unfortunate victims. Up to the time of the 
Mongols, when Hulagu Khan took the fortress of 
Alamut, and utterly destroyed the power of the 
Assassins, these scourges of society pursued their evil 
work practically without let or hindrance. 

When the traveller leaves Kasvin and drives south- 
ward the last ninety miles across the wide plain, he will 
admire the fine outline of the Elburz range, and suddenly, 
at a turn in the road, he will see Demavend, the mighty 
extinct volcano, its outline like the apex of a triangle, 
clearly silhouetted against the intense blue of the sky. 
The great peak will become almost a part of his life as 
long as he remains in Tehran, and he will observe it under 
countless aspects, one of the most beautiful being when 
its winter snows are flushed rose-red at sunset. The 
whole range will throb and palpitate with the unearthly 
light, until one after another the mountains lose their 
fairy radiance, and grow grey and cold : Demavend, 
however, retains a rosy coronet some moments after 
death, as it were, has overtaken the others. 

At the distance, Tehran, built in great part of the 
mud on which it stands, is only distinguished from 
the surrounding plain by the green trees of its many 
gardens ; but as the traveller gets nearer he will see the 
outline of the castellated city wall and the tiled domes 
and minarets of mosques. He will enter the town by 
a grandiose gateway adorned with glazed bricks in 



46 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

patterns, the prevailing tones being blue arid yellow 
relieved with black and white, the whole giving a touch 
of splendour to its squalid surroundings. These gate- 
ways are twelve in number ; some are adorned with the 
exploits of Rustum, the Hercules and knight-errant of 
Persia, and others depict the Persian soldier of to-day — 
all of them, however, look best at a distance, and do not 
bear a close examination. 

The roads, many of them of considerable width, have 
frequent holes, and there are waste spaces every here 
and there on which refuse of all kinds is deposited. 
Impenetrable high mud walls conceal all the better- 
class houses ; and the dress of the townsfolk is dingy, 
the long, much-kilted frock-coat, the baggy-kneed 
European trousers, and the fashionable elastic-sided 
boots not making for picturesqueness. The ladies, who 
add so much to the attractiveness of European cities, 
are huddled in Persia in a disguising and shapeless 
black wrap, by which the prettiest and the plainest 
are reduced to the same level. 

The chief roads are broad with avenues of trees, but 
have big holes at intervals caused by the remarkable 
custom of digging up the public highway to get mud 
to make the sun-burnt bricks ; men carrying on their 
respective trades take up a good deal of the street ; 
and large convoys of donkeys, so laden with brushwood 
that only their legs are visible, totter along with an 
absolute disregard to the rest of the traffic. Perhaps 
a riderless horse may canter by on its way to the stable, 
some Persian having left it outside the house at which 
he was visiting without troubling to tether it. 

In November there is usually quite a " rainy season " 
in Tehran, the climate, so say the natives, having 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 47 

become much moister since the planting of many 
avenues of trees, and the laying-out of numerous 
gardens, both in the town and its environs. At this 
time the roads are almost impassable for pedestrians, 
who take to wearing galoshes as they splash through 
mire of the consistency of pea-soup ; and it is pitiable 
to see the women flip-flapping along in the sea of liquid 
mud, their heelless slippers being small protection 
against the wet. At Tehran, as in all Persian towns, 
it is inadvisable for any European woman to walk 
about alone and unattended, as she would be liable to 
insult from the populace ; and if she were riding, 
Persians galloping past might perhaps collide with her 
in hopes of unhorsing her. 

In the narrow, vaulted passages of the bazaars, many 
of which have most beautifully tiled and honeycombed 
stucco roofs, the laden animals jostle one another, and 
the passers-by have to be on the alert unless they wish 
to be knocked down. Russian and Austrian goods 
predominate, and the traveller in search of curios will 
not find any here. Dellals, or dealers, however, are certain 
to visit him, bringing carpets for his inspection ; and 
opening knotted cloths they will produce old velvets and 
embroideries, papier niache pictures, or enamel plaques. 
If he sees anything he particularly fancies he had better 
come to terms with the dellal^ for in all probability 
it is unique. As time is of no object in Persia, bargain- 
ing is a lengthy business, and the haggling needs 
patience and good temper : sometimes weeks of dis- 
cussion ensue before some valuable objet dart can pass 
into the possession of the would-be purchaser, the price 
demanded at first being a preposterous one. 

A curious Persian custom about buying and selling 



48 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

is that the purchaser can return within three days the 
horse or carpet that he has bought, getting the money 
back that he has paid for it. In the same way the 
seller can retrieve what he has sold within the same 
limit of time if he happen to change his mind. Thus, 
if a European has purchased something much to his 
taste, probably having wasted several hours in haggling 
over the price, he cannot feel sure of possession until 
the fourth day. 

Though Tehran is an ancient city, yet it was never 
of any importance until Agha Mohammed Khan 
selected it in 1788 as his capital, therefore it is deficient 
in the interesting mosques and other monuments of 
older towns. Path Ali Shah did something for his 
capital ; but it owes its present appearance principally 
to Nasr-ed-Din Shah, who enclosed the city with a new 
wall and moat having a circuit of eleven miles and 
pierced with imposing gateways. The town boasts 
some fine squares, chief of which is the Tup Meidan, or 
Gun Square, where stands the Arsenal, guarded by most 
obsolete cannon. Here are the Artillery barracks, the 
walls ornamented with rough representations of the 
" Lion and the Sun " on a red ground, and the Imperial 
Bank of Persia, with a charmingly coloured stucco fagade. 
The Europeans until lately were in the habit of playing 
polo in the Meidan-i-Mashk, next to this square, 
the game always attracting a crowd of onlookers, 
among which were many soldiers in the shabbiest of 
uniforms and with a lounging gait that showed them to 
be sorely in need of the drill-sergeant. 

The so-called Boulevard des Ambassadeurs, the pride 
of the city, is a broad avenue planted with poplars and 
lit with lamps of the kind that make darkness visible. 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 49 

Here are several of the Legations, the most imposing of 
which is the British with its campanile-like clock-tower. 
This building, together with four substantial-looking 
houses quite English in appearance, is placed in a lovely 
garden, through which runs perhaps the most delicious 
water in Persia, the traveller in Iran becoming quite a 
connoisseur in water after he has experienced the 
countless varieties of good and bad, mostly the latter, 
of which the country is prolific. 

Not far from the British Legation is the Nigaristan, 
the favourite palace of Fath Ali Shah, its name meaning 
Picture Gallery, from the collection of portraits of its 
builder and his relatives, the handsome Kajar princes 
all having a strong family resemblance to one another. 
Every visitor observes a long slide leading to the edge 
of a great marble bath, and is amused when he is told 
that the many ladies favoured by Fath Ali Shah used 
to " toboggan " down this descent with roulades of 
laughter into the embrace of the long-bearded sovereign 
waiting at the bottom. 

Next in importance to the Artillery Square is the 
Meidan-i-Shah, with its great octagonal tank of water, 
near which is a huge brass cannon used as bast, or 
sanctuary, for the criminals of Tehran, who are also wont 
to resort to the flagstaff or stables of the British Lega- 
tion, as well as to the mosques. Above the gateway 
leading from this square is the Nagara-Khana, or Drum 
House, where at sunrise and sunset is performed bar- 
barous music, the custom, which is also in force at 
Meshed, and other large cities, dating from Zoroastrian 
times. It is one of the prerogatives of royalty, and as such 
it honours the Shah in his capital, and the Holy Imam 
Reza in his world-famous shrine in the City of Martyrdom. 



so PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

At this point we are close to the large group of 
palace-buildings, and it may be well to introduce the 
Shah to our readers. 

Up to 1906, at which date Muzaffer-ed-Din Shah 
gave a Constitution to his subjects, the King of Persia 
was an absolute monarch, only subject to the law of 
Islam. He had the power of life and death over all, 
and in theory everything was his property, save the 
land belonging to the Church. 

Mohammed Ali Shah succeeded his father to the 
proud title of "Shah in Shah " or " King of Kings," in 
January, 1907 ; but inherited a much-impoverished 
treasury, his grandfather, and yet more his father, 
having exhausted the exchequer by their expensive 
visits to Europe. 

As every one knows, Mohammed Ali Shah revoked 
the Constitution which, on his accession, he swore to 
support, threw his country into a state of civil war, and 
was deposed July, 1909. Therefore it will be better to 
describe the Shah and his Court as they were a few 
years ago, rather than what they are actually at the 
present moment. 

The King of Persia styles himself by such high- 
sounding titles as "The Point of Adoration of the 
Universe," " The Shadow of Allah," " The Asylum of 
the World " and so on ; but for all his great position, he 
has never been the spiritual head of Islam, which is the 
prerogative of the Sultan of Turkey, and his rule over 
his subjects has always had checks in the power of the 
priesthood. 

The Achaemenian and Sasanian monarchs lived in 
almost fabulous splendour ; but at the present day the 
Shah's Court is shorn of much of its former glory, and 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 51 

the monarch himself in the long, much-pleated frock- 
coat and trousers borrowed from the West, is not a 
particularly imposing figure, even though large rubies 
and diamonds may adorn his breast, and he may carry 
a diamond-studded plume in the front of his black 
lambs'-wool hat 

As can be gathered from the following description, 
he makes a far less impressive appearance than his 
ancestor Fath AH Shah, of whom Sir John Malcolm i 
wrote, when on a mission to the Court of Persia in 
1800, — " The ground of his robes was white, but he was 
so covered with jewels of an extraordinary size, and 
their splendour from his being seated where the rays of 
the sun played upon them, was so dazzling that it 
was impossible to distinguish the minute parts which 
combined to give such amazing brilliancy to his whole 
figure." 

Even now Persian courtiers mendaciously assert 
that the glorious appearance of their royal master 
almost blinds them ; but in those days they would 
have had more reason for their attitude of abject 
humility than now. 

Everything is done to keep alive a feeling of 
reverence for the Shah, the recipient of any royal 
missive or gift placing it on his head and to his eyes, 
and then kissing it. As an example of this respect, 
when at Meshed in the spring of 1908, the writer 
was one day surprised to hear many salvoes of artillery, 
and on inquiry was told that the Shah had sent his 
portrait (merely an enlarged photo) to the Governor 
of the city. This was the method of notifying its 
presence to the populace (not its arrival, as it had 
' " Persian Sketches." 



52 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

come some time before, but the Governor had laid 
it by until the omens were propitious for its display ! ). 
The Shah's courtiers may be called upon to do 
menial offices for their master, such as massaging him, 
kneading his limbs, and even making a pilau or 
sherbet for him. The monarch always eats alone, 
all his food being examined by a doctor and tasted 
beforehand for fear of poison, and the courtiers stand 
round the room in silence. 

When the sovereign has eaten, and left the apart- 
ment, the princes of the blood take their places 
on the carpets on which the meal is laid, and after 
they have regaled themselves the courtiers follow. 
Last of all the servants finish what is left of the 
ample repast, and drink the remains of the iced sherbets. 
The Shah's palace, called the ark, or citadel, is 
situated in the centre of his capital, and composed of 
groups of buildings, courtyards, and gardens, covering 
a space about a quarter of a square mile and all 
enclosed within high walls. 

The royal jewels and precious objects of all kinds 
are kept in a large hall, and may be inspected by 
visitors. Here are heaps of pearls, many of great size, 
diamonds and rubies galore, and the famous jika, or 
diamond aigrette, worn by the Shah on State occasions. 
A wonderful gold globe is shown with the different 
countries of the world composed of gems, Persia being 
inlaid with turquoise, the only precious stone found 
in the empire ; and the whole work of art is said to 
be worth ;^947,ooo. The great diamond, the Darya-i- 
Nur (Sea of Light), which together with our Kuh-i-Nur 
(Mountain of Light) was taken by Nadir-Shah at the 
sack of Delhi, is kept here. The latter diamond at 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 53 

Nadir's death found its way to Afghanistan, and 
thence to India, falling into the hands of the English 
in 1850. 

A splendidly jewelled and enamelled throne stands 
in this hall, and Lord Curzon ^ discovered that it is 
partly made from the broken remains of the celebrated 
" Peacock " throne of Aurungzebe. He has also proved 
that the gem-studded throne which goes by that name 
(Takht-i-Taous) and which many writers believe to 
be the original work of art that Nadir Shah brought 
back with the almost fabulous loot of Delhi, is of 
no earlier date than the time of Fath AH Shah, and 
was made at the command of that monarch. It is 
doubtful whether all these jewels still repose in the 
great gallery, because rumours are rife that Mohammed 
Ali Shah was obliged to make inroads on his treasures 
in order to pay his troops. 

At the great Persian festival of No Ruz (New Year's 
Day), when the sun passes into the sign of the Ram 
on March 21st, the Shah shows himself to his subjects — 
who are all clad in new garments — much as did the 
Achsemenian and Sasanian monarchs. 

He appears in the Throne Room, a hall beautifully 
decorated with mirror-work, and seats himself, a la 
Persane, on an elaborately carved platform of white 
marble. The curtains covering an immense window 
are drawn back in order that the admiring populace 
who fill the great courtyard may gaze on their monarch 
before whom they prostrate themselves to the earth, 
and from whom they receive largesse in the shape 
of gold coins. A poet recites an ode in His Majesty's 
praise, for which he is given a robe of honour ; bands 
' "Persia." 



54 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

play different airs at the same time ; wrestlers, acrobats, 
and conjurers perform, and the ill-used Jews are ducked 
again and again in the tanks amid the merriment of the 
crowd. 

The courtiers, who have given New Year's gifts of 
money to their sovereign, are clad in sumptuous 
garments and turbans of Kerman shawls, and with 
red-stockinged feet stand around in solemn silence, 
adorned with many orders. The foreign ministers are 
received in audience by the monarch on this day of 
universal rejoicing, which was instituted in Zoroastrian 
times or even earlier. It is a day when gifts are given 
and received, servants, for example, getting new clothes 
and a month's wages. If, however. No Ruz should 
chance to fall during a month of mourning, such as 
Muharram or Ramazan, there is practically no gaiety, the 
bazaars are not decorated, and there will be no joyous 
crowd issuing from the city gates, no paying of visits 
and feasting. All will be much as usual, the countless 
sugar-loaves and platters of sweetmeats which the 
foreigner connects with No Ruz being conspicuous 
by their absence. 

The Shah, who must be of the Shiah faith, can, 
according to Mohammedan law, have only four wives ; 
but as many sigehs, or temporary wives, and slaves 
as he pleases. The enormous expense of the always 
large anderoon of a monarch does much to im- 
poverish the country; for all the favourites inhabit 
separate pavilions and have their own servants and 
carriages. When the royal ladies, who have such 
high-sounding titles as "The Gaiety of the Empire," 
" The Delight of the Realm," and so on, drive out, 
it is customary for every Persian to turn his back on the 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 55 

equipages and stand with his face to the wall or, if 
possible, disappear down a side-street, as otherwise he 
may be roughly handled by the eunuchs in attendance. 

The monarch has the right to enter every anderoon 
in his kingdom, his royal glance being supposed to 
confer good luck on the women on whom it falls. 
Should he happen to take a fancy to any man's wife, 
the loyal husband will be obliged to divorce the lady 
in the potentate's favour, and will also present him with 
any beautiful slave whom he may admire. 

During the royal progresses, villagers with handsome 
daughters bring the girls to the Shah's notice as he 
passes, hoping that the sovereign may order them to 
be put among the women of the anderoon, where 
there are chances of rising to high position. For 
example, the mother of the present Zil-i-Sultan (the 
little Shah's great-uncle) was a Kurdish peasant-girl. 
However, by Persian law, the mother of the Shah must 
be of the blood-royal, therefore this prince was obliged 
to give place to his younger brother in the succession 
to the throne. 

Speaking of these progresses, the country through 
which the Shah and his enormous following pass is 
practically denuded of food of every kind, the sovereign's 
servants commandeering everything without paying for 
it, just as if they were in an enemy's land. It frequently 
happens that the governor of a province will pay the 
monarch a large sum on the understanding that the dis- 
trict in question should not be included in the royal tour. 

When the Shah becomes tired of any one of his 
wives, who is probably no longer young enough to 
please him, he gets rid of her gracefully by marrying 
her to some official, whether the gentleman in question 



56 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

may desire the honour or not. The lady becomes the 
head of the household of her new husband, and if she 
pleases may compel him to divorce his wife or wives 
in her favour, leaving her to rule alone ; and such 
alliances constitute some of the few exceptions where 
the Persian woman asserts herself. 

The writer had the privilege of being present at a 
party given by one of the royal favourites, and the 
richness of the ungraceful costumes and the profusion 
of the jewels that adorned the crowds of Court ladies 
who were invited, were a wonderful sight. All were 
interested in their European guests, fingering their furs, 
eyeing their clothes, and trying to engage them in 
conversation, during which handsomely clad women- 
servants handed round relays of tea and, sweetmeats. 
Then the Shah came in, and the busy hum of talk 
ceased entirely, every fair Persian preening herself, 
and doing her best to catch the monarch's eye as he 
strode across the room. However, he paid no attention 
to any of his countrywomen, but was eager to inspect 
the foreign ladies present, with whom he shook hands 
and did his best to converse in indifferent French. 

The Shah has many palaces outside the walls of 
Tehran, perhaps the most noticeable being the hunting- 
box of Doshan Tepe (Palace of a Hare) situated on a 
rocky spur, a couple of miles from the city. At the 
foot of the hill the Persian Zoo is housed. This 
menagerie is small, and the smell of the animals, 
which are ill-kept, is disagreeable. But there are 
Persian lions, tigers, leopards, and bears to be seen, 
and the captives at the time of the writer's visit 
appeared to be on excellent terms with one of the 
keepers, who evidently had a " way " with his charges. 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 57 

Another palace is the white, barrack-looking building 
of Kasr-i-Kajar (Castle of the Kajar), which Nasr-ed- 
Din Shah, on returning from his first visit to Europe, 
is reported to have compared to Windsor Castle, to 
the disadvantage of the latter. It stands on the 
gravel slope of Shimran, at a great height on the top 
of a series of terraces, and below is a large lake on 
which the European colony enjoy excellent skating 
when the winter is severe. 

In the environs of Tehran there are charming villages 
to which the foreign ministers and their staffs retire 
during the heat of summer. The British Legation has 
a residence in a delightful garden with running water 
and a big bathing-tank at Gulahek, some six miles 
north of the capital. Mohammed Shah, besides pre- 
senting the garden to the minister then at Tehran, 
gave him the rights of a landlord over the villagers, 
who pay their taxes to the British, and have other 
privileges. Russia has the village of Zargandeh on the 
same terms. 

When the Shah goes out he is attended by runners, 
picturesque in scarlet and gold, and carrying peacock's 
feathers in their curious turreted hats which are sup- 
posed to be reminiscent of the crowns of the kings 
and princes who were conquered by the Sasanian 
monarchs. 

If the Shah is riding, his charger will have a golden, 
gem-studded collar and trappings of gold, and his 
gholams, or bodyguards, have broad silver bands round 
the necks of their steeds, one of the prerogatives of 
royalty being the right to dye the tails of the horses 
with henna. But Muzaffer-ed-Din Shah usually drove 
in a large brougham, and the ex-Shah, Mohammed AH, 



58 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

favoured the motor-car, a vehicle ill-fitted to run on 
what go by the name of roads in Persia. 

The monarch has a huge surrounding of obsequious 
courtiers, who remain standing when he is seated, 
answer his questions in low tones, agree with him on 
every point, and flatter him in a manner outrageous to 
European ears. The Vizier, or Prime Minister; the 
Chamberlain ; the Treasurer ; the Master of Horse ; the 
Chief Carpet Spreader, and the Chief Executioner are 
only a few among a crowd of dignitaries, most of whom 
rely much upon their wits for a livelihood. Even if their 
salaries are paid, they have probably given large sum§ to 
the Shah for their posts ; therefore they " squeeze " their 
underlings, and take bribes from those of the outer 
world who may want some favour from the sovereign. 

Modakhel, or commission, is a word with which 
the European speedily becomes very familiar. It 
means that every one, from the highest in the land to 
the lowest, takes what percentage he can from any 
money passing through his hands. The Shah, at the 
head, farms out the provinces of his realm at No Ruz 
to the highest bidders ; and the man who has hired a 
province, hurries to his miniature kingdom and extorts 
money on his arrival from all the rich inhabitants under 
his rule. Some intrigue at the capital may oust him 
from his position before the year is out, therefore his 
great aim is to recoup himself and make a handsome 
sum over and above his outlay in the shortest possible 
time. It may easily be understood that no governor 
would think of repairing bridges, making roads, or 
improving his province under such a system — in fact, 
he spends as little as possible. During his tenure of 
office he has supreme power, his Court being well-nigh 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 59 

as hedged in with ceremony as is that of the Shah 
itself, and his suite do their share in extorting money 
from the townsfolk. These latter probably " grind the 
faces " of their apprentices in their turn ; and the lowest 
servant in Persia will make his modakhel on the 
smallest article purchased for his employer. It is even 
said that the Shah, the supreme Fount of Justice in 
the kingdom, extorts a commission from any criminal 
whom he may have pardoned! In short, practically 
every office is sold in Persia, and practically every 
official is corrupt. 

The tomb of a governor of a district in south 
Persia is actually treated as a shrine at which the 
inhabitants worship because the dead man when in 
power never robbed the poor ! It is to be hoped that 
as time goes on the National Council will call many 
such saints into being ; but at present they are evidently 
not common. 

In Persia all government is personal, an able monarch, 
such as great Shah Abbas, raising his country to 
a high pitch of prosperity. If, however, a king has 
an enlightened minister the latter's tenure of office 
is always precarious, because there is certain to be a 
powerful party at Court who will try to influence the 
Shah against him by stirring up the jealousy of the 
monarch or playing on his fears, and as a rule, 
the Vizier will be disgraced or put to death. There 
is no permanence in the policy of these autocrats : 
for if a beneficent Shah have an incompetent successor, 
all the good that the former has done will be lost. 

Of late years the burden of taxation has fallen almost 
entirely on the tradespeople and the peasantry ; the 
kingdom grows steadily poorer as the years pass; all 



6o PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

is bribery and dishonesty, and the eyes of the Shah 
are blinded by the Court camarilla that always 
surround him and endeavour to keep the truth from 
reaching him. 

The army, the bulwark of his throne, is disgracefully 
paid, clothed and fed, with the exception of the so- 
called Cossack regiments at Tehran in which Persians 
have been drilled by Russians to a pitch of efficiency, 
and are the only properly paid troops in the kingdom. 
As a rule the officers "eat" the pay of the soldiery, 
and in their turn their salaries are " eaten " by the 
Commander-in-Chief; and so it goes on. 

The ordinary Persian serbaz, dirty, ragged, and 
slouching, carrying on the trade of a money-changer 
to enable him to eke out his scanty pay, has nothing 
martial about him, and usually distinguishes himself 
in action by a display of cowardice ; but this is not to 
be wondered at, for his officers are tarred with the 
same brush. On the march each soldier has a diminu- 
tive donkey, which carries his kit and rifle, and on 
which he rides at intervals, turning the animal into 
the springing crops to feed whenever there is a halt. 
As there is no commissariat department, the soldiers 
loot food from the luckless villagers, who have no 
redress. When the writer accompanied a British and 
Persian Frontier Commission in Baluchistan, she 
noticed that the country people retired at its approach, 
leaving their houses absolutely bare, in order to escape 
being forced to supply provisions gratis. 

Lord Curzon i sums up the subject of the Persian 
soldier in the following words : " A more irregular 
army, in the most literal sense of the word, does not 
^ "Persia." 



THE SHAH, HIS CAPITAL AND GOVERNMENT 6i 

exist on the face of the globe. Irregular in its enlist- 
ment, dress, arms, ammunition, discipline, and service, 
it would be strange if its conduct were not irregular 
also." 

The petrifying form of education in vogue does not 
help the nation; for it must stultify, rather than 
expand the intellect to be forced to read the Koran 
in Arabic probably without understanding a word of the 
sacred book. The madressehs, or colleges, endowed 
by the pious, are to instruct youths wishing to become 
priests, doctors, or judges. But as these educational 
centres are in the hands of the priests, no Western 
knowledge is taught, the whole teaching given being 
based upon the Koran, ingenious dissertations upon 
its many obscure passages being dignified by the name 
of philosophy. Here arguments take place as little 
to edification as the well-known discussion of the 
mediaeval Schoolmen as to how many angels could 
accommodate themselves upon the point of a needle ! 

Nasr-ed-Din Shah started a Polytechnic School at 
Tehran where European instructors impart Western 
teaching ; and there are also military colleges conducted 
by Austrians at Tehran and Tabriz ; but these are 
merely a gleam of light in the universal darkness. 

Justice in Persia is administered by the governors 
and their representatives and by the priesthood. The 
urf, or unwritten law, is that administered by the 
laity; but the priests confine themselves to the shar 
(the written or divine law — in other words, the Koran). 

Justice is usually summary ; no witness is asked to 
take an oath, and false testimony is common. Both 
sides bribe to the extent of their resources, and he who 
has the longest purse will usually win his case, unless 



62 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

he is so obviously in the wrong that the governor fears 
public opinion, or the priesthood, usually in opposition, 
supports the cause of the poorer claimant. The evidence 
taken is often of the flimsiest character. For example, 
if a man were accused of stealing, and a bit of rag found 
near the spot tallied with the supposed culprit's clothing, 
this would be considered sufficient evidence to condemn 
the perhaps innocent prisoner to the loss of a hand for 
theft. 

Any one suspected of a crime is frequently tortured 
to force a confession, and in the towns is imprisoned 
and half-starved by his jailer whom he has to pay for 
his food. Law is as a rule cheap and speedy ; but 
where money is in question, the governor will take his 
share when he has adjudicated. Although in theory all 
have a right of appeal to the Shah, yet few avail them- 
selves of the privilege, knowing that in such a case 
everything would in all probability be swallowed up by 
the royal judge and his courtiers. 

Any small case in the country is settled by the 
kedkhoda, or headman of the village, who is assisted 
by the greybeards of the hamlet. No women are ever 
imprisoned, although if mixed up in a crime they will 
probably be poisoned, but from the retirement in which 
they live such cases are of the rarest. 

This is an attempt to depict the Shah and his 
methods of government as they were until lately ; but 
it is to be hoped that both may undergo modification 
in the near future, and that Persia may have in herself 
the seeds of a new and vigorous life. 



CHAPTER IV 
THE PERSIAN MAN 

FROM the cradle to the grave — nay, even in the 
life beyond the grave — the balance weighs 
heavily in favour of the Persian man as compared 
with the Persian woman. " He that has no son has 
no light in his eyes," runs the saying, and it is looked 
upon as a disgrace if a man has not an heir to carry 
on his name. 

When a baby-boy, born of well-to-do parents, comes 
into the world, he is bedded in a silken cradle and 
arrayed in embroidered garments, and the proud nurse 
who carries him into the presence of his father will 
receive a gift. The position of his mother with her 
husband will be greatly improved by his arrival, and 
a big feast will be given in his honour, at which friends, 
priests, and beggars will be fed, and musicians and 
dancers will entertain the guests. 

The baby will be hung with amulets to preserve him 
from the influence of the "evil eye," one of these charms 
consisting of a turquoise struck into a sheep's eye 
brought from Mecca, at the time of the annual sacri- 
fice. When his nurse takes him for an airing, the 
clothes in which he is swaddled so tightly that he can 
only move his head and hands, will be of coarse 



64 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

material, this ruse being adopted to prevent passers-by 
from commenting on his beauty. Were their eyes 
drawn towards him, attracted by fine garments, they 
might utter some expression of admiration, which, if 
they forgot to couple it with the saving Mashallah 
(God is great), would almost certainly bring sickness 
upon the luckless infant. If the child happen to have 
convulsions during teething, an infallible remedy is to 
hang from its neck a strip of calico the exact length of 
the little patient and inscribed by a mulla with texts 
from the Koran ; but as this costs a sovereign it is never 
used for girls. 

At about eight years old, the boy is more or less 
separated from his mother and sisters, and put 
in charge of men-servants, a priest undertaking his 
education, which consists for the most part in learn- 
ing to read and write and to recite the Koran. 
The sacred book of Islam is written in Arabic, and as 
no attempt is made to explain to the boy the meaning 
of what he is reading, this method of instruction cannot 
do much to develop the mind. Xenophon wrote that 
the youths of Persia were taught justice in their schools 
together with the arts of hurling the dart and shooting 
with the bow, and this, coupled with Herodotus' saying 
that all Persians were trained to ride, to shoot, and to 
speak the truth, seems a much better type of education 
than that which is in vogue at the present day. 

It is curious to see a group of scholars sitting on 
their heels round their master, swaying their bodies to 
fro, and all reciting in a sing-song and at the pitch of 
their voices what perhaps the teacher himself is unable 
to translate. Or they are being instructed in the rudi- 
ments of writing, resting their paper on the right knee 



THE PERSIAN MAN 65 

and beginning at the rzgk^-hand side with their reed 
pens, there being no slates in Persia. 

Caiigraphy may be classed as one of the fine arts, so 
greatly is it esteemed, even though at the present day 
it has been more or less superseded by printing. It 
resembles drawing rather than writing, and a letter is 
inscribed on a piece of very shiny paper, cut to the 
required size and held in the hand. If the paper prove 
too small, the margin always left on the right will be 
used, and if the writer happen to make a mistake he 
will lick off the Indian ink letters with his tongue. 
He does not write his signature, but rubs some ink 
on to a seal with which he presses the paper. Even 
an educated Persian will take some time to decipher 
a missive, the reason being that the dots and tiny signs 
which differentiate the letters of the alphabet, and are 
always printed, are invariably left out in writing. 

If a boy prove idle or stupid at his tasks, he will be 
forced to " eat sticks," a Persian expression for the 
bastinado, the national punishment to which the highest 
in the land as well as the lowest may be subjected, and 
which is not regarded in any way as a disgrace. In 
his hours of recreation the child of rich parents is put 
in the charge of a lala, or pedagogue, usually an old 
man, who discourages animal spirits of any kind, and 
impresses on his young companion that it is undignified 
to run, or jump or frolic. 

The boy's dress is a man's in miniature — the same 
European trousers, vest of Kerman shawl, frock-coat 
much kilted at the waist (the tightly fitting short coat 
of an Englishman being considered indecorous), and 
the astrachan kolah, or hat. And as he is a replica 
of his father as regards his clothes, he endeavours to 



66 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

be the same in his manners, copying the courtly terms 
of speech and compliments of the "grown-ups," and 
learning the right mode of address to royalties, officials, 
dignitaries of the Church, merchants, and so on, together 
with the complicated Persian etiquette. 

Later on he will accompany his parent when visiting, 
speaking of himself as the bandeh, or slave, of any 
superior, and will deal out compliments such as " May 
your nose be fat," " May your shadow never grow 
less," in proportion to the rank of the recipient, soon 
grasping that a man looks upon it as a sarcasm if he 
receives more than his due. He must also know the 
proper position to take when asked by his host to seat 
himself upon the carpet ; for there are no chairs in 
common use, and all kneel and sit back on their 
heels, to the great detriment of the fit of their 
trousers. 

The youth, moreover, must note the ceremonial con- 
nected with the going-round of the kalimt, or water- 
pipe, observing how each guest takes it in order of 
rank, but makes a gesture of passing it to his neigh- 
bour, and waits for the latter's refusal before putting the 
tube to his own lips. When he takes his leave he must 
remember to put his right foot first into the slippers 
which he and all those present left at the door on 
entering. 

The Persian youth rides as if he had been born in 
the saddle, but his idea of equitation is to rush madly 
at full speed, spurring his horse with the sharp points 
of his shovel-stirrups, yelling to it, and then pulling 
it back suddenly on to its haunches with the severe 
Persian bit. His spurts of fiery energy will probably 
be succeeded by days of idleness, in which he will 



THE PERSIAN MAN 67 

spend many hours in visiting his friends, sipping in- 
numerable cups of tea — the national drink — and smoking 
kalians. It will indeed be well if he obeys the pre- 
cept of the Prophet and refrains from wine and games 
of chance, and merely smokes Shirazi tobacco instead 
of the opium and hashish, now sadly common among 
\}s\Q.jeunesse ddree of Persia. 

The idea of having a career is not one that finds 
favour with young men in a land where to do nothing 
gracefully is a fine art. Certainly there is not much 
open to a youth save minor positions at the Court of 
the Shah or acting as a hanger-on to some governor 
of a province or high official, such sinecures being 
spoken of as "doing service." 

If of the merchant class or the son of a priest, a 
craftsman, or a peasant, a man will in all probability 
succeed his father in his occupation. But a nation 
which counts time as of no value, and whose favourite 
expressions are Furda inshallah (To-morrow, please 
God !) and Aib ne dared (It doesn't matter), would 
look upon the " strenuous life " as a kind of lunacy. 

And here a few words must be said about the Persian 
servant to whom his master confides his sons at an 
early age. Domestics are fed and clothed by their 
employers, dressing so much like them that foreigners 
new to the country might find it difficult to distinguish 
a master from his dependents were it not for the humble 
air of the latter and their habit of hiding their hands 
in their sleeves. They are supposed to receive wages 
in cash, but as that commodity is scarce in Persia they 
often have to depend on the commission of 10 per cent, 
which they take on everything that they purchase for 
the household. Besides this, if a master sends a present, 



68 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

the servant selected to carry it receives the value of the 
article in money from the recipient. This is a custom 
which Europeans often find inconvenient, as they are 
apt, on their arrival in Persia, to be overwhelmed with 
gifts for which they will, nolens volens, have to pay far 
more than they are worth. 

Juvenile Persians play with the children of the ser- 
vants, one of whom may be educated by the mulla 
with the sons of the family, partaking in the amuse- 
ments of the latter and following his young masters 
on horseback after gazelle and partridge. A gentle- 
man visiting a house will always speak to the head- 
servant of his host, and it is a particular mark of 
friendship to the latter to send his retainer on some 
trifling errand, this being looked upon as a great com- 
pliment from a superior when visiting an inferior. The 
servants break into the conversation at intervals, the 
guests often refer to them, and they are expected to 
bring home all the gossip of the bazaars with which 
to regale their employers. In fact they are part and 
parcel of the family, look upon their master as a kind 
of father, care for his interests, are called by him 
batchaha (children), and hold perhaps a better posi- 
tion than that of the poor relatives and hangers-on to 
be found in so many households. Talking of servants 
leads on to slaves, and, strange though it may seem, 
Persia is the Paradise of that unhappy class. Though 
their owners have power of life and death over them, 
Persians say that as slaves are costly to buy they must 
be well treated and given no hard work to do ; more- 
over, as they have no home of their own all their 
interest is sure to be centred in that of their adoption, 
therefore they can be trusted far more than any servant. 



THE PERSIAN MAN 69 

Owing to the vigorous way in which Great Britain has 
put down the slave trade in the Persian Gulf, negroes 
and negresses are expensive, though many are still 
introduced by the pilgrims from Mecca. As a rule 
they become much attached to their owners, who 
leave everything in their care without hesitation, and 
slaves often get considerable wealth if in the household 
of a man of position, but hardly ever wish to purchase 
their freedom. If a negress has a child by her master 
she becomes free, and her boy or girl will be brought 
up with the other children of the family and probably 
will marry a Persian, an admixture of black blood 
being looked upon as no degradation. 

The day of a well-to-do Persian is somewhat as 
follows. He will be roused before sunrise by the call 
of the muezzin, his servant not daring to wake him, 
as it is a sin to disturb the slumbers of the Faithful. 
The clear voice rings from the minar of the mosque 
above the slumbering town or village, summoning all 
men to prayer in the following words : — 

"God is great ! There is no God but God ! Mohammed is 
the Prophet of God ! Come to prayers ! Come to salvation ! 
Come to good works ! There is no other God but God ! 
Prayers are better than sleep ! " 

These last words are only recited at dawn, and our 
Persian, flinging off his padded quilts, makes a speedy 
toilet by donning his coat and trousers, his under- 
garments being only renewed at the weekly bath. 
He exchanges his felt skull-cap for the orthodox 
tall, black lambs'-wool hat, as he is never seen with 
uncovered head, even in the intimacy of the family 
circle. 



70 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Water is then poured from a ewer over his hands, and 
he washes his face, his arms to the elbows, and his feet 
and ankles, before prostrating himself in devotion on his 
prayer-carpet, his face turned in the direction of the 
Kaaba at Mecca, and his forehead resting on a fragment 
of earth from the Holy City. Among other prayers he 
will recite the Fatiha, held in as great reverence by 
Moslems as is the Lord's Prayer by Christians, and 
used almost as often. It is the opening chapter of 
the Koran, and runs thus : — 

" Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds ! 
The Compassionate, the Merciful ! 
King on the Day of Judgment ! 

Thee do we worship and to Thee do we cry for help ! 
Guide Thou us on the right path ! 
The path of those to whom Thou art gracious ! 
Not of those with whom Thou art angered, 
Nor of those who go astray ! " ' 

His prayers and genuflexions (which are repeated 
again noon and at sunset) being accomplished, he 
drinks a glass of much-sweetened tea without milk. 
This he stirs with a silver spoon that is worked in 
filigree in order to take away the temptation of 
sipping from it, and thus committing the unlawful 
action of putting this metal into his mouth ; and 
when he has eaten a flabby cake of bread with some 
sweetmeats, and has smoked a water-pipe, he will 
be ready for the work of the day. The next meal is an 
ample repast served at noon, a leather cloth being laid 
on the ground, thin flaps of bread serving as plates 
and napkins, and pilaus, chilaus, kabobs, and sherbets 
making their appearance with plenty of fruit during 
^ Rodwell's translation of the Koran. 



THE PERSIAN MAN 



71 



summer. The pilau, the national dish of Persia, 
is a mound of beautifully cooked rice mixed with 
clarified butter, bits of meat and different vegetables, 
and if served with a sauce of pomegranate juice and 
chopped almonds it is called a fisenjan. The chilau 
kabob, or chef d'ceuvre of Persian cookery, is made 
from the thick part of a saddle of lamb, the 
tiny pieces of meat being steeped beforehand in 
vinegar and herbs and disposed on a mound of 
rice, raw eggs and butter being its accompani- 
ments. Kabobs consist of pieces of lamb, fat, liver, 
and onion stuck alternately on skewers which are 
turned over a charcoal fire and then handed to the 
guests, all of whom eat far more rice and bread than 
meat. The sherbets are merely fruit syrups, those made 
of lime or pomegranate juice being most refreshing 
drinks in hot weather, and they are served in large 
bowls, in each of which is a big ladle, often exquisitely 
carved from pear-wood by the villagers of Abadeh. 
Every one drinks from the same spoon, but it is against 
etiquette to touch it with the lips. As there are no 
knives and forks, each man feeds him.self with his 
fingers, moulding the rice with his right hand into a kind 
of sausage and manipulating it so cleverly that not a 
grain is dropped. After the meal, which is eaten in 
silence, is over, the servants pour rose-water over the 
greasy right hands of the party (it would be a gross 
breach of decorum to use both hands in feeding), 
and all then compose themselves for a siesta — a 
habit indulged in by the lowest as well as the 
highest, and which it is almost a crime to dis- 
turb. Tea, fruit, and sweetmeats appear to be taken 
at any time during the day, and the evening 



72 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

meal after sunset is sometimes not served till nine 
o'clock. 

If guests are invited to this they drink wine before 
dinner in defiance of the Prophet's prohibition, and 
apparently callous to his threat that his followers will be 
forced to expiate each draught by swallowing a pecu- 
liarly nauseous water in the next world. They nibble 
salted pistachio nuts, nachod (a kind of pea), and melon 
seeds, indulging in lively conversation until the meats 
arrive, and before partaking of these they must rinse their 
mouths and wash their hands clean of the forbidden wine. 

As no Persian eats beef or pork, and there is no 
fish in the interior, the menu is practically mutton and 
fowls with sometimes game. The dishes already given 
repeat themselves year in, year out, with hardly any 
variation, though there is a profusion of fruit and vege- 
tables to compensate for this monotony. 

The moment dinner is over the guests depart, and 
those of the household prepare for bed, taking off their 
outer garments, throwing themselves on divans, and 
pulling resais, or padded cotton quilts, over them, head 
and all. 

The public bath is used by a Persian as a club where 
he meets his friends and exchanges the gossip of the 
town, and he will be attended by his servant carrying 
towels, a change of linen, and jugs of cold water to pour 
over his master, when the latter has emerged from the 
hot tank. As water is a valuable commodity in Persia, 
the contents of the large tanks are not changed 
frequently, and a bather runs great risk of contracting 
infectious diseases in a low-class hanimam. After the 
bath the hair is dyed a glossy blue-black with indigo 



THE PERSIAN MAN 73 

and henna, and the nails and finger-tips of the middle 
classes are tinted with the juice of the latter plant. The 
orthodox shave the top of the head, letting the back hair 
grow long, the idea being to leave two locks by which the 
angels who come to question a newly buried man, may 
carry him up to the realms of the Blessed if he is able 
to affirm that he is a good Mohammedan, Persians say 
that this custom of shaving the head is out of compli- 
ment to Ali, who was bald and who dyed his long beard. 
All men cultivate a moustache, a hairless upper lip being 
looked upon as effeminate, and at about thirty a short 
clipped beard is grown, which after the age of forty is 
never cut. 

Friday is the Mohammedan equivalent to our 
Sunday, business being suspended in the bazaars, and 
after the bath orthodox Persians repair to the mosque 
for noonday prayer. Here there is no distinction made 
between rich and poor, a prince prostrating himself 
next the dirtiest beggar, and all looking toward the 
meh'rab, a recess which points in the direction of the 
sacred black stone built into the Kaaba at Mecca. 
This relic is supposed to have been brought by 
Abraham, and was held in such profound reverence in 
Mohammed's day, that the Reformer himself did 
homage to it, although he strictly prohibited the 
worship of idols of any kind. 

The service and the portions of the Koran selected 
are all recited in Arabic, the pishnainaz or leader of 
the prayers in a mosque, taking the congregation 
through some thirteen invocations to God, each said 
with the body in a different attitude of devotion. Then 
the preacher mounts the step of his low pulpit and 
delivers the khutbah, or Friday oration — a kind 



74 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

of sermon, which includes prayers for Mohammed, the 
"Companions," and the Shah, and which is delivered 
in Arabic. 

When he arrives at a suitable age, the parents of a 
Persian youth busy themselves in arranging a marriage 
for him. Bachelors are looked down upon in Iran — in 
fact it is a disgrace for a man to die unwedded, and in 
such a case his funeral is spoken of in mockery as his 
marriage. 

As a Persian has never seen the face of any lady save 
his relatives, he has no opportunity of choosing his wife 
and must leave the selection entirely to his mother. 
Unless he marries a cousin, recourse will probably be 
had to certain old women who act as go-betweens, 
telling the mothers of eligible sons about the dowry 
and charms of eligible daughters. Suppose a suitable 
girl be found, the would-be mother-in-law goes to 
inspect her, and if the young lady is adverse to the 
match, for she may have seen the youth on her rare 
outings, she will offer refreshments so rudely that the 
negotiations will be broken off in a hurry. This, 
however, seldom occurs, as a Persian girl is usually 
anxious to be married, and if all has gone smoothly she 
and her mother will drink tea at the house of the 
would-be fiance who, hidden away, may perhaps get 
a glimpse of his future bride. 

After this comes the public betrothal by the priest, 
at which the man is supposed to see the face of his 
bride for the first time, and has his one chance of 
drawing back at the price of paying to the girl's parents 
half the dowry that they would have given him with 
their daughter ; but a man doing this is socially disgraced. 



THE PERSIAN MAN 



75 



The betrothal and marriage take place in the house 
and not in the mosque. The hospitable Persians often 
saddle themselves with a heavy load of debt on these 
occasions, as the wedding festivities may last a whole 
week, during which there is much eating and drinking, 
musicians, dancers, and wrestlers being hired to 
entertain the numerous guests. 

Four wives are allowed to each man by Mohammedan 
law, but owing partly to the poverty of the country and 
perhaps because of the worry of rival wives, polygamy is 
becoming rare in Iran, Persians even speaking of the 
custom as " unfashionable." " Two tigresses in a house 
are better than two mistresses," is a significant proverb ; 
and indeed the jealousy that ensues in such a case may 
easily be imagined, and has been known to end in the 
death by poison of one of the wives or perhaps of the 
husband himself. 

Owing to the seclusion of women, it is hardly possible 
for a wife to be a real companion to her husband. She 
may never be seen with him in public, she cannot 
discuss with him anything that is going on in the 
outside world, as her horizon is practically bounded by 
the walls of her own home, and she knows none of his 
friends nor he any of hers. Indeed, so strict is Persian 
etiquette that a man may only inquire about the 
health of his friend's family by the discreet term of 
khana, or the " house." The husband really manages 
the establishment, pays the servants, and checks the 
accounts of his steward and head groom, the wife being 
by no means a " helpmate " in the English sense of the 
word. The love of a Persian is bestowed on his 
children and on his parents, a man once telling the 
writer that it would be against nature for any one 



76 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

to care for a wife as much as for a father or a 
mother. 

The priest who educates a Persian advises him, as 
one of the cardinal rules of life, to do the exact contrary 
of what a woman counsels ; therefore it can easily be 
understood that a man's opinion of women is by no 
means an exalted one, and the fact that a husband may 
introduce temporary wives to any extent into his house- 
hold, lowers it still further. Polygamy frequently 
breeds hate between fathers and sons, and no real 
home-life is possible if a wife feels that she may be 
divorced at any moment. 

When a Persian comes to the hour of death he 
is never left to die " in peace," according to the 
English idea, the room in which he lies being crowded 
with relatives and friends, all talking loudly, smoking 
kalians, and sipping tea at intervals. 

As soon as he has breathed his last, with his face 
turned towards Mecca, his corpse is prepared for burial 
with camphor and spices, the interment taking place 
within twenty-four hours. 

It is a time of hurry and confusion. All the water in 
the house is thrown away at once, in the belief that any 
one drinking it would be afflicted with colic ; mullas 
recite portions of the Koran ; and the hired mourners 
wail and beat their breasts, their aid being invoked 
because the Prophet forbade weeping on the part of 
relatives, as their dear ones were in a state of happiness. 
When the coffin arrives, friends crowd in to help to bear 
it to the cemetery. Many take turns in carrying the 
bier, this being a meritorious act, and the corpse is 
borne at a great pace to the graveyard, Mohammed 



THE PERSIAN MAN 



11 



telling his followers to hasten their steps in order to 
give the righteous man happiness as soon as possible, 
or, in the case of an evil man, to get rid of his weight 
from off their shoulders. The deceased is placed in the 
coffin with his shroud loosened and two sticks under the 
armpits to enable him to raise himself when the two 
black angels, with their blue eyes, come to question him 
as to his orthodoxy. When the earth is shovelled over 
him and the bearers have repeated the Fatiha they de- 
part in the belief that the angels are already settling the 
fate of their friend, and either enlarging his grave to 
the size of a room, or narrowing it so that he yells 
in anguish. 

Even if the deceased is able to satisfy his inquisitors, 
he has still to pass the Bridge of Sirat, " finer than a hair 
and sharper than a sword," before he can reach Paradise. 
This bridge spans the fires of hell, and while the 
righteous pass over easily to the abode of the Blessed, 
the wicked fall headlong into the torments below. 

On the third day after the burial the relatives of a 
dead man visit the grave and employ mullas to recite 
portions of the Koran ; this mourning is kept up for a 
week, much money being expended on the priests and 
on hired mourners. 

If the deceased has been unable to go to Mecca in 
his lifetime his family will often actually pay some one 
to make the pilgrimage for his benefit, the pilgrim 
accruing no advantage to himself. If it be possible the 
dead man will be interred in the precincts of a shrine, 
being practically sure of heaven in such a holy resting- 
place ; and rich men build their tombs beforehand and 
often visit them in the company of admiring friends. 
But they do not have things entirely their own way ; for 



78 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

if a wealthy man who has led an irreligious life be 
buried close to a shrine, an angel will exchange his 
corpse for that of a poor and saintly man lying in some 
neglected grave outside the city walls ! 

Three days are set apart in each year for visiting the 
graves. On these occasions the well-to-do invite their 
friends to sit on carpets laid among the tombs and 
to listen to a mulla reciting the Koran while they 
partake of refreshments, the whole being quite a social 
function. 

If a Persian has not omitted to perform his 
devotions, has fasted during Ramazan, and has given 
alms to the poor, he dies in a happy confidence of 
attaining to a Paradise replete with material enjoyments. 
Rivers of delicious water, of milk, and of honey, flow 
through lovely gardens, where beautiful youths hand 
round goblets of unfermented wine. A marvellous tree, 
laden with every conceivable fruit, thrusts its branches 
through the windows of the mansion apportioned to 
each Believer, offering him his favourite dishes, and 
even providing him at his desire with horses ready 
saddled and bridled. The Faithful, clad in silken 
garments, lie on couches and are tended by houris of 
surpassing beauty, who sing enchantingly and make 
them forget the women they have known on earth, the 
humblest believer being said to have no less than 
seventy-two of these fair ministrants. 

All renew their youth and its desires in Paradise, but 
though faithful women may enter this abode of the 
Blessed, it seems plain that the Prophet did not con- 
template that the marriages made on earth should be 
re-cemented in heaven. Indeed it appears that women 
are relegated to an inferior garden peopled with angelic 



THE PERSIAN MAN 79 

companions of the male sex. Therefore I think it may 
fairly be claimed that the Persian man from his birth, 
during the whole of his lifetime and in the next world, 
has a decided advantage over the Persian woman. 

It is difficult to judge his character fairly, as the 
Oriental standard is not the same as the European ; but 
on the whole the typical upper and middle class Irani 
is a pleasant-mannered man with a flow of conversation, 
and because of his social qualities has been called the 
" Frenchman of the East." 

He is keen, lively, and full of curiosity, vain of his 
looks and figure, and is careful in his dress, though 
forbidden to wear gold or silver, save the setting of his 
ring and the mounting of his sword-hilt. He loves 
visiting his friends, and is most hospitable, to lay food 
before a guest being, according to the proverb, one of 
the three occasions on which it is right to hurry. His 
literary and artistic tastes find an outlet in beautifully 
written copies of the poets, his carpets, the decoration 
of his kalians, and sometimes in the laying-out of his 
garden. A Persian's speech is picturesque and inter- 
larded with apt quotations from Saadi or Hafiz, and he 
is very proud of his native tongue, which Mohammed 
is said to have promised should be the language of 
Paradise. To an Englishman his conversation often 
sounds profane, so frequently is the name of God intro- 
duced. A Persian, for example, if asked to do any- 
thing, consents by the word Inshallah (Please God), 
encourages his horse with plentiful Yallahs (O God), 
offers anything with the remark Bisniillah (In 
the name of God), and intersperses a narrative with 
many Alhamdolillahs (Thanks be to God) and 
Mashallahs (God is great). Besides this he swears 



8o PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

constantly by the Prophet, AH, or Husein. He has a 
passion for discussing all subjects, religion being chief 
among them, but as a rule is profoundly ignorant of 
history and of the course of affairs in other countries. 
Yet he is critical and sceptical, the type of mind that 
has been productive of numberless heresies. The 
foreigner conversing with educated Persians will often 
be told that all religions are practically the same, the 
Bible, the Jewish Torab, and the Koran being in com- 
plete accord with one another. Fault, however, will be 
found with the New Testament, as lacking in hukm, or 
" command," a Mohammedan missing the copious set of 
rules to fit all cases which are to be found in the Koran, 
and which prevent all progress. Such Persians are apt 
to pose as freethinkers, and are fond of saying that they 
only visit the mosque and perform their devotions in 
order to impress their servants. They will have no 
objection to feeding with Europeans, though priests and 
strict Moslems do not care to smoke the water-pipe 
after a Feringhi has touched the mouthpiece with his 
lips ; nor is an unbeliever admitted into the public 
baths, being considered unclean. 

But many of these Persians who boast of having out- 
grown the tenets of Islam use their liberty as a cloak 
for excess, and are not ashamed of giving way to 
drunkenness, all Persians using the forbidden alcohol as 
a means of getting inebriated. 

The women are far stricter than the men, and a 
Persian who had visited England complained that 
his own mother would not feed or drink from any 
article that her son had used, saying that he had 
become a kafir (unbeliever), from his contact with 
Europeans. 



THE PERSIAN MAN 8i 

The mass of the people as a rule dislike the 
kafir, as they call the foreigner behind his back, 
though they dub him a Feringhi (Frank, or French- 
man) to his face ; and should a Christian force his 
way into a mosque or a particularly holy shrine he 
would possibly be torn to pieces by the crowd. 
Indeed, so great is the intolerance that a Moslem who 
changes his religion is by law condemned to death, 
although the Persian is no proselytiser, in the twentieth 
century at all events. In a case that came under the 
writer's notice a Russian had had a dream in St 
Petersburg, in which he saw himself converted to Islam 
at Meshed, to which city he was going on business. 
On his arrival he was admitted by the priesthood into 
the ranks of the Faithful, but as he knew no Persian 
or Arabic his knowledge of his new religion must have 
been cursory in the extreme. The populace wondered 
greatly at his conversion, because he gained no material 
advantage by the step ; yet if at any future time he 
were to revert to Christianity he would immediately be 
liable to the death penalty. 

This fanaticism crops out in many little ways, an 
educated Persian with Western ideas saying that when 
he visited the bazaars he was obliged to change his 
usual European costume, even to his stockings, if he 
did not wish to expose himself to disagreeable remarks. 

Every traveller in Persia bears testimony that its 
inhabitants look upon artistic perversions of the truth 
as a fine art, any shame felt at being convicted of a 
misstatement would be because the speaker was con- 
scious of having played his part badly, and because 
his statements, liberally garnished with oaths, had not 
carried the conviction intended. Yet there is one oath 



82 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

which binds all Persians — that sworn on the Koran 
itself in the presence of a mulla, and deemed so sacred 
that it is only had recourse to on very serious occasions. 
The parties who are bound in this way, tremble with 
awe, and hardly ever perjure themselves ; but the mere 
swearing by the Koran, not in the presence of a priest, 
means nothing at all, and it is significant that no oath 
is taken in a Persian court of law. 

The word of an Englishman is always implicitly 
believed, and the writer was not unnaturally proud of 
the fact until she learnt from Mr. Malcolm's ^ book that 
Persians consider truth and honesty merely a matter of 
climate, and that, owing to the atmosphere of England 
her sons are constitutionally unable to lie ! 

Persians, in common with most Orientals, have not 
a particularly high standard of honesty, and indeed the 
custom of niudakhil, or commission, is not conducive 
to its cultivation. Every servant takes his percentage 
on all he purchases for his master, and all grooms, 
unless watched, will steal part of the barley, keeping 
the horses under their care on half rations : this is so 
customary that the delinquents are deeply injured if 
dismissed without a character. It sounds rather a 
paradox, but with these reservations, Persian servants 
are decidedly honest, and always take an interest in 
the credit of the household they serve, rising splendidly 
to the occasion when there is entertaining on hand. 
But certainly their ideas on this point differ from ours, 
and a Persian who visited England conceived an exalted 
idea of British honesty, based on the fact that in the 
London A.B.C. shops people actually paid their bills 

* " Five Years in a Persian Town." 



THE PERSIAN MAN 83 

at the door instead of making a dash past the desk and 
nto the street ! 

A nice trait in the Persian is his filial affection. A 
son will hardly dare to seat himself in his father's 
presence, and would never allow his parents to come to 
want ; he is also indulgent to his children, but in many 
cases looks upon his wife or wives as mere chattels. 

Quick and clever as the Persian is, he is not fond of 
severe mental labour, and the saying, " Knowledge is a 
wild thing, and must be hunted before it can be tamed," 
is characteristic of the nation, few of whom exert them- 
selves in the pursuit. 

The European is often unpleasantly struck by the 
lack of gratitude among the Persians whom he meets. 
The servants, for example, will rush to him for medicine 
and attendance if ill, imploring help with an impas- 
sioned flow of rhetoric, but hardly deigning to mutter 
a reluctant Iltefdt-i-shumd sidd, the equivalent for 
" Thank you," when they have got what they want. Mr. 
Malcolm,^ however, points out that the Persian con- 
siders that you do him a kindness in order to obtain a 
high position in Heaven for yourself, your savab or 
" work of mercy " being your gift to God to wipe out 
your sins, and, as it were, only one for the man you 
benefit and two for yourself! 

The writer cannot altogether agree with this theory, 
because the Mohammedan Indians with whom she had 
to do were always most grateful for any small kindness 
shown to them ; and she is reluctantly forced to the 
conclusion that ingratitude is an integral part of the 
Persian character. 

The Persian is not cruel as compared with other 
^ " Five Years in a Persian Town." 



84 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Oriental nations, though punishments for crime are 
often very severe, and every governor has his red- 
coated executioners in attendance. The usual punish- 
ment is the bastinado applied to the feet of the highest 
as well as of the lowest. Princes of the blood, viziers, 
and grandees are forced to " eat sticks " if they are un- 
lucky enough to offend the Shah ; irate masters inflict 
the chub on their servants, and it is ready in every 
school for the lazy pupil. 

Cutting the throat is the common penalty for murder, 
and the corpse will be left for several hours exposed in 
the public square where the executions take place, to 
act as a solemn warning to the populace. Such horrible 
fates as being plastered up alive, being crucified, or 
blown from a cannon are practically punishments of the 
past ; but a petty thief is still liable to have his hand 
severed, and thus be relegated to the miserable lot of 
a beggar. 

If the Shah wishes to remove any prince or minister, 
poison will be resorted to, the Persians saying that 
so-and-so was obliged to drink " a cup of Kajar 
coffee." 

A man arrested on suspicion of committing a crime 
will not have an easy lot, as he will often be tortured to 
force him to " confess," and he will probably be immured 
in a dungeon without air or light and swarming with 
vermin. 

With regard to his treatment of animals the Persian 
errs more from laziness and want of thought than from 
actual cruelty. Mules and donkeys with sore backs 
are forced to work ; pack animals usually fall in harness, 
worn out with incessant toil ; and though a Persian is 
proud of his horse, and feeds it well, yet he rides it with 



THE PERSIAN MAN 85 

a cruel bit, goads it with the sharp points of his shovel- 
stirrups and would never dream of dismounting to ease 
it if the going were bad. 

The Prophet said on one occasion that every animal 
would appear at the Resurrection in order to give 
testimony for or against its owner ; but he neutralised 
this salutary warning with the command that no animal 
was to be killed save for food or for sport. This has 
led to conduct revoltingly cruel to English ideas ; for any 
worn-out animal, instead of being put out of its misery, 
is given " the freedom of the desert," which means that 
it. is driven away from its home to die of starvation 
on the utterly barren Persian plains. In one case the 
decrepit pet-dog of a Persian of rank was carried some 
miles out of the town and left to perish, but to the 
astonishment of all the little creature found its way 
back to breathe its last at its callous owner's feet. Any 
traveller is certain to come across camels or mules lying 
beside the track in extremis, and his servants will 
greatly object if he is humane enough to give them 
their release, telling him that such an act will in all 
probability evict a jinn, or a departed spirit, that will 
wreak vengeance on those who have disturbed it. 

It must be confessed that the typical Persian is not a 
patriot, though he has a great fondness for his native 
city, and as a rule much dislikes being exiled from it. 
The proverb " Every man loves his own country, even if 
it be hell," really means his own town ; this trait being 
partly owing to the corrupt form of government, that 
has looked upon Persia merely as a treasure-mine, to be 
exploited by any one in power, and also to the isolation 
of the different cities. All the principal towns are 
several days' journey from one another, long distances 



86 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

apart which have to be traversed by riding. Therefore 
it comes to pass that the difficulty of communication 
cuts off the cities from the national life, and forces them 
to have their own organisation, and be self-centred, 
much as were the towns of Europe during the Middle 
Ages. Moreover, the inhabitants of every city are 
credited v/ith special characteristics, the Isfahani being 
prudent, thrifty, and avaricious, as contrasted with the 
Shirazi, the Neapolitan of Persia, who is generous and 
quick-tempered, a lover of wine, poetry, and gaiety, and 
a passionate horseman. The inhabitants of Meshed 
are said to be boorish, those of Kashan cowardly, and 
so on. 

It seems hard to dub the Kashanis cowards when 
that failing is shared by so many of the Shah's subjects 
— in fact the Persian proper is looked upon as the 
reverse of brave throughout Asia, and is a braggart 
to boot. 

An English officer travelling in Iran once came 
across a great party of pilgrims at the mercy of one 
man, who was forcing his unlucky victims to disgorge 
their money by threatening them with a pistol. The 
Englishman covered the bandit with his revolver and 
made him drop his ill-gotten gains and his weapon, 
which latter was discovered to be not only unloaded 
but so out of repair that it could not have been fired 
off on any pretext ! The pilgrims were anxious to 
wreak vengeance on their assailant as soon as he was 
defenceless ; but this the officer did not permit, and 
allowed him to retreat to the hills, after which the 
caravan proceeded joyfully on its way, carrying the 
broken pistol as a safeguard ! 

Yet the descendants of the men who hurled back the 



THE PERSIAN MAN 87 

armies of Rome again and again in the time of the 
Parthian and Sasanian kings still exist, the Bakhtiari 
and other nomad tribes, being splendid fighters, and 
supplying the best troops in the Persian army. The 
country has not lost her fighting material, but she 
appears to have lost her leaders, the officers the writer 
had the privilege of meeting being singularly deficient 
in pluck and grit, and not at all ashamed of pro- 
claiming the fact, 

Morier's immortal " Haji Baba " depicts the Irani to 
the life — so much so that a Persian gentleman to whom 
the book was lent complained that it did not interest 
him, because it was just what he and his acquaintances 
did and said every day ! 

The Persian has his failings, certainly, but he is 
intensely human, and therefore very likeable, and there 
are few travellers who do not wish him and his country 
well in the crisis that both are undergoing. A nation 
that had a civilisation before those of Greece and 
Rome, and is still keenly intellectual, will, it is to be 
hoped, rise again, unless it is too heavily handicapped 
by a bad government, lack of communications, and the 
dead weight of Islam. 



CHAPTER V 
A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 

EVERY Persian city has some special feature that 
distinguishes it from other towns. There are, 
for example, the great square and mosque of Isfahan, 
the ark, or citadel, of Tabriz, the leaning minar of 
Kashan and the gold-domed shrine of Kum ; but all 
these cities are more or less alike in their labyrinths 
of narrow alleys enclosed with high mud walls, opening 
out here and there into squares, and the bazaars are 
all built on a fairly uniform pattern. 

As Meshed, capital of the province of Khorasan, and 
famous for its shrine, which is a centre of pilgrimage, is 
a typical Persian city, some account of it and its sur- 
roundings will give the reader a better idea of town 
life than pages of general description. 

There are two ways of reaching the Holy City from 
England. One is to go by the Mediterranean and 
Black Seas to Batoum, thence by the Transcaucasian 
railway to Baku on the Caspian, crossing the inland 
sea to Krasnovodsk, where the railway is again taken 
to Askhabad, the Russian capital of Transcaspia. 

The line passes by Geok Tepe, the scene of the great 
massacre of the Turkomans by Skobeleff, and across a 



A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 89 

barren steppe, intolerably hot in summer, to the gar- 
rison town of Askhabad. Here the traveller starts off 
on his hundred and sixty mile drive to Meshed, along 
a road cleverly engineered by the Russians across the 
mountain ranges, which separate Transcaspia from the 
Plateau of Persia. 

This is not a metalled highway, and even in fine 
weather a four or five days' drive along it is not a 
particularly agreeable experience, as the rock, cropping 
out in places, and the boulders embedded at frequent 
intervals, cause the strongly built victorias to jolt 
horribly. A nervous traveller, moreover, will not 
appreciate the speed at which the drivers take 
their teams of four horses abreast round the sharp 
zigzags. 

The Persians have laid the last part of the road from 
Kuchan, and in fine weather it is a rough and very 
dusty track across the vast plain that begins as soon as 
the Elburz mountains are crossed, and extends beyond 
Meshed. A government concessionaire is supposed to 
keep up the whole route from the Russian frontier, but 
little or nothing is spent on repairs. Streams have 
often to be crossed in order to avoid broken bridges, 
and here and there long detours must be made, the 
road proper being too dangerously broken up to use. 
It can be understood that such a route is almost 
impassable in a spell of rain or snow, and many are 
the disasters that overtake the heavy fourgeons and 
their willing horses during bad weather. 

Another and quicker way of reaching Meshed is the 
overland route by Vienna, Cracow, and Rostov to 
Baku, where the Caspian is crossed to Krasnovodsk. 
Here the Transcaspian railway can take the traveller 



90 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

to Kakha, beyond Askhabad, from which station he 
can ride a hundred miles by rough bridle-paths, across 
the mountains, reaching Meshed from London in about 
thirteen days. The high passes are, however, blocked 
by snow during the winter, only being open at the end 
of April ; and as there are no rest-houses and hardly 
any villages on the route, mules are necessary to carry 
the tents, baggage, and provisions. 

Coming from Europe it is usual to approach the 
Holy City by the Askhabad road, along which pass 
the little victorias, the diligences and fourgeons of 
the West, jostling the East in the form of strings of 
solemn camels, jingling caravans of mules, donkeys 
laden with firewood or manure, and wild men on wiry, 
tireless horses, both riders and steeds looking as if they 
had come from the Middle Ages. The gleam of the 
golden-domed Shrine of Imam Reza can be seen far 
across the plain, but is lost sight of as the traveller 
drives through a suburb consisting of squalid mud-built 
hovels. Then comes a long stretch of the castellated 
mud wall of the city, which has towers at intervals, is 
surrounded by an empty moat, and is pierced by some- 
what dilapidated gateways, their pinnacles adorned 
with glazed bricks. Here shabby-looking soldiers 
armed with obsolete muskets will be on guard, their 
dirty garments having hardly the semblance of uni- 
forms, and their flat kolahs decorated with the badge 
of the " Lion and the Sun." 

Originally Meshed was entered by six gateways, all 
of which are closed at sunset ; but not long ago a 
seventh, a grandiose affair, was erected by the Russians, 
to give their bank outside the city walls direct com- 
munication with the town, and this step caused much 



A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 91 

searching of heart among the Faithful, who looked 
upon it almost as a sacrilege. 

In what may be called the " West End " of Meshed 
stands the ark citadel, where the Governor and his 
troops live, its gateway opening on to the meidan, 
where some obsolete cannon are ranged, and on one 
side of which stand the Customs buildings, officered 
by Belgians. A cobbled road leads past the square to 
the British Consulate, and between the ark and the 
city gate are houses and gardens occupied by the 
small English colony, and by the khans, or gentry 
of Meshed, the Russian Consulate being nearer the 
town. This quarter is well planted with trees, which 
give it a green look in spring and summer, and it may 
be called the material force of the Holy City, for here 
are the Governor in his citadel, ill-clad soldiers, and 
some dozen cannon. The magnificent group of build- 
ings constituting the Mosque and the Shrine may be 
looked upon as the spiritual force of Meshed — the very 
heart and soul of the city. 

These holy places, alas, the Unbeliever is only 
allowed to see from a distance, as he rides round the 
city walls, or mounts some roof to get a glimpse of the 
golden dome of the Shrine with its attendant gold- 
topped minars, and the beautiful tilework on the great 
porticoes of the Mosque. 

The sacred buildings are surrounded by a great 
enclosure, within which no unbeliever or animal may 
pass, and this region is called bast, or sanctuary. Evil- 
doers of all kinds used to be perfectly safe when once 
they had reached these precincts, and as most of the 
best shops are in the bast, refugees were wont to live at 
their ease and make good terms for themselves from 



92 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



their retreat. It is, however, annoying to the traveller 
passing along the Khiaban, or principal street, to find 
his way stopped by an archway through which he may 
not venture, and in the bazaars by a great chain under 
which he may not pass. 

But each day as he rides outside the city he will see 
the Mosque and the Shrine from some new aspect, yet 
nearly always backed by ranges of hills often purple 
and rose-tinted. At early dawn in the winter, the many- 
coloured tiles will faintly gleam through the semi-dark- 
ness, and a few hours later the golden dome will be 
shining with an almost unbelievable splendour under 
the rays of the Persian sun at noon, the metal with 
which it is covered never tarnishing in the dry climate. 
If the storm-clouds are gathering over the mountains, 
and the sky is black with threats of rain, the appearance 
of the dome will become almost sinister, turning to a 
copper-red against its angry background, and seeming 
to be all that is left of a city wreathed in mist and 
gloom. 

Again, in the " after-glow " of sunset, which throws a 
glamour as of magic over the mud walls and squalid 
hovels of the city, the Shrine built in honour of the 
Imam Reza, and the Mosque, the work of a dead 
queen, stand up, airy and unsubstantial, throbbing with 
a soft rose-light like some wonderful vision revealed to 
the elect for a space, and then reft away for ever. But 
enough has been said to make the reader understand 
that this splendid mass of buildings is the great feature 
that dominates the landscape. It is impossible to be 
indifferent to them, and after awhile the eye turns to the 
majesty of their construction, to the fine blues and 
yellows of their tilework with a sense that they and 



A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 93 

they alone are Meshed, and that all else is maya, or 
illusion. 

In front of the Mosque is a piece of ground railed 
round with a stone balustrade, and the Persians tell how 
when Gohar Shad began to build her fine monument, a 
poor widow refused to sell this little Naboth's vineyard. 
The queen, in great contrast to the usual Oriental 
potentate, declined to press the matter, and to this day 
the small enclosure in the sacred precincts goes by the 
name of "The mosque of the poor woman." 

Professor Vambery ^ who, disguised as a dervish, 
visited the holy places, speaks of the Shrine as inlaid 
with gold, its walls hung with jewellery, weapons of 
great value, and carpets with precious stones woven into 
their texture, the tomb of Imam Reza being enclosed 
in a silver trellis-work which the hundreds of pilgrims 
kissed with fervour as they passed round it muttering 
prayers. Gorgeous as is the Shrine both inside and out, 
Vambery infinitely preferred the Mosque from the 
standpoint of architectural beauty, and its magnificent 
tilework is hardly surpassed in Asia. 

Fraser,2 on his visit to Meshed some forty years 
earlier than Vambery, was taken into the Shrine dis- 
guised as a Persian, but would have met a violent 
death had he been found out. As he was most anxious 
to make a sketch of the Sahn (the magnificent court- 
yard), and the adjoining Mosque, he actually pretended, 
later on, to be a convert to Islam, repeating the 
kalma, or confession of faith, before a body of 
witnesses, in order to gain his point. However, the 
fanaticism of the populace prevented him from enjoying 
the privileges purchased at such a price. 

^ " Early Adventures." ^ " Journey into Khorasan." 



94 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Eastwick,! who in the 'sixties had a glimpse of the 
Imam Reza from an upper alcove of the great quad- 
rangle of the Shrine, might have lost his life, as he 
relates that the whole of Meshed was in an uproar the 
next day, saying that the sacred body of the Imam 
had been defiled by the by no means near presence of 
the Englishman. 

Not long ago a French lady-traveller, staying for a 
short time in the Holy City, purchased a Persian 
woman's dress, and the idea spread through the town 
that she intended to penetrate into the Shrine in this 
apparently secure disguise. A Persian gentleman told 
the writer that such an attempt meant almost certain 
death, for the visitor would be met by a group of seyids 
as she entered the sacred building, and one would con- 
stitute himself her guide, reciting to her the customary 
prayers in Arabic that she would be obliged to repeat 
after him, and telling her where to prostrate herself. 
As the Feringhi had no knowledge either of Persian 
or Arabic, nor of Oriental customs or genuflexions, she 
would have speedily betrayed herself to her conductor, 
and the crowd, rendered savage by fanaticism, would 
have torn her to pieces. 

The pilgrims who visit the saint's last resting-place 
in thousands, obtain the title of Meshedi for their 
devotion, and the poorest will often spend the earnings 
of a lifetime in such an undertaking. Sunnis from 
Turkey, Afghanistan, Bokhara, and Samarkand wor- 
ship here with the Persian Shiahs, but must walk 
humbly in the stronghold of what they consider to be 
the unorthodox faith. 

This great influx of pilgrims leads to a considerable 
' " Three Years' Residence in Persia." 



A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 95 

trade in Meshed to supply their wants, and the tra- 
vellers, following a Persian custom, are in the habit 
of taking to themselves sigehs, or temporary wives, 
during their stay. This custom, sanctioned by the 
Church, for a inulla is called in to marry the 
couple for as many days, weeks, or months as may be 
desired, is common throughout the country, and is a 
potent factor in the degradation of the womanhood of 
Persia. 

The city of Meshed (Place of Martyrdom) owes its 
very existence to the Imam Reza, in whose honour the 
Shrine was erected. According to Persian tradition 
this descendant of Ali who lived at Tus was taken into 
high favour by the Khalif Mamun, son of the illustrious 
Harun-al-Rashid, was given the Khalif's daughter in 
marriage, and was designated as his successor to the 
Khalifate. As happens so often in the East, an intrigue 
was started against the Imam, and Mamun's jealousy 
being aroused, he resolved on the death of his innocent 
son-in-law, and it is said offered poisoned grapes to him 
with his own hand. After the victim had partaken of 
the deadly fruit, feeling that he was doomed, he rose to 
leave, and on the Khalif inquiring where he was going, he 
answered, looking at him with reproach, " I am going to 
the place where you have sent me." At the present 
day pilgrims are shown, embedded in the wall of the 
Shrine, the plate on which is supposed to have lain the 
poisoned grapes ; and as the devotees pass round 
the tomb of the saint, kissing the lock of the grating 
that encloses it, they call down fervent curses upon both 
Mamun and his father Harun, the latter being buried 
close to the Imam Reza. 

Whether this legend be true or not, it is known 



96 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

that the Eighth Imam died in the ninth century at 
Tus, the old capital of Khorasan, and was buried in 
the garden of Sanabad where the Khalif Harun was 
already interred. His tomb became a place of pil- 
grimage at once, and after the sack of Tus by Mongol 
hordes in the thirteenth century, those of the inhabi- 
tants who had escaped massacre betook themselves 
to the garden-shrine round which the present city of 
Meshed has grown up. 

Early in the fifteenth century Shah Rukh gave 
rich gifts to the sanctuary, and completed the fine 
mosque that his queen had begun to build. But the 
Uzsbegs from the north looted the city again and again, 
despoiling the Shrine of its treasures, and it was not 
till 1598 that Shah Abbas, whose rule in Persia is 
looked upon as a Golden Age, recaptured the city 
from these raiders. He then repaired the sanctuary, 
covered its dome with plates of copper overlaid with 
gold, and adorned its fine fagade with splendid tile- 
work, in order to encourage his subjects to expend 
their enthusiasm and their money in Persia rather than 
in Arabia. Henceforth it became the Mecca of the Shiah 
world, and though of course the tomb of Ali at Nejef, 
ai^d Husein's shrine at Kerbela had prior claims to 
sanctity, yet patriotic and pious Persians contented 
themselves with rendering honours to the Imam 
Reza. 

In the troublous times after the extinction of the 
Sefavi dynasty, Meshed changed her rulers often, and 
again and again the Shrine was despoiled of its 
jewellery, china, rare manuscripts, and gold, until, in 
1818, Fath Ali Shah gave the city some years of 
peace, and at last, in 1848, Nasr-ed-Din Shah subdued 



A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 97 

the almost independent province of Khorasan, and 
gave large offerings to the burial-place of the Eighth 
Imam. 

The space round the Shrine is one vast graveyard, 
people paying from ;^io to ;^ioo for the privilege of 
interment within its precincts. And this season of 
rest is not of very long duration ; for as soon as the 
inscription on the flat stone, which forms part of a 
great pavement is defaced by the myriad feet of pil- 
grims, a fresh corpse will be laid in the grave, and 
the stone re-cut for the new-comer. Indeed Meshed 
is almost as much a city of the dead as of the living, 
for every open space seems to be covered with flat 
tombstones. And when there is no more room inside 
the walls, the graves lie in thousands outside, riders 
and pedestrians taking short cuts across them ; and 
these cemeteries are said to be haunted by huge rats 
of such ferocity that the grave-diggers are forced to 
wear long leather boots as a protection against 
them. 

The custom of laying the dead to rest among the 
living, as it were, is in order that the passers-by may 
say, " God grant you peace and a dwelling in Paradise 
with the Prophet." Such crowded burial-grounds and 
the habit of disturbing them, would probably lead to 
epidemics in any other country ; but the pure, dry 
air of Persia apparently acts as an antiseptic, the 
Meshed children looking healthy enough in spite of 
the absence of all hygienic precautions and a water- 
supply by no means above suspicion. Persians affirm 
that nothing can ever be wrong with running water, 
and do not object to the women washing their clothes 
at the spot where the water enters the city ; and 



98 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

they also say that the contents of a receptacxc 
holding more than fifteen gallons of water cannot be 
impure, scoffing at the idea that the tanks used for 
ablutions in front of their shrines may possibly be 
disseminators of disease. 

Next to the Shrine and Mosque, the Khiaban, or 
Avenue, made by Shah Abbas, is a distinctive feature 
of which all the inhabitants of Meshed are proud. 
This is the main street of the town, over a mile and 
a half in length, down the centre of which runs a 
narrow canal, said to contain the water that the poet 
Firdawsi's daughter gave to the city of Tus, and 
which was afterwards carried on to Meshed. Here 
men drink and perform their ablutions, and the 
women wash soiled garments in the stream, which 
is bordered by plane-trees and crossed at intervals 
by rickety-looking bridges. On either side of this 
promenade are booths and many a tea-shop. This 
latter institution answers in a way to the English 
public-house, so much so that in the winter of 1907 
the women of Meshed went in a body to the Governor 
of the city begging him to close the tchai-khanas^ 
on the plea that their husbands spent all their earnings 
there. Tea is the national drink of Persia, owing to 
centuries of intercourse with China, and the tea-shop 
is the club of the middle and lower class Persian, 
where he can talk to his friends or listen to the song 
of a caged bulbuL Here the public story-teller finds 
an audience, and sometimes the lutis will give a 
performance of music and dancing. For the traveller 
there is the interest of watching the passing along of 
many nationalities, the inhabitants of Meshed them- 
selves being rougher in looks and manners than those 



Bii 




A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 99 

of other towns of Persia, and showing the admixture 
of Turanian blood in their broad faces, high cheek- 
bones, and in many cases their red hair and fresh 
colouring. From the Khiaban is an entrance to the 
covered-in alleys of the different bazaars, which are lit 
and ventilated by large holes placed at intervals 
in the brickwork of the vaulting. The pushteen- 
makers are working at the picturesque coats of sheep- 
skin which defy all weathers, the wool being worn 
next the person, and the skin embroidered with 
yellow silk in beautiful designs. Further on men are 
repairing old carpets so wonderfully that the darns 
are only visible when the back is examined, and 
there is a noisy quarter where the brass-wrokers are 
hammering and turning out samovars, graceful ewers 
with long spouts for rose-water and utensils for 
household use. Elsewhere the processes of bread and 
sweetmeat-making are being carried on in full view. 
Amid hideous patterned modern carpets, silk em- 
broidery of the crudest colouring, masses of shoddy 
clothing and third-rate crockery are old bits of 
carved and painted work which could not be produced 
nowadays, or perhaps a scrap of a Turkoman saddle- 
bag looking like velvet from constant use, or an old 
damascened weapon, the gold still gleaming from its 
background of rusty steel. 

The bazaars are a disappointment to the European 
who wants to pick up old carpets and good turquoises; 
and when his road is barred by a heavy chain it is 
annoying to be told that the best shops are all in the 
bast, where no unbeliever may visit them. However 
he cannot fail to be interested in the life surging 
round him. Swarthy, hook-nosed Afghans in white 



loo PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

garments and turbans ; Bokhariotes in striped silk 
coats ; Turkomans and Kurds in huge sheepskin caps ; 
merchants in tightly folded embroidered turbans and 
brown abbas (clokes) ; seyids (descendants of the 
Prophet) with green or blue-black headgear and waist- 
cloths ; all go about their respective business. Perhaps 
a holy mujtehid (high priest), with long beard and 
flowing robes, will pass along, seated on an ass, and 
the crowd will reverently make room for him as he 
goes on his way. The women, closely shrouded in 
their black chadars, look more like spectres than 
human beings, as they glide by, and impart an ele- 
ment of mystery to the haggling, gesticulating 
crowd. 

Amid all the hurly-burly of buying and selling the 
European will be haunted by a familiar aroma of which 
perhaps he was first aware in the bazaars of Smyrna 
or of Constantinople, and which he will meet throughout 
Asia. There is in it a hint of spices, of attar of roses, 
of burning wood, and of fried meat ; in summer the 
fruit-stalls play their part, mixed with an odour of 
humanity and animals, not to speak of open drains. 
But whatever its component parts may be, when the 
traveller who has " heard the East a'calling " sniffs it, he 
knows that he is back once more in the land that has 
captured and held part of his soul, and for which he has 
hungered half-unconsciously amid the settled life and 
comfort of the West. 

Like most Persian towns, Meshed gives an impression 
of being coloured in different shades of khaki, the word 
meaning the colour of earth or dust (Persian khak), 
and has little of the " gorgeous East " about it, apart 
from the Mosque and Shrine. The high walls, broken 



A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY loi 

by wooden doors leading to the jealously hidden 
dwellings, are made from the same mud as the roads, 
and only better-class buildings are plastered. Though 
the townsfolk may be clad in black or blue with black 
lambs'-woolihats, yet the prevailing dust gives them a 
dingy appearance ; and in winter the felt and sacking 
clothing of the peasants is of the same tone as the soil 
on which they work. Grey donkeys stagger along the 
cobbled lanes laden with sun-dried mud-bricks or great 
piles of dun-coloured camel-thorn, and in and out slip 
the dust-coloured, mangy pariah-dogs. These sca- 
vengers of the town make night a pandemonium with 
their barking, and are, with reason, looked upon as 
unclean animals by all good Mohammedans. Here 
and there is a row of stalls with a very meagre stock- 
in-trade of groceries ; or a baker's shop with the 
long, damp, thin, brownish cakes of bread stuck on 
nails ; or a fruit-stall, a mass of colour. Despite the 
narrow alleys (one cannot call them streets except 
by courtesy), sheep will be tethered in front of the 
shops, or rather booths : a fighting ram with great 
black, curled horns is fastened at a corner ; and a 
couple of camels may be seen lying on the ground, 
completely blocking the way, and meditatively chewing 
a meal of chaff laid in front of them. 

The dervishes are usually to be found where the people 
congregate most. They are striking-looking figures in 
white garments of dubious cleanliness, with leopard skins 
flung over their shoulders on which flow their long, 
unkempt locks from under a conical felt cap, often em- 
broidered with texts. Sometimes they carry a begging- 
bowl, beautifully carved, and they go from place to place 
telling fortunes, giving charms and love-potions, and 



102 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

professing to cure sickness with their nuffus, or sacred 
breath. This they accomplish by blowing three times on 
the afflicted part, and reciting the Fatiha. Although 
there are learned dervishes, and poets among their 
ranks, yet many are lazy, impudent beggars addicted 
to opium, who demand alms from all they meet, and 
get free board and lodging and the best seats every- 
where as a right, the pious saying that " God provides 
their kitchen." They are much to the fore during the 
month of Muharram, forming processions in which they 
strike and cut themselves as a sort of advertisement 
of their holiness ; and at the No Ruz, or New Year, 
they pitch tiny tents at the doors of persons of rank, 
and make ridiculous little gardens of pebbles and twigs 
in the dust of the road just as children would do. They 
then keep up an incessant braying with cow-horns, 
yelling at intervals Ya Hak ! Ya Hu ! (" Oh Truth ! 
Oh He ! " — meaning God), this zeal obtaining for them 
a handsome present from the owner of the mansion. 

And roaming about the streets of Meshed may be seen 
an old seyid who constitutes himself censor of public 
morals. If he meets a man with unshaven head and 
shaven beard, he beats him with the small stick that 
he carries. This he will also apply to the back of 
any man whom he sees strolling along munching 
a cake of bread — the reason of this being that no one 
should eat before performing his ablutions, and that 
the food should be laid on a cloth. Moreover, he 
reproves any woman who dares to uncover her face 
in the streets. The inhabitants of Meshed look upon 
this somewhat eccentric character as a saint, and those 
who are ill call him in to pray over them, believing that 
marvellous recoveries have been effected by his prayers. 



A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 103 

In the poorer parts of Meshed the courtyards of the 
houses are all below the level of the street, a custom 
which makes the dwellings very damp if the winter 
be a wet one ; and heavy rain is a real calamity, as 
many of the flat mud roofs are certain to fall in. When 
there is snow every one shovels the mass from his 
roof into the street — a simple method rendering the 
narrow lanes almost impassable until the thaw comes. 
The cobbled streets have no names, and the houses 
no numbers ; but the whole city is divided into wards, 
and every one is supposed to be in his house by ten 
o'clock at latest. 

As there are no workhouses in Persia, the beggars 
have to shift as best they can, and it is a pathetic 
sight to see them huddled up on the wooden counters 
of shops, covered with a piece of sacking during the 
cold of a winter's night when the thermometer may 
register 5° to 11° Fahrenheit. It is not surprising 
that many die from the exposure, in spite of the com- 
forting Persian saying that God gives much cold to 
the well-clad, but little to those who lack clothing. 

The traveller riding round the city walls is struck 
by the very primitive manner in which they are roughly 
patched, the inhabitants having been terrified by a 
recent Turkoman raid into repairing their defences. Just 
outside the gates he will notice great heaps of manure 
that are left for some time in the open before being 
used on the land, Persians sitting among them when 
they "eat the air," and apparently callous to their 
odours. Unsightly brick-kilns, with huge, untidy stacks 
of yellow bricks, are a blot on the landscape ; near 
by are hundreds of broad, earthenware hoops used 
in kana^-making, scores of kuzehs, or pitchers, stand- 



104 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

ing beside the public highway waiting to be baked, 
also piles of stones to be burnt for lime are dumped 
down at haphazard. Here and there flows a small 
stream, and the busy washerwomen spread garments of 
many colours to dry on the kanat mounds ; or the water 
is being used by the dyers, and runs crimson or indigo 
as the case may be. By the public shambles a crowd 
of fierce pariah dogs come bounding out, barking 
savagely, and at this point a flock of sheep is standing, 
and brisk bargaining going on between the shepherds 
and the butchers, or great heaps of wool are being 
examined by would-be purchasers. Not far from here 
long strands of scarlet and blue worsted used in carpet- 
making are being strained against the city wall, and 
further on is the tanners' quarter with hundreds of 
skins hung out to dry. Stately Khorasan camels hold 
their heads high as they stalk solemnly past, laden with 
great bales of cotton and wool, or perhaps with oil and 
hardware from Russian territory. Sometimes the leader 
of a string of these animals may carry a huge plume of 
brown wool which stands erect on the back of the 
pack-saddle, and looks much like the nodding feather 
ornaments of a hearse, giving the caravan a curious 
appearance when seen from a distance. 

Everywhere there is dirt and squalor, and to the 
European eye nearly everything is badly in need 
of repair ; the so-called road is a track broken in 
places ; the so-called bridges over the streams are 
often unsafe for horses to negotiate, and repellent- 
looking beggars seem to appear at every few yards 
The reader may say that the glamour of the East is 
conspicuous by its absence. But if he saw the scene 
under a heaven of deep turquoise blue and lit up by 



A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED THE HOLY 



105 



a sun that gilds and beautifies the meanest details, 
transforming a mud-built village into a picturesque 
fortress ; and if he drank in an air perhaps unsurpassed 
for its purity and invigorating qualities, he would be in 
the mood to look for beauties and not for defects, and 
would fall a victim to the mysterious spell of the " Land 
of the Lion and the Sun." 



CHAPTER VI 
THE ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 

THE Holy City of Meshed lies at the broadest part 
of the valley of the Kashaf Rud, long ranges of 
mountains, peak rising behind peak, bounding the wide 
plain on either side. Tracks, worn by the feet of count- 
less caravans that have passed through the centuries, 
cross and recross what is one of the most fertile districts 
of Persia, and in the spring the wide stretches of land 
under cultivation are green with crops of wheat, barley, 
millet, lucerne, beans, and opium. The greater part of 
the ground is irrigated, and water is carried from the 
hills by means of kanats, the shafts used in the boring 
of these subterranean watercourses being dotted all 
over the plain. In the course of years, the mouths of 
these great circles of earth fall in, and assume alarming 
dimensions, one close to the city being capable of 
engulfing a carriage and pair with ease as it lies beside 
the rough track frequented by all who drive. 

Some five miles to the north of the town the river 
runs, much encumbered with mud shoals, that in some 
places are white with salt-efflorescence and in others are 
hidden by great masses of rushes, the haunt of wild 
duck and teal. It is a sluggish stream of no great width 
as it winds across the plain, its name appropriately 




JAGHERK VALLEY 



ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 107 

signifying a tortoise. In the hills are rushing torrents 
with charming villages on their banks which are a 
beautiful sight in spring-time when the cherry, peach, 
apple, pear, nectarine, and apricot-trees are in full 
bloom. 

The most picturesquely situated of these is Jagherk, 
its name having the ominous meaning of " Place of 
Drowning." It is some twenty miles distant from 
Meshed, and as the stream foams and swirls among the 
boulders, big poplar groves dispute with the fruit- 
trees for every foot of ground on its banks, and lush 
herbage strewn with flowers grows to the very edge 
of the water, reminding one of the Austrian Tyrol, 
and the resemblance is borne out by the frown- 
ing peaks that enclose this Happy Valley. The 
villagers in bright blue cotton coats with white shirts, 
turbans, and cmnmerbands, are a pleasing contrast to 
the dingily attired townsfolk, and sometimes a dandy 
will appear in a costume of royal purple, or another will 
wear a mauve shirt with embroidered collar and indulge 
in a coat of an artistic raw-sienna shade of cloth. Many 
of the children are as rosy as those in England, yet it 
is said that the inhabitants of Jagherk and the other 
villages in the narrow valley suffer much from fever and 
eye-complaints. Indeed, to live where the houses are 
huddled so closely together that it is possible to walk 
over nearly the whole village on the roofs, where the 
few lanes are ankle deep in dirt, and where drainage is 
practically non-existent, cannot be healthy ; but it is 
unfair to malign the beautiful climate when the illnesses 
are owing to man's mismanagement. 

Such of the English as are able spend the hot 
months in this valley, and the children come back to 



io8 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

the town bronzed and vigorous as from a trip to an 
English seaside. 

To return to the immediate environs of Meshed, the 
most striking object about a mile from the city is Kuh- 
i-Sangi, a curious double hill, from the top of which 
can be obtained a fine view of the Mosque and Shrine, 
and under which is a much-frequented tea-house and 
little sanctuary. The track leading to these is the 
promenade of Meshed, and carriages and riders go up 
and down it on Fridays and holidays, the horsemen 
careering madly about and often racing one another. 
Legend says that Ali told the Persians to quarry for 
stone in these twin-hills. His advice, however, has not 
been acted upon, for the quarries proper are in the hills 
behind, and are merely narrow passages in the flanks of 
the mountains, the stone being all cut out by hand, 
without the aid of blasting, and carried into Meshed on 
the backs of the patient donkeys. Stone is therefore 
expensive, and in consequence nearly all the buildings 
are made of sun-dried bricks that crumble away with 
the passing of the years. 

Not far from Kuh-i-Sangi is a stretch of desert used 
by the English for polo and golf, the " greens " of the 
latter game being composed of grey sand slightly 
different in colour to the prevailing dun of the plain. 
Persians do not appreciate the "egg game," as they 
designate it ; but the polo played by the English and 
the escort of Indian sowars is one of the sights of the 
city. 

Major Sykes,! who reintroduced the old national 
game of Persia both at Tehran and Meshed, believes 
that gu-i-chogan, as the Persians call polo, was played 
' " Ten Thousand Miles in Persia." 



ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 109 

in Iran from prehistoric times, probably being in vogue 
before 700 B.C. He points out that although the earliest 
reference to the game is in the Pahlavi history of 
Ardeshir, yet Firdawsi in his " Book of the Kings " 
gives a vivid account of a match in which a legendary 
hero, who lived before the dawn of history, was the chief 
player. 

Under the Sasanian dynasty, so popular was the 
game that, according to the poet Nizami, ladies played 
it. He gives a highly picturesque account of a match 
which Khosru Parvis and his wife, the beautiful Shirin, 
attended, the Shah being so charmed with the exhibi- 
tion that he insisted on joining in and knocking about 
the ball with these " fairy-faced ones." 

In Mohammedan times Sir Anthony Sherley, when 
at the Court of Shah Abbas, early in the seventeenth 
century, and Chardin somewhat later, both witnessed 
and wrote descriptions of the game ; but after the 
Sefavean dynasty, Persia became such a prey to anarchy 
and invasion that polo died out, and unfortunately there 
seems no likelihood that it will ever be revived by the 
Persians themselves. 

Across the plain of Meshed at frequent intervals are 
mud-built towers that were used some forty years ago 
to protect the shepherds from the raids of the Tekke 
Turkomans. These terrible " men-stealers," as they were 
called, were accustomed to ride a hundred miles a day 
on their tireless steeds, their object being to take the 
luckless, and, it must be confessed, cowardly Persians as 
prisoners, and sell them for slaves in the markets of 
Khiva and Bokhara. Vambery ^ gives a vivid account 
of the utter panic into which a large caravan of pilgrims 
' " Life and Adventures." 



no PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

escorted by soldiers armed with rifles, would fall, did 
they see a few horsemen galloping towards them. The 
weapons would be thrown down and every one, soldiers 
included, would tamely submit to be herded into 
captivity without striking a blow to avoid what they 
knew was a miserable fate, their captors treating them 
with a brutality which passes description. On one 
occasion Vambery met a Turkoman who on foot and 
alone had actually made prisoners of three Persian men, 
driving them before him for eight miles into slavery ! 
If kept by these nomads to herd their flocks, the captives 
would be half-clothed and half-starved, and at night 
would be tethered to a stout wooden staple by a chain 
which they were forced to drag about with them all day. 
M. de Blocqueville, a French photographer in the 
employ of Nasr-er-Din Shah, was captured by these 
barbarians, who routed the Imperial troops, and he was 
kept in slavery for a year and a half before the Shah 
paid the exorbitant ransom demanded for him. 

Travellers such as Ferrier, Fraser, and Eastwick 
show how the Turkomans terrorised the whole of 
Khorasan, and Persia owes a debt of gratitude to the 
Russians who, under Skobeleff, rid the northern pro- 
vinces of these raiders ; although the General's whole- 
sale massacre of the tribe when he took their great 
fortress of Geok Tepe sounds like an echo from the 
times of the Mongol invasion rather than modern 
warfare. Even at the present day the Turkoman spirit 
is not entirely quenched, and in the December of 1907 
the Kurdish troops had an encounter with them not far 
from Meshed, the soldiers returning in triumph and 
bearing thirty Turkoman heads on poles which were 
paraded through the city. 



ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED iii 

The British Government has utilised the energies 
of some of these nomads by forming them into 
a postal service to carry the mails between Meshed 
and India, officials of the Amir of Afghanistan 
taking the letters over at Herat and being respon- 
sible for their safe convoy to India, One of these 
sowars, Reza by name, is really a Persian, having 
been stolen in childhood by the Turkomans and 
living with them until he was grown up, when an 
uncle, employed by the British as a muleteer during 
a Boundary Commission, recognised his long-lost 
nephew. Reza then became a postal sowar, and 
usually meets at Askhabad any English travellers to 
Meshed, being able to turn his hand to anything — 
an invaluable quality when " on the road " ; and, 
moreover, is of such a cheerful, garrulous, friendly dis- 
position, that he is a prime favourite, in spite of his 
brigand-like exterior. 

Just outside Meshed there rises in lonely grandeur 
one of the few monuments remaining to testify to the 
munificence of the Sefavean dynasty. This is the 
Musalla, or Place of Prayer — a lofty brick portico once 
faced with beautiful tiles, the pattern of which is 
identical with those on one of the entrances to the 
Mosque. Now, in common with most old Persian 
buildings, it has fallen into a ruinous condition, 
though it is used occasionally as a place of inter- 
cession when storm, famine, pestilence, or war are 
dreaded, the people making a pilgrimage to it at such 
times. 

Here also on the Festival of Gadir a camel is killed, 
a needy Persian prince collecting alms to purchase the 
animal, which is adorned with gay trappings, and its 



112 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

flesh is distributed amongst the populace when the 
sacrifice is consummated. 

The design of the Musalla shows the striking dif- 
ference between Gothic and Oriental architecture. A 
Gothic cathedral is beautiful viewed on all sides; but 
as a rule, a mosque, however fine may be the grouping 
of its dome and minars, must be surveyed from a special 
standpoint. The great portico of the Musalla is im- 
pressive when seen from the front, but is an ugly mass 
of brickwork at the back and sides. The method, more- 
over, of covering large parts of a building with tilework 
is hardly satisfactory, however beautiful it looks when 
perfect, because if the tiles drop out in places an 
immediate effect of neglect and decay is given. 

The only monument near Meshed in fairly good 
repair is the shrine of Kwajah Rabi, some five miles 
to the north of the town and charmingly situated in a 
garden planted with trees. On the gateway is an 
inscription declaring that the sanctuary was erected 
by Shah Abbas in 1621, the sovereign calling himself 
the " King of the Kings of the World," " the Sovereign 
of Mankind," and so on, but with a touch of humility 
adding that he is after all a mere " Dog of the Porch 
of Ali." 

Below all this verbiage is a modern inscription invok- 
ing a curse on the man who does the least injury to 
the shrine or to the trees surrounding it ; but this has 
not been much of a deterrent, for many of the finest 
planes in the avenue leading to the sacred building 
have been felled, and the dome and portico themselves 
have been stripped of their best tiles. Everything is 
allowed to go to ruin ; the brickwork has many a gaping 
crack and the handsome blue, purple, yellow, and 



ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 113 

black glazed bricks which adorn the porticoes, together 
with the tiles, are sadly in need of repair. 

Inside, fortunately, all is much as it was when Shah 
Abbas prayed here. A broad turquoise band of tile- 
work, on which are verses from the Koran in white 
lettering, runs beneath the spring of the stencilled 
dome, and at a height of some four feet from the 
ground, round the entire building, is some of the 
most beautiful tilework in Persia, These kashi are 
grounded alternately in purple and turquoise-blue, 
relieved with white designs, outlined with a brown so 
lustrous that it gives the gleam and impression of 
gold. 

Under the lofty dome, in a large, red, wooden box, 
rest the remains of the saintly Kwajah Rabi, the com- 
panion of AH, son-in-law of the Prophet, and on the 
wall of the sanctuary runs an inscription saying that the 
Imam Reza made the pilgrimage to Meshed, solely 
to pray at this tomb. Little did the Imam then think 
that above his own grave there would rise a shrine the 
most magnificent and renowned of all Persia, and that 
Kwajah Rabi's blue dome would be left to fall into 
decay and be only visited at rare intervals. One reason 
for this is that the Sunnis claim the saint as theirs, and 
send their dead to be buried round his resting-place. 
But as Kwajah Rabi was a personal friend of AH, and 
lived in the days before Shiah and Sunni came into 
being, it seems a little hard that he should owe his 
unpopularity to this cause. 

The environs of Meshed do not offer much to the 

sportsman, but some of the English are in the habit of 

shooting snipe and teal in the marshes, or duck by the 

river during the winter. On such occasions it is 

I 



114 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

necessary to rise in the chilly darkness that precedes 
the dawn, as the best shooting ground lies some twelve 
miles from the town. If snow has fallen recently, the 
cobbled, narrow lanes of Meshed will be scattered with 
hummocks of frozen snow, making it advisable to dis- 
mount and stumble over them on foot, rather than on 
horseback. At this early hour hardly any one is to be 
seen, and the few poor people afoot have muffled up 
their heads in many wraps, though in all probability 
their feet are only protected by cotton shoes ; and the 
Khiaban, the Piccadilly of Meshed, is almost deserted. 
Some twenty minutes' walk, the last part of the way 
being through the squalid dwellings of the poorest 
quarter of the city, brings the party to a gate sadly in 
need of repair, and here every one mounts. Though the 
roads are slippery, and ice-covered pools must be 
carefully avoided, yet the sun is rising higher into the 
heavens every moment, warming the world and melting 
the frozen slush. Once free of the graveyards and the 
broken ground round the city, the horses begin to 
canter along the tracks still covered in places with snow, 
and at last reach a dry watercourse with high cliffs 
rising on either side of what was once the bed of a 
broad stream. (The Persian word for river, rudkhana, 
means the " house " or bed of the stream, from the fact 
that the water itself is so often conspicuous by its 
absence). Crossing this nullah and ascending and 
descending slippery slopes of mud, a long valley or 
rather frozen swamp is reached, intersected by a stream 
from which branches many small rivulets. On either 
side are low, reddish-coloured hills, and it is wet 
walking, for every one now dismounts, the sportsmen 
plunging into the rough reeds and sedges covered with 



ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 115 

thin ice that breaks promptly and lets them into the 
water below. A wisp of snipe (nuk-i-diraz, long beaks, as 
the Persians call them) fly up and are stalked, and some 
duck and teal fall to the guns. One of the grooms, a 
most intelligent and active beater, implores the Sahibs 
to shoot a couple of beautiful green-legged bittern, that 
he says will be excellent eating for himself and the 
escort, and whenever a bird is dropped he rushes 
forward with his knife to cut its throat, muttering the 
formula that makes it halldl, or fit for food. A fox- 
terrier, quite as keen and almost as intelligent as 
Shahbaz, leaps into the water after any lost bird, often 
putting up others as he hunts in and out the reed- 
beds. 

After four or five hours' tramp, during which the 
sun has become quite hot, though the exhilarating air 
wards off any fatigue, the long valley has been beaten 
from end to end, and the party mount and ride a couple 
of miles to the spot where lunch and a change of boots 
and stockings are waiting for them. The food eaten 
in the open tastes excellent, the roads are now almost 
free of frost, and it is possible to canter the whole 
way back to the city to the luxuries of hot baths and 
tea. 

This same valley about the middle of March will 
resound with the songs of birds, flocks of larks will 
soar jubilantly into the sky, and the ground will be 
sprinkled with almost stalkless mauve crocuses while 
the tiny scarlet tulips should be about to burst into 
bloom. Lizards, black spiders, ants of an abnormal 
size will be busy with their several avocations ; 
herds of sheep and goats will crop the herbage 
encrusted with salt in place of ice, and cattle 



ii6 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

will plough the red loam on the crests of the low 
hills. 

Some sixteen miles from Meshed, on the banks 
of the Kashaf Rud lies Tus, the parent city of the 
present capital of Khorasan, and where the Imam 
Reza breathed his last. It is a charming ride on 
a spring day along the well-worn tracks "made by 
Allah," as Persians put it, and across the fertile 
plain, green with springing crops, where the oxen 
engaged in ploughing give a touch of life to the wide 
expanse bounded on all sides by mountain ranges. 
Huge mounds, all that is left of Khaka, the oldest 
city of the valley, are passed; and some four miles 
away stands the ruined shrine of Tus, the fragments 
of its citadel and its broken-down walls being 
distinctly seen in the radiant clearness of the atmo- 
sphere. The mediaeval capital of the province is 
approached by a " camel-backed " bridge, sadly out 
of repair, and the traveller is astonished to find 
that a circumference of little over four miles of 
mud-built wall encloses the ruins of a city once 
famous throughout Asia for its poets, astronomers, and 
philosophers, among whom dwelt Firdawsi, the great 
epic poet of Persia. Chinghiz Khan and his savage 
Mongol hordes sacked the city in the thirteenth century 
and decimated its inhabitants, who gradually took 
refuge in Meshed round the tomb of the Imam Reza. 
There is little enough of Tus to-day to recall its 
departed glories. The shrine, built of fine brickwork 
and adorned with charming stucco, is a picturesque 
ruin, and there is no indication in whose honour 
it was erected, the inscription on its plaster- work, 



ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 117 

"The world lasts but for an hour," being singularly 
appropriate. 

Fraser/ who visited Tus in 1821, speaks of the 
interior of this shrine as being perfect. However, at the 
time of the writer's visit in 1908 its walls were partly 
broken through, though it still made a fine concert-hall 
for a young Persian with a high falsetto voice. He was 
singing beautifully in the Oriental mode with many a 
shake and trill which echoed and re-echoed through the 
ruin. Listening to him stood a group of handsome 
youths in turbans and flowing cloaks, holding the 
bridles of their spirited horses, adorned with the 
gayest of trappings ; and behind them, through a 
ruined arch, could be seen snow-capped peaks standing 
up against a turquoise heaven, the whole forming a 
picture that would have delighted an artist. 

The remains of the minar, fifteen or twenty feet of 
which was standing in Eraser's day, have now totally 
disappeared, the fine brickwork having probably been 
taken for building purposes ; the ruins of the old 
citadel built on an artificial mound, and consisting 
of an inner and outer stronghold, both surrounded by 
moats, have shared the same fate, the peasantry 
carrying off the crumbling sun-dried bricks to be used 
as manure for the crops. 

Fraser speaks of a dome ornamented with tilework 
and standing near the gateway, having been pointed 
out to him as the tomb of Firdawsi. This building, 
however, is not to be seen at the present day; but 
close to the little village that nestles in a corner of 
the old city wall, is a mound of debris littered with 
scraps of tile that the peasants say is the grave of the 
^ " A Journey into Khorasan." 



ii8 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

great epic poet. It appears that some forty years 
ago a literary governor of Khorasan wished to erect 
a fitting monument over the last resting-place of the 
" Homer of Persia," but the site of his grave could not 
be found. At this crisis a seyid had an opportune 
dream, and on awaking he declared that the spot 
shown to-day by the peasantry had been revealed to 
him in this vision, and on it the governor accordingly 
commenced a dome, which he never completed, and 
which is now a mere mass of rubble. Certainly Persians 
care little, as a rule, for the last resting-places of their 
illustrious dead; but in this case they are not to blame, 
because the old chronicle relates that the great poet 
was buried in a garden belonging to him, outside the 
city walls. 

And as the traveller returns to Meshed, leaving 
behind him only unsightly ruins with never a trail of 
ivy or a creeper to hide their nakedness, and beautify 
them as in Europe, he reflects that the road along 
which he canters is much as it was in the Middle Ages. 
On either side the same crops, the same primitive 
method of ploughing, the same species of marmot, that 
scuttles into its burrow with a sharp squeak at the 
approach of the horses. And around him the same 
mountain ranges coloured in many shades of purple, 
amber, and sienna, the high peaks behind them covered 
with snow until April showers her own snow in the 
form of blossom on the myriad fruit-trees of the valley. 

The famous turquoise mines of Nishapur can hardly 
be considered to belong to the " environs " of Meshed. 
As, however, that city is the headquarters of the only 
gem to be found in the country, and as the firuza 
(the name meaning victory) is looked upon as a power- 



ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 119 

ful amulet, being worn by every one who can afford it, 
some account of the mines may be of interest. 

They are about three days' journey from Meshed, 
and are supposed to have been worked from 
Achsemenian times. Major Sykes, who visited them 
in 1908, says that they are difficult of access, no ladders 
being used, and the visitor being obliged to hoist 
himself up and down the shafts by sheer force of arm. 
No machinery whatever is employed, the miners 
chipping off the hard stone with chisels. In the rock 
itself are found the best kind, the sangi (stony), 
which, when deep blue and flawless, will fetch very 
high prices. The other kind, the khaki (earth) 
stones, are found by washing the soil, and are usually 
pale and specked with white. Connoisseurs are able to 
tell at a glance from which special mine a stone has 
been dug. The turquoises are found in groups between 
the layers of matrix, and the matrix itself is often cut 
and polished if the blue in it predominates over the 
black. Tiny " seed " turquoises are discovered in great 
numbers, and are used for ornamenting pipe-heads, 
amulet boxes, and even harness, being of such small 
value that a hundred can be purchased for sixpence. 
In buying turquoises it is as well to call in the assist- 
ance of an expert, for the sellers are in the habit of 
keeping the stones moist, in order to deepen their 
colour. Pale and worthless stones are often ornamented 
with gold devices, and are stuck on the ends of short 
sticks for sale, looking attractive when new, but soon 
acquiring a greenish tint. The workers in the mines 
are searched when their daily task is over, but it is said 
that many of the best turquoises are concealed and sold 
by the miners ; and indeed the temptation must be 



120 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

great, when a moderate-sized stone will easily fetch ;^30 
to ^40 if of a deep sky-blue and without a flaw. These 
stones acquired their European name from the fact that 
they were first introduced into the West by way of 
Turkey. 

Riding in the neighbourhood of Meshed it is not 
unusual to meet a gruesome caravan of mules laden 
with corpses which have been sent from different parts 
of Persia to be buried near the shrine of the Imam 
Reza. The coffins, fastened up in sackcloth, are in 
the charge of the muleteer, who has been given the 
burial-money to hand over to the authorities of the 
Shrine. It is said that these charvadars, usually marvel- 
lously honest, are occasionally tempted by the large 
sums given them beforehand, to drop the bodies into 
some ravine on the road and there leave them to their 
fate. And indeed this is hardly to be wondered at, for 
the odour of a " caravan of the dead " during the hot 
weather is terrible. 

This is how Professor Vambery ^ describes a m{d- 
night encounter with such a caravan : — 

" It consisted of about forty animals, horses and 
mules. The backs of the animals were laden with 
coffins, and we made every effort to avoid the dread 
procession. In passing near one of the horsemen who 
had charge of the caravan, I caught sight of a face 
which was frightful to look at. The eyes and nose 
were concealed by some wraps, and the rest of his 
lividly pale face looked ghastly by the light of the 
moon. ... At some distance from the caravan of the 
dead, I glanced back at the strange funeral procession. 
The animals with their sad burden of coffins hung their 
' " Life and Adventures." 



m^ 



ENVIRONS OF A PERSIAN CITY— MESHED 121 

heads, seemingly trying to bury their nostrils in their 
breasts, whilst the horsemen, keeping at a good distance 
from them, were urging them on with loud cries to 
greater speed. It was a spectacle which, seen any- 
where, could not fail to produce a profound impression 
of terror, but seen in the very centre of the desert at 
the dead hour of the night, in the ghastly illumination 
of the moon, it could not fail to strike the most intrepid 
soul with awe and terror." 



CHAPTER VII 

A POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF 
PERSIA 

PERSIA is a Mohammedan country, but it must 
not be forgotten that Zoroastrianism, commonly- 
known as Fire Worship because its followers took the 
sun and fire as symbols of the Deity, was the religion of 
the land until the fall of the Sasanian dynasty, conse- 
quent on the Arab invasion in A.D. 641. Its followers 
still survive in some thousands, though they have 
undergone every kind of persecution since the Moslems 
conquered them. 

At that period and later many Zoroastrians migrated 
to India, where they were called Parsis {i.e., inhabitants 
of Persia). Here they prospered exceedingly, and are 
now doing something to help their co-religionists in Iran. 
At the present day the Zoroastrians, called Gabrs or 
infidels, are chiefly to be found at Tehran, Yezd, and 
Kerman, but all over the country they are in request as 
gardeners. This is probably because of their belief that 
tilling the soil is a good action. 

Zoroaster, the founder of the old national religion of 

Persia, was a great religious teacher, in the same rank 

as Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates. Professor Williams 

Jackson,^ the latest authority on this subject, believes 

' " Zoroaster," by Professor Williams Jackson. 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 123 

that he was probably born near Lake Urumiah in the 
province of Azerbaijan, about B.C. 660. 

He belonged to the tribe of the Magi, who were 
supposed to be the depositories of learning in those 
days, and it is said that he retired from the world for 
some years of religious preparation before he entered 
upon his ministry at the age of thirty, having then 
received the first of seven revelations from Ormuzd, the 
Principle of Good, whose symbol was fire. His creed is 
that man must fight throughout his life against Ahriman, 
the Principle of Evil ; but that he will be helped in his 
struggle by Ormuzd, and if he prevails he will attain 
eternal life at the Resurrection. It is the exact opposite 
to the creed of renunciation and quietism, with the 
absorption into Nirvana preached by the Buddha ; there 
is no trace of asceticism in it ; and it has a clarion note 
of struggle and reform that ends in victory. Yet, while 
to-day Buddha has millions of followers, those of 
Zoroaster are not a hundred thousand all told, and his 
religion practically never spread beyond the confines 
of the Persian Empire, 

When the Median Prophet began to preach his 
mission, he only gained a single convert after ten long 
years of effort, during which he was encouraged to 
continue by visions from heaven. Then success came 
far above his expectations, for Vishtaspa, King of 
Bactria (the King Gushtasp of the Shahnamd), was 
converted, and the new religion spread rapidly, pene- 
trating into Turan, or Tartary, as well as throughout the 
Persian Empire, Zoroaster preached his doctrines 
indefatigably. He founded fire temples wherever he 
went, installed mobeds, or priests, to tend them, and 
instructed them in the elaborate ritual that he had 



124 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



instituted. But the King of Tartary, the hereditary 
enemy of Persia, would not suffer the old idol-worship 
to be destroyed without striking a blow in its favour. 
He and his Tartar hordes invaded Bactria, stormed 
Balkh its capital, and killed Zoroaster who was offici- 
ating in the fire temple. This contemporary of Thales 
and Solon, and the forerunner of Confucius and Buddha, 
is supposed to have died at the age of seventy-seven, 
and his death gave an impetus rather than a check to 
his doctrines. The gallant Isfundiar, son of King 
Gushtasp, was filled with the zeal of a Crusader for 
the new religion, and defeated the King of Tartary, 
after which Zoroastrianism became the national faith, 
and flourished greatly until the conquests of Alexander, 
and later on the rule of idol-worshipping Parthian 
sovereigns dealt it heavy blows. In A.D. 226 King 
Ardeshir, who founded the Sasanian dynasty, made 
Zoroastrianism again the. State religion of the land. 
He collected the scattered fragments of the Zend 
Avesta (the Parsi scriptures) and the Gathas or 
Psalms, the oldest part of the Avesta, written by 
the Prophet himself and containing his teachings. 
The complete copies of the sacred works, written 
on tanned ox-hides, had been burnt or dispersed 
when Alexander had set fire to the palace at Persepolis 
where they were kept. Priests, however, were found 
who had handed on the worship from one to another 
during centuries of neglect and persecution, and the 
teaching of the Median Prophet was again supreme in 
Iran until the Mohammedan conquest in A.D. 641 
practically exterminated it. 

Zoroaster declared that the ancient gods were only 
devils, but that Ormuzd was to be worshipped 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 125 

alone. Good thoughts, good words, and good actions 
were the goal of every believer, who wore a three- 
fold cord round his waist to signify this, unfastening 
and refastening it three times daily at the hours of 
prayer. 

Earth, fire, and water were not to be polluted, as they 
were the work of the Deity, and fire in particular was to 
be reverenced, no Gabr^ for example, ever smoking. 
The Zoroastrians of Yezd at the present day claim that 
the flame which burns on the altar of their temple, has 
never been extinguished since it was lit in the life- 
time of Zoroaster. Their priests always approach it 
with a cloth over their mouths lest their breath should 
pollute it, and wherever a new fire temple may be 
erected, its altar is lit from that of Yezd. To make the 
sacred flame it was necessary to bring to the same 
hearth sixteen different fires. Some of these were used 
in various trades, and one came from the burning of a 
dead body. 

The Zoroastrians hold the dog in high esteem as 
being sacred to Ormuzd, and it is a crime to kill or 
injure one of these animals that are supposed to have 
the power of driving away evil spirits. The "four-eyed" 
dog of the Avesta is still common in the north of 
Persia, and was so named from having a yellow patch 
above each eye : it was white with yellow ears and 
yellow markings on its body. This animal is called in 
to decide v/hether a Gabr be dead or not, the belief 
being that if the dog eats a piece of bread laid on the 
breast of the corpse, its action proves that life is 
extinct. 

The dead man is laid out by men appointed to the 
office, Zoroastrians so greatly dreading the defilement 



126 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

that ensues from touching a corpse that the dying are 
often left untended in their last moments. The body- 
is then carried to a Dakmeh, or " Tower of Silence," 
where it is exposed to be devoured by the vultures and 
crows, as it would pollute the earth if laid in the ground. 
Zoroastrians hold that if the birds pluck out the right 
eye first the soul of the departed has been safely guided 
over the Bridge of Chinvad to the realms of Ormuzd, to 
live for ever in the Paradise of the Blessed. If, however, 
the vultures decide to remove the left eye, the survivors 
fear that the soul has been hurled from that narrow 
bridge of inquiry, down to the gloomy kingdom of 
Ahriman, where are only bad thoughts, deeds, and 
words. 

Close to the Tower of Silence is usually a mud-built 
house in which the relatives of a dead man prepare a 
meal, affirming that the soul, just after its separation 
from the body, is always greatly in need of nourish- 
ment, as it is believed to wander for three days near its 
earthly tenement. 

The Zoroastrians, who chiefly survive at Yezd and 
Kerman, are a fine, manly-looking race in spite of the 
petty persecution of centuries. The Persians make 
them wear a peculiar dress, do not allow them to ride 
in the towns, force them to dismount if they meet any 
Persian of rank outside the city wall, and do not 
permit them to carry umbrellas, among other irritating 
restrictions. 

As polygamy and divorce are forbidden by their 
religion, the women have a much better position than 
their Moslem sisters, and it is rare for them to marry the 
followers of the Prophet. The poorer women look 
picturesque in gay chintz jackets, full trousers em- 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 127 

broidered in many-coloured stripes, and half a dozen 
wraps for the head, the fifth being a graceful white veil 
flowing down the back, and the last a big cotton sheet 
with which they envelop themselves when out of doors. 
The little girls wear a small coif from which the hair 
falls in long plaits, but the women would consider it 
immodest to show their heads without their numerous 
coverings. 

The ordinary people have the vaguest ideas about 
their religion. The writer's Parsi maid, for example, 
used to extinguish candles with her fingers in order not 
to pollute the flame with her breath, and was horrified 
at hearing that her mistress had visited the Tower of 
Silence, explaining that she herself would be hopelessly 
defiled did her garment but brush against its wall. She 
always refused to wash anything on a Tuesday, saying 
that it would never be cleansed ; and she attached a 
white shell to any possession she feared to lose, affirm- 
ing that it was an infallible charm. She was devoted 
to her employer and of a transparent honesty ; but the 
Persians say that all Gabrs are honest, because they 
lack the courage to steal ! Would that the Irani were 
afflicted with a like timidity ! 

The Nestorian Church comes next in point of 
antiquity in Persia, the followers of its founder estab- 
lishing themselves in Iran soon after the Council of 
Ephesus (431 A.D.), at which the doctrines of Nestorius, 
the Patriarch of Constantinople, were condemned, and 
he himself excommunicated and banished. 

It is, however, believed that Christianity had many 
adherents early in the fourth century, and that its 
followers joined the Nestorian Church. This body 



128 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

flourished exceedingly in the sixth century, had 
bishoprics throughout Persia, and was so filled with 
proselytising zeal that it sent missonaries into China 
and India, with the result that Marco Polo, travelling 
in the thirteenth century, found Christians throughout 
Asia. 

Early in the fifteenth century Tamerlane almost 
extirpated the remnant of Christians which had sur- 
vived the Arab conquest and the Mongol invasions, so 
that at the present day there are only some twenty- 
five thousand Nestorians, who are principally to be 
found in the district of Urumiah where their Patriarch 
resides. 

There are altogether about ninety thousand Christians 
in Persia (Nestorians, Armenians, Greek, Orthodox, 
Protestants, and Roman Catholics) and some thirty-six 
thousand Jews, who are looked down upon and perse- 
cuted, and who supply the ranks of the despised class 
of lutis or public dancers, singers, and entertainers. 
They are expected to undertake dirty work of every 
kind, and by no means uphold their European reputa- 
tion for financial ability, being invariably worsted in 
trade by the Armenians, of whom Persians say, " If you 
can deal with an Armenian, you can deal with the 
devil himself" 

Three centuries ago Shah Abbas transported some 
thousands of Armenians en masse from Julfa on the 
Araxes, to a suburb of Isfahan (which he named after 
their native city) in order to teach their handicrafts to 
the Persians. Since then, in spite of persecution, they 
have never given up their religion. As they have inter- 
married among themselves they have kept their original 
type, their women in scarlet dress with a white cloth 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 129 

thrown over the head and concealing their mouth and 
chin being a pleasant contrast to their black-shrouded 
Persian sisters. 

The authorities are tolerant to all faiths since the 
residence of Europeans in Persia ; but the populace is 
now and again stirred to fury by the mullas against the 
kafirs, or unbelievers — and, indeed, the Armenians are 
not favourites in Iran owing to their business capacity 
and their reputation of being grasping and avaricious. 

And now we come to Islam, the national religion of 
Persia, which her children were forced to embrace 
when conquered in 641 A.D. during the Khalifate of 
Omar. 

The Persians, partly from hatred of their conqueror 
and partly because Ali's son, Husein, is said to have 
married the daughter of their last Sasanian monarch, 
joined the Shiahs (Followers of Ali) when Islam was 
split up into the two great sects of Shiah and Sunni, 
and at the present day Omar is burnt in Q^^y through- 
out the kingdom with an accompaniment of fireworks 
and popular execrations. This matter, however, is 
treated more fully in the chapter on Muharram. 

Mohammed, the Prophet of Arabia, elevated his 
countrymen greatly by the religion he founded, his 
doctrine that there is but one God delivering them 
from a degrading idol-worship that permitted the 
murder of their infant daughters and other horrible 
practices. As he found both polygamy and slavery 
among the Arabs he can hardly be blamed for not 
reforming these customs ; but he still further degraded 
the position of women, although many writers assert 
the exact contrary to be the case. In the words of Sir 



130 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

William Muir,i a wife " was possessed of more freedom 
and exercised a greater, a healthier, and more legitimate 
influence under the pre-existing institutions of Arabia 
than under the sway of Islam " ; and again, "As regards 
female slaves under the thraldom of Mahometan masters, 
it is difficult to conceive more signal degradation of the 
human species." 

Mohammed claimed to be the successor of Moses and 
of Christ and to be greater than either ; and his followers 
believe that the Koran was delivered to him in detach- 
ments by the angel Gabriel and that there is not a 
single word in it which is not of Divine origin. The 
sacred character of this book is so strongly impressed 
upon Moslems that they would look upon it as blas- 
phemy to think that any part of it could be the work of 
a man ; no one would dare to touch the revered volume 
before performing his ablutions, and the most shifty 
believer would regard an oath taken upon it as binding. 
The Prophet called his religion Islam, which means 
" Resignation to the Will of God." He taught that 
those falling in battle in its defence would go straight 
to one of the seven heavens prepared for Moslems, 
whatever may have been their past lives ; but that any 
apostate would be consigned to the seventh hell, lower 
than that peopled by Jews and Christians. This belief 
rendered the warlike Arabs perfectly fearless in battle, 
and accounted for their marvellous early conquests. 
With it was bound up the doctrine of Predestination, 
impressing on a man that his fate is marked out for 
him and that, strive as he may, he cannot alter it. 

Mohammed also taught that prayer wafted the 
believer half-way to heaven, fasting assisted him to 
' " Life of Mahomet," 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 131 

the gate of Paradise, and almsgiving took him within 
the sacred precincts. 

Perhaps it is not possible for a European to criticise 
an Oriental religion fairly, yet to the writer, on whom 
at first Islam made a favourable impression, it seems to 
have led its followers into a kind of stagnant moral 
backwater where progress appears to be impossible. 
The belief in kismet (destiny) encourages a dreary 
fatalism, its exponents shrugging their shoulders at 
whatever goes wrong without making any effort to 
right it, and prayer has sunk into a mere formula, 
an "empty repetition." Dean Stanley says that "it 
is reduced to a mechanical act as distinct from a 
mental act, beyond any ritual observances in the 
West. ... It resembles the worship of machines rather 
than of reasonable beings." 

Travellers in the East have often commented on the 
way in which a Moslem will spread his prayer-carpet 
and perform his devotions unabashed in the sight of the 
world and have held this up as a worthy example to 
European reticence. Certainly there is something fine 
in this open profession of faith ; and yet when the 
stranger observes how a Persian will constantly inter- 
rupt his devotions for a few words with a friend, and 
will glance at anything passing by, he may not be so 
greatly impressed ; indeed, the habit of praying in 
public must militate against concentration of thought. 

As an example of this is a quotation from Mr. East- 
wick's I account of a visit he paid to the Imam Juma, or 
high priest, of Meshed, a man revered by the fanatical 
populace for his sanctity and for being a seyid, or 
descendant of the Prophet. The holy man was at his 
" " Three Years' Residence in Persia." 



132 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

devotions, but notwithstanding sent a servant to bid his 
visitor enter. The Imam Juma was kneeling on his 
prayer-carpet, on which were some books and a comb 
for his beard. " ' Talk,' he said ; ' do not mind me.' I 
said I would rather not talk while prayers were going 
on. He said, ' Oh, I thought your heart would be dull ; 
that's why I told you to talk.' I said, ' Excuse me, 
I shall not be dull. I would rather not talk till you 
have done praying.' So he went on praying, bowing 
and prostrating himself, also coughing and spitting 
and combing his beard and occasionally saying, ' How 
d'ye do ? ' to persons who came into the room. This 
lasted for more than half an hour. . . ." 

Eraser I in his travels notes much the same thing. 
" However men may be occupied when the set hour 
for prayer arrives," he writes, "those who choose to 
observe it merely turn aside from the rest, still laughing, 
perhaps, at the last ribald jest, and commence their 
invocation to God. During the intervals they continue 
the conversation, scold or give orders to their servants, 
comb their beards or adjust their persons, frequently 
interrupting their expressions of praise or of devotion 
to give vent to the most trifling or perhaps the most 
obscene remarks." 

The rosary, or tasbih, is used by all Mohammedans 
for counting the ninety-nine attributes of Allah ; for 
reciting various acts of devotion ; and for purposes of 
divination. It consists of a hundred beads, and is 
supposed to have been borrowed from the Buddhists, 
there being no record that the Prophet and his earliest 
followers used it : in all probability the Crusaders intro- 
duced it into the Christian Church. 

^ " Journey in Khorasan." 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 133 

Fasting is practised from sunrise to sunset during the 
whole month of Ramazan, no food or water passing the 
lips nor kalian being smoked, and it is believed that 
those who die during that time are secure of paradise. 
This enibrced abstinence presses lightly on the rich, 
who sleep all day and feast and pay visits to one 
another all night ; but the poor are obliged to work until 
midday, and if Ramazan happens to fall during the 
heat of summer, the want of water is a cruel deprivation. 
As the Mohammedan year is a lunar one, Ramazan will 
fall annually about eleven days earlier than it did in 
the preceding year. 

Mothers with young children, girls and boys under 
ten and twelve, and really delicate men and women 
are granted a dispensation from the fast ; and many 
Persians are in the habit of going on a journey during 
the month in order to secure immunity. With these 
exceptions all Moslems must submit to this month of 
abstinence or be looked upon as unbelievers and risk 
excommunication by the priests, and ostracism, if not 
worse, from their neighbours. 

In the town cannon fired at dawn and sunset 
announce the commencement and end of the day's fast ; 
and during Ramazan most of the shops in the bazaars 
are shut, and business is more or less at a standstill. 
The pious often " meet " Ramazan, as they say, by 
commencing to fast some days earlier than is necessary. 
Sir W. Muiri points out that it was winter when the 
Prophet first instituted this fast, and that in all 
probability he intended it to be kept at the same 
season ; for though the Arabian year was lunar, yet the 
Arabs corrected it by a system of intercalating one 
' " Life of Mahomet." 



134 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

month into every three years. This system Mohammed 
overthrew later, and it is a wonderful testimony to the 
power of Islam that its followers all over the globe 
should still keep Ramazan as strictly as in the early 
days of the Faith, whatever may be the sufferings they 
undergo from thirst. 

Almsgiving is, as we have seen, highly commended, 
and the Prophet is said to have deprived himself of 
everything, save the necessaries of life for himself and 
his wives, to give to the poor. There are of course 
plenty of charitable Moslems ; but it often seemed to the 
writer as if Persian almsgiving were a form of " laying 
up merit," a guarantee against risks both here and in 
the world to come. For example, every one going on a 
journey gives money to the beggars in order to ensure 
the prosperity of the undertaking ; yet no effort is made 
to reclaim these miserable creatures, nor is money spent 
on hospitals, orphanages, or education for the destitute. 
It is a greater savab (act of merit) to give to a 
drunken seyid than to the most deserving beggar. 

Before the end of the world the Mahdi, the last of the 
Twelve I mams, is to appear, and inaugurate a millennium, 
and this doctrine has been fruitful of much trouble, as 
it has encouraged the rise of countless False Prophets 
throughout Islam, who have attracted followers to their 
standards by their claims to be the long-expected 
Saviour. 

The angel Israfil blows the last trumpet at the 
Mohammedan Day of Judgment, which is supposed 
to last over half a century, and which will be preceded 
by the coming of Antichrist, who will be slain later 
by Jesus. Persians, however, affirm that their beloved 
Ali will rout the false Christ and the horned devils 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 135 

attending- him, with the aid of his famous two-bladed 
sword Zulfakar. At this time all the dead return to 
their bodies, the eyes of men and women moving to 
the tops of their heads in order that they may not 
see one another, but only Allah and the heavenly hosts. 
The angels, who have kept an account of their deeds 
on earth, then weigh them in balances, and if the evil 
outweighs the good the man or woman is cast into 
hell ; but if the reverse, he or she is given the choice 
of a material paradise or of returning again to earth. 

On this occasion all the animals will rise up and 
bear witness as to how their owners have treated them, 
after which they are annihilated ; and the wicked, who 
are reserved for eternal torments, will beseech Allah of 
His mercy to turn them into dust likewise ; but their 
prayer will be offered in vain. 

The whole social structure is based on the re- 
ligious law, and the Persian priesthood, as a rule, 
uses its influence against progress and the spread of 
education. Any man who can read and interpret the 
Koran can act as a mulla. If he is able to expound 
the shar, or religious law, the people will flock to 
him for judgment and give him the title of mujtehid^ 
or chief priest, his decisions, if he has a high reputation, 
being regarded as final. 

The Government does not usually appoint these eccle- 
siastical dignitaries, but often gives the guardianship of 
an important shrine, such as that of Meshed, to a Court 
official as a reward. Nadir Shah seized the endowments 
of the clergy to pay his soldiers, thus dealing a blow at 
their power from which they have never recovered. 
The mullas conduct the services in the mosques, teach 
and recite the Koran, preach, visit the sick and 



136 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

write letters, and in the villages their fees are paid 
in kind. 

The numerous holidays that help to keep Persia a 
poor country are all, with the exception of No Ruz, 
associated with their religion, chief among them being 
the Eed-i-Kurban, or Feast of Sacrifice, which the 
Prophet instituted in imitation of the great Jewish Day 
of Atonement, Mohammedans say that it com- 
memorates Abraham's sacrifice of Ishmael, erroneously 
imagining that he, and not Isaac, was about to be 
offered up by his father. At this festival the head of 
each family takes a cow, sheep, goat, or camel, and 
turning the head of the creature towards Mecca, he 
repeats over it a religious formula and then slays it, 
dividing its flesh among his family, his relatives, and 
the poor. 

There is also the Eed of Ramazan, the end of the 
long month of fasting, and this is naturally a season 
of rejoicing for all, at which time it is incumbent on 
the Faithful to give money to the poor. 

Salutes of cannon, brass bands playing out of tune, 
and official receptions take place in all Persian cities 
on the festival of the Haj, when the pilgrims who 
have arrived at Mecca receive the coveted title of 
Haji. 

The way by land to the centre of the Moslem faith 
is long and arduous ; and it may happen that a Persian 
caravan of pilgrims fails to arrive in time to present 
the offerings of sheep at the great holocaust at the 
Kaaba, in which case all their toil, time, and money 
will have been expended in vain. Although there is 
much real piety connected with this pilgrimage, yet it 
is said that some go to Mecca in order to use the 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 137 

sobriquet of Haji as a business speculation. People 
imagine that a man must be wealthy to undertake 
such an expensive expedition, and therefore, sometimes 
to their cost, lend him money readily. 

These are only a few of the Persian festivals that 
seem legion to the European, who is frequently in- 
convenienced by the constant closing of the bazaars 
and work of all kinds coming to a standstill. 

The entire life of a Moslem is ordered by a religion 
that encloses him in a network of observances — a religion 
that takes away his individual responsibility and that 
has become for most of its adherents a barren form. 
And what are the fruits of Islam ? It destroyed idol- 
worship with much gross superstition, and taught the 
pure doctrine of one infinitely perfect God to whom 
all must surrender their wills. But on the other hand 
the Koran degrades family life, in fact makes it almost 
impossible, by its encouragement of polygamy, divorce, 
and slavery ; and it also forbids any religious freedom, 
death being the penalty for apostasy. Islam is, in fact, 
a set of rules, which proceed from a God with whom 
man can never come into contact, but whose Prophets 
proclaim His will. No Moslem consequently must 
ever criticise the Prophet, and must accept every word 
in the Koran as divine, thus yielding up all personal 
responsibility ; and a Persian will see no great harm 
in dishonesty and immorality, as long as he performs 
his religious observances. 

. Such a creed bars the way to progress and liberty, 
and its adherents cannot attain to a true civilisation, 
for its cast-iron framework admits of no expansion. 

Here a word must be said as to the missionary work 



138 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

done in Persia, The American missionaries have 
practically taken over the north of the kingdom, the 
English sphere of influence being from Julfa, the 
suburb of Isfahan, southwards, with centres in Yezd 
and Kerman, and there are also Roman Catholic 
missions. Tourists say that the missionaries confine 
their efforts to reclaiming the often degraded Nestorians 
and Armenians, and that their converts from Islam 
are conspicuous by their rarity. As the penalty by 
law for apostasy from that creed is death, it would be 
surprising if conversions were numerous ; but the writer 
believes that the missionaries by living among the 
people, by giving them medical aid, and by holding up 
a high standard of life and morals, have an influence 
for good that cannot be estimated. The mere fact that 
men and women are devoting their lives to helping 
others who are not of their own race or religion, works 
powerfully on many minds, and a rough muleteer 
spoke of one lady missionary, known throughout Persia 
for her medical skill, in the following words : " Allah 
in His mercy has sent an angel to Iran in that He 
allowed the ' Khanum Mariam ' (Lady Mary) to dwell 
in the land and heal us and speak good words to us." 

A Persian acquaintance who was educated by the 
missionaries never lost an opportunity of affirming that 
he was a convinced Mohammedan and had only 
attended the school in order to imbibe Western 
learning. 

Yet those years of training had left an ineffaceable 
mark on his character. He had grasped in a way 
unusual with his countrymen the meaning of truth and 
patriotism ; he hated the intolerance of the priesthood 
and was an ardent Nationalist, looking to the Majlis 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 139 

to inaugurate the Millennium for Persia and sweep 
beggary out of existence. Though he maintained that 
the British Constitution, which he regarded with an 
ignorant admiration, was based on the Koran, yet he 
ruefully complained that there were many " dark 
passages " in that sacred book, and that his female 
relatives looked upon him almost as an unbeliever for 
having hinted this to them. In fact, owing to missionary 
influence, he had climbed to a higher level than those 
around him, and it is to him and to his fellows that 
Persia must look for regeneration. 

The Persians made a long and stout resistance to 
their Arab conquerors, and even when they yielded 
to the fierce armies of Islam and gave up the doctrines 
of Zoroaster for the Koran, they never received the 
Prophet's teachings in the simple, unquestioning way 
in which the uncivilised Arabs had done. Almost from 
the first they employed their subtle intellects in debat- 
ing this point or that until heresies and false prophets 
without number arose. 

Among the latter Al Mukanna, immortalised by 
Moore in " Lalla Rookh " as " The Veiled Prophet of 
Khorasan," is probably the only one whose name will 
be familiar to the ordinary reader. 

This man, who is said to have been a fuller at Merv, 
gave out, about A.D. 780, that he was an Incarnation of 
the Deity. Thousands of credulous Persians flocked to 
his standard, and the armies of the Khalif fought 
against him in vain for the space of fourteen years, after 
which they besieged and took the fortress wherein he 
and his followers were holding out. Their victory was 
an empty one, however, for they found nothing but dead 



140 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

bodies as they burst through the gates, the adherents 
of the False Prophet having taken poison, and he 
himself having died on a funeral pyre in order that the 
people might believe that he had left them but for a 
season, and would reappear as he had foretold. Every 
legend about Al Mukanna speaks of the mask, or veil, 
which he habitually wore to conceal a countenance of 
surpassing ugliness ; but the reason he himself gave was 
that he covered his face in order not to dazzle his 
disciples with its effulgence. 

There is also the tradition that he caused a "false 
moon" to rise from a certain well, which was visited 
night after night by crowds of people anxious to see 
this remarkable phenomenon. It gained for him 
hundreds of converts, and the " Moon of Al Mukanna " 
is mentioned in two Persian poems, such an impression 
did the Veiled Prophet and his dramatic death make 
on his own and succeeding generations. 

Sufism and Babism are the two heresies about which 
Europeans in Persia hear most. 

The Sufis, or Mystics, are those who do not take the 
words of Mohammed literally, but give them a so-called 
spiritual interpretation ; and they came into prominence 
in the time of Ismail Shah, the founder of the Sefavean 
dynasty. Sufism is more a philosophy than a religion, 
and several of the most celebrated poets of Iran, such as 
Hafiz, are supposed to be singing of divine mysteries 
in their songs of love and wine. Though there are 
seekers after truth in their ranks, yet many writers 
affirm that the Sufis use their mystical creed as a veil 
for excess. 

Professor E. G. Browne,^ however, speaks of them as 
* " A Year among the Persians." 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 141 

akin to the Quietists and Quakers, and says : " It is 
indeed the eternal cry of the human soul for rest ; the 
insatiable longing of a being wherein infinite ideals are 
fettered and cramped by a miserable actuality. It is in 
essence an enunciation more or less clear, more or less 
eloquent of the aspiration of the soul to cease altogether 
from self and to be at one with God." 

The sect of the Babis is so remarkable that many 
hoped that it might vivify the dry bones of Islam. 

From the works of Lord Curzon^ and Professor 
E. G. Browne,2 the latter of whom has made a special 
study of this subject, we learn that the founder of 
Babism, Mirza Ali Mohammed, a native of Shiraz, was 
given to religious meditation and went on pilgrimages 
from an early age. At the age of twenty-four he pro- 
claimed himself to be the Bab, or " Gate," by which 
his followers might attain salvation ; and throughout 
Persia he was hailed as the Mahdi, the long-expected 
Twelfth Imam. 

His doctrines spread so rapidly that the Government 
and priesthood became alarmed, and imprisoned him 
at Shiraz. From that city he escaped to Isfahan, 
where the governor protected him ; but on the death 
of his patron he was again consigned to a captivity 
which only ended with his death. On his way to 
the fortress where he was to be immured, village after 
village on the route poured forth its inhabitants to 
greet him with the wildest enthusiasm ; his adherents 
rose at Yezd and in the province of Mazanderan ; and 
the inhabitants of Zanjan defended their town against 
a Persian army with marvellous bravery. The beautiful 
poetess Kurratu 'l-'Ayn spread his doctrines far and 
' " Persia." " A Year among the Persians," etc. 



142 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

wide, until her tragic death at Tehran ; and it seemed 
as if the status of women would be raised, for they 
were to be considered equal with men, were to throw 
off their veils, and polygamy and divorce were to be 
abolished. 

The Bab, however, was shot at Tabriz in 1850. 
Strangely enough, he actually escaped unhurt after 
the soldiers had fired at him, the bullets having merely 
cut the cords that bound him ; and the cloud of smoke 
concealed his flight. His hiding-place was soon 
discovered, and he was dragged forth and done to 
death. His adherents were suppressed with terrible 
cruelty, and their attempt to assassinate the Shah 
resulted in sanguinary massacres in which, almost 
without exception, they met death and torture with 
unflinching heroism. 

If the Bab had escaped, in all probability Persia 
would have been converted to his doctrines en bloc, and 
would have emerged from the petrifying influence of 
Islam into a liberal atmosphere where progress was 
possible. 

At his death his followers split up into two factions, 
one following Mirza Yahya, whom the Bab had desig- 
nated as his successor, and the other Beha Ullah the 
half-brother of the new Gate. Beha soon asserted his 
claim to be " He whom God shall manifest," and gave 
out that his revelations were superior to those in the 
Bayan, or Bible, composed by the Bab during his 
imprisonment ; and at the present day his successor 
is regarded as the head of the Babi faith, and his 
adherents visit him in his retirement at Acre. 

Almost up to now the Babis have been persecuted 
at intervals, the last popular outburst against them, 



ACCOUNT OF THE RELIGIONS OF PERSIA 143 

engineered as usual by the priesthood, occurring at 
Yezd in 1903, when many were slain. 

It is difficult to know whether the movement is 
gaining ground or not, as its followers naturally 
keep their faith a secret ; but the standard it sets up 
is so high that it is to be hoped that in time it may 
become a power in the land. 

Many look upon the latest development of Babism, 
Behaism as it is called from its founder, as one of the 
great religions of the world, and they affirm that it 
numbers its adherents by millions. 

Beha Ullah asserted that he was the last Manifes- 
tation of the Deity, and, as such, included in his own 
person the teachings and powers of Zoroaster, Moses, 
Buddha, Christ, and Mohammed. There is no cere- 
monial or priesthood in his religion, which inculcates 
love toward all men, equality of the sexes, a universal 
language, and peace throughout the world. 

Beha Ullah himself died in 1892, but his son carries 
on his work, and at the present day European and 
Oriental men of every nation and belief meet at Acre 
to sit at the feet of Abbas Effendi, the Master, as they 
call him, and imbibe his teachings. 



CHAPTER VIII 
MUHARRAM 

THE month of Muharram (meaning sacred) is 
to the Mohammedan world what Lent is to the 
Christian — a time of mourning, self-sacrifice, and acts 
of special devotion. 

No one who has lived in a Moslem city during this 
period can fail to have been impressed with the religious 
fervour shown, and will never forget the dirge-like 
lament " Hasan ! Husein ! " and the accompanying dull 
thud, as the mourners beat their breasts in sign of 
impassioned grief. 

In a Shiah country such as Persia, Muharram is a great 
factor in the religious life of the people, and the play com- 
memorating the tragic deaths of Husein and his family 
is able now, after the lapse of over a thousand years, to 
rouse the Persians to a frenzy of woe. There are many 
scenes of this great Persian drama, and the only thing 
to which it may be compared is the "Passion Play" 
as acted by the peasants of Ober-Ammergau. In each 
case the play is a religious tragedy, the onlookers 
feeling that they are present at a sacred spectacle, 
and being deeply moved when the objects of their 
adoration are presented to them in bodily form. 

But before we give any account of the ceremonies of 



MUHARRAM 145 

Muharram, the story of the martyrdom of Mohammed's 
descendants must be told. 

According to the Shiahs, AH ought to have succeeded 
the Prophet as the first Imam, and the festival of 
Gadir commemorates a dubious tradition that Mo- 
hammed, when he deserted Mecca for Medina, stopped 
at the village of Gadir Khom, and mounting on a 
platform of camel-saddles declared to thirty thousand of 
his adherents that he nominated Ali as his successor. 
Sir William Muir^ however, points out that the man 
who presided at public prayer was always considered 
to hold the chief authority ; and when Mohammed was 
too ill to perform this task himself, he delegated it 
to Abu Bekr (father of his beloved wife Ayesha), who 
was chosen to be the first Khalif. 

It is not improbable that Ali may have considered 
that he had a right to the succession in virtue of his 
marriage with Fatima, the Prophet's daughter, and the 
latter never recognised Abu Bekr as Khalif and 
endeavoured to stir up her friends against his rule. 

The Persians have a tradition that on the Prophet's 
death Fatima urged her husband to demand the 
Khalifate, and that throughout a whole morning she 
returned again and again to the charge, but was met 
with total silence. At last, when it was noon and the 
call to prayer rose from the tninar^ Ali opened his mouth 
and inquired, " What is that man saying ? " 

'"There is but one God, and Mohammed is His 
Prophet,'" Fatima answered, somewhat surprised. 

" Do you wish that call to be heard throughout the 
world?" her husband continued; and on hearing his 
wife's assent, he said, " If I become Khalif it will 
' " Life of Mahomet." 

L 



146 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

cease, but if Abu Bekr be elected it will endure ; " and 
from that moment Fatima ceased to urge Ali, who 
perhaps knew his own limitations. 

Abu Bekr was succeeded by Omar, the conqueror 
of Persia, and at his death the Khalifate was offered to 
Ali. But when the latter announced that he would 
be guided by the Koran and his own judgment, 
paying no attention to the "tradition of the elders," 
Othman was chosen in his stead ; and it was not until the 
assassination of this latter that the " Lion of God," 
as he was called from his personal courage, became 
Khalif in A.D. 655. But he succeeded to a most 
uneasy throne, and having more valour than brains, 
he refused to listen to all advice. Ayesha supported 
his deadliest enemy Moawiyeh, Governor of Syria, 
in the latter's pretensions to the Khalifate, even ac- 
companying his troops at the famous Battle of the 
Camel, which was the beginning of civil war among 
the Faithful. Ali was victorious on this occasion, 
but was worsted in the next encounter ; and while 
he was gathering troops for fresh efforts he was 
assassinated in the mosque of Kufa by one of his 
old adherents. Two others of the band attempted 
to murder Moawiyeh and Amrou at the same time, 
believing that Islam would be at peace if the Khalif 
and his bitterest enemies could be removed ; but 
their enterprise ended in failure. 

Hasan, All's elder son, was now elected to the 
Khalifate, but was of different fibre to his father, for 
he meekly abdicated in favour of Moawiyeh, only 
stipulating that he should resume his position on the 
death of the latter. This plan, however, the Khalif 
frustrated by instigating Hasan's wife to poison her 



MUHARRAM 147 

husband, and Yezid succeeded to the throne of his 
father Moawiyeh at Damascus. 

But there was yet another son of AH, the gallant 
Husein, and he and his descendants are peculiarly 
dear to Persians, because he is believed to have married 
the daughter of the last king of Persia and thus carried 
on the royal Sasanian line. 

Husein was living quietly at Mecca when he was 
urged by the inhabitants of Kufa to place himself at 
their head, and lead a revolt against the usurping 
Khalif Yezid. He acceded to their request, and set 
off with his family for Kufa ; but Yezid promptly 
sent the stern Governor of Busreh to suppress the 
premature insurrection by putting the leaders at Kufa 
to death, and by despatching troops to intercept the 
grandson of the Prophet. 

Husein and his few adherents were easily surrounded 
by the Syrian soldiery at Kerbela on the Euphrates ; 
but so great was the reluctance to bear arms against 
the man whom they believed to be half-divine, that 
two of the leaders sent against him did their utmost 
to dissuade the Governor from proceeding to extremi- 
ties. Their efforts were in vain, and on the tenth day 
the little band, perceiving that the end was very near, 
corded their tents closely to one another in order 
to keep off the onslaught of the Syrian horse. 

Husein behaved throughout with unshaken courage, 
and on the morning of the fatal day he washed and 
perfumed himself, saying to his companions that he 
and they would soon be with the houris of Paradise ; 
and when they had prayed all prepared themselves 
for the inevitable. Just before the fight began, one 
of the Syrian captains galloped into the doomed camp, 



148 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

resolved to die with the man he looked upon as his 
lawful Khalif; and in another moment Shimr, who 
is execrated equally with the Khalif Yezid throughout 
the entire Shiah world, led his soldiers to the attack, 
and shot the first arrow with his own hand. 

And now ensued many a pathetic incident, one 
being the death of Husein's baby-son in his father's 
arms, another the severing of his little nephew's hand 
by a sword. Husein himself was wounded again and 
again ; but it seemed as if he bore a charmed life, 
until Shimr, by dint of threats, forced his unwilling 
soldiers to despatch him. It is said that this brutal 
commander galloped over the prostrate corpse of All's 
son with his cavalry, trampling it into the ground 
with savage fury, after which it was decapitated. 

Thus was Husein slain on the 9th of October, 
A.D. 680, together with sixteen of his relatives ; and 
Yezid's deed split up the Mohammedan world hence- 
forth into the two great factions of Sunni and Shiah. 

To put the matter shortly, the Sunnis, or " Tradi- 
tionists," who are in a vast majority, acknowledge the 
first four Khalifs to be the rightful successors of 
Mohammed, and affirm that they are faithful to the 
traditions, as their name implies. 

The Shiahs, or " Followers " of Ali, consider that the 
first three Khalifs were usurpers, and that Ali and his 
descendants are the true Imams, or leaders of the 
Faithful. 

Persia became hotly Shiah, even when she was 
governed by Sunni rulers. At the present day Persians 
invoke the aid of Ali more frequently than that of the 
Prophet ; they celebrate the death of Omar with 
rejoicings and bonfires in which he is burnt in effigy 



MUHARRAM 149 

like another Guy Fawkes ; and it is looked upon as a 
deadly insult if one man call another Yezid, or Shimr. 

The first ten days of the lunar month of Muharram 
are dedicated to the memory of the Prophet's grand- 
sons, and on each day some special incident of the 
tragedy of the plain of Kerbela is symbolised. For 
example, on one day the whole populace will gasp, hold 
their throats and exclaim, " I thirst ! " in memory of 
the suffering undergone by the Faithful when they were 
cut off from the Euphrates by the soldiery during 
the heat of that Arabian October. 

If a Persian boy is sickly in infancy, his parents 
often vow that if he survive he shall be a sakka^ 
or water-carrier, in memory of the thirst endured by 
Husein and his followers. This means that from the 
age of five the boy will attend the ruzakhana^ 
or recitations, during Muharram, and offer water or 
sherbet to the audience. He will be dressed in dark 
red or blue silk, velvet, or cotton, according to the 
rank of his parents, silver Bismillahs (in the Name of 
God) being sewn upon his garments, and a skin water- 
bottle strapped across his shoulders. He will pour out 
the iced liquid with his left hand into a metal saucer 
which he holds in his right, and passing through the 
audience will give refreshment to all who ask for it. 

When Muharram begins, the devout give up shooting 
and their usual amusements. They dress in black, 
leaving part of the chest bare, and walk with naked 
feet in the different processions, beating their breasts 
with much vigour. Princes, merchants, and peasants 
often make a vow to join these processions for one, 
two, or more days, especially if they have recovered 
from any illness. 



150 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

The fanatical are wrapped in white garments repre- 
senting their shrouds, the idea being that they are 
ready to die for their faith ; and armed with swords 
and knives, these men ' work themselves up to such 
a frenzy that they cut their heads and faces until the 
blood pours over their clothing. They might easily 
kill themselves in their zeal were they not attended 
by men carrying sticks, who strike up the weapons 
when the blood-letting has gone far enough, or stop 
any particularly dangerous slash ; but even so these 
devotees often die from the after-effects of their wounds. 

They will fasten padlocks into their cheeks ; and 
yet in curious contrast to their almost maniacal self- 
mutilation and shriekings, they will halt quietly at some 
big house, and having partaken of sherbet and fruit, 
will go their way with renewed fervour. 

Though sharing the same religious convictions, it 
is dangerous for these processions to meet one another, 
as in such a case they are certain to come to blows 
for the honour of Husein. At the present day the 
zealots are often armed with revolvers, and if the 
governor of a fanatical city such as Meshed did not 
insist that each procession should start at a different 
hour and should follow a specified route, many lives 
would, in all probability, be sacrificed. 

The dervishes play a great part during Muharram, 
and have processions of their own in which they leap 
along with streaming hair, leopard skins being thrown 
over their white garments. With a discordant braying 
of cow-horns, and a fearsome yelling as they beat 
themselves with clubs and chains, they make their 
way to the houses of the Persian notables, who give 
them gifts and refreshments ; but these noisy pro- 



MUHARRAM 151 

fessionals are very different to the fanatics who almost 
kill themselves for the exaltation of Husein. 

On the tenth day of Muharram the climax of woe is 
reached, and all the processions call out " Husein is 
dead ! " with the wildest laments, the very servants 
in European households going about barefoot in sign of 
grief, while every face looks pale and dejected. So 
universal is the mourning that the Persian equivalent 
of " To cry out before you are hurt," is, " He begins to 
weep before the recital of the death of Husein." 

At Tehran there is a huge circular theatre, or takiek, 
for the representation of the " Passion Play " during the 
first ten days of Muharram. It is not roofed in, but 
covered with an awning during the representations, and 
all round it are boxes for the Shah and the aristocracy, 
the populace finding places in the arena. The hundreds 
of black-clad women and children sit in front of the 
stage, which is a round platform in the middle of the 
building ; and behind them are the men. 

To European eyes it is a curious thing to see perhaps 
three or four thousand women, not one of whom dis- 
closes her features, and who can only look through the 
strip of lacework inserted in the white cloth that hangs 
over her face. They all come very early in order to get 
good places on the mud floor on which they sit on 
their heels, and they drink sherbets and smoke 
kalians at intervals, listening to the exhortations of 
different mullas who try to work upon the emotions of 
the great crowd. At last barbaric music heralds the 
approach of the actors, who mount the steps leading to 
the platform, and the audience stops smoking and 
drinking and prepares itself for what follows. As 
no Mohammedan woman may appear in public, the 



152 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

actors are all men and boys, who mostly play their 
parts well and with conviction, the honour of appearing 
in the tazieh often descending from father to son. 
Indeed parents in the audience will sometimes beg that 
their boys may be allowed to stand upon the stage for a 
short time in such parts as that of Husein's little nephew 
or of his infant son Abdullah. A Persian gentleman 
told the writer how when he was a boy of seven, sitting 
beside his mother at one of these plays, he was 
suddenly seized by an unknown actor and lifted upon 
the stage. He gave vent, however, to such lusty howls 
that he was speedily restored to his relative, who felt 
that a curse for life would rest upon her unlucky son 
on account of his indecorous conduct ! 

There are thirty to forty taziehs, some taken from 
Jewish legend, but naturally these do not interest the 
audience in the same way as the touching episodes 
relating to the events that took place on the desert 
plain of Kerbela, 

Many of the actors are clad in suits of chain armour ; 
there is no " scenery," but horses and camels give an air 
of reality to the moving tragedy of the " Family of the 
Tent." The European spectator speedily forgets the 
primitive mise en scene, and cannot fail to be im- 
pressed by the passionate emotion evinced by the great 
audience as the play proceeds. " Ya Ali ! Ya Husein ! " 
they ejaculate as they weep profusely, and Mr. S. G. W. 
Benjamin,! who has given a most interesting account 
of the Persian " Passion Play," writes of its effect on the 
onlookers : " For several moments sobs and sighs, and 
now and again a half-suppressed shriek, swept from one 
side of the building to the other. Strong men wept ; 
^ " Persia and the Persians." 



MUHARRAM 



153 



there was not a dry eye in the loggia where I was 
seated, except my own ; and I confess that I was not 
altogether unmoved by this impressive scene." 

When the writer was staying at Ahwaz on the Karun 
river, she witnessed a curious representation of the 
death of Husein from the roof of the house in which 
she was Hving. Owing to the intense heat the tazieh 
took place after sunset in front of the governor's 
residence, the thudding of drums announcing the 
appearance of the actors who carried a small green 
canopied shrine. Behind this was borne a coffin, sup- 
posed to be that of Husein, draped in black and sur- 
mounted by a green turban. Horsemen in chain 
armour represented the adherents of the Prophet's 
grandson and their Arab assailants, and fought fiercely 
with one another, the large crowd present being 
apparently in imminent peril of wounds from the wildly 
brandished weapons, or of being trampled underfoot by 
the excited horses. 

Throughout the performance the populace kept up a 
poignant lament, beating their bare breasts as they 
cried, " Hasan ! Husein ! " in a monotonous iteration ; 
and as the excitement grew more intense they broke 
into a barbaric dance. The faces lit up by smoking 
torches were those of fanatics, and the whole perform- 
ance, impressive in its sincerity, was very different to 
that given by a nomad tribe in south-east Persia. 
These people, after working themselves up to a tearful 
emotion, surprised the writer by suddenly giving a 
travesty of the solemn scene at which actors and 
spectators roared with ill-timed laughter. 

Sir Lewis Pelly ^ and Count Gobineau have trans- 
' " The Persian Miracle Play." 



154 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

lated many of these taziehs, but space forbids me to give 
more than a resume of one of them from the translation 
of the former. It is the " Death of Husein," and is acted 
on the tenth and great day of Muharram. 

The grandson of the Prophet is depicted as lament- 
ing his sad fate and approaching end, and is challenged 
by the accursed Shimr, who bids him leave his tent and 
meet his martyrdom. Upon this his sister Zainab 
comes to mourn with him the loss of his son Ali Akbar, 
the first of all the family to fall a victim ; of his brother 
Abbas, the standard-bearer ; of his nephew Kasim and 
his infant child Abdullah. Husein does his best to 
comfort her, commending his little daughter to her care, 
and he says last farewells to his other sister, to an old 
slave, and to his wife Shahrbanu, the Persian princess. 
Then he puts on a tattered shirt beneath his robes, tell- 
ing Zainab that he trusts his enemies will be ashamed 
to strip him of this valueless garment after his death, 
and having refused the help of the King of the Fairies, 
he goes to meet the dagger of Shimr. 

In his last moments he is consoled by apparitions of 
the Prophet and of Fatima his mother, and his dying 
words are, " O Lord, for the merit of me, the dear child 
of the Prophet ; O Lord, for the sad groaning of my 
miserable sister ; O Lord, for the sake of young Abbas 
rolling in his blood, even that young brother of mine 
that was equal to my soul, I pray thee, in the Day of 
Judgment, forgive, O merciful Lord, the sins of my 
grandfather's people, and grant me, bountifully, the key 
of the treasure of intercession." 

These few words can give no idea of the pathos of 
many of the fifty-two scenes of this wonderful " Passion 
Play," which certainly has had a far greater influence on 



MUHARRAM 155 

the thousands who annually hear it recited than has any 
play that ever was written. 

In the last scene of all the Resurrection is depicted, 
the Patriarchs and Prophets rising from their graves ; 
while the angel Gabriel tells Mohammed to hand the 
key of Paradise to Husein, saying, "The privilege of 
making intercession for sinners is exclusively his — 
Husein is by my peculiar grace the mediator for all." 

Upon this the Prophet of Islam gives the key to his 
grandson with the words, " Deliver from the flames 
every one who in his lifetime shed but a single tear for 
thee, every one who has in any way helped thee, every 
one who has performed a pilgrimage to thy shrine or 
mourned for thee, and every one who has written tragic 
verses for thee. Bear each and all with thee to 
Paradise ; " and the scene ends with joyful sinners 
entering the abodes of the Blessed through the inter- 
cession of Husein. 

It is no wonder that there is weeping in abundance 
on the anniversary of the Martyr's death, and these 
tears are often carefully collected by a priest and kept 
in a bottle, to be applied to the lips of the dying. 

In cities such as Meshed, where the priests set their 
faces against theatrical representations, the populace 
attends ruzakhana, or recitals of the tragic tale, which 
are given by the mullas in different houses. Three or 
four priests will be hired by a pious man to give a 
recital, and the hearers attend in black clothes and carry 
large pocket-handkerchiefs. It is de rigueur to weep 
profusely, even though some priests have not the power 
of moving the listening crowds ; but to be unmoved 
stamps a man at once as an unbeliever. The priests 
say that such a one will be consigned to hell at 



156 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

his death, while every tear shed in remembrance of 
Husein washes away many sins. Yet a spirit of levity 
occasionally creeps in even at these gatherings ; for 
a Persian told the writer that he was thankful for his 
handkerchief when a very stout man among the 
audience wept so loudly in a high falsetto voice, with 
such an absurd resemblance to that of a woman, that it 
was difficult for him to refrain from bursts of unseemly 
laughter. 

On the fortieth day after the anniversary of the death 
of Husein, some of the Muharram excitement is revived 
by a big procession, in which men and boys are dressed 
up to personate the Martyr and all the dramatis 
personcs of the " Passion Play." Representations of 
Husein's tomb at Kerbela and the mosque are carried ; 
men, apparently decapitated, walk along, bearing their 
heads on poles ; horsemen are clad in old chain armour 
and helmets; Husein's coffin draped in green is a con- 
spicuous object ; and any corpses on the way to the 
cemetery often join in the procession. 

This is the last manifestation of Muharram, the 
celebration of which has moved the Shiah world to its 
depths, and during which the bulk of the populace 
would be capable of almost any act of self-devotion and 
also of any deed of wild hatred against the Sunni faction 
whom they look upon as the cause of Husein's untimely 
death. The grief for the martyrs and the anger against 
their enemies are over for that year ; but the European 
spectator is left wondering whether any beneficial moral 
effect has resulted from so much unrestrained emotion. 



CHAPTER IX 
TRAVEL 

TO enjoy travel in Persia a man ought to be strong 
and keen, of the type of those "who scorn 
delights and live laborious days," and, if possible, he 
should be endued with a dash of imagination, a taste 
for art, history, and sport, and an interest in his fellow- 
creatures. To such a traveller the time spent in Iran 
will be one of the most cherished memories of his life, a 
period when at his best he lived to the full, a haunting 
episode filling him now and again with a strange 
home-sickness. 

When he is surrounded with the comforts of the 
West he will hear in fancy the cry of the muezzin ring 
out at dawn above some sleeping city ; he will smell 
the hundred odours, pleasant or the reverse, that go to 
make up the never-to-be-forgotten aroma of an Asiatic 
bazaar; he will see again the long string of majestic 
camels with heads thrown high pursue their solemn 
way, their great spongy feet making hardly any sound 
on the sandy plain, and their sides hung with huge 
bales of merchandise. Perhaps a caravan of energetic 
mules jingling with bells will dispute the right of road 
with the " ships of the desert," and in a moment all will 
be noise and confusion. The charm of the solitude will 



158 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

be broken, and the air rent with the yells and objurga- 
tions of camel-men and muleteers whose charges are 
inextricably mixed and out of hand. And the whole 
scene will be arched with a vault of so dazzling a 
blue that it seems to be composed of light itself, on 
either hand the strongly coloured mountain ranges re- 
vealing every seam and fissure in their sides beneath 
the pitiless noonday glare. 

Or it may be that the traveller is riding on his way, 
shivering beneath his wraps in the cold wind that 
heralds in the dawn, and before him, as the veils of 
mist roll off from the hills, he will see the curious effects 
of refraction. Everything will be magnified to colossal 
proportions, a man on horseback seeming like a giant, 
and boulders assuming the strangest shapes as of 
palaces or of impregnable fastnesses. Perhaps seduc- 
tive lakes fringed with palms and waving reeds will lure 
him on, though he knows full well that they are but an 
illusion, the mirage of the desert. In the words of 
Hafiz :— 

" The fountain-head is far off in the desolate wilderness ; 
Beware lest the demon deceive thee with the mirage." 

Day after day he rides across vast plains separated 
from one another by mountain ranges, and that 
civilisation which in spite of himself has counted for 
so much in his life hitherto, seems to drop from him. 
Time has not the same meaning when there are no 
trains or steam-boats to be caught, and when he is 
surrounded by men whose favourite phrase is Farda 
inshallah (" To-morrow, please Allah "). He finds his 
tent a welcome change from the crowded hotels of the 
West, and any uneasy questionings as to life's problems 



TRAVEL 159 

seem folly when an air that courses through the blood 
like wine, giving a sense of exhilaration and freedom, 
blows across expanses that invite the traveller to go 
ever forward. In such a climate the camp food tastes 
better than the choicest efforts of a Parisian chef, and a 
spring of good water is as nectar of the gods after 
probably much experience of water of varying degrees 
of flatness, brackishness, or even foulness. 

And when the day's march is over, the traveller, 
strolling round camp before turning in, will visit the 
horses to whom he owes so much of his pleasure and 
comfort. They will lie picketed near at hand, warmly 
wrapped up in thick felts, and will neigh softly as he 
approaches them. Over all, the golden moon and 
constellations, that glow and throb with a lustre 
unknown to Western lands, hang like lamps in a sky 
of velvety purple, and as he lies down to rest on his 
hard camp mattress, he will be filled with a great 
content before he passes into sound and dreamless 
slumber. Is he not free from the shackles of civilisa- 
tion, and leading that nomad existence the love of 
which lurks deep down in the hearts of most men ? 

In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, who has 
eloquently sung the praises of such a life : — 

"The untented Kosmos my abode, 
I pass a wilful stranger : 
My mistress, still the open Road, 
And the bright eyes of danger." 

The last line of the stanza suggests what always 
underlies Persian travel — a sense of adventure, the feel- 
ing that perhaps some day Death may look the 
wanderer in the face. Such an idea gives a zest to the 



i6o PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

long day's march, for "anything may happen" in 
passing through certain districts of Iran. A European, 
however, is seldom molested, as he has the reputa- 
tion of being well armed, and the tufangchiSy or 
guards, that patrol the roads, thrust themselves upon 
the traveller and give him hair-raising accounts of the 
vicinity of bandits merely to get money from him. In 
fact, before the present unrest, Persia was one of the 
safest countries in Asia in which to travel. 

"Much travel is needed to ripen a man," say the 
Persians, and they also add, " He who has seen the 
world tells many a lie." Both proverbs are true in 
their case ; for the European who is accompanied by 
servants accustomed to the march, will find them full of 
resource, willing, tireless, cheerful, and with a capacity 
for turning their hands to anything. If, however, he 
chance to hear them reciting their adventures when 
they have returned to the settled town-life, he will be 
almost stupefied at their powers of imagination, and at 
the ease with which they impose their "travellers' 
tales " on their credulous hearers. 

Full of fascination as is travel in Persia, yet looked 
at from the point of view of the tourist, who carries 
Baedeker under his arm, there are but few " sights " 
to be visited. One town is much like another, and 
as a rule is built on a barren plain, which is sprinkled 
with patches of cultivation near the city and across 
which run chains of kanat mounds carrying the water 
from the nearest mountain streams. 

The walls and the houses of the towns built of 
dun-coloured mud-bricks, would look intolerably mean 
were it not for the glitter of the tilework of the 
domes and minarets of some mosque or shrine, and 



TRAVEL i6i 

for the glorious sunshine which throws a glowing 
mantle over the most squalid details. And when the 
traveller has passed through the ornate gateway, prob- 
ably badly in need of repair, of some town he may feel 
that there is little of interest for him to see because, 
being an unbeliever, he will not be allowed to enter 
a single mosque. In a city such as Meshed he will 
not even be able to look at the outside of the finest 
buildings close at hand. Certainly at Isfahan there 
are remains of the bygone splendour of the Sefavean 
kings ; and the magnificent ruins of Persepolis, and 
the remarkable rock sculptures of Achsemenian and 
Sasanian monarchs would well repay many for the 
toil of the whole journey ; but, these apart, there is 
very little to " see." The bazaars are much the same 
everywhere, and have a tiresome monotony of shoddy 
clothing, third-rate crockery, lamps and mirrors, with 
an equally tiresome lack of characteristic Oriental 
goods, the traveller hunting in vain among the myriad 
stalls which line the covered-in alleys for old carpets 
and metal-work, old silks and embroideries. Outside 
them, he will feel imprisoned between the high mud 
walls that enclose the network of narrow lanes often 
cobbled, and which are ankle deep in mud in wet 
weather and thick in dust during dry. He will pass 
miles of houses, the only indication of their where- 
abouts being a stout, low door in the concealing 
wall; and he will notice with what apparent secrecy 
both men and women make their exits and entrances, 
giving him the sense of being shut out from the 
lives of these strange people. Again, he who has 
longed for the East, and imagines it to be fraught 
with a certain magnificence, is disappointed at the 

M 



i62 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

obvious need of repair of most of the buildings 
around him, at the dull clothing of the inhabitants, 
and the general poverty-stricken look of everything. 
On a grey day the impression left upon him will be 
one of unrelieved khaki colour, and he may ask him- 
self why he came to such a land. 

Nowadays carriages can be hired on all the main 
routes, but a few years ago there were only two ways of 
travelling in Persia ; by chapar, or post, and by caravan. 
By the former the traveller rode through the country 
on post-horses — one for himself and one for his bedding 
and supplies — and was attended by a shagird, or post- 
boy, who took the often half-starved animals back at 
the end of each stage. 

Sometimes there were no horses to be got at 
the chapar-khana, or post-house, in which case the 
traveller must halt in discomfort, or must take his 
tired steeds on for another stage. As his whole kit 
was squeezed into a pair of saddle-bags, he was not able 
to take much in the way of supplies, and, moreover, 
could get nothing save tea and bread at the halting- 
places. This inspired him to " beat the record " on 
his journey, and he would ride from dawn to sunset, 
proud of having done more miles than any prede- 
cessor, and callous as to the feelings of his over- 
worked and underfed mounts. Often he arrived far 
from fit at his destination, and sometimes an attack 
of fever was the result of some sixty to a hundred 
miles a day, little sleep in dirty, vermin-haunted, 
perhaps crowded chapar-khanas and a regime of 
insufficient food. 

The ideal mode of travel in Persia is to " caravan," 
that is, for the traveller to have his own horses, and hire 



TRAVEL 163 

some mules to carry his tents, camp equipment, supplies, 
and servants, making him completely independent of 
rest-houses and knock-kneed chapar horses. The best 
time for his journey is during the spring or the autumn, 
the former being the only season in which flowers and 
greenery adorn the country. Moreover, the snow that 
blocks up many of the high passes is melting, and the days 
are longer than in the autumn. But during the day 
the heat in the south and on the lower parts of the 
Plateau is considerable, and insect life is active in the 
caravanserais. On the other hand, the cold is often 
intense in the winter during the night and early 
morning ; but as soon as the sun has risen the climate 
reminds the traveller of that of some Swiss winter resort, 
with its floods of sunshine and dry and sparkling air. 

In the summer heat all travelling must be done at 
night, and rest taken during the day — a difficult process 
when the air is resonant with flies, and the mosquito 
net to check their intrusions almost stifles the would-be 
sleeper. 

Let us, however, follow a traveller at a time when 
heat and insects do not trouble, and let us suppose that 
he starts from Tehran in January on his ride south 
about half-way through the forty days of the " Great 
Cold." He has engaged a good road-servant and a 
groom to cook and look after him and the horses, the 
men being delighted to accompany him, for they get a 
jira. This means that their usual wages are half as much 
again in order to recoup them for the extra expense of 
food on the journey. They also get a month's wage 
before starting to be spent on suitable clothing for the 
expedition, and, moreover, they thoroughly enjoy travel- 
ling for its own sake, all Persians being nomads at 



i64 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

heart. The money question must be taken into con- 
sideration, for travel in Iran needs a good supply 
of ready cash. There is practically no gold coinage 
in the country, and the coin in current use is the 
silver kran (worth fourpence-halfpenny in 1909). Ten 
krans make up a toman (worth four shillings in 1909) ; 
but this coin is hardly ever seen, therefore bags full of 
heavy two-kran pieces must be carried to meet the 
expenses of the road. 

The traveller has engaged a small caravan of mules 
under the leadership of a trusty charvadar (head 
muleteer), whose sturdy animals can do twenty-five 
miles a day if not too heavily loaded, and if given a 
day's rest at intervals. Some tinned meats, dried fruits, 
jam, and butter will greatly add to his comfort during 
the journey, also forage, charcoal, tea, flour, rice, and 
meat, sufficient to last until he reaches a town where 
fresh supplies may be purchased. A tent, camp-bed- 
stead, folding-table, chair, and bath ensure luxury when 
compared with caravanserai accommodation ; and the 
traveller ought to have his own saddle (with a felt 
nmnneh in case of sore backs), wear a felt slouch 
hat (to be exchanged for a pith helmet in hot weather) 
and carry blue goggles to save his eyes from the ex- 
cessive glare. He needs warm clothing and plenty of 
wraps, also a mackintosh ; and it is a wise precaution 
to bind flannel round his stirrups, as otherwise his feet 
will be half-frozen in cold weather. Lined Russian top- 
boots keep the legs warm ; but stout English boots and 
gaiters are better for an active man who likes to 
dismount and lead his horse over bad going, or who 
wishes to try his luck with any game he may come 
across. 



TRAVEL 165 

To " run " a caravan successfully is no easy matter, 
and the Sahib will find that tact and good temper 
are necessary ; also some knowledge of the language, 
a comprehension of Oriental character, and an ability 
to turn his hand to anything. The muleteers are often 
independent and unruly, needing skilful management, 
and quarrels sometimes arise between these gatirchis 
and the servants, the combatants resorting to blows. 
They may even use their knives with disastrous results 
if their master is not on the alert to smooth away any 
friction at the outset. 

The Persian muleteer always finds it most difficult 
to tear himself from the fascinations of a town, and 
there are countless delays on the day of a start. Some 
are occasioned by the loads not being adjusted properly 
to the mules at first, or by various things being forgotten, 
but mostly by that kink in a charvadar' s character 
which makes him so tiresome to deal with when he is 
in a city, though often one of the pleasantest, most 
honest, and hard-working of Persians when on the road. 

The experienced traveller knowing this, arranges a 
short stage for the first day, a mere nakl-i-makan 
(change of place), as Persians term it, and probably will 
get no further on his way to Kum than the mehman- 
khana of Kahrisek, a few miles from Tehran. He 
will ride through a region of squalid lanes, and leave 
the capital by one of its grandiose gateways, near which 
runs the only railway in Persia, six miles in length, which 
he follows to the gold-domed shrine of Shah Abdul 
Azim, where Nasr-ed-Din Shah met his death from an 
assassin's bullet. From here the country is bare and 
deserted-looking, patches of snow lie on the ground and 
a keen wind is blowing from the white-covered mountain 



i66 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

ranges, making him glad to reach his destination. A 
mehmankhana is the best imitation of a hotel to be 
found outside Tehran, and these draughty buildings are 
erected at intervals along the road, built by an English 
Company, as far as Kum : they are actually provided 
with bedsteads, tables, and chairs, and follow their 
western models by presenting the traveller with a com- 
paratively heavy bill on his departure. As his servant 
Akbar is accustomed to the road he will soon be in 
comfort. A giltm, or cotton-carpet, will be laid on the 
floor and another hung against the warped and rickety 
door, through which the winter blasts are howling ; most 
buildings in Persia being constructed with an idea of 
letting in air during the summer heats rather than 
excluding it during the intense cold of winter. The 
samovar, with its core of burning charcoal, will be 
hissing merrily, providing tea to warm the traveller 
after his cold ride, and later on he will take his bath 
in front of a fire of blazing logs, coal being procurable 
only at the capital. His dinner, cooked with the aid 
of a most rudimentary batterie de cuisine over a 
small pot of charcoal, will perhaps consist of excellent 
soup, a pilau, a roast partridge, and a compote of 
apricots served with custard. There is not much 
inducement to sit up late, as every one will henceforth 
rise before daybreak if long marches have to be made, 
and it is easier to keep warm in bed when the tem- 
perature is hardly above freezing-point, than beside a 
fire that seems to emit little heat and needs constant 
replenishment. 

Our Sahib will be roused at dawn by his servant, 
to dress in a room full of cold draughts, and to find 
that the water in the camp basin is frozen over. While 



TRAVEL 167 

he is hurriedly getting into his clothes, his camp 
equipment will be packed and carried out to be loaded 
up on the mules, and he will drink tea, eat some bread 
and eggs in haste, and will then go out to watch his 
caravan start off. Probably it will consist of three or 
four fine mules, hung with bells, the loads being carried 
on high pack-saddles, and the charvadar's horse, adorned 
with many-coloured worsted trappings, heading the 
procession— an evil custom, for if the animal happen 
to die during the journey the mules will refuse to 
start on the day's march without their leader. The 
muleteers wear striped sacking coats over their shirts, 
and have great felt cloaks for cold weather and in 
which to sleep at night, their footgear being the giva, 
or cotton shoe, of the country with its rag sole. Their 
felt skull-caps are swathed with coloured hankerchiefs, 
and a belt carries their knife, pipe, packing-needle and 
string, whip and money-bag. They are handsome, wiry 
fellows, and walk alongside their charges urging them 
on with cries, but seldom belabouring them with the 
long staves that they carry. At last everything is 
loaded up, and the traveller, after seeing the animals 
well on their way, mounts his steed and canters after 
them along the road, on either side of which stretches 
a dreary plain bounded by ranges of hills. He and 
his servant will probably forge on ahead and halt for 
an hour about eleven o'clock for lunch, the mules 
passing them on their way to the night's resting-place. 
Distance in Persia is spoken of by the terra farsakh, 
a measurement of some three and a half to four miles, 
and, as may be imagined, is not computed with 
strict accuracy by the natives, and differs according to 
the difficulty of the road. 



i68 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

The chief point of note on the third march from 
Tehran, is the gloomy defile of the " Valley of the 
Angel of Death," which is interesting as being the 
mise en scene for many of the " ghoul " stories of 
Persia. To the ordinary traveller there is nothing 
particularly awe-inspiring about it, and certainly it is 
easier to negotiate than many other passes to be met 
with in the country. When this region is left behind, 
that "abomination of desolation," the great kavir, 
or salt, desert is seen, stretching far away on the 
horizon. Persians credit Shimr, the murderer of their 
beloved Imam Husein, with having caused this terrible 
waste, asserting, with no regard to geographical prob- 
ability, that he fled here after he had slain the Prophet's 
grandson at Kerbela on the Euphrates, and that on 
his approach the fertile ground at once turned into a 
huge salt marsh. 

And further on a salt lake with brilliantly blue waters 
has to be skirted, and Akbar will tell his Sahib that 
some thirty odd years ago the old road to Kum passed 
across its bed, and a large caravanserai gave shelter 
to travellers. The vizier of the day, however, was 
determined that the present road should be used by 
all and sundry, and he thought that he could effect 
this by removing the dam of a river and flooding the 
old route. His plan was almost too successful, for 
not only were the road and caravanserai submerged, 
but many miles of the plain were turned into the 
present lake, and the muleteers were forced to pay 
dues for using the new road in which the Prime 
Minister was pecuniarily interested. 

Some twenty miles from Kum a low pass is crossed, 
from the top of which the golden-domed Mosque of 



TRAVEL 169 

Fatima is clearly seen, the town lying beneath a curious 
double hill. Little piles of stones are on either side of 
the track, having been thrown there by the Faithful to 
indicate that from this spot they have caught their first 
glimpse of the shrine to which they are making a 
pilgrimage. The rest of the way is along a broad road, 
on either side of which stretches the salt desert, and 
the inexperienced would be engulfed in its numer- 
ous quicksands, did they venture upon it without a 
guide. Fatima, the sister of the Imam Reza, in whose 
honour the magnificent shrine at Meshed was built, is 
the patron saint of Kum, having died here when on her 
way to visit her brother at Meshed, and tradition affirms 
that the Eighth Imam visits his sister every Friday. The 
present mosque has a gold-covered dome and two gold- 
topped minarets in the original design, but the Vizier of 
Nasr-ed-Din Shah added two huge tiled minars much 
later, which destroy the symmetry of the building. 
Fraser, I who visited the mosque in 1821 in disguise, 
speaks of the magnificence of Fatima's tomb, which is 
enclosed by a massive silver grating, above which hangs 
the sword of Shah Abbas, and he comments on the 
beauty of the tilework and mosaic. Next to Meshed 
it is the great centre of pilgrimage in Persia, thousands 
of flat graves, as at Meshed, covering the space round 
the building outside. Women especially favour this 
shrine, and it is curious that the honour paid to Fatima, 
and also to her ancestress the Fatima, who was the 
Prophet's daughter, has not raised the position of the 
weaker sex with Moslems. 

The people of Kum are very fanatical, and on the 
morrow, as the traveller rides through the bazaar, he will 
^ " A Journey in Khorasan." 



170 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

have many a hostile glance from the hundreds of felt- 
capped Persians busy with their different trades or 
chaffering as they buy their day's supplies. 

It will be a relief to emerge on to the deserted plains, 
and late that afternoon the tents will be pitched, and 
real camp life will commence. The Sahib will, if 
possible, choose a spot that has not been used by 
caravans, scanning the ground narrowly for ticks, as 
these horrible insects are always left wherever camels 
have lain ; and he will try to camp above any village in 
order to draw his water from the kanat before it has 
been polluted. Then begins the unloading of the mules, 
which has to be done in haste, so eager are the animals 
for a roll in the dust; and the tents are put up with 
a good deal of fuss, and complaints that the pegs have 
been lost, one of the guy-ropes broken, and so on. At 
last they are pitched ; the muleteers have curry-combed 
their charges with an iron implement that makes a 
rattling noise ; and the groom has fed the horses and 
covered them up with their felt night-clothing. Their 
master, clad in thick ulster and cap, is jotting down 
notes in his diary by the light of a candle with a glass 
shade to prevent it flickering in the night air, and 
impatiently shouting to know why his dinner is so long 
in coming. A clatter of plates, and Akbar arrives with 
the soup, usually lukewarm, other courses following in 
time, and when the meal is finished the Englishman 
strolls about the plain for a smoke before he turns in. 

The moon and stars shine with a cold brilliance, 
Persians saying that the latter are holes in the floor- 
ing of heaven to let God's glory shine through ; from 
the mysterious depths of the long shadows cast by 
the mountains a jackal will suddenly steal past like 



TRAVEL 171 

a ghost, to be followed by others on their way to join 
the pack in its nightly hunt for food, and surely that 
skulking, hump-backed form with its shambling gait 
can be no other than the hyaena ? The little owls utter 
their plaintive cry ; the great screech owl shrieks like a 
badly wounded dog ; and, once out of the reach of 
the ceaseless gufti-gu (chatter) of his dependents, the 
traveller will hear a score of night noises — weird sounds 
that he cannot locate, eerie rustlings and patterings that 
make him understand the whole-hearted Persian belief 
in ghouls and jinns. 

Between Kum and the next town — Kashan — there is 
little life to be seen and hardly any cultivation, the 
patches of salt lying on the barren plains showing the 
proximity of the great salt desert, and the mountain 
ranges sharply outlined against the cerulean heaven 
being destitute of vegetation. Majestic Demavend, 
monarch of the snowy Elburz range, is clearly visible 
as far as Kashan, a distance of some hundred and fifty 
miles as the crow flies, and the traveller often turns in 
his saddle to have a look at the fine peak that becomes 
more and more isolated the further he leaves it behind 
him, until at last its attendant mountains have all 
vanished and the triangular cone stands up without a 
rival, pale and ghostly, against the blue background. 

A lofty leaning minaret is the most striking object in 
the town that has given its name to the beautiful kashi^ 
or tiles, for which Persia is celebrated : it is also the 
centre of the silk industry. 

Every writer speaks of the virulence and abundance 
of the scorpions found here, " May you be stung by a 
Kashan scorpion " being a popular curse ; and the 
inhabitants are credited with a cowardice far surpassing 



172 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

that of the ordinary Persian city-dweller. Sir J. Mal- 
colm I relates that thirty thousand soldiers of Kashan 
and Isfahan, when disbanded by Nadir Shah, asked 
that monarch to give them an escort of a hundred 
soldiers to take them safely home. The Shah, with 
whom personal courage counted above all virtues, is 
reported to have said that he regretted his days of 
brigandage were over, as he would have enjoyed looting 
such an army of poltroons ! 

Four miles from Kashan is the lovely garden of Fin, 
in which is a palace built by Fath AH Shah, falling into 
ruin. Here between avenues of cypresses water runs 
over channels lined with blue and green tiles, and 
portraits of the builder and his many sons are frescoed 
on the walls and archways. The visitor will be told 
how Mirza Taki Khan, the able Vizier of Nasr-ed-Din 
Shah and husband of his royal master's sister, met 
his death here. The courtiers stirred up the Shah's 
jealousy against his minister, who was banished to this 
garden. Though he was watched night and day with a 
passionate affection by his royal wife, yet means were 
found to despatch him when she was off her guard, and 
a man who might have done much for his country was 
lost to Persia. 

The traveller orders an early start when he is about 
to leave Kashan, and his servant packs his personal 
equipment in good time, but, as usual, the muleteers 
are not forthcoming. In spite of messengers sent to 
the caravanserai in which they and their animals are 
lodged, it is past ten o'clock before they make their 
appearance at the telegraph office and begin to load up. 
Even then they profess to have mislaid something at 
^ " Persian Sketches." 



TRAVEL, 173 

the serai and must go to retrieve it. A rope or a 
piece of giltm has been forgotten, so that the sun is 
high in the heavens before the broken-down buildings 
of dilapidated Kashan are left behind and the caravan, 
passing through a zone of cultivation, emerges on to 
the usual barren plain on its way to Isfahan. 

The traveller soon comes across one of the fev/ public 
works of Persia in the shape of a barrier, partly natural 
and partly artificial, by which the Kohrud river is 
dammed up right across the valley. This work was 
executed in the beneficent reign of Shah Abbas in 
order to give water to Kashan during the hot weather, 
and, passing along the lake thus formed, the village of 
Kohrud, which stands at a height of 7,000 feet, is 
reached. As the night will in consequence be bitterly 
cold every one is thankful to seek shelter in the chapar- 
khana. As a rule, these buildings consist of some 
rooms and stables built round a courtyard, but above 
the entrance gateway are a couple of rooms for the 
accommodation of better-class travellers and approached 
by steps of abnormal height. Up these the rider, stiff 
from the saddle, will stumble, calling to the keeper of 
the post-house to bring firewood and a samovar. While 
he is waiting for these comforts he will be amused to 
observe that the Persian traveller is in the habit of 
scribbling his name on the walls of chapar-klianas 
and caravanserais as much or even more than the 
British tourist, so often abused for this habit ; the 
Oriental being fond also of writing quotations from his 
favourite poets. The next day's stage to Soh may be 
most wearisome, for snow often falls on the pass which 
has to be crossed, the track is then obliterated, and the 
mules, blundering into drifts, fall over and have to be 



174 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

unloaded before they can regain their feet. The Sahib, 
leading his horse, will plough his way as best he can, 
wearing blue glasses, as the glare from the snow when 
the sun shines on it is dazzling in the extreme, and the 
caravan will arrive late and worn out after only a twenty- 
mile march, warmth, food, and rest being ardently 
desired by all. 

During the next day, though the pass has been 
crossed and the track that leaves the hilly country and 
emerges on to the great Isfahan plain is denuded of the 
hampering snow, yet a blizzard is raging. The icy 
blast seems to blow right through the traveller's wraps 
as if they had been made of paper, and his horse 
becomes unmanageable as it refuses to face the bitter 
wind that lashes it like a whip. The only thing to be 
done is to press forward, as there is no shelter within 
several miles, and were the caravan to return on its 
tracks it would encounter blinding snow on the pass 
above instead of the sleet, and probably lose its way in 
the maze of hills, all the paths being obliterated. The 
muleteers, enveloped in great felt cloaks, hurry their 
unwilling charges along as best they can to the accom- 
paniment of shouts and yells, and the Sahib is forced 
to urge his trembling steed with whip and spurs. A 
deadly numbing cold seems gaining upon him, and as 
the hours go by his limbs appear to be getting 
paralysed, when suddenly the sun shines from the 
steely-blue, pitiless heaven, and the sleet-laden wind 
abates. "Alhanidulillah !" shouts the c/iarvadar ; men 
and animals take heart again, and after a short halt 
cheerily proceed on their way, reaching the old capital 
of the Sefavi kings a couple of days later. 

The last stage into Isfahan is a short one, as Persians 



TRAVEL 175 

love to get into a town early in order to wash and put 
on their good clothes, telling the Sahib that they 
could not possibly appear in the bazaar in travel-stained 
garments, as if they did so the Isfahanis would get a 
bad impression of their employer as well as of them- 
selves. This apparent care for their master's reputation 
is not altogether due to that tashakhus, or love of 
show, that most Persians possess in abundance, but from 
a wish that the establishment to which they belong at 
the time shall " put its best foot foremost " so to speak. 
It is always an effective rebuke to tell a servant that 
his conduct has given the house a bad nam (bad 
name). 

As so much has been written about Isfahan, its past 
splendours and the relics of them that still survive, 
it will be enough to say that Shah Abbas selected the 
city for the seat of government as being in the heart 
of his empire, and that he beautified it with splendid 
mosques and palaces, avenues of trees, and wonderful 
bridges. Here ambassadors from many European 
countries visited him, also foreigners in search of 
trade, and one and all bore testimony to the magnifi- 
cence of the sovereign, his Court, and his capital, and to 
the prosperity of the country under his sway. Of 
course there must have been filth and squalor, lack of 
drainage, narrow lanes, and insanitary dwellings, just as 
at the present day, but there must also have been plenty 
of commerce, and an encouragement of trade and the 
arts such as has never been known since, giving some 
foundation to the Persian saying, "■Isfahan nisfij'ehan" 
(Isfahan is half the world). An educated Isfahani 
remarked to the writer that the reigning dynasty being 
of Turkish origin, had no aesthetic sense, and would not 



176 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

disburse a kran to keep in repair the magnificent works 
of their predecessors on the throne, but even destroyed 
them in some cases, the Zil-es-Sultan, for example, 
ruthlessly cutting down the splendid avenues of chenars 
planted by Shah Abbas, which were not only a thing 
of beauty, but were an inestimable boon to the city 
during the intense heat of the summer. This conduct 
he ascribed to a kind of jealous rivalry that will impel 
a Shah to gild the dome of the shrine at Meshed — 
a deed that will blazon forth his generosity and religious 
zeal to the entire kingdom — but will not permit him to 
keep up roads or bridges, the work of bygone bene- 
factors. 

The inhabitants of Isfahan are credited with being 
niggardly in the extreme, and the Persian proverb to 
describe a miser, " He puts his cheese in a bottle and 
rubs his bread on the outside," is supposed to be 
derived from the avarice of an Isfahan merchant. This 
worthy, together with his unfortunate apprentice, lived 
entirely on bread which the pair were wont to rub 
against a bottle in which was a piece of cheese, in order 
to give it an imaginary flavour of this latter. The story 
goes on to say that the merchant, on leaving the house 
one day, locked up the room in which was this bottle, 
and on being pursued by his luckless shagird, who 
said that he could not swallow his bread without the 
accustomed relish, the merchant advised him to return 
and rub it on the closed door ! 

The Persians have a saying by which they seek to 
account for the almost inexplicable fascination of the 
" open road," Musdfir misl i divdneh ast (The traveller 
is like a madman), and the Englishman is longing to start 
off on the march again and has no desire to linger 



TRAVEL 177 

among the departed glories of Isfahan. He needs to 
see the red streak widen in the East day after day — that 
harbinger of Aurora, who when she appears is often 
surrounded by masses of tiny rosy clouds that vanish as 
soon as the Sun God leaps into the pale-blue sky and 
prepares to drive his chariot across the firmament. 
This daily marvel of the dawn never becomes common- 
place, and seems to lift for a brief moment the veil that 
hangs over the heart of things, and to draw the traveller 
closer to the great mother, Nature. 

The Desert City of Yezd will be his next halting- 
place, and as he has made a detow to visit the old 
capital of Persia, the party now travels by little-known 
tracks through a hilly country where the water is dis- 
agreeably brackish, and past quaint villages seldom 
visited by Europeans. 

One of these hamlets, almost as curious in its way as 
the remarkable village of Yezdikhast, is built on the 
spur of a mountain, the mud houses hanging over the 
precipice. In some cases the dwellings themselves are 
burrowed out of the living rock, the whole looking par- 
ticularly insecure, though affording an impregnable 
refuge for the inhabitants in the old raiding days. The 
weather keeps cold, and a tent is an airy apartment 
during the hasty morning toilet, when a bitter wind 
seems to be invariably blowing ; and one never-to-be- 
forgotten night the traveller is awakened by his canvas 
home falling upon him, the pegs and pole torn up by a 
howling blast, and his equipment blown out into the 
darkness. It is a time of lamentation and discomfort. 
The cook screams out that his resai, or padded quilt, has 
vanished ; the muleteers complain of various personal 
losses, swearing by Ali and all the Imams i}c\.^\.jinns are 



178 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

at the bottom of the turmoil ; and as no tent can stand 
against the fury of the elements, all take what shelter 
they can and await the dawn in no cheerful spirit. 

The one ray of comfort in the situation is that the 
furious wind keeps the rain off; but on the morrow, 
when the gale goes down, a heavy deluge descends, and 
everybody and everything are soaked, save perhaps the 
traveller's bedding in its waterproof valise. Even 
Akbar, paragon of servants, is grumbling, the dinner 
provided is a poor one, and all go to rest very early, the 
steady downpour making its way at last through the 
stout canvas of the tents in long streaks of wet. 

But such incidents as these are soon forgotten when 
next morning the sun shines as usual in undisputed 
majesty, and the Sahib halts for a day in order to try 
and bring down a mountain sheep, and also to allow 
everything to be thoroughly dried. A native shikarchi 
guides him up the mountain, and after many hours of 
climbing and stalking, he returns to the camp in triumph 
with a fine quarry, which provides master and men with 
a sumptuous supper : its skull and horns are preserved 
as a trophy that proudly surmounts one of the mule 
loads during the rest of the journey. 

The next contre-tenips that occurs — one by no 
means uncommon in Persian travel — is that the party 
loses its way, and instead of reaching Taft, a charming 
village near Yezd, is forced to halt for the night on a 
barren stretch of ground near a brackish stream. 

Every one talks of " roads " in Persia, but these are 
usually a series of parallel tracks made by the kafilas 
(caravans) during many centuries, and if the route leads 
up dry river-beds, sown with boulders, or across patches 
of hard gravel, or bed-rock, it is often indistinguishable. 




w 



TRAVEL 179 

Moreover, there are dozens of false tracks leading appar- 
ently nowhere in particular, and it is one of these that 
has misled the caravan ; and the mules have plodded 
laboriously over more than a farsakk of stony ground 
before the mistake is discovered. Then ensues the weari- 
some return and the anxious search for the right road, 
which, when found, cannot be followed, as the February 
night is ominously near ; for there is practically no 
twilight in Persia, but an almost sudden step from sunset 
into darkness. It takes longer to pitch the tents than 
usual, and the traveller who has eaten nothing since a 
hasty lunch at 10.30 a.m., feels his entire stock of patience 
vanish abruptly when he observes that the hands of his 
watch point to 10.30 p.m., and that his evening meal 
still tarries. At last, after constant calls to Akbar, 
answered by as constant " Bi chashm, bi chashjn, Sahib!" 
(By my eyes), that henchman appears with the much- 
needed food, and his master falls to with a gusto that he 
has seldom, if ever, experienced at home ; and imme- 
diately after eating he follows the Persian custom of 
going to bed at once. 

The last march into Yezd lies through a great 
amphitheatre of mountains that open out into a superb 
pass of castellated limestone cliffs, grand beyond 
description, and forming a romantic setting for the 
Desert City, as it lies in a blue haze in the distance. 
The delightful village of Taft, refuge of well-to-do 
Yezdis during the hot weather, is now passed, and 
the traveller here notices the Gabrs, or Zoroastrians, 
labouring in helmet-shaped felt caps, and admires 
their picturesquely-clad women. The caravan then 
picks its way along the stony bed of a dried-up 
watercourse and emerges on to the plain on which 



i8o PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Yezd stands, the city looking drearier than most Per- 
sian towns from the absence of any vegetation near 
it, loose sand not being a favourable soil in which to 
raise crops. The new arrivals are struck by the count- 
less badgzrs, or wind-towers, which are far more 
prominent than the minars of the mosques, and 
their number bears eloquent testimony to the heat of 
the summer, the inhabitants retiring to underground 
rooms beneath these air-shafts, as soon as it becomes 
oppressively hot. 

The little English colony will probably put the 
traveller up, and after his tent-life in the cold uplands 
he will find his first night in a room furnished in 
European style a most disagreeable experience, and 
will feel almost suffocated by the closeness of the 
atmosphere in comparison with his airy tent, through 
the canvas of which all the winds of heaven appeared 
to blow. It will be long before he falls into a disturbed, 
unrefreshing sleep, and he will sally out on the morrow 
to see the sights of Yezd in a weary frame of mind. 

The town, he will be told, is second only to Tabriz 
and Isfahan in commercial importance, and produces 
beautiful silk materials, but he will be more interested 
in seeing the oft-persecuted Zoroastrians, the remnant 
of the pure Iranian race, whom he will speedily 
recognise by the ugly yellow hue of their garments. 
He will be told that among other irritating restrictions, 
they are not allowed to build badgirs to their 
houses, to wear spectacles, or to ride horses. Yet, 
in spite of everything, they have clung tenaciously 
to their religion, and have not intermarried with their 
conquerors. The dakmehs where their dead are 
exposed, are built on low hills a few miles from the 



TRAVEL i8i 

city, and the more ancient of these " towers of silence " 
can be inspected from a neighbouring mountain spur, 
and contains a huge collection of skulls and bones 
picked clean by the birds of prey. But in spite of 
much kindly hospitality, the traveller is impatient to 
start on his two-hundred-mile ride to Kerman, his 
next halt, as he has far to go before he reaches the 
coast. Accordingly, after the usual exasperating delays 
which occur on leaving any town, and which by now 
he accepts in a philosophical spirit, he starts off with 
some of his new friends who speed him on his way by 
riding a farsakh with him. The weather is stormy, 
harbinger of the spring, and as high winds and heavy 
downpours are frequent the party takes refuge at 
night in the post-houses built at intervals on the sandy 
plains, over which jinns, as Persians call the columns 
of sand, whirl. 

The chapar-khana of Shemsh as it stands, together 
with a caravanserai, in solitary state on an absolutely 
barren stretch of salt-strewn desert, gives an impression 
of desolation hardly to be surpassed even in Persia ; 
and the effect is heightened when it is discovered that 
the stream running near by is so brackish that a 
European can scarcely touch it even when it is served 
to him in the form of tea. 

Shortly after leaving this dreary halting-place, the 
kafila encounters a dust-storm. The whole land- 
scape is suddenly blotted out by a great dusky cloud, 
the radiantly shining sun becomes a mere white blur, 
and the sand is driven along by the wind with a curious 
swishing sound. As the track is hidden, except when 
the blast whirls the sand from it at intervals, the party 
closes up, the men muffling their heads and yelling at 



i82 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

their lagging and frightened charges, and the traveller 
hastily donning his goggles to save his eyes from the 
grit. 

Progress is now slow in the extreme, for the track, 
which is often difficult to find in daylight, is almost 
impossible to follow when only fleeting glimpses are 
obtainable of it ; but eventually men and animals arrive 
late and sore-eyed at the post-house. The Sahib insists 
that his dependants should bathe their eyes with 
boracic lotion, and finds that Persians have a strange 
dislike to washing their organs of sight if they are at all 
inflamed, this misguided idea and the lack of brims to 
their felt caps, leading to half the cases of ophthalmia 
so common in the country. » 

Though the wind is often violent, yet rain only falls 
now and then on the parched plains ; and one day the 
traveller, halting for lunch beside a running stream, was 
astonished to find that the whole of the water had 
vanished and left the bed dry while he was eating. But 
before it reaches Kerman, the caravan has the unusual 
experience of being obliged to wade through a mile of 
flooded country surrounding the town of Bahramabad. 
The muleteers dash knee-deep into the flood, probing 
the bottom with their staves to find out any holes, and 
during the process one man disappears into an unsus- 
pected pit, and is fished out half-drowned. The mules 
move forward warily, stopping every moment to try and 
test the ground with their hoofs ; but at intervals one 
after another roll over, and have to be unloaded with 
much objurgation before they can recover their feet. 
The traveller, after being unhorsed once, thinks it wiser 
to splash along on foot, leading his steed that snorts 
with terror and tries to break away whenever a mule 



TRAVEL 183 

falls headlong into the flood. Fortunately a villager 
makes his appearance as they near the town, and offers 
to guide them through the maze of irrigation channels, 
now deep and muddy streams, that surround Bahra- 
mabad, telling them that half the houses are in ruins 
owing to the unusually heavy rain. It is with great 
relief that the dirty and dripping party enter the gate 
of the town, and seek the dubious hospitality of the 
caravanserai which, to their dismay, they find almost 
uninhabitable, part of the roof having fallen in and the 
courtyard being a morass of indescribable filth. Not 
even the charuadar wishes to halt more than a night 
in this comfortless place, and next morning the kafila 
makes its way gingerly through the town, getting one of 
the citizens to lead it along the flooded lanes between the 
gutted mud houses, for in places the road is swept away 
altogether. At last the city gate is passed, and the party 
is among a belt of cultivated ground before it reaches 
the sandy desert again on its way to Kabutarkhan. 

And from here onwards the long plain across 
which men and animals have toiled since leaving 
Yezd begins to close in, and the mountain ranges 
come nearer together, Kerman itself appearing to lie 
surrounded by hills on all sides. When the Sahib at 
last reaches the city, the British Consul offers hospitality 
to his countryman in a charming house which lies in the 
garden- quarter outside the town, and has a good view 
of the two picturesque limestone spurs on which were 
erected the fortresses of Sasanian days. 

Nowadays all that is to be seen of the city, that once 
lay between them, are heaps of mud ruins carried away 
daily on donkeys to act as manure, and littered with 
scraps of the beautiful lustre tiles for which Persia was 



i84 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

formerly so famous. The modern town is built on only 
a quarter of the site that it occupied in the days when the 
commerce of the East poured through it on its way north ; 
and the inhuman Agha Mohammed Khan dealt the final 
blow to its prosperity when he sacked Kerman in 1794 
and blinded the majority of its inhabitants. The visitor 
notices the poverty-stricken look of the place, surrounded 
as it is by ruins, and remarkable even in Iran for the 
number of its beggars, and there are no fine mosques or 
public buildings to be seen in the narrow lanes in which 
are frequent holes. The beautiful carpets made in the 
town will attract him ; but if he visits a factory and 
observes that the children who make the artistic fabrics 
are crippled and deformed from the long hours of work, 
and diseased from the dark, damp places in which they 
are forced to spend their days of labour, he will feel that 
the price of Kerman carpets is a heavy one ; for the 
health and often the lives of countless little ones have 
been lost in the making of them. 

There is not much of interest to be seen in the 
neighbourhood, the city lying on the edge of the great 
desert, and being supplied with water from the many 
fine ranges of hills in its near vicinity. The old 
chroniclers, however, write that Kerman was once 
famous for its rose-gardens that produced half the 
attar of roses of commerce, and that its hundreds of 
wells made it one of the most fertile districts in Persia. 
At the present time there is practically but one tree in 
the environs of the city (of course not including the 
private gardens), and this plane is a prominent land- 
mark for miles, bearing pathetic testimony to the work 
of deforestation that has largely contributed towards the 
sterility of Persia. 



TRAVEL 185 

The Fire Worshippers held out for long in the 
Province of Kerman against their Arab invaders, and 
Zoroastrians still survive here in some numbers, their 
dakmehs being built on low hills in a desert region a 
few miles from the city. 

But the traveller, eager to press southwards to the 
coast, dares not linger at Kerman, as he dreads the 
intense heat of Baluchistan, where, according to the 
Persians, the sun, even during the spring, is powerful 
enough to cook eggs if they are exposed to its burning 
rays. He has now to reorganise his caravan, because 
his charvadar refuses to venture his mules in the 
wilds of Baluchistan. All Persians have a horror of this 
country, which they say equals the Infernal Regions in 
heat, and which is peopled by Sunnis, worthy inhabi- 
tants of such a land. Therefore six or seven camels are 
engaged to carry the Sahib's servants and belongings 
down to Gwadur, these slowly-moving, evil-smelling 
beasts being able to pick up a good living from the 
camel-thorn everywhere abundant, and also being 
capable of going without water for some days if 
necessary. Akbar and the groom complain at first 
at being obliged to exchange their briskly-stepping 
mules for a camel, as they suffer agonies of sea-sickness 
until they get accustomed to the lurching movements of 
their new steeds. 

Supplies of all kinds must be taken ; forage for the 
horses, and barley-meal with which to give the camels a 
feed at night ; also a couple of wooden water-barrels, 
because a corner of the great waterless Lut has to 
be crossed. The Sahib sees that his servants have 
movable shades to their hats, and looks to his own 
pith-helmet and blue glasses ; for the glorious Persian 



i86 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

sun that has shone above him hitherto will turn into a 
dreaded enemy when he has left the lofty plateau and 
descended into low-lying country. 

He and his caravan start off early in March, making 
their way across the sand hummocks of the Kerman 
Desert to the little village of Mahun, not far from the 
magnificent Jupar range. Both men and horses are in 
excellent spirits, the crisp air having such an exhila- 
rating effect on the latter that the Sahib's favourite 
Arab carries its rider up and down the sand-heaps with 
the buoyancy of a boy at play, and races along the 
track far ahead of the mules, giving bucks at intervals, 
to let off its high spirits. Like many of its kind it is 
very docile, and when not ridden it trots along with the 
caravan, and if it lags behind comes like a dog at the 
groom's call. Much of the traveller's keen pleasure in 
his journey is owing to Raksh and to the big raw-boned 
Turkoman, Shaitan ; and he is determined to take both 
these friends with him when he returns to India. 

When the party reaches Mahun it halts in a beautiful 
pleasaunce that in spring and summer is one of the 
loveliest in Persia, its fountains and cascades, its trees 
and flowers making it a veritable enchanted garden in 
comparison with the dreary desert on all sides of it- 
From here the way leads into the hills, and the next 
night, owing to the cold, is passed in a dirty caravan- 
serai, its mud-built rooms being without doors or 
windows, and the party being almost blinded by the 
volumes of smoke when they attempt to light fires. 

As the marches are long and the camels go slowly, 
every one is up before sunrise, and the traveller sees the 
" false dawn," that strange, eerie light that appears and 
disappears before a crimson point in the East betokens 



TRAVEL 187 

the advent of a new day. A chilly wind invariably blows 
at this hour, and the Englishman will lead his horse 
for a couple of miles to warm himself before mounting ; 
such conduct being looked upon as little short of lunacy 
by Persians, who never walk a step if they can help it, 
and consider it infra dig. for a man to do so if he has 
a steed to carry him. Plain after plain stretches in a 
wearisome monotony ; range after range of barren 
mountains, often with finely serrated outline and 
colouring, divide the plains ; and if a stream of water 
with verdure on its banks be reached, the party hail it 
with delight. At one part of the road it seems as if a 
great avalanche of mud had overwhelmed the district in 
prehistoric days, and receding had left a hundred weird, 
fantastic shapes. Pinnacles and columns, huge animal 
forms that could only be seen in a nightmare, bastions 
and castles, rise up on all sides round the party, and 
Akbar and the shuturchis (camel-men) call out to 
one another that they are in the country of the demons, 
and it is well for every one that they have not wandered 
into this enchanted district after sunset. 

A few days after leaving the snowy peaks and ice- 
bound streams of the Kerman highlands. Bam, the 
frontier town of Persia previous to the annexation of 
Baluchistan, is reached ; and in this district of date- 
palms, pampas grass, and running streams will be felt 
the first touch of the oppressive heat to be encountered 
later on. The town, mainly a collection of palm-leaf 
matting hovels, and dominated by a picturesque fortress 
built on a mountain spur, seems stifling as it lies 
embosomed in feathery date-trees. After fresh supplies 
of rice, flour, tea, and sugar have been laid in, the 
camels leave behind them the spot where the ill-fated 



i88 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Lutf Ali Khan, the last of the Zend dynasty, was 
treacherously captured, and push southward to Regan, 
beyond which village Persian Baluchistan is entered. 
Owing to the abundance of water, the country here 
is wooded. Great plumy tamarisk-trees, starred with 
rosy blossom, acacias, feathery pampas, and the konar- 
tree all grow luxuriantly, and in the distance the 
splendid cone of the extinct volcano Kuh-i-Basman 
stands up superbly. The strident note of the francolin 
is heard everywhere ; and the traveller sallying out 
with his gun has such good luck that all fare 
sumptuously for a couple of days on these fine 
partridges. 

But this life and vegetation are merely a fringe on 
the edge of the desolate Lut, and now the caravan 
enters Baluchistan. This is a country where the debris 
from the low, mean-looking hills is scattered so thickly 
over the valleys that fast riding is dangerous ; where the 
tamarisk scrub and palmetto flourish ; and where the 
water-supply is frequently of the scantiest and more 
often brackish than sweet. It is an unprepossessing- 
looking land, and the inhabitants, who live usually in 
shanties of palm-leaf matting, are far darker and smaller 
than the Persians and in some parts show signs of negro 
origin. The national costume of the men consists of a 
long shirt, baggy trousers, and big turban, all of white 
cotton, and would be a becoming one were it not 
usually so badly in need of washing. Their greasy 
black hair is, as a rule, uncut and matted, but the 
young dandies affect bunches of curls hanging over the 
ears ; and a long ringlet, shining with oil, often trails 
down the chest. All are careful to pluck out the centre 
of their beards and moustaches in order that these 



TRAVEL 189 

adornments may not be defiled if their possessors drink 
wine, and this custom gives them a curious appearance. 

The women, poor things ! thin, ugly, and prematurely 
aged, wear long black or white woollen garments with 
black veils over their heads ; but leave their faces 
uncovered, this dress making them look curiously like 
nuns, as they glide in and out of their squalid palm-leaf 
huts. Both men and women are utterly uncivilised and 
ignorant when compared with the Persians, and are 
incorrigibly lazy and " slack." This the traveller finds 
to his cost if he has much to do with Baluchi 
camel-drivers, those once in the employ of Major 
Sykes ^ asserting that their camels could not march at 
night and must graze all day ! 

They are all strict Sunnis, and bear an unextin- 
guishable grudge against the Shiah Persians who 
conquered them some fifty years ago ; and the Sahib 
will have to keep his followers well in hand in order to 
prevent friction arising on religious grounds. For 
exam.ple, if his servants, following the common Persian 
custom, vituperate the Khalif Omar, a fight will almost 
certainly take place between them and the fanatical 
Baluchis. 

Now and again a village will boast a tiny mud- 
built mosque with a low roof of palm-beams ; but the 
religious life of the people appears to be chiefly centred 
in the shrines. These ziarats are met with every- 
where, and are large cairns of stones on which are 
placed sticks to impale the fluttering rags torn from 
the garments of those who hope to gain some favour 
from the saint buried beneath. Sometimes the shrine 
is hung with camel-bells, presumably to call the holy 
' " Ten Thousand Miles in Persia." 



190 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

man's attention to the petitions offered up, and they 
are usually adorned with the horns of ibex and 
moufflon to signify power. 

Mr. Floyer/ however, considers that half these 
cairns are frauds, as he himself walking on ahead 
of his caravan, used sometimes to collect a few stones 
together, and he noticed that when his native camel- 
men reached the spot, one and all would add to 
the heap. 

Palms are the chief source of wealth in Baluchistan, 
a man's worldly position being regulated by the number 
of date-trees he possesses ; and when the caravan 
reaches some oasis in the general sterility, the groves 
of waving palms beside rippling streams and the green 
of springing wheat and barley will appear like an 
earthly paradise in contrast to the sandy desert that 
stretches on all sides. 

After the picturesque mud-built fortress of a village 
is left behind him, the traveller may march through 
a region of black and reddish-coloured volcanic hills, 
where not a bird or an animal is to be seen, the 
only signs of life being small lizards, their colouring 
imitating so exactly the debris littering the valleys 
that it is impossible to distinguish them when motion- 
less. This gloomy district will be full of strange echoes, 
and weird cries will be heard that cause the party to 
keep as near the Sahib as possible, all Persians 
believing that if they are in the company of an 
European no jinn or ghoul can appear. 

Later on the Bampur river will be struck, and the 
groups of lofty tamarisks, oleanders poisonous to the 
unwary camel, and occasional clumps of graceful palms, 
' "Unexplored Baluchistan." 



TRAVEL 191 

give a park-like appearance to the scene, through which 
meanders the water, strewn with rush-clad islets. But 
Sir Thomas Holdich ^ writes : " The fact is that Makran 
is a country about which a man may write much as 
he pleases and never stray far from the truth." And 
he gives another aspect of the country in a passage that 
makes the landscape " leap to the eye " when he says : 
" The mountain scenery ... is not exhilarating, a 
dead monotony of laminated clay backbones, serrated 
like that of a whale's vertebrae, sticking out from the 
smoother outlines of mud ridges which slope down 
on either hand to where a little edging of sticky 
salt betokens that there is a drainage line when there 
is water to trickle along it ; and a little faded decoration 
of neutral-tinted tamarisk shadowing the yellow stalks 
of last year's forgotten grass along its banks, . . ." 

In marching through this land the traveller will 
be thankful that his horses are shod a la Persane, for 
an English shoe could not adequately protect the hoof 
on the stony plains thickly strewn with every kind of 
sharp-cornered pebble and boulder. 

There are not many horses in Baluchistan, it being 
looked upon as a sign of wealth for a man to possess 
one; therefore "camelry" takes the place here of the 
cavalry of Persia. This picturesque-looking force is 
composed of wild-looking Baluchis who ride in pairs 
on running camels, and are armed with antique Je^azls 
(Persian rifles) and long, curving knives, and carry 
leather, brass-embossed shields. 

As the party makes its way southward the heat grows 
greater, and soon the daily march begins at 3 a.m., all 
getting into camp about 9 a.m., and the traveller trying 
' "The Indian Borderland." (Perso-Baluch Boundary.) 



192 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

to make up for his short night's rest by a midday- 
siesta. This is usually difficult, as the tent, unless 
pitched in the shade of palm-trees, is unbearably stuffy; 
the flies buzz without intermission, trying to find their 
way through the mosquito net with which his head 
and shoulders are enveloped, and there are almost 
daily sand-storms. These shaitans (devils), as the 
Persians call them, often blow down the tents, insecurely 
pegged in the loose soil, until experience teaches the 
party to put boxes on the guy-ropes : they are also 
irritating because they cover everything with a layer 
of dust, filling the Sahib's hair, eyes, and ink-pot, 
not to speak of his food, with grit. 

If he is interested in the past history of the country, 
the traveller will be disappointed when he reaches Bam- 
pur, the old capital of the province, to see nothing save 
a mud-built fortress, situated on what is apparently an 
artificial mound ; and he will soon leave its squalid palm- 
leaf huts and push on to Fahraj, the present capital, 
rich in palm-groves and streams of delicious water. 
Here he will look for traces of Alexander the Great's 
army ; but the inhabitants cannot produce any coins 
or pottery, though the sight of great mounds of debris 
that might reveal the secrets of the past is tantalising. 
He will be told that further east, at Jalk and Ladgusht, 
are the mud-built mausoleums of the Kaianian Maliks, 
as the natives call them, who ruled over the country 
until conquered by Nadir Shah ; and every here and 
there he will notice how carefully the now utterly barren 
hillsides are terraced, testifying to a considerable cultiva- 
tion in past centuries. But with the heat over 97° in his 
tent, with the grumbles of his Persian servants in his 
ears, and the mute suffering of his horses ever before 



TRAVEL 193 

his eyes, he can only think of the best way to the coast ; 
and decides to negotiate the mountain passes and dry 
river-beds between Fahraj and Gwadur, a route that 
Baluchis look upon as constituting an excellent road 
for these parts. 

Since he left Tehran several weeks ago, the English- 
man has had an abundant and varied experience of what 
travel in Iran means ; but he has not yet grasped the 
danger of camping in the dry bed of a watercourse, not 
knowing that heavy rain, falling perhaps a hundred 
miles distant, may send a roaring torrent from the hills 
that will sweep away everything in its path. Alexander 
the Great's camp was destroyed in this fashion, and in 
this very country some three centuries before Christ ; 
and the Baluchis have a saying that a wise man when 
crossing the bed of the Mashkel river will never stop 
to adjust the rope that keeps his sandal of palmetto 
fibre in its place, so sudden and unexpected is the 
onslaught of these seelabs. The Sahib's last adventure 
in Baluchistan might have had a disastrous ending. 
His tents were pitched in the bed of a dry torrent ; the 
camels and horses browsed on the banks above ; and 
preparations were in full swing for the evening meal, 
when, with hardly any warning, a wall of water was seen 
bearing down upon the encampment. Master and men 
fled for their lives, and from the bank ruefully watched 
tents, stores, and personal belongings of all kinds being 
v/ashed away down the river, that night being a sad 
and supperless one. However, things might have been 
far worse, Gwadur was only a couple of marches distant, 
and as the dispirited caravan followed the course of the 
stream on the morrow, they recovered various things 
that had been stranded high and dry by the flood that 



194 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

carried them away. Here was a box with the remains 
of the suppHes, there the Sahib's saddle, and all rejoiced 
at the sight of one of the tents caught in a swirling 
eddy of what was now a good-sized river. Even with 
these alleviations the two days before the caravan 
reached the comparative comfort of Gwadur were a time 
of considerable deprivation ; but when the English- 
man said goodbye to his servants and camel-men and 
found himself and his beloved horses on board a 
British India steamer bound for Karachi, he heaved a 
sigh of regret that what he considered to be one of 
the best times of his life was over. 

The reader of this chapter may not unnaturally 
wonder wherein lies the charm of such travel ; for the 
writer has spoken of extremes of heat and cold, of 
sand-storms and gales, of the occasional lack of food 
and the frequent presence of bad water, besides various 
other discomforts. Certainly all these form a part of a 
journey through Iran ; but the true traveller learns to 
do without much that he has hitherto looked upon as 
necessary ; and he is enjoying such perfect health, is so 
thoroughly " fit " that he is almost immune to changes of 
temperature. There is also an exhilarating sense of 
power in his capacity for surmounting the various 
obstacles in his path, and if he has been over-civilised 
all his days, the song of the desert leading him ever 
forward into undiscovered lands where possibly ad- 
ventures may await him, has an indescribable enchant- 
ment. Again, he is an Englishman among Orientals, 
and it adds something to his pride of race to see how 
instinctively Persian and Baluch look to the Sahib in 
all emergencies ; and he feels, as never before, that in a 
way he himself is upholding, in a Vjery slight degree, the 



TRAVEL 195 

honour of the British Empire. Half-unconsciously, he 
knows that his conduct day by day is setting the 
standard by which his compatriots will be judged, and 
such a thought is a powerful stimulus to keep a man at 
his best. 

Rudyard Kipling, in one short poem, has summed up 
the inexplicable fascination of such journeys, and the 
true-born traveller cannot read " The Feet of the Young 
Men " without a quickening of the pulses and a thrill of 
fellow-feeling, for he too knows the compelling force of 
the Wanderlust. As the haunting refrain sings — 

"He must go — go — go away from here ! 
On the other side the world he's overdue. 
'Send your road is clear before you when the old 

Spring-fret comes o'er you 
And the Red Gods call for you !" 



CHAPTER X 
THE PERSIAN WOMAN 

EUROPEANS travelling in Asia sometimes assert 
cheerfully that all is well with the Eastern 
woman, and that she would not change lots with her 
Western sister if she could, as she is thoroughly con- 
tented with things as they are. When, however, we 
come to look at the facts of the case, we shall find 
that the picture they compose is by no means one of 
roseate hue. " Woman is a calamity, but no house 
ought to be without this evil," is a well-known saying, 
and sums up the opinion which Persians have of the 
" fair sex," Saadi reflecting on their intellect by writing, 
" To consult women brings ruin to a man." 

There is seldom any welcome for the Persian baby- 
girl as she comes into the world, and is deposited in 
a common cradle, instead of the silken one that would 
have been her lot had she been a boy. Her nurse 
goes in fear and trembling to announce the news of 
her birth to her father, for the irate man may possibly 
order the luckless woman to " eat sticks," if he has set 
his heart on having a son, and the baby's mother feels 
that she may be divorced for her failure in presenting 
her husband with an heir. 

Of course no feast is held in the child's honour, there 

196 



THE PERSIAN WOMAN 



197 



are no congratulatory visits from friends, and the little 
thing grows up practically unnoticed. 

If she is one of several, she will play and perhaps 
do lessons with her brothers until about the age of 
eight, when her so-called education will stop. It is a 
rare thing in Persia to find a woman who can read and 
write, there being no such thing as a girls' school 
in the whole country. The child's life will be spent 
in the anderoon or women's apartments, and she will 
be taught to embroider, to cook and make sweets and 
sherbets ; but if her parents are rich, her time will 
probably be passed in absolute idleness. 

All Persian houses of any size have a birooni and an 
anderoon. The birooni, or men's rooms, are approached 
from the street, a high mud wall hiding the house 
entirely, and once through a strong outer door a 
passage leads to a courtyard on to which several rooms 
open and which has a tank in the centre. It would be 
folly for a man to make any ostentatious display of 
wealth unless he were in a position that rendered him 
secure from being " squeezed " by any greedy governor, 
not to speak of the sovereign himself, therefore the 
birooni, where he sees his friends, and where any one 
may visit him on business, is always badly furnished. 

It is in the anderoon, which is invisible from the outer 
courtyard, though the only approach to it is through 
this latter, that the master of the house keeps his 
women, his choicest carpets and silken divans, and the 
second-rate European lamps and pictures so dear to 
his heart. Here are sunk beds of flowers round the 
tank, which perhaps is lined with vivid blue tiles, 
and possibly, if the space be sufficient, a tree spreads 
its welcome shade in a corner of the enclosure. So 



198 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

careful are the Persians to ensure the privacy of their 
women that men hardly ever walk on the flat roofs 
of their houses, fearing lest they might be suspected 
of a wish to peep down into the courtyards of neigh- 
bouring anderoons. 

This seclusion, penetrated by no man save the 
husband and near relatives, would be like a prison to 
an Englishwoman ; but a well-to-do Persian lady has 
no wish for exercise, and cannot take an outing without 
suitable escort. Her indoor dress gives somewhat of 
a shock to European eyes. The very short, full trousers 
not reaching to the knee^ are said to be in imitation of 
the ballet-girls, who charmed Nasr-ed-Din Shah on his 
journeys to Europe, and the legs and feet are usually 
bare in summer, though drawers and socks are worn 
in winter. The loose gauze summer jacket is trans- 
parent, and the head appears to be the only part which 
it is incumbent to cover, the chargat, or handkerchief, 
being worn by day and by night. If a woman, under 
the influence of some strong emotion, were to tear this 
off, it would be a sign that she was so overcome by her 
feelings as to be lost to all sense of propriety for the 
time being. 

Europeans cannot understand why Persians consider 
a lady's decolletee dress immodest, when the costume 
of their own women leaves so little to the imagination ; 
but the reason is that no male eyes save those of her 
husband and relatives, ever rest upon a Persian lady's 
charms. 

At the present time many women don what they call 
an " English dress " on smart occasions, wearing a fitted 
bodice and draping a chadar from the waist to the 
feet ; but this fashion is the exception and not the rule. 



THE PERSIAN WOMAN 199 

The Persian woman's outdoor costume is a complete 
disguise, as she is shrouded from head to foot in a 
shapeless black chadar. Trousers and socks in one, 
usually of green or purple, are drawn up to her waist, 
and over her face is a white silk or cotton covering 
with a small strip of lace-work across the eyes. Her 
own husband would probably be unable to recognise 
her did she pass him in the street, and however 
charming her figure may be, she looks a mere waddling 
bundle, shuffling along in heelless slippers. Sometimes 
the face-cloth is of finely woven horsehair, giving its 
wearer a ghoulish and sinister appearance as she goes 
on her furtive way; and as a woman's voice may not be 
heard in public, her absolute silence helps to surround 
her with an air of mystery, which is increased by the 
fact that death would be the penalty paid by any man 
rash enough to lift her veil. In appearance, Persian 
women are not tall, have small hands and feet, and 
their rather heavy, oval faces are lit up by fine, dark eyes, 
but they are usually too stout for English taste. Their 
white skin has little colour or transparency ; but their 
passion for powder and rouge makes it hard to judge 
of their complexions fairly, and they use kohl to 
impart a languishing look to their eyes, and to greatly 
widen the eyebrows, often making these meet across 
the bridge of the nose. Their abundant black hair is 
cut in a straight fringe across the forehead, and any 
scantiness in their locks is compensated for by addi- 
tions of horsehair. A Persian poet in describing female 
beauty, winds up his panegyric with the following 
lines : — 

" Her face is like the full moon 
And she waddles like a goose " ! 



200 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

The women, in their restricted existence, are thrown 
entirely upon themselves for amusement, even boys and 
girls not being allowed to mingle ; therefore they give 
parties to one another to show off their clothes and 
jewellery, spending as much money as they can cajole 
from their husbands on personal adornment. 

Their visits to the public baths are occasions for 
gossip and display. They spend several hours over 
their bathing, reposing on cushions while their hair 
is dyed with henna and indigo, and the nails and tips 
of their fingers and toes with the juice of the former 
plant ; and then they eat a light lunch in the steamy 
atmosphere in company with their children, who are 
bathed free of charge. 

A healthier amusement is to drive or ride to some 
garden outside the town, where the ladies will pass the 
day in the open air. If they have no carriage they 
will sit astride upon a horse or donkey, led at a foot's 
pace by a servant, and they will feel the summer heat 
considerably, wrapped up so closely in their black 
chadars. 

The custom of veiling is supposed to have come 
about in this wise. In the time of the Prophet the 
Arab women showed their faces unashamed, and 
Mohammed being attracted by the beauty of the wife 
of Zeid, his adopted son, asked that devoted adherent 
to give her to him in marriage. This action caused 
considerable scandal among his followers, though the 
husband himself made no objection at divorcing his 
wife in favour of his master ; and the Prophet, seeing 
that he had set an undesirable precedent, commanded 
that henceforth women should only show their faces 
to their male relatives. He also dared to say that he 



THE PERSIAN WOMAN 201 

had received a Divine revelation permitting this 
union, and this sura (number 33) is duly incorporated 
in the Koran, and at once removed all doubts on the 
part of the Faithful. 

The Persians, however, have a different version of 
the origin of this custom. They say that one day 
when Mohammed was seated with Ayesha, the best- 
loved of his wives, a passing Arab, admiring her good 
looks, offered her husband a camel in exchange for 
her, and this annoying experience produced the veiling 
order in Islam. 

Of course the great interest in the life of a Persian 
girl is her marriage ; but she has practically no choice 
in the matter, her parents arranging the whole affair. 
There is a well-known saying : " To do things quickly 
is of Satan, because God works slowly. Haste is only 
permissible in three matters which are as follows : 
to get a husband for your daughter, to bury your 
dead, and to set food before a guest." 

In earlier times girls were married when eleven or 
twelve years old ; but now a later age is fortunately 
considered more suitable. 

Money enters largely into the question, the parents 
of a daughter having to give two or three hundred 
tomans to every hundred possessed by the man : they 
do not appear to take the personal likes and dislikes 
of the future couple much into consideration, daughters 
frequently being handed over to men old enough to 
be their fathers or even grandfathers. If a girl is 
wedded to a cousin, which is constantly done to keep 
the property of a family together, she will never 
have exchanged a word with him since childhood, 
except in the family circle, and if a marriage is on the 



202 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

tapis it is considered unseeemly for the young lady 
to visit at the house of the aspirant to her hand. In 
fact, the couple are not supposed to see one another 
at all until the formal betrothal before a miilla takes 
place, and on this occasion the fiancee's face is so 
thickly covered with rouge and powder, and her eyes 
so painted up that it is difficult to get any idea of her 
natural charms : moreover, she goes through the cere- 
mony in total silence. ^'""T^ 

A really smart wedding may last for five days and 
nights, or even for a whole week, the ladies arrayed 
in beautifully embroidered clothes and wearing all 
their jewellery. They will sip sherbets, drink syrupy 
tea, smoke kalians, and gossip incessantly ; but the 
bride-elect is hardly noticed on these occasions, and 
sits apart in silence with bent head and her chadar 
drawn over her face. The guests will present her with 
jewels, sugar-loaves ornamented with gold-leaf, or big 
bowls made of sugar-candy with candy stalactites 
standing upright in them ; and she herself will have her 
eyebrows widened with indigo, over which is a line of 
gold-leaf, while tiny flowers will be painted with indigo 
on her cheek-bones, chin, and throat. In the midst of 
the dancing and playing by hired musicians, the cry will 
be raised, " Behold the bridegroom comes ! " and a great 
helter-skelter takes place, every one present, bride, ladies, 
singers, dancers, servants, and slaves hurrying pell-mell 
into an inner room, screened off by curtains, from behind 
which they peep at the bridegroom and his particular 
friends, who come to eat sweetmeats in the anderoon. 
The bridegroom sits in state on a chair, while slaves 
bring him presents from the bride, serve him and his 
company with refreshments and water-pipes, and amuse 



THE PERSIAN WOMAN 



203 



them by dancing. This visit of ceremony lasts about 
half an hour, after which the men retire, and the women 
rush back in a body into the room, which they have been 
obliged to vacate. 

The English lady to whom I am indebted for this 
account said that on one occasion the litle girl-bride 
who had not been allowed to peer between the curtains, 
asked her eagerly whether her future husband looked 
good-tempered, as she had not as yet seen his face ! 

On the last day of the wedding the bride, who has 
taken practically no share in all the merry-making, is 
carried off by her nearest relatives to a private bath, 
where her face and eyebrows are freshly rouged and 
painted, and on her return to the guest-room all the 
women rise, and a copy of the Koran is held over her 
head for luck and also a mirror to double the length of 
her life. 

Then her Jahaz, or dowry, which has been laid on 
large wooden trays for all to see, and which consists 
of many clothes, cooking utensils, lamps, third-rate 
European oleographs and vases, is carried off to her 
new home by porters, and the bride is ready to follow 
them. 

She kisses the hearthstone of her old home, and 
carries bread, salt, and a piece of gold with her for luck, 
and then, closely veiled, is lifted on to a large donkey 
gaily adorned with many-coloured woollen tassels and 
cowrie shells. A couple of slaves, who form part of 
her dowry, accompany her on small donkeys, and a 
great crowd of friends go with her to the house where 
her husband awaits her. 

The Persians have a saying, " The God of women is a 
man, therefore all women must obey men." This they 



204 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

certainly put into practice, looking upon their wives as 
inferior beings born to submit to their rule, a husband 
having the right, if he so chooses, of forbidding his wife 
to visit her own parents, A bride usually passes from 
the paternal yoke to the probably heavier one of the 
husband and mother-in-law combined, Persians living 
in patriarchal fashion — a custom productive of many 
quarrels. 

There is seldom any real friendship or intimacy 
between the wedded couple, and often the husband will 
pass all his days in the birooni, where his wife may 
not enter, and will have his meals served to him there, 
his womenkind eating what he may leave. 

Mohammed says in the Koran that God, having 
given men dominion over women, husbands may punish 
their wives if the latter are disobedient. As a result 
of this, wife-beating is not uncommon ; a hen-pecked 
husband is a rara avis; and unfaithful wives are put 
to death, probably by being forced to take poison, no 
inconvenient questions being asked about their sudden 
decease. The Christian ideal of marriage is not under- 
stood, and indeed there is little sanctity in a tie that 
can be destroyed so easily by divorce, and where the 
husband is allowed four legal wives, and as many 
irregular connections as he pleases, including the house- 
hold slaves. 

A Persian may divorce his wife for no other cause 
than his own caprice ; but in such a case is supposed to 
give back the dowrj'- that he received with her. If, 
however, the wife asks for the divorce, although she 
may be in the right, she will probably forfeit all she 
possesses ; and cases are by no means uncommon where 
a husband, tired of his wife, but determined not to 



THE PERSIAN WOMAN 205 

refund her dowry, ill-treats her in order to force her to 
sue for a divorce. It can easily be understood that, 
owing to the seclusion in which the women live, it is hard 
for them to get justice if they have no powerful relations 
to help them. If a man has uttered the formula of 
divorce in a fit of anger, and wishes to have his wife 
back, she must first be married to and divorced by 
another man before he is able to do so. 

A wife is above all things anxious to become the 
mother of a son, as unless Allah grants her this she will 
almost certainly be divorced, or a rival will be intro- 
duced, and she will probably lose the affection of her 
husband, and be held in small esteem by his family and 
her own friends. In the golden-domed Mosque of Kum 
dedicated to the sainted Fatima, in the meanest mud 
building supposed to be haunted by the Peri-banou, or 
Queen of Fairies, or beside some tree hung with 
fluttering rags, the poor women of Persia lavish prayers 
and offerings to unseen powers in the hope of becoming 
mothers of sons. 

A husband often neglects his wife when she is old ; 
but fortunately her children are usually attached to her, 
there being much filial piety in Persia. When she feels 
that she is nearing her latter end, the thought of going 
on a pilgrimage often comes into her mind, because the 
heaven accorded to women by the Prophet cannot be 
attained by them with the same ease as apparently the 
men can enter into their Paradise — in fact tradition 
states that when Mohammed was permitted a glimpse 
into hell, he informed his followers that women were in 
an enormous majority in that fiery realm ! When we 
read that the Infernal Regions are haunted by lions and 
vipers, the former armed with seven thousand teeth and 



2o6 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

the latter with seven thousand poison fangs, which 
incessantly torture the evil, who are lapped in seas of 
fire, and are for ever in the company of malignant 
devils, it can be understood that an imaginative woman 
will make heroic efforts to escape such a doom ! 
She will sell or raise money on her valuables, and 
persuade her husband to let her go to Mecca, Kerbela, 
or Meshed, in order to gain the coveted titles of Haji, 
Kerbelai, or Meshedi. 

Supposing that the latter is chosen, the journey to 
the famous shrine of Imam Reza, being probably the 
easiest and cheapest, the Persian lady has no light 
task before her. If she cannot afford the swaying 
takht-i-rdiVan, or litter drawn by two mules, she 
must sit cramped up in a kajavek, or pannier, 
strapped on to one side of a mule, in which she will 
be jolted for hour after hour. However hot the weather 
may be, she must keep her face hidden by her 
black chadar and white rou-band ; and when she 
arrives at her night's destination, probably half-dead 
with fatigue, her resting-place is usually in the highly 
uncomfortable and dirty caravanserai. Her room may 
be a recess without door or window, and although 
her servants will sweep it out and lay a cotton carpet 
on the floor, and hang another across the opening, 
she will in all probability have a restless night, dis- 
turbed by the noise of the animals and the conversation 
of their masters. 

Women frequently die on the road during these 
pilgrimages ; but if a lady arrives in safety at her goal, 
she will probably settle down for several months, and 
pay daily visits to the Shrine to which she presents 
offerings of gold and jewellery. She will be met as she 



THE PERSIAN WOMAN 207 

enters the sacred precincts by one of a group of seyids 
(descendants of the Prophet), after whom she will 
repeat the Arabic formulas of devotion, and she will 
hire a mulla to recite a portion of the Koran to her 
at each visit. If she attends prayer in the mosque she 
will sit in a screened-off part where she is invisible to 
the men-worshippers, and can get but scanty glimpses 
of the proceedings ; but probably she will find here 
friends from her native city, with whom she will have 
much conversation. 

As her husband has practically managed the house, 
paying the servants and engaging or dismissing them, 
and as her children are either grown up or in the 
charge of some attached slave, there is no need for her 
to hurry back to her duties, for she is not greatly 
missed in her home. 

If she dies at Meshed she will be interred in the 
precincts of the Shrine, with the assurance of attaining 
to Paradise ; and perhaps if she returns in safety to her 
family and passes away at home, her corpse may be 
sent in charge of a muleteer to be buried in some 
sacred spot, thus forming part of that ghastly caravan 
of coffins often met by travellers near Kum or Meshed. 
When a woman dies there is a terrible service 
enacted at her house after she is buried. All the 
ladies of the family and their friends assemble in a 
large room, and hired mourners repeat in a wailing 
monotone, " Weep for the sister who is lost — lost — 
lost!" At each "lost" they strike their naked chests 
with the right hand and soon stir up their audience, 
who repeat the refrain after them and beat their breasts 
in unison. " Weep for the sister wandering in space — 
weep — weep — weep ! " So the wail goes on ; and the 



2o8 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

relatives sob, tear their hair and clothes, and even 
knock their heads against the wall in a frenzy of grief 
Then suddenly there will be a pause, and cups of 
tea and kalians will be handed round to refresh 
the mourners before they give vent to new outbursts 
of emotion. 

The life of a Persian woman, taken as a whole, cannot 
be considered a happy one, and the victims of Islam 
recognise that their fate is hard when they are brought 
into contact with European women. The seclusion of 
their lives, with so little outside interest, encourages 
hysteria and all sorts of nervous complaints ; and 
though the townswoman despises her unveiled peasant- 
sister, yet the latter has the best of it, hard though she 
may have to work for her livelihood. 

Certainly the yoke of Mohammedanism presses 
heavily on the Persian woman, and, through her, on the 
entire race, for how can a nation make real progress 
if the mothers of its men are kept in bondage and 
ignorance? In the words of Sir William Muir,i "The 
condition fixed by Mahomet for woman is that of a 
dependent inferior creature, destined only for the service 
of her lord, liable to be cast off without the assignment 
of any reason and without the notice of a single hour. 
While the husband possesses the power of divorce, 
absolute, immediate, unquestioned, no privilege of a 
corresponding nature has been reserved for the wife. 
She hangs on, however unwilling, neglected, or super- 
seded, the perpetual slave of her lord — if such be his 
will." 

When the writer gained some acquaintances among 
Persian women, she found that a latent discontent with 
^ " Life of Mahomet." 






GABR WOMAN AND CHILD 



THE PERSIAN WOMAN 209 

their restricted surroundings was fanned into life by the 
tremendous contrast between the unfettered existence 
of an Englishwoman and their own. It was pathetic 
to be urged never to marry a Persian ! " Oh Khanum " 
(Lady), a woman would say, "my husband makes me 
' eat ' much sorrow. If his pilau or sherbet is not to 
his liking he may beat me, and I know that if i had an 
illness that made me ugly he would divorce me on the 
spot. And when I get old he will treat me worse 
than a servant," 

All this the writer was forced to believe when a 
Persian boasted to her that his wife trembled in his 
presence to such an extent that she could not swallow 
a mouthful of food ! 

Certainly the saying that " no good comes from a 
house where the hens crow like cocks," can apply but 
seldom to the women of Iran ! 



CHAPTER XI 
COUNTRY LIFE 

THE Persian peasant, usually clad in blue cotton 
shirt and trousers with a thick felt sleeveless 
overcoat, and a felt skull-cap, is a hardy, simple fellow 
as he trudges along in his cotton givas^ a comfortable 
footgear much resembling bathing-shoes. 

Beside him walks his diminutive ass, often sadly 
overloaded with bricks, stones from the quarries, 
manure, or firewood, but, as a rule, not ill-treated by 
its master. If the aforesaid master is a villager, he tills 
the land on a kind of feudal system, the owner of a 
village providing the ground, the seed, and the tools, 
and taking half the produce in payment; no money 
passes between him and the peasants, many of whom 
have never handled a coin in their lives. When it is a 
bad year and the harvest fails or locusts devour the 
crops, the landowner feeds his tenants and waits for his 
share of the profits until times are better. The food of 
a labourer is simple enough, consisting principally of 
bread, cheese, and fruit, cucumbers and lettuces, with an 
occasional bowl of curds or a little meat at rare intervals. 
In Baluchistan and the Gulf district dates are the staple 
diet, and as he cannot afford firewood, the villager burns 
dried manure and camel-thorn. The peasants are all 



COUNTRY LIFE 211 

very poor, and besides a share of the produce, they 
often have to give the owner of the land so many 
kaveh of firewood a year, and perform various other 
services for him. About half the Shah's revenue is 
derived from taxes in the form of cash or kind imposed 
on all districts, towns, and villages, and the greatest 
burden falls on the peasantry, the poorest class. 
Though the tax-assessors change the sums demanded 
from time to time, yet of late years they have always 
increased them. 

As there are no big manufactories in the country, 
and but little trade, farming is the chief occupation ; 
and the land well repays cultivation, the most un- 
promising-looking soil bringing forth abundantly if 
irrigated. 

The peasants are not serfs, and are free to leave one 
village and settle in another ; yet there is no incentive 
for them to overwork themselves, because the landlord 
vi^ould be the chief gainer by their efforts, and in all 
probability the government tax on his property would 
be raised were more land taken into cultivation. The 
writer remembers one spring seeing a group of half- 
starved peasants working languidly during the Fast of 
Ramazan, when their " betters " were all abed sleeping 
off the effects of a night of feasting. The men were 
offered the remains of the English lunch, and their 
head-man stuffed the pilau into the bosom of his shirt, 
explaining that no one might touch a grain of the 
rice until the sun had set. He added that he trusted 
Allah would be merciful to them, and not send a 
plague of locusts that year, as these insects had 
devoured all their crops of barley during the previous 
autumn, and the peasants had been forced to live on 



212 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

half-rations throughout the winter, and must continue 
to do so until the grain was ripe. Somehow there 
was a hopelessness about all of them, a weariness 
and lack of purpose and vitality that it was sad to 
observe. 

The implements used by the villagers are of primitive 
description, the V-shaped spade doing about half the 
work of an English one, and the plough being merely 
a harrow dragged by a yoke of oxen. Sometimes as 
many as six yoke turn up the same small patch of 
ground, the oxen apparently walking exactly behind 
one another, though in reality keeping slightly to the 
right or left : in this case the animals are the property 
of a contractor who hires them out to plough all the 
land in the district. It is curious to notice men 
sowing on the unploughed land, the idea being that 
the process of ploughing will cover the seed, but to 
European eyes it seems reversing the natural order of 
things. 

Though there are many rain-fed crops grown in 
northern Persia, yet as a rule the soil is irrigated. 
To facilitate the process all the ground is divided 
into squares surrounded by low earth-banks, through 
which the water is let in to cover the patches of cultiva- 
tion in turn, and to soak them thoroughly. In order to 
prevent the caking of the soil, fine sand is thrown over 
it, and the melon-beds in particular have a coating of 
silver sand about half an inch in depth. The refuse of 
the towns is used as manure after it has been left to dry 
for a considerable time, and Persians are indefatigable 
in carrying off the mud-brick debris of all ruins for this 
purpose. The chief crop of the country is barley, 
which is the food of horses and mules, as oats are not 



COUNTRY LIFE 213 

grown, and it is also the food of the poor, wheaten 
bread being only for the well-to-do. 

The country barley bread is often made in thick 
flaps, called sanjak, the name implying that it is 
baked on hot stones, which are placed at the bottom of 
the oven, and when fresh and crisp it is excellent. The 
ordinary oven nan (bread) is made in the shape of thin 
cakes about a couple of feet long and a foot wide, the 
baker sticking these cakes with a deft movement of his 
hand against the sides of the heated oven. Directly 
they are baked sufficiently they drop off and are hung 
on a big nail or suspended over a horizontal stick in 
readiness for purchasers. Persians eat quantities of hot 
bread and carry off the long cakes from the bakery 
hanging over their arms. Owing to the primitive 
methods of grinding the flour there is often a good 
deal of grit and even an occasional pebble in this bread. 

The rice for the pilau, the national dish of Persia, 
comes from the rainy districts round the Caspian, and 
tobacco is cultivated here and in the south, the best 
coming from Shiraz. Cotton is grown in many places, 
and dates are an important product of low-lying parts 
of Persia, usually situated near the Persian Gulf, and 
constitute the wealth of its inhabitants, a man being 
rich in proportion to the number of date-palms that he 
owns. Persians say that the tree was introduced by 
the Arabs when they conquered the country, the hardy 
warriors bringing this portable food with them from 
Arabia and casting the stones along their line of march. 

The opium poppy is largely grown on the Persian 
Plateau and is a real misfortune to the inhabitants, both 
men and women becoming addicted to the drug and 
even giving it to their babies if sleepless and fretful. 



214 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Professor E, G. Browne ^ translates the Persian opium- 
smoker's epigram in these words : — 

"Sir Opium of ours for every ill is a remedy swift and sure, 
But he, if you bear for a while his yoke, is an ill which knows 
no cure." 

Opium is a very precarious crop, as may easily be 
understood when the manner of collecting it is explained. 
When the flower petals are falling the poppy-heads are 
gashed with a kind of tiny iron comb, and the juice that 
slowly oozes out is scraped off the next morning, this 
process being repeated twice. If, however, rain happens 
to fall when the opium is collecting the juice will all be 
washed away from the seed-vessels and of course lost. 
On any other occasion a rainy day is regarded with 
unfeigned delight in Persia, and indeed the European 
who has been some time in the country realises what a 
godsend a heavy downfall is to the parched and cracked 
soil and what good it will do to the crops that depend, 
as a rule, entirely on irrigation. 

Though the Persian rejoices in the moist air and the 
scent of the wet earth, yet it is hardly credible to what 
a state the roads are reduced after a day or two of wet 
weather. Riding is dangerous save at a foot's pace, the 
streets of every town and village run liquid mud, ankle 
deep in places, and the roofs of the mud-built houses 
have an inconvenient habit of falling in. However, the 
sun soon shines forth again and dries up the country. 
A hailstorm is a very different matter. The writer saw 
such a storm in the north of Persia during April when 
the trees were a mass of blossom. Stones as large as 
cherries rattled down with a great noise, breaking the 
^ "A Year amongst the Persians." 




IJ 



COUNTRY LIFE 215 

glass in all exposed windows, stripping the bloom from 
the branches, tearing the young shoots off the rose 
bushes, and ploughing up the sunk beds in the garden. 
And when the storm was over there was much tribula- 
tion in the district, for the orchards, on which many- 
depend for a livelihood, were ruined for that year. 

As there is practically no grass in Persia, clover is 
much used for fodder, several crops being produced 
yearly from irrigated ground, and the substitute for hay 
is kah, or straw. After the crops of wheat and barley 
have been cut with a sickle they are threshed by the 
feet of animals that sometimes drag a kind of cart on 
rollers. Or this process of threshing may be carried on 
by a bevy of horses, mules, and donkeys, all harnessed 
together and forced to go round and round a huge heap 
of corn, a little of which is tossed beneath their hoofs 
at a time, thus separating the grain from the ear and 
breaking up the straw. If possible, a breezy day is 
chosen for this operation, reminding the onlooker of 
the verse in the Psalms in which the evil are to be 
" scattered as chaff before the wind." All mud bricks 
have an admixture of kah, and Dr. Wills ^ points 
out that this was what the Jews demanded when they 
asked the Egyptians for straw to make their bricks. 

A good deal of silk is produced in Persia, the best silk- 
worms' eggs coming from Turkey, and these the land- 
lord gives to his peasants, receiving a proportion of the 
silk in return. The women often carry the eggs next 
their skin in order to hatch them, and have to keep the 
caterpillars in a clean room and guard them from all 
noise, the buzzing of wasps and flies being supposed to 
be injurious to them when they have begun to work. 
^ " Persia as it is." 



2i6 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

The grape is cultivated throughout the country, the 
vines in the north being planted in deep trenches and 
the stems drawn up through the earth of the lofty banks 
between the ditches in order to keep the plants warm 
through the intense cold of the winter when there may 
be several degrees of frost at night. Wine is made in 
many places, but the white wines of Hamadan and 
Shiraz rank the highest, and it is interesting to note 
that natives of this latter city came to Spain in the 
Middle Ages to teach the Moors the art of wine- 
making : the Spanish town Xeres, where they settled, 
and our word "sherry," for the wine produced there 
are both corruptions of Shiraz. Saadi and Hafiz 
have sung the praises of this wine, which travels all 
over Persia in great glass flasks merely packed in straw ; 
and from the refuse of the grapes, arrack, the favourite 
spirit of the country, is concocted. 

A Persian village is picturesque in the distance, 
being surrounded by a high mud wall, often castellated, 
and entered by a gateway, recalling the days, not so 
long ago, when Iran was never safe from raiders and 
every hamlet was practically a fortress. 

Sir Mortimer Durand ^ gives a word-picture that 
vividly describes such a spot : " Beyond the village 
a little fan of cultivation pushed up into a fold in the 
stony flank of the mountain, A cold stream, fed from 
the hills above, came foaming down through a channel 
of rough boulders, and on both sides of it grew apple 
orchards and poplars and plane-trees." To see such 
a place at its best it should be approached at sunset, 
when the symbol of the deity, saluted at dawn and eve 
by the Zoroastrians, is sinking in a golden glory behind 
' "Nadir Shah." 



COUNTRY LIFE 217 

the western ranges and flushing the eastern hills, the 
barren plain and the mud walls and buildings of the 
village, with a magical rosy light. The flocks- are 
returning to their homes, sheep and goats mixed, black, 
white, brown and particoloured, the patter of their little 
hoofs making a curious rustling noise on the dry sand. 
One old man and a handsome, shaggy, white dog will 
shepherd the animals numbering some hundreds, the 
man perhaps carrying in his arms a newly born lamb, 
while others are in the bag slung on his back. 

It is a peaceful scene of pastoral life ; and as the sun 
drops below the horizon, the muezzin^ standing on the 
minar of the tiny mud-built mosque, sends out the 
call to prayer across the stillness of the plain, and 
uncouth figures in blue cotton and felt garments 
prostrate themselves in devotion, their faces turned 
towards holy Mecca. 

And the traveller will feel that this is Persia, the 
great expanse of desert, the mountain ranges shutting 
in his view on either side ; not a tree and hardly a 
sign to be seen of vegetation, and perhaps the only 
living creature a vulture slowly wheeling in the sky. 
Such is the setting of the insignificant group of mud- 
domed hovels, all huddled together within their 
encircling mud wall, and surrounded by small patches 
of cultivation which have to be laboriously irrigated 
by the mountain stream. Inside the village it will 
be rare for the unplastered mud rooms to have windows, 
all light and air reaching them through the rickety and 
warped wooden doors, and if the roofs are not of mud, 
they will be made of beams, the interstices of which 
are stuffed with straw. 

The Persians are not a cleanly nation, and the 



2i8 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

European seeking village hospitality will probably find 
the rooms infested with vermin, and as he sinks to 
an uneasy rest he will be disturbed by the incessant 
angry barking of the peasants' dogs, as they answer the 
jackals that are howling round the walls in packs, 
seeking their food. 

The village women, thin and weather-beaten, are 
chosen by their husbands for their strength and for their 
skill as weavers and cheesemakers. They work hard at 
their household tasks such as making the bread, the 
clothes for their families, drawing the water, and milk- 
ing the flocks ; and are unveiled, though they occasion- 
ally put the checked cotton sheet that envelops them 
across their faces if a foreigner approaches. Most of 
them look prematurely aged, owing to the early 
marriages in vogue, and sometimes resemble the 
grandmothers rather than the mothers of the often 
rosy-cheeked boys and girls who cling shyly to their 
cotton skirts. The children are clad in cotton jackets 
which hang open, and the writer has seen them in 
the depth of winter with no more adequate protection 
than this against the intense cold, and has not wondered 
at the terrible infant mortality in Iran. To all remon- 
strance the peasants shrug their shoulders and say, 
'■'• Dastur dst" (It is the custom) for children to be so 
lightly clad ; and they add that if Allah intends them to 
die it will be of no use to struggle against His decree — 
" Kismet ! " 

Nearly every village, however small, has its school, 
where the urchins are taught to read the Koran and 
to write. There is no government subsidy, therefore 
the boys are often entrusted to a teacher totally unfitted 
for his task, who sometimes treats his charges with 



COUNTRY LIFE 219 

cruelty. The parents will pay the schoolmaster in 
kind for his services, and he often considers the follow- 
ing maxims of Saadi as the pivot of his method : 
" The severity of a teacher is better than the fondness 
of a father," or, " He whom thou hast not chastised as a 
child, will not prosper when he grows to manhood." 

Perhaps the people who enjoy life most in Persia 
are the nomads, or Iliats. All over the country these 
wandering tribes travel in the spring from the mud- 
built villages where they have passed the winter, up 
into the hills, in search of pasturage for their flocks. 
They pitch an encampment of black goats'-hair tents 
on some grassy upland during the summer, and devote 
themselves to the care of their herds, the women 
employing their spare time in the weaving of carpets 
and in cheese making. These nomad women are 
free, frank, vigorous creatures, accosting the traveller 
without shyness, and offering him refreshment. In the 
north they wear crimson and blue garments and are 
adorned with many chains and heavy silver clasps set 
with cornelians. But whether they display jewellery, or 
are poorly clad in short, blue cotton skirts showing 
their bare ankles and feet, their heads being tied up 
in white cloths, the type from the north to the south 
is the same. They are on an equality with the men, 
whatever their religion may affirm, and are naturally 
far healthier and happier than their cloistered and often 
discontented sisters in the towns, who despise them 
heartily on account of their unveiled faces. 

Any account of country life would be incomplete with- 
out the mention of gardens. Every well-to-do Persian 
takes an intense interest in some stretch of ground 
which he lays out and displays to visitors with pride. 



220 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

It is badly kept according to Western ideas, and the 
writer who was shown many such gardens felt at first 
some surprise at their lack of beauty. As a rule they 
are square, surrounded by high mud walls destitute 
of any creeper, and through them run narrow channels 
of water, beside which are planted rows of stiff poplars, 
the favourite tree of Persian gardeners. In place of the 
beautiful English lawns are often patches of clover 
which produce several crops annually, and instead 
of the wealth of bloom which is the glory of the British 
garden, there will be a few sunk beds in which some 
balsams, petunias, asters, marigolds, and wallflowers 
make a poor show, and are usually all withered up 
during the fierce heats of summer, everything else being 
allowed to run wild. Some gardens are really orchards, 
and in the spring the exquisite bloom of the fruit- 
trees is a beautiful sight ; while other gardens, that 
remind the visitor of those in Italy, have pergolas of 
vines, avenues of cypresses, groups of pomegranates, 
their brilliant flowers shining like flames amid the dark 
foliage, and masses of rose-bushes ; and in such charm- 
ing retreats the bulbuls sing all day long. 

Rose-water {gulabi), which is used to cleanse the 
greasy right hand after eating, to flavour sherbets and 
sweatmeats, and by the well-to-do for their ablutions, 
is much made. The rose chiefly found in Persia 
is the little loose-petalled pink one like the monthly 
rose, and its petals are pressed down into a great iron 
pot, water poured over them, and burning charcoal 
piled up round them. A tube is then inserted into 
the mass of rose-heads, and passing through a jar 
of cold water it drips a warm, sickly-scented liquid 
into a bottle placed to receive it. 



COUNTRY LIFE 221 

In every Persian garden there is a takht, or mud 
platform, in the shade of the trees, and if possible near 
the running water of the kanat. Here the owner 
will pass many hours, reposing on carpets, smoking 
his water-pipe, partaking of innumerable cups of tea, 
and surrounded by his friends with whom he will cap 
quotations from his favourite poets or enter upon 
endless religious discussions. 

To appreciate a Persian garden it is necessary to 
contrast it with the howling desert that is usually 
outside its walls. A barren expanse without a tree, a 
shrub, or even a blade of grass, and not a drop of water, 
must be crossed under the burning heat of the summer 
sun, before the traveller hot, dusty, and thirsty, enters a 
rickety wooden door and finds a paradise of shade, 
greenery, and running water in blessed contrast to the 
glare he has just left. A pleasant trait about Persians 
is that all are free to come and picnic in these re- 
treats, the owner apparently being flattered when 
parties of merrymakers invade his solitude — a charac- 
teristic in direct opposition to British exclusiveness. 
Very often there will be a fantastic little pavilion 
always called kolah Feringhi, or " European hat," from 
an entirely imaginary resemblance to that article, and 
here Persians love to take their midday siestas or to 
sup on hot nights. 

The garden will sometimes have a house in which the 
owner and his family will spend the summer months, 
and these buildings are often very pretty, usually 
having a verandah supported by poplar columns orna- 
mented with elaborate plaster-work, and sometimes 
a most imposing gatch (stucco) facade, which will 
be mirrored in the large water-tank in front of the 



222 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

building. If the owner is addicted to sport, the horns 
of the ibex, moufflon, and gazelle will probably decorate 
this building, as they are credited with the power of 
keeping off the evil eye. 

A naringistan, or orangery, is another feature of 
such a garden, the owner presenting a fruit from his 
treasured trees to the visitor as if it were a beautiful 
bouquet of flowers ; and the writer has often been 
offered a dried-up little orange by some gentleman 
or lady who had come to afternoon tea with her, the 
gift being made with almost ludicrous empressement. 

As the very existence of a garden depends on its 
water supply, a rich man will pay to have the precious 
liquid always running through his domain, the ex- 
tremely scanty rainfall hardly being taken into account 
for purposes of cultivation. 

Every few days the water, which is a real luxury in 
Persia from its cost, is let in upon the sunk flower-beds, 
the patches of lucerne and crops of vegetables, and 
allowed to stay for several hours in order to soak into 
the soil thoroughly. It is heartrending to be forced to 
put up with an inadequate water supply, and if the water 
runs through such a garden on its way to others, and 
perhaps has only been bought for one day in the week, 
it would be a punishable offence to use it for the plants, 
though the occupants might take what they pleased for 
drinking and washing purposes. 

This picturesque passage from a paper read by Sir 
George Birdwood^ describes the Persian fondness for 
flowers far better than any words of mine can do : 
" When a pure Iranian sauntered through (the Victoria 

' " The Antiquity of Oriental Carpets," read before the Society 
of Arts, November 6, 1908. 



COUNTRY LIFE 223 

Gardens in Bombay) ... he would stand awhile and 
meditate over every flower in his path, and always as in 
vision ; and when at last the vision was fulfilled, and the 
ideal flower found, he would spread his mat, or carpet, 
before it, and sit before it to the going down of the sun, 
when he would arise and pray before it, and then refold 
his mat or carpet and go home : and the next night, 
and night after night, until that bright particular flower 
faded away, he would return to it, bringing his friends 
with him in ever-increasing numbers, and sit and sing 
and play the guitar or lute before it — and anon they all 
would arise together and pray before it ; and after 
prayers, still sit on, sipping sherbet and talking the most 
hilarious and shocking scandal, late into the moonlight : 
and so again and again, evening after evening, until the 
beauteous flower died, satiated of worship. Some even- 
ings, by way of a grand finale, the whole company would 
suddenly rise up, as one man, before the bright, com- 
summate flower, and serenade it with an ode from Hafiz, 
and, rolling up their carpets, depart into the silences of 
the outer night." 



CHAPTER XII 
THE PERSIAN GULF AND THE KARUN RIVER 

NAVAL officers often say that the Persian Gulf is 
the hottest sea in the world, and the writer, who 
has visited it both in June and in September, heartily 
endorses their verdict, and has an abiding sympathy for 
those of her countrymen whose avocations force them to 
spend the best part of their lives on those torrid waters. 
For over a century England has policed the Gulf, and 
it is to her exertions that the once-flourishing slave trade 
and the depredations of pirates are practically a thing 
of the past. It is a curious fact that the Persians 
appear to be entirely devoid of any naval capacity, and 
there were probably no Persian sailors present at 
the Battle of Salamis, Xerxes supplying his navy 
from the maritime nations under his sway. Iranians 
have a dread of the sea, and the countless craft to be 
seen off their southern coasts are all manned by Arabs, 
as well as the Persepolis, the white-painted vessel, 
armed with four Krupp guns, that is supposed to patrol 
the Gulf. This steamer is usually spoken of as the 
" Persian Navy," and it has no fellows, unless the Shah's 
steam-yacht on the Caspian, and his little steamer the 
Susa, that is confined to the upper reaches of the 
Karun, are allowed to count as forming part of the 



THE PERSIAN GULF AND KARUN RIVER 225 

naval strength of the " Land of the Lion and the 
Sun." 

The southern shores of Persia are washed by the 
Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, as well as the Persian 
Gulf; and it may be of interest to describe how the 
traveller bound for the Karun river proceeds when he 
has left Karachi in a British India steamer. These 
vessels are comfortable enough, but the writer's journeys 
were made at a time when no fruit and vegetables 
were to be had. A diet of chops and steaks with 
the wet bulb of the thermometer at 92° is not the most 
appetising of fare ; and when it is added that everything 
drinkable is tepid owing to the lack of ice, and that 
cockroaches abound, it must be allowed that the Gulf in 
summer is not exactly the place to choose for a pleasure 
trip. An officer who has travelled in many different 
parts of the world alleges that a dessert-spoon will cover 
any ordinary cockroach, but that the steamy atmosphere 
of this sea produces a breed so large that a table-spoon 
is needed to hide their formidable dimensions ! The 
steamers now do the journey in five days, but they 
used to proceed slowly, stopping during the day to take 
in cargo from the different ports off which they lay, 
and going on at night. Sometimes they carry a great 
crowd of deck-passengers, who, if pilgrims on their way 
to Kerbela, are often very fanatical, fights occasionally 
arising between Shiah and Sunni, in which the plucky 
British India officers have sometimes to take their lives 
into their hands when separating the angry opponents. 
These latter are often " slippery " customers, and occa- 
sionally a man will resort to almost any shift to avoid 
paying the passage-money which is collected when the 
steamer has started. Of course the defaulter is put 
Q 



226 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

ashore at the first stopping-place ; but as time is of no 
object in the East, he will board the next steamer, play 
the same game, and be landed a stage further on his 
journey ! 

After leaving Karachi, perhaps in the teeth of the 
monsoon^ Gwadur and Jask are reached, both villages 
being posts of the Indo-European telegraph line : Jask 
was the first settlement made in Persia by the British 
East India Company. 

From here the steamer crosses to Maskat, the capital 
of Oman on the Arabian coast, the long line of dreary- 
looking hills, destitute of even a blade of grass, that rise 
up sheer from the sea, being suddenly broken, and 
forming an almost landlocked little harbour, one of the 
most picturesque imaginable. Great cliffs tower on 
either side, leaving a narrow strip of land on the sea- 
front, from behind which, about a mile inland, is the 
formidable mountain barrier making an impressive back- 
ground to the huddle of native houses crowded together 
as closely as possible. Among these the Sultan's white 
palace and the British Residency stand out con- 
spicuously ; and two mouldering Portuguese forts, 
built on spurs of the mountains, dominate the port, 
reminding the visitor that Maskat was in the possession 
of Portugal from 1506 to 1650. 

On the east side of the little bay is a great mass of 
rock, separated by a narrow channel from the mainland, 
and this is used as a playground for the British sailor, 
who is not allowed to land in the port itself in case of 
friction with the dense and fanatical population. This 
islet, which has not a trace of vegetation, and seems as 
if it would afford but a scanty foothold to goats, is 
adorned with the names of the different vessels that 



THE PERSIAN GULF AND KARUN RIVER 22^ 

have been anchored off the town, prominent among 
them being H.M.S. Sphinx in huge, white letters. 

The climate in summer is almost unbearable for 
Europeans, because the frowning rock walls absorb the 
intense heat during the day and give it out at night, 
making sleep almost an impossibility when the blessed 
shainal, or north wind, is not blowing. 

The British entered into a treaty with Maskat in 
1800, as they wished to guard against the designs of 
Napoleon, who is said to have contemplated the 
conquest of India from this base, and since that date 
there has always been an English political agent at the 
Court of the Sultan. 

Before leaving Maskat it may be of interest to glance 
at the past history of the Gulf, believed by some 
authorities to be the cradle of the human race. It is 
supposed that the seafaring Phoenicians took their rise 
here, and Erythras, the Red King, who perhaps is 
buried in the great necropolis at Bahrein, has given his 
name to this inland sea. 

Later on, Alexander's admiral, Nearchus, who men- 
tions that he saw the tomb of King Erythras at 
Kishm, piloted the Macedonian fleet along these seas 
from the Indus to the Tigris. Major Sykes^ points out 
that Alexander and his army kept in touch with the fleet 
in order to provision this latter, until the Malan range, 
coming right down to the water's edge, forced the 
soldiers to march inland and strike across the modern 
Makran, where they endured the horrors of thirst while 
marching in heat of about 100'* through loose sand. 

After this we hear little of the Gulf for many centuries, 
but when the Arabs had established the Khalifate at 
^ " Journal of Society of Arts/' June 4, 1897. 



228 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Baghdad, that city and Balsora (the modern Busreh) 
sent forth hardy sailors down the Gulf to bring back 
ewels, stuffs, and spices from India. At the present 
day the clumsy native mehalas and buggelows to be 
seen at Busreh are practically the same type of vessel 
in which Sinbad made his marvellous voyages. 

The island of Hormuz was the great centre of this 
trade in the Middle Ages, holding much the same 
position as Venice did in the West, both being the 
distributing houses of their continents. 

In the first years of the sixteenth century the 
Portuguese, under Albuquerque, made their appearance 
in the Gulf. They captured Hormuz, fortified various of 
the ports, and allowed no other nation to trade freely in 
the Gulf for nearly a century and a half. The first 
Englishman who visited this sea was Ralph Fitch, who, 
with three companions, sailed up it in the reign of 
Queen Elizabeth, but the Portuguese, jealous of this 
intrusion into their special preserve, captured the 
Englishmen and imprisoned them in Goa. 

In the seventeenth century Shah Abbas entered into 
a treaty with the East India Company, promising them 
certain concessions and half the spoil if they would 
assist him in turning the Portuguese out of their strong- 
holds. This was done, naval fights taking place at 
Jask, Hormuz, and Maskat, in which the Portuguese 
were worsted, and at last, after several years, expelled 
from the Gulf. Shah Abbas having got what he wanted, 
was by no means willing to fulfil his side of the bargain, 
and it seemed as if the English had gained nothing save 
a factory at Gombrun (now called Bandar Abbas, in 
honour of the Persian sovereign) ; the Dutch and French 
also starting trading centres at the same torrid spot. 



THE PERSIAN GULF AND KARUN RIVER 229 

British prestige, however, increased from this time, 
and during the last century our nation gradually took 
over the work of policing the Gulf The English 
suppressed the formidable pirate bands ; stopped the 
constant warfare among the different chiefs ; the un- 
controlled trade in arms ; and, quite unaided, put 
down the once-flourishing traffic in slaves. Added to 
this, British officers have done all the survey work of 
the Gulf, and made charts of a sea that requires skilful 
navigation. 

It is no mean thing that the pax Britannica has 
been kept in a region where every man's hand is against 
his fellow, where life is held in small account and might 
is right. Over and over again the British have pro- 
tected the sheikhs of such places as Bahrein and 
Koweit from Persian aggression, and but for the pre- 
sence of our gunboats, the busy traffic in dates, dried 
fish, and so on, not to speak of the valuable pearl- 
fisheries, would be practically impossible. 

Even the British India steamers, which are solely 
merchantmen, are looked upon with respect by the 
chieftains of the various tribes who come on board to 
greet their captains with a Salaam Aliekuni (Peace 
be with you). These kingly-looking sheikhs wear 
white robes over which are thrown burnooses of black 
camel's hair so finely woven as to be semi-transparent, 
and the kafiyehs, or handkerchiefs, on their heads are 
kept in place by ropes of camel's wool entwined with 
gold. With jet-black hair and beards, bronzed skin 
and piercing eyes, they stride towards the Englishmen 
with peculiar dignity and shake hands with a gesture 
that recalls to readers of the life of Mohammed, how at 
various crises in his career his followers plighted faith 



230 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

with him by striking their hands upon his. The British 
Resident at Bushire has a position of great authority 
with these wild Arabs, who have a profound belief in 
the honour and truth of the English. 

Of course it is not meant to be inferred that we have 
performed this beneficent work entirely from humani- 
tarian motives. We were obliged from self-interest to 
suppress the pirates, who were injuring our trade, and 
later on we saw clearly that to allow any rival Power 
to become predominant in the Gulf would be seriously 
to weaken our prestige in India ; but we may fairly take 
some credit for the blood and money that we expended 
in stamping out slavery. 

After this long digression let us continue our journey 
to the Karun. Taking a north-west course from 
Maskat we shall steer between the islands of Hormuz 
(once so famous, though barren, destitute of water, and 
with a soil impregnated with salt) and Kishm, where 
for some forty years the English had a military station. 
Eraser ^ visited the cantonments in the August of 
1 82 1, and found a pitiable state of affairs, both officers 
and men succumbing to fever or scurvy, a great short- 
age of medicines and supplies of all kinds, and no fish, 
fruit, or vegetables to be procured, and he draws a 
contrast between the " white man's burden " in India, 
and Persia, to the great disadvantage of the latter 
country. 

The steamer then lies off squalid Bandar Abbas, 
the sea being so shallow that visitors must row some 
two miles before reaching the town that lies close to 
the water, and has the distinction of possessing one 
of the unhealthiest climates on the Gulf. Lingah, the 
' " Journey into Khorasan." 



THE PERSIAN GULF AND KARUN RIVER 231 

next halt, is, at a distance, charmingly picturesque, the 
white buildings of the town embosomed in feathery 
palms, and the whole scene backed with a delicately 
tinted pink and grey mountain range. Here Hindoos 
with marvellous " wild-cat " moustaches may come 
on board, and opening knotted handkerchiefs will dis- 
play handfuls of beautiful pearls to the traveller. 
Next morning the steamer will probably be lying off 
Bahrein, and flotillas of boats setting out for the pearl 
reefs look most picturesque as they rock on the vivid 
blue sea. At a considerable distance from the shore 
men will be seen wading knee-deep and filling jugs 
from the fresh springs which are bubbling up beneath 
the salt water, and so shallow is the sea that boats can 
only get to within about half a mile of the island. This 
inconvenience is, however, obviated by the fine Bahrein 
asses which are cantered out to any boat containing 
visitors. Their riders then descend and yell out the 
praises of their respective steeds with great vigour, as 
the travellers perch themselves on rudimentary saddles, 
unprovided with stirrups, and having rope halters in lieu 
of bridles. The town of Bahrein, like all others on the 
Gulf, is composed in great part of hovels formed from 
palm-leaf matting, and the Sultan's gimcrack palace 
is almost the only building, save a mosque, that has 
any pretensions to architecture. The traveller's donkey, 
much adorned with henna, will take him at a canter 
away from the town past the ruins of an old Persian 
mosque, past date-groves and streams of beautiful water, 
right into the interior of the island. Here, far as eye 
can reach, he will see thousands of mounds, the tombs 
of a bygone people, and will long for science to solve 
the mystery of the identity of the race that built them. 



232 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Sir Edward Durand and Mr. Theodore Bent exca- 
vated some of these graves, but found little to aid them 
in unravelling their well-kept secret, and it is to be 
hoped that our Archaeological Department which has 
been working there for the last two years may have 
more success. 

Pearls, of course, are the great specialite of Bahrein, 
and the divers are let down from the boats by ropes 
weighted with large stones that take them straight to 
the bottom of the transparent sea, through which they 
can see the oyster-beds. Here they collect all the 
oysters they can in the few seconds they are able to 
remain below with ears plugged and nostrils closed ; 
and they take their lives in their hands, for the Gulf 
swarms with sharks and sword-fish to which several 
fall a prey every year. 

The next stopping-place for the steamer is Bushire, 
where we have a British Resident. It is the most 
important port on the Gulf and the most pretentious 
in appearance, though it is a landing-place rather than 
a harbour, and owing to the shallowness of the water 
all large vessels have to lie at a considerable distance 
off it. 

Bushire came into prominence during the Zend 
dynasty, being the nearest port to Shiraz which then 
became the capital of Persia. To reach this town 
from the Gulf it is necessary to cross the most 
appalling kotals or passes, in the high mountain 
barrier that separates the Persian Plateau from the 
sea, and rises some thirty miles inland. It seems 
wonderful to the ordinary traveller that men could 
ever have ventured to take loaded animals across such 
terrible staircases, where the track winds along preci- 



THE PERSIAN GULF AND KARUN RIVER 233 

pices down which a false step would hurl the creatures 
to destruction. Accidents of this kind, however, seldom 
happen, though the sure-footed mules that pick their 
way from point to point unaided pay a heavy toll 
annually, dying from the exhaustion resulting from 
their efforts. The horses are almost as clever climbers 
as are the mules, and a heavily-built Persian gentle- 
man told the writer with evident pride that he had 
never dismounted from his steed in descending these 
dangerous kotals. He was somewhat surprised when 
he found that his personal bravery had made no 
impression upon her, but rather his cruelty to his 
willing horse! 

From Bushire the low, date-covered shores close in 
at the little telegraph post of Fao, where there is a 
sand-bar caused by the silt brought down by the 
Shat-el-Arab, the river formed by the confluence of 
the Euphrates and the Tigris. This can only be 
crossed by large vessels at certain times slowly and 
with care, and the steamer halts at Mohamera, at which 
point the waters of the Karun river join the Shat-el- 
Arab before they plunge into the Persian Gulf 

Here the traveller must change into a small steamer, 
the Malamir, and leaving behind him the great groves 
of palms that supply half the world with dates, he will 
proceed up a river, on either side of which stretches 
a sandy desert diversified with a few willows or beds 
of reeds. He is now in the province of Arabistan, 
the ancient Elam, and the scenery is far from beautiful, 
but the hot, dry wind that swirls the clouds of sand 
into the boat at intervals is in delightful contrast to 
the moist, damp heat he has just left. Life is worth 
living again, and he sleeps as he has never done on 



234 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

the Gulf. Along the river-banks are Arab encamp- 
ments, made of palm-leaf matting, the inhabitants clad 
in black goat's-hair garments and their most treasured 
possessions being beautiful mares as tame and docile 
as dogs. 

On the afternoon of the second day, if the steamer 
has ploughed through the numerous sand-shoals with- 
out running aground on any of them, the traveller 
arrives at Bander Nasseri and Ahwaz, where, if he 
wishes to proceed further, he must tranship, owing to 
the rapids. These villages have grown prosperous of 
late years owing to the commerce in corn and wool 
started by Messrs. Lynch and Hotz. The simple 
Arabs are most honourable traders — a great contrast 
in this respect to the Persians — and if, as hardly ever 
happens, a man declines to meet his engagements, the 
whole tribe will pay what is owing in order to avoid 
any slur on its reputation. Curiously enough the Arabs 
insist on growing wheat and barley on the same land, 
saying that they cannot alter the custom of their fore- 
fathers ; and their conservatism necessitates the employ- 
ment of a special machine by the agents to separate 
the different grains. This whole district could supply 
an enormous quantity of wheat, as the soil produces 
splendid crops, though the water supply is limited. 
But, as usual, the Persian Government takes no steps to 
develop this source of potential wealth, and the mullas 
do not allow export. 

At Ahwaz are still to be seen the remains of the 
masonry of the dam, built perhaps by Shapur L, 
whose famous band (dam) at Shuster some sixty miles 
further up the Karun, still irrigates the great plain and 
provides food for thousands. The rapids at Ahwaz 



THE PERSIAN GULF AND KARUN RIVER 235 

are caused by a sandstone reef stretching across the 
river-bed, the water swirling and rushing with great 
force over the rocks at one point. Some three or four 
miles from the river this ridge crops up on the desert. 
In it are hollowed out many caves, making the traveller 
wonder whether they could perhaps have been in- 
habited by Nestorian monks in the days when Ahwaz 
was a Christian town and a great centre of agriculture. 

During the hot July weather of the writer's visit to 
Ahwaz, the thermometer, hung in the coolest room 
in the house, was always at 105° at eight o'clock 
every morning, and went up as the sun rose into the 
heavens. Every door and window was shut during the 
day ; for the shainal, or north wind, blew like the 
blast of a furnace round the house, raising the desert 
dust in clouds. The little party of Europeans were 
accustomed to rise at 4 a.m. in order to get a ride 
before seven o'clock, at which hour the sun became too 
powerful to remain safely out of doors. All the world 
was astir very early. Men in long, white robes, black 
burnooses, and with checked kafiyehs on their heads, 
galloped about with their rifles slung at their backs, 
and would pull their steeds up suddenly in mid-career. 
They all rode mares, and were followed by the colts, 
that uttered plaintive whinnyings if the mothers went 
too fast, the latter then stopping dead and waiting until 
their foals had come up with them. 

Mares are usually the only property of any value that 
an Arab possesses, and very often three or four men 
will hold a valuable animal in common, each man laying 
claim to a leg, and this makes it sometimes difficult 
for a European to buy a good mount here, as he has 
to come to terms with so many owners. 



236 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Deforestation has gone on throughout this district, 
as in most parts of Persia ; in fact, wood was so scarce 
a commodity at Ahwaz when the writer was there, that 
the brick-kilns were actually fed with chaff, the staple 
fodder of all animals. The town itself could only boast 
of a couple of palm-trees and no other vegetation, 
though the district when under the Khalifate had been 
famed for its sugar-cane plantations. 

Despite the great heat, the climate is by no means 
unhealthy. The evenings are comparatively cool, and 
at night the temperature goes down to 74° Fahrenheit, 
the tremendous wind dying away at sunset and turning 
into a refreshing breeze, soothing the sleepers on 
the flat roofs of the houses. 

From Ahwaz a small steamer, the Shushan, lying 
on the far side of the rapids, conveys the traveller up the 
river to within a six or seven miles' ride of Shuster. 
This town was formerly supposed to be built near the 
site of the Achaemenian capital Susa, in which was 
Shushan, the palace mentioned in the Book of Daniel ; 
but in reality the great mounds of this famous city 
lie some fifteen miles south-west of Dizful. 

Shuster has a famous dam and bridge, the latter said 
by Persians to have been built from the designs of the 
captive Roman Emperor Valerian, who was kept a 
prisoner until his death by his conqueror Shapur I. 

The town, one of the dirtiest in Persia, is terribly hot 
during the summer, 128° indoors at midday being the 
usual reading ; consequently the well-to-do spend their 
time in sirdabs or underground apartments. All over 
Persia the badgir, or wind-towers, will attract the atten- 
tion of the traveller as he approaches any consider- 
able town, and he will find that they are shafts to 



THE PERSIAN GULF AND KARUN RIVER 237 

conduct the air down to a kind of cellar in which is 
usually a tank of water. In spite of the draught of air, 
these places always smell unpleasantly, probably owing 
to the presence of the stagnant water and the absence of 
sunlight, and cannot be healthy. 

Though really outside the scope of this chapter, yet 
the writer feels that a short mention of the Susa of the 
Greeks and the Shushan of the Bible, may be of interest. 

Madame Dieulafoy,i who accompanied her husband 
during his exploration of the great mounds of this once 
so famous city, has written a book full of information 
on his discoveries, many of which may be seen at the 
Louvre Museum. 

But these excavations are, as it were, comparatively 
modern, when it is remembered that Susa was inhabited 
from the earliest times, and was the capital of the 
Kingdom of Elam, over which King Chedorlaomer, 
mentioned in the Book of Genesis,^ ruled. This 
kingdom was finally incorporated into the Persian 
Empire by Cyrus the Great. 

Close to the great mound of Susa is the so-called 
tomb of Daniel, with its white plaster pineapple cone, 
and the events narrated in the Book of Esther occurred 
at Shushan. 

The French, who have, by a concession, the exclusive 
right of excavating in Persia, have done much at Susa 
since M. Dieulafoy led the way, and it is to be hoped 
that the city will yield many more of its secrets to 
the spade of the excavator. 

' " La Perse, la Chaldee et la Susiane." ^ Genesis xiv. 9. 



CHAPTER XIII 
FAUNA AND FLORA 

IN the " Land of the Lion and the Sun," the king 
of beasts was plentiful in olden times, the 
Achaemenian monarchs hunting it in the districts 
round Persepolis ; and the magnificent sarcophagus of 
Alexander the Great, now in the Constantinople 
Museum, is supposed to portray the Macedonian 
fighting with Persian lions. 

According to a well-known legend, the Sasanian 
monarch Bahram Gor won his crown by slaying 
two lions that were guarding the royal insignia, and 
on Sasanian seals this sovereign is represented as 
standing between these beasts and holding their fore- 
paws in his hands. But nowadays the lion has almost 
died out, and perhaps Major St. John, who was 
attacked by a lioness in the forest near Shiraz in 1867, 
is the last European who has encountered these 
animals, although Lord Curzon heard one roar not 
far from Shuster, and was told that they were common 
on the banks of the Diz. 

Major St. John writes ^ that lions are found through- 
out the province of Khuzistan and also in the oak 
forests south of Shiraz, where there are quantities of 
■ " Zoology of Eastern Persia," Blandford. 



FAUNA AND FLORA 239 

wild pig that live on the acorns, and in their turn 
become food for the lions. The native hunters kill 
these animals at rare intervals, and the lutis, or 
mountebanks, sometimes drag about a starved lion 
as a change to the usual bear or ape that accompanies 
them. 

The dense forests of the districts round the Caspian, 
are haunted by tigers that are occasionally shot by 
Persian hunters, but Europeans seldom attempt to 
follow them through the jungle that they inhabit. 
The Romans are said to have drawn the tigers used for 
their games from this part of Persia which was called 
Hyrcania ; the fur of these animals is thicker than 
that of the Indian tiger, the colouring less vivid, and the 
markings somewhat different. 

Hilly country is the favourite home of the bear, and 
travellers occasionally come across a small grey species 
that can go as fast as a horse if disturbed. These 
animals are in the habit of frequenting the vineyards 
after sunset, and devouring enormous quantities of the 
fruit, and are particularly fond of walnuts. 

There are few travellers who have not heard the 
blood-curdling laugh of the hyaena round their tents at 
night, and have not seen its slinking, hump-backed form 
as they started on their march when dawn was breaking. 
These creatures have a very bad reputation in Persia, as 
they are accused of attacking sleepers and are even said 
to have bitten off the limbs of children sleeping in the 
open ; therefore it is curious that a dried hyaena-skin 
is a potent charm that forces all to love its possessor. 

Leopards are met with from the north to the south, 
and the European camping will constantly see their 
tracks and hear the complaints of the peasantry whose 



240 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

sheep and goats they have killed, but they do little 
damage when compared with the wolf, which is the 
prime depredator in the country. It hunts in packs and 
in couples, but is often seen alone, a rider galloping his 
hardest being unable to come up with the animal, which 
apparently is only going at a leisurely jog-trot. In the 
Meshed district, which is infested with these creatures, 
hunters devote themselves to the task of slaying them, 
and will carry the head of a wolf round to all the 
villages in the neighbourhood, demanding out of each 
flock an animal which is called the " wolf's-head sheep." 
If the shepherd sees from afar the hunter dangling his 
trophy, he will hasten towards him with an offering of 
money, begging him to accept it instead of a sheep, but 
if the shikarchi comes upon the flock unawares he 
has the right to take his fee in kind. Not long ago an 
Englishman came across eleven wolves lying on their 
backs sound asleep after a gorge, and managed to kill 
three of them, with the result that his huntsmen acquired 
a respectable flock of sheep. 

An English fox-terrier is an almost irresistible dainty 
to wolves, which will pounce upon it in broad daylight if 
it linger far behind its master, and the writer knew one 
that had been seized in puppyhood by a wolf, but 
which was rescued by its brave mother ; she, however, 
paid the penalty of being torn to pieces. According 
to the natives the eye and knuckle-bone of the wolf, 
when worn as a talisman, impart to the most 
cowardly a superhuman courage. Persians consider the 
wild boar to be nejus^ or unclean, and if Europeans 
wish to eat ham or bacon they call it gusht- 
i-bulbul (nightingale's flesh) in order to " save the 
face" of the cook, who has to prepare the accursed 



FAUNA AND FLORA 241 

meat. Indeed, so far does this feeling go that if the 
most pious of Moslems had the misfortune to be killed 
by a boar, he would, through no fault of his own, 
become so unclean that he would be left for five 
hundred years in the fires of hell before he could be 
purified ! And yet all grooms have, if possible, a wild 
pig in the stable, affirming that its breath is good for 
the horses and that it keeps the " evil eye " from them ; 
and the European " lucky pig," worn as a charm, seems 
to have the same origin as this latter belief. 

The pretty, silver-grey foxes are fairly common, and 
these vie with the jackals in devouring the grapes 
during the fruit season, reminding one of the Biblical 
allusion to the "little foxes that spoil the vines." 
Reynard has a great reputation for cunning in Persia, 
as the following children's story will testify : — 

" A fox once stole the grapes in a garden," so it runs, 
" and the owner laid a trap for the thief, baiting it with 
meat. When the fox next visited the vineyard he saw 
the snare, and understanding its purpose he hurried to 
the wolf and bade him come to a feast that he had got 
ready for him. The stupid wolf was only too ready, 
and when the fox pointed out the meat he made a rush 
to seize it and was instantly caught in the trap. 
Reynard then scrambled to the top of the garden wall 
and made such an outcry that the owner came in haste, 
and, seeing the wolf, killed it ; and when the coast 
was clear the fox descended and devoured the meat 
that the wolf in his struggles had thrown free of 
the snare ! " 

Saadi, however, does not give the animal so astute a 
character. " A fox," he writes, " was one day seen 
fleeing in an extremity of fear, and being asked what 

R 



242 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

was the matter, replied, ' I have heard that camels are 
being forced into the army.' ' You fool,' said his inter- 
locutor ; ' you are not a camel, and not in the least like 
one.' ' Hush ! ' answered the panic-stricken animal, ' if 
an enemy says I am a camel and I am captured, I have 
no friend to release me or to bear witness in my 
favour.' " 

The jackals hunt in packs and make night hideous 
with their yells during the hot weather, when all windows 
must perforce be open. They roam round the towns 
and villages, doing much execution among the poultry, 
and being great pests in the vineyards ; but it is a 
puzzle how they support life during the winter, as they 
do not appear to hibernate. The leader of the pack 
always utters its long-drawn howl to summon its followers 
on the coldest night. These will answer by short yelps 
and barks until all, as it were, have responded to the roll- 
call, and the pack will set off at full cry, its yells sound- 
ing in the distance much like the weeping of children. 
The Persians have proverbs regarding this animal, such 
as "The jackal dipped himself in indigo and then 
thought he was a peacock," and, " The yellow dog is 
brother to the black jackal," meaning that "one is as 
bad as another." These shagals will enter rooms at 
night, and the writer has been aroused more than once 
by the snorting of one of them prowling round her in 
search of food. They are harmless enough ; but as they 
are said to be peculiarly liable to rabies their visits 
are certainly not to be encouraged. 

The Arabic historian, Al Tabari,i relates that jackals 
first made their appearance in Persia during the reign 
of Khosru the Great, and the king, on making inquiries 
^ Noldeke's translation. 



FAUNA AND FLORA 243 

as to the origin of this visitation, was told that these 
animals were in the habit of infesting any land in which 
injustice and corruption were rife. The monarch there- 
upon impressed upon his ministers the duty of acting 
uprightly, and it is said that as long as justice was 
paramount in the land there were no more jackals. 
At the present time these animals are very numerous 
in Persia, and it will be interesting to observe whether 
they will vanish if the Constitution, now in its infancy, 
accomplishes all that its admirers expect of it. 

Throughout the Persian Plateau gazelle, or ahu^ 
roam the vast plains, and the fleet wild ass haunts the 
kaviVy or salt-desert, the Sasanian monarch Bahram 
Gor getting his nickname from his devotion to the 
chase of this animal Tradition has it that he and his 
horse perished in a quicksand on one of these hunts, 
and relates that though the queen-mother brought a 
thousand men to the spot, who dug for a thousand days, 
yet no trace of the royal victim was ever found. The 
poet Omar Khayyam refers to this tragedy in the 
lines : — 

"And Bahram, that great Hunter — the Wild Ass 
Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his sleep." 

The ibex and the wild sheep are found in the 
mountain ranges from north to south, and the writer 
has seen herds of both animals browsing on the same 
feeding-grounds, the Persian shikarchis looking upon 
this as most unusual. The animals leap from crag to 
crag of the dangerous mountains with marvellous 
agility, and it is a beautiful sight to see them bound 
down what looks like a precipice, then spring across 
a ravine and dash up another hill out of sight. 



244 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



The native huntsmen do not greatly molest the hare 
as it is considered nejus, or unfit for food, though the 
tail of a hare placed under the pillow is recommended 
as a powerful soporific. 

The mongoose and a large porcupine are found in 
the south, where pretty little jerboa rats are numerous 
on the desert plains ; voles and marmots inhabit the 
north, and mice swarm everywhere. 

But we must now say a few words about the domestic 
animals of Persia, the horse coming first in a country 
of keen riders. The big, somewhat ungainly-looking 
Turkoman with its long stride and fiddle-head is of 
the breed used by the man-stealing Turkoman in their 
forays, and has great powers of endurance, being able 
to go fifty or sixty miles daily with little food or 
water, besides being able to outpace any other kind of 
horse in Persia. The handsome, bay Karabagh, big- 
boned and a good weight carrier, is a favourite, it 
and the Turkoman being bred in the north, and the 
so-called Arab principally in the districts round Shiraz. 
These latter horses, a mixture of Persian and Arab, 
are delightful to ride, carrying their heads and tails 
proudly, being wonderfully sure-footed, and so full 
of spirit and endurance that Persians say they have 
dil-i-buzurg (a great heart) ; moreover, they get 
much attached to their owners, whom they will follow 
like dogs. Some are exported to India by way of the 
Persian Gulf, and are sold there under the name of 
" Gulf Arabs." 

The common horse of the country, coarse-bred and 
heavy-footed, but serviceable, is called a yabu, or 
pony, and is used to mount servants or to carry water 



FAUNA AND FLORA 245 

and loads. As a rule a yahu, hung with bells and 
gaily-coloured woollen tassels, leads any large caravan 
of mules, these animals following it implicitly and 
refusing to set off on the march without its guidance. 

Persians never clip their horses, and keep them much 
covered up. First a blanket over the whole body 
(the perkan), then a Jul, or felt-lined covering, over 
which, during the winter nights, is drawn the nammad, 
a very thick and heavy felt covering which comes right 
up to the ears, and enables the animal to lie out in the 
open during the coldest weather, if its owner is travelling, 
and be none the worse for lack of shelter. The slowly- 
moving camel is invaluable as a weight-carrier in a 
country devoid of roads, the handsome humped 
Khorasan variety being seen in the north ; and the 
ordinary kind being used in the south and torrid 
Baluchistan. " The life of a camel is but forty days " 
is a Persian saying, and it is considered a risky pro- 
ceeding to invest much capital in these animals, as they 
cannot be loaded when quite young and only last about 
six years in full work. They cost from ten to twelve 
pounds, and have such brittle bones that they are apt to 
break their long legs on the least provocation, a spell 
of muddy weather being fatal to many. When this 
happens they are killed and sold as food to the poorest 
classes ; but the corpse will only fetch about a 
pound. 

In the spring, if they are what Persians call mast, 
or mad, they will roar horribly, foam at the mouth, out 
of which comes a red bladder, and fight with one another. 
According to the shuturchis (camel-men) an animal in 
this state will wreak vengeance on a driver who has 
maltreated it. As the kick of a camel can kill a man. 



246 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

and as the creature has a habit of pressing the life out 
of any prostrate adversary with its hard chest-pad, it is 
most formidable when in a rage, though very docile at 
other times, a tap on its tender neck guiding it easily. 

Camels can forage for themselves where a horse or 
mule would die of starvation. They devour the prickly 
camel-thorn on the barren plains with apparent relish, 
and are able to go for some time without water, Dr. Stein 
mentioning that his camels on one occasion did not 
touch water for a fortnight. When they are doing long 
marches they are driven into camp at night and made 
to kneel down in a circle, their drivers putting great balls 
of barley dough into their mouths ; or they will solemnly 
chew away at a big mound of chaff placed on a sheet of 
sacking in their midst. Awkward as they appear to be, 
Persians comparing a clumsy man to a camel on a ladder, 
they climb hills with ease when freed from their loads ; 
but the way in which they are fastened to one another 
when on the march is a cruel one, a string attached to 
the tail of the leading camel being passed through the 
nostril of the second, and so on. Perhaps this is why 
these evil-smelling beasts grumble so prodigiously when 
loaded up ! 

The mahri, or riding-camels, can travel at a good 
pace, and throughout Baluchistan the camelry is a 
picturesque sight, a couple of Baluchis armed with 
mediaeval-looking shields and spears bestriding each 
animal. " This camel lies at your door " is the Persian 
equivalent to "Your sin has found you out." 

The fine, sure-footed, much-enduring mule is the 
animal par excellence of the Persian uplands, as it can 
do its twenty-five miles a day with a load of two to 
three hundred pounds, which it carries up and down 



FAUNA AND FLORA 247 

rocky passes that often require careful walking on the 
part of a European even if unencumbered. 

The little Persian donkey is usually a beast of burden, 
spending its life in carrying bricks, manure, or brush- 
wood. Yet, curiously enough, it is a favourite steed for 
well-to-do merchants, priests, and suchlike, who look 
ridiculous to European eyes as they bestride a diminu- 
tive animal that is almost hidden by their voluminous 
draperies. The magnificent white asses from Bahrein 
fetch very high prices, and have excellent paces. 
According to Mohammedan law asses are unclean, and 
no one may partake of their flesh or milk. Persians 
slit the nostrils of these creatures, affirming that it 
enables them to breathe more freely ; and when, at last, 
the donkey drops under its load and dies in harness, its 
body is dragged outside the city to serve as food for the 
pariah dogs, its end having suggested the proverb, " He 
is like a dying ass with the dogs longing for him to 
draw his last breath," which describes the attitude of 
greedy heirs awaiting the decease of a rich relative. 

Throughout Persia the cows are small, those of Gilan 
and Baluchistan being a humped breed, and beef, being 
considered a low-class food, is never seen on a well-to-do 
Persian's cloth — indeed, it is usually an inferior meat 
from lack of proper feeding. 

The dog can hardly be looked upon as a domestic 
anim.al, though Persians are often fond of their tulas, 
or pet-dogs, and sportsmen are proud of their grey- 
hounds and mongrel pointers. The shepherds employ 
savage, shaggy creatures nearly as big as mastiffs to 
guard their flocks, and clip their ears, with the idea that 
this mutilation will prevent them from straying. But 
these apart, the mangy, half-starved pariah that roams 



248 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

the streets of every Persian town, and makes night re- 
sound with its barking, is merely a scavenger, and is 
regarded with justice as being unclean. Saadi says that, 
though the noblest of created beings is man and the 
meanest a dog, yet a grateful dog is better than an 
ungrateful man; moreover, it is written in a holy book 
that a dog has seven qualities, of which if a man had 
one he would go to heaven. 

Though there is often a lack of water during the summer, 
yet rabies is hardly known in Iran ; but if a dog happens 
to go mad the Persians believe that it has either been 
bitten by a snake or has eaten hot bread ! They also 
affirm that if it bites any one, and the injured person 
can place one of the dog's singed hairs on his wound, 
he will be cured. 

The long-haired cat called " Persian" in Europe is rarely 
seen in the country, though there are countless short-haired 
black, tabby, and carrot cats, usually with a half-starved 
appearance. A black cat is always treated with a certain 
respect, as it may possibly be the home of a jinn or a 
demon, and a Persian gentleman amused the writer by 
advising her in all seriousness never to meddle with 
such a creature. 

The bird-life of Persia is, as a rule, not abundant, owing 
to the lack of food and water, but the sportsman or 
naturalist on landing at Enzeli on the Caspian and being 
rowed across the Murdab (Dead Water), on his way to 
the capital, will see a veritable paradise of water-fowl. 

Pelicans in hundreds are busily fishing ; black, snake- 
necked cormorants are diving after their prey; graceful 
cranes watch the water with keen eyes ; geese and swans 
are swimming about; gulls are swooping through the air; 



FAUNA AND FLORA 



249 



and the islets and masses of reeds appear to be swarming 
with duck, teal, coot, snipe, and every variety of water-bird. 

The only other part of Persia where bird-life can be 
found in profusion is the Hamun, or great Lagoon, in 
Sistan, and Major Sykes^ has given an accounc of the 
tribe of saiads^ or fowlers, who live on the banks of 
the lagoon and make their living by capturing the 
water-fowl in nets, into which they drive them down 
lanes cut in the reed-beds. These men pay the greater 
part of their taxes in the form of feathers, of which they 
collect some 4,000 lbs. annually, and they propel them- 
selves about in their clumsy reed rafts itutins) with 
marvellous skill. 

In the rainy zone round the Caspian there is plenty 
of game in the forests, pheasant and woodcock being 
particularly abundant ; but on the Plateau of Persia the 
bird-life is for the most part scanty, and the traveller 
must be on the look-out if he wishes to see eagles, 
hawks, ravens, and chattering choughs, though vultures 
and grey and black crows are fairly common. In the 
spring the storks nest on the gateways and ruined 
■minars of some of the towns, the Persians calling them 
hajis, because they say that they have spent the 
winter at Mecca, and are, therefore, entitled to the 
honourable sobriquet of " pilgrims " ; and a visitor to 
the country may, if lucky, see — 

"the files 
In marching order spread, of long-necked cranes, 
Stream over Casbin and the Southern slopes 
Of Elburz, from the Aralian estuaries, 
Or some frore Caspian reed-bed, Southward bound 
For the warm Persian sea-board." = 



" Ten Thousand Miles in Persia." 

" Sohrab and Rustum," Matthew Arnold. 



250 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

and, what he will forget still less, the wild, haunting 
cries of these birds as they wing their way at night far 
above his head, the piercing note of the thousands 
migrating having an indescribably eerie effect as it 
falls through the darkness. 

The vultures, which are seldom seen on an ordinary 
day's march, apparently arrive from nowhere whenever 
an animal dies on the road ; and the writer remem- 
bers noticing a poor little donkey that had fallen over 
the precipice, its pack-saddle being left on its back 
in eloquent tribute to the life of unceasing toil in 
which the animal had finally laid down its life. The 
great blue vault of heaven seemed absolutely empty, 
when suddenly and noiselessly a large vulture swooped 
down on to the corpse, to be followed by another and 
yet others, all steering unerringly to the spot, guided 
by their marvellous power of vision. 

If the traveller is fond of shooting there are bustard 
in the north, quail in the spring, the little tihu, partridge 
and sand-grouse everywhere, the splendid francolin 
being mostly found in the south and in the Caspian 
provinces. The few rivers, streams, and swamps harbour 
duck, teal, snipe, wild geese, herons and bittern, and 
in the spring the gardens are haunted by a profusion 
of birds. Blackbirds, thrushes, the rose-plumaged 
pastor, the terror of the gardener from its voracity 
as it appears in flocks, the iridescent bee-eater with 
its high, sweet note, the cheery cuckoo, and the blue 
jay that Persians say can never be killed. The writer 
heartily wishes that this superstition were true, as the 
sight of these lovely birds in company with some golden 
orioles flitting about the dark foliage of cypresses, once 
made a picture that will not be soon forgotten. 



FAUNA AND FLORA 251 

Swallows skim over the ground, and if possible are 
lured into the houses, for they bring luck, the Persians 
putting up swings for them in the hopes of persuading 
them to nest there ; owls, on the contrary, bring disaster, 
Saadi writing of this bird, " Wherever thou sittest thou 
destroyest." Certainly any one hearing the unearthly 
yells of the great screech-owl cannot be surprised at 
the belief Magpies abound in the spring and Persians 
do not appear to have any superstition connected 
with these birds. They are fond of catching a young 
one to keep as a pet, giving it a pellet of opium in the 
belief that after partaking of the juice of the poppy 
it will never forsake its new home, and laughing im- 
moderately as the unlucky bird staggers about sick and 
bewildered. 

The crested hoopoe recalls the legend of how a flock 
of these birds once found King Solomon asleep in the 
sun, and immediately hovered over him, spreading out 
their wings to protect him from the burning rays. 
When the monarch awoke he was much pleased, and 
inquired how he could reward the birds for their 
devotion, and at their request gave them golden crowns. 
The story runs, that a small boy throwing stones one 
day, brought down a hoopoe by accident and carried 
his pretty victim home. It was then found out that the 
crest on its head was formed of pure gold, and there- 
upon the poor birds were so mercilessly hunted for this 
mark of the king's favour that before long they returned 
in a body to Solomon to beg that their little feather 
adornments might be restored to them, which was 
accordingly done, and ever since then they are called by 
the potentate's name. 

Flocks of pigeons are to be found everywhere, and in 



252 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Meshed hundreds of these birds live round the Shrine 
and Mosque, being accounted sacred, though if they 
rashly leave the shelter of the city they are shot down 
with impunity. The soft note of the dove is not often 
heard, and the bird is always depicted with a bleeding 
heart, which Persians account for by the following tale. 
A dove, they say, stole three grains of wheat from a 
destitute orphan child, and when it realised what it had 
done, it was so overcome with grief that its heart bled. 
It is also believed that three drops of blood issue from 
the bird's beak whenever it coos, and it is called the 
lover of the gloomy cypress, the tree of the graveyard, 
the more cheerful nightingale being supposed to be 
enamoured of the rose. 

These brown bulbuls sing charmingly when kept in 
cages, and are fed on a special diet of maggots, peas, 
sugar, and various greenstuffs, being covered up from 
noon to three o'clock in order that they may enjoy their 
siesta with the rest of the Persian world. Inside each 
cage a tiny green bag is hung, supposed to contain a 
charm to avert the dreaded " evil eye " ; and during 
the summer months a rose is stuck through the 
wires in order to inspire the little songster to trill its 
best. 

Pretty crested larks hop about the barren Persian 
plains, and their cheery twittering breaks the great 
silence that always strikes any traveller in the country> 
and in the spring their rapturous songs are a joy to 
hear. The sagacious-looking crows, which are always 
found in and round the towns and villages, have passed 
into the folk-lore of the country. For example, it is 
lucky to hear a crow caw from the housetop if any one 
is on a journey, and if a girl seeing the new moon for 



FAUNA AND FLORA 253 

the first time, manages to catch the eye of a crow (no 
easy task, I should imagine) fate will be propitious to 
her during the coming month. 

Geese, fowls, ducks, and turkeys are all domesticated, 
the latter going by the name of the " elephant bird," and 
doing particularly well in the dry climate. According 
to Sir John Malcolm ^ the first turkeys in Persia were 
brought from a vessel wrecked on the Persian Gulf and 
were looked upon with a certain awe by the inhabitants. 
Peacocks, introduced from India, are only permitted to 
be kept by royalty, and this prerogative has been ex- 
tended to the British Minister at Tehran, these birds 
adorning the beautiful Legation garden. 

Such a commonplace " fowl " as the domestic cock 
is capable of bringing disaster upon a house if it refuses 
to restrict its crowing to the lucky hours of noon, 
midnight, and nine o'clock in the morning, Persians 
often killing the bird if it is inconsiderate in that way. 
The saying " He is a cock that crows at the wrong 
time," is used to describe a man devoid of tact. 

No dinner-party at the capital would be complete 
without a salmon smothered in sauce, a lemon in its 
mouth and a bouquet on its tail, the fish coming from 
the Caspian, where the splendid sturgeon and salmon 
fisheries are leased to a Russian Company. In the 
Persian Gulf with its sharks, porpoises, and beautiful 
blue " guard fish " there is an abundance of fish, which 
is salted for export. The few rivers of Persia seem to 
afford little sport for the disciple of Isaak Walton, 
though the Lar river, not far from Mount Demavend, 
used to be full of trout. 

' " Persian Sketches." 



254 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

The reptile life is chiefly represented by lizards great 
and small and of many varieties, that copy their sur- 
roundings so closely that in one part of Persia where 
the ground was strewn with black and red debris from 
the volcanic hills around, it was almost impossible to 
distinguish the little creatures when they were motion- 
less. There are ungainly monster lizards to be found 
in the south, living in dens like rabbit burrows, dug 
in the sandy soil of the desert, and the Persians believe 
them to be poisonous ; but as they have the same 
opinion about the smallest of the species their testimony 
is unreliable. 

Snakes are comparatively rare, but are much dreaded 
by the inhabitants, who fail to distinguish between the 
noxious and the harmless varieties. They are some- 
times to be found in gardens, attracted by the water ; 
a formidable horned viper inhabits the arid plains of 
Baluchistan ; Major St. John killed a cobra at Bushire ; 
and the grassy uplands to the north of Meshed appear 
to be infested with a harmless snake, as the nomads 
assure the traveller that they do not attack good 
Mohammedans ! Persians have a superstition that these 
reptiles are in the habit of guarding hidden treasure. 

In parts of north-east Persia, yellow-shelled tortoises 
appear in great numbers during the spring, the low 
hills being pitted with their holes. They move about 
with surprising alacrity in search of food, living chiefly 
on a kind of wild pea which grows among the scanty 
herbage. Frogs abound in every tank and make night 
melodious with their croaking ; but the writer was struck 
by the apparent absence of the common earth worm, 
which, according to Darwin, plays such an important 
part in the fertilisation of the soil. 



FAUNA AND FLORA 255 

The insect life is luckily not very plentiful in the 
uplands of Persia owing to the lack of water, though 
Sistan has an unenviable reputation for pests of this 
kind owing to its great marshy lagoon ; and scorpions, 
which appear to be more or less independent of water, 
are found everywhere. Strict attention to sweeping 
out every room daily is imperative, as otherwise these 
insects, and the disagreeable tarantula spiders, would 
secrete themselves in corners or in any hole of the 
mud walls. There are both black and yellow scorpions 
from one to four inches long, and their sting is greatly 
dreaded, as the pain inflicted is said to be agonising. 

The tarantulas, fawn-coloured or black, with hairy 
legs and mouths like a miniature beak, have the power 
of springing. A tarantula-hunt is often attended with 
difficulties, the insect vanishing in the most uncanny 
way, reappearing in another part of the room, and 
filling its pursuer with a horrible apprehension that 
it may leap upon him. Persians, who dread them, 
affirm that they spring in this way when about to bite, 
though the writer never came across any one who had 
suffered ; the only case coming under her notice being 
that of a cat which sank into a kind of coma for a 
couple of days, and lay basking in the sun without 
eating, but finally recovered. These tarantulas attain 
a large size in the south, one captured at Kerman, 
three inches in length, trying to attack its captor, 
and hissing like a snake when secured in an insect 
net. 

Centipedes are of a great size in some districts, and 
it is advisable not to touch them if crawling over any 
exposed part of the body, as if disturbed they will 
cling to the flesh with the suckers with which their 



256 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

many feet are provided and inflict a long, festering 
wound. Yet perhaps sand-flies are the greatest insect 
pest of Persia, particularly in the south, ordinary 
mosquito netting being of no avail in keeping out these 
minute intruders, which have a sting as sharp as the 
prick of a needle, and cause an intense irritation. They 
cannot stand a draught of air, being too light to make 
headway against it ; but in summer the nights are 
usually very still and give them full opportunity. The 
ordinary house-fly appears in legions as soon as it 
gets warm ; but Indian chicks and muslin blinds do 
much to abate this hot-weather curse. This intrusive 
insect, however, is difficult to circumvent when the 
traveller is camping during the summer, because if he 
makes his journeys at night on account of the heat, 
he must perforce try to sleep during the day. This 
is hard to do in a stifling tent with the incessant buzz 
of myriads of these insects doing their best to penetrate 
through the cage of netting with which he has protected 
his head and shoulders. 

He must also beware of ticks when pitching his tent 
or sleeping in a caravanserai. Both sheep and camels 
leave these unpleasant insects on the ground where they 
have lain, and Dr. Wills ^ writes that the large camel 
tick inflicts a nasty wound that takes a long time to 
heal ; and he says that these insects when gorged with 
the blood of their victims, become as large as small 
cockchafers. These latter insects are not abundant, 
but appear in the spring ; and if a flight of them 
descend upon the traveller's tents, he will have a dis- 
agreeable experience, as the creatures will crawl into his 
bedding and get into every conceivable nook and cranny. 
' " Land of the Lion and the Sun." 



FAUNA AND FLORA 257 

Locusts are often a great calamity to the peasants, 
coming in swarms, devouring the crops and bringing 
starvation on the afflicted districts. In summer the 
ground is alive with grasshoppers ; wasps and hornets 
invade the houses to build their nests on the ceilings ; 
big black beetles live in the mud walls and floors, as 
do often the mole-crickets ; bees of many kinds hum 
in the gardens ; and out on the plains the little ant- 
lions lie in wait for their prey at the bottom of their 
holes. 

This is by no means an exhaustive account of the 
animal and insect life of Persia, and has no pretensions 
to be of any scientific value, but is merely what the 
observant traveller may come across in his journeyings. 

The Flora 

The flora of Persia is a decided disappointment to 
those who have taken their ideas of the country from 
the gardens of roses celebrated by Tom Moore in his 
" Lalla Rookh." Once on the great Persian Plateau, 
the traveller may ride for days across the wide plains 
without meeting a flower, unless in the early spring, 
when he will see a sprinkling of rosa Persica, mauve 
crocuses, garlic, the camel-thorn a mass of rosy bloom, 
tiny scarlet tulips, irises, hyacinths, and narcissus. 
Convolvulus, chicory, peas, and cornflowers are in the 
fields ; but usually only veitch and camel-thorn clothe 
the barren expanse, unless it be among the hills. Here 
the streams have always a border of grass along their 
banks, and sweet-brier, barberry, and tamarisk grow- 
in profusion, tiny cyclamen, candytuft, asphodel, 
colchicum and forget-me-not being abundant, also the 



^58 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

tall assafoetida, the white hollyhock, the stately erevturi, 
the great red poppy, and the blanket-leaved mullein. 
Spring flowers are also in plenty on the grassy uplands 
of Mazanderan and in the districts round the Caspian, 
but this display is only seen in a few places. 

The gardens contain nothing rare in the way of 
flowers ; and this is not surprising, as it is said that many 
of the English garden-flowers come from Persia. In 
the spring violets come first, and line the jubs (water- 
courses) ; then masses of purple and white irises, 
tiger-lilies, tulips, pansies, and later balsams, zinnias, 
petunias, marigolds, wallflowers, and asters fill the sunk 
beds, which are irrigated at frequent intervals. The 
tumbled-looking pink rose is everywhere, and from its 
blossoms rose-water is distilled ; moss-roses there are in 
plenty, and handsome orange, yellow, or white single 
roses, one species having different colours on the upper 
and under sides of its petals. 

Most of the ordinary English vegetables are grown 
in Persia, such as potatoes (introduced by Sir John 
Malcolm in the time of Fath Ali Shah), spinach, 
pumpkins, vegetable marrows, onions, turnips, and 
carrots. Peas, beans, celery, seakale, and tomatoes 
when sown do remarkably well and yield splendid 
crops. The aubergine and the slimy lady's-finger are 
cultivated, as are also short, fat cucumbers, delicious in 
flavour and in such profusion that some years ago a 
hundred could be bought for a penny, thus making 
them a staple food for the poor. In the spring wild 
rhubarb, asparagus, chardon, and a large mushroom 
are found in the hills, all excellent of their kind. The 
fruit-season is marshalled in by the sickly white 
mulberry, followed by cherry, plum, peach, nectarine 



FAUNA AND FLORA 259 

apricot, apple, and pear. The walnuts, almond, and 
pistachio grow well, and grapes are in profusion and 
of several kinds. Oranges from the large portiigal 
to the fragrant mandarin are produced in favoured 
spots, and the small green-skinned lime is in great 
request for sherbets. Perhaps the melon is the fruit 
par excellence of Persia. It is of many kinds, from 
the hindivana, the water-melon, usually scarlet-fleshed 
with black seeds, to the huge white melons some- 
times 70 lb. in weight, which are grown near Isfahan, 
and which they say will burst if a horse gallops past 
when they are ripe. The splendid pomegranate makes 
a delicious fruit syrup ; and Persians put their well- 
flavoured quinces into niches round the walls of their 
rooms, in order to enjoy the odour. There are no 
gooseberries, currants, raspberries, or strawberries in the 
country ; though the berries of the wild barberry might 
do duty for the currant ; and the strawberries in the 
English gardens at Tehran and Meshed grow in such 
profusion that in the latter town 30 lb. of the fruit were 
gathered daily from the beds of one garden at the height 
of the season. 



CHAPTER XIV 
MARCO POLO IN PERSIA 

THROUGH the centuries that have elapsed since 
the Arab conquest of Persia, many travellers have 
visited Iran. Catholic friars bent on converting Mo- 
hammedans ; traders pursuing commerce in the Caspian 
or the Persian Gulf ; ambassadors from different nations 
paying court to Shah Abbas (the Grand Sophy, as they 
called him from a mispronunciation of his dynastic 
title) ; gallant gentlemen — adventurers such as the 
Sherley brothers ; or master-craftsmen like the French 
jewellers Tavernier and Chardin, with others whom 
it would take too long to enumerate. 

Chief of these, and among the earliest travellers, stands 
out the great name of the trader Marco Polo ; and 
to Venice belongs the honour of being the birthplace 
of the greatest Asiatic traveller that the world has ever 
known. 

Owing mainly to her geographical position, the 
wealth of the East poured through the City of the 
Waters, and at the height of her power the Republic 
was the great commercial centre of Europe, and had 
almost the whole carrying trade of the West. Ducats 
were the current coin of Asia for centuries, even down 

to the time of the English traveller Pottinger, who 

260 



MARCO POLO IN PERSIA 261 

writes that he laid in a stock of " Venetians " for his 
travels in Persia and Baluchistan early in the nineteenth 
century. 

When Marco Polo started off with his father and uncle 
on years of adventure, they first crossed Persia and 
then made their way from Kashgar via the great Gobi 
Desert to China, the "Far Cathay" of the Middle 
Ages, where they lived for seventeen years at the 
Court of great Kublai Khan. Their journey was 
certainly beset with many perils ; but in one way it 
was easier to travel in Asia in the thirteenth century 
than it is at the present day. The whole of the con- 
tinent was in the powerful grip of the Mongols, and 
though the empire founded by Chinghiz Khan was 
split up into different kingdoms, yet there was no 
danger of passing from friendly to hostile territory 
as was the case in the nineteenth century, when Conolly 
and Stoddart were murdered at Bokhara. The great 
trade routes were kept open to European enterprise 
by the enlightened Mongol rulers, and Venice, a city 
that owed all its wealth to commerce, took advantage 
of this fact. In this twentieth century there is no 
ruler in Asia who could give a golden tablet to his 
ambassador, by means of which that envoy would 
be provided with escorts, baggage-animals, and food 
throughout the length and breadth of the vast con- 
tinent ; but this is just what Kublai Khan did on two 
occasions to the Polos. 

Marco Polo speaks in no stinted terms of the great 
use of these tablets, that acted as a kind of " open 
sesame" wherever he went, and provided transport 
and commissariat in abundance, these being the main 
difficulties of Persian travel at the present day. 



262 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

A glance at the map shows that Persia lies on the 
"highway of the nations," and in the days of Marco 
Polo it was rich and prosperous, owing to the wealth 
of China and India pouring into its emporium of 
Hormuz on the Persian Gulf From here it was 
laboriously conveyed on the backs of camels and mules 
over passes eight thousand feet high to the Iranian 
Plateau, and then travelled by way of Kerman and 
Yezd up to Balkh or to Tabriz, from which great 
centres it was distributed. 

The south-eastern part of Persia must have been 
much as it is now, that is, to use Major Sykes' ' phrase, 
" partly desert pure and simple and partly desert 
tempered by oases." The deforestation, however, that 
has gone on steadily through the centuries has done 
much to decrease the rainfall, always scanty, and thus 
has fatally injured a country which lacks only water to 
make its unpromising-looking soil produce abundantly. 

The descendants of Hulagu Khan were rulers of 
Persia when the Venetians visited the country, and 
these princes acknowledged Kublai Khan as their over- 
lord, stamping their coinage with his name and 
transacting their business with the Chinese seals he 
gave them. 

Owing to Marco Polo's habit of not telling us which 
were the places he actually saw, and which were those 
that he described from hearsay, there has been a con- 
siderable difference of opinion as to the route he took 
when he started from Acre on his years of travel. Sir 
Henry Yule, his talented translator and editor, con- 
siders that the Venetian travelled via Mosul and 
Baghdad down the Shal-el-Arab, past Busreh, to 
' " Ten Thousand Miles in Persia." 



MARCO POLO IN PERSIA 263 

Hormuz on the Persian Gulf ; but Major Sykes, who 
has had the advantage of studying several of these 
questions on the spot, thinks from internal evidence that 
the Polos entered Persia near Tabriz, travelling by way 
of Kashan, Yezd, and Kerman down to Hormuz. At 
this point, perhaps fearing to brave the many cross- 
winds and contrary currents of the Gulf in the un- 
seaworthy craft tied together with twine, that Marco 
Polo stigmatises as " wretched affairs," they turned north 
again, and crossing the Great Desert, reached Balkh. 

However this may be, we know from the Venetian's 
own words that he did visit Tabriz, and the next point 
of interest was his halt at Saba, or Sava, some eighty 
miles south-west of the modern Tehran. Here the 
" Three Wise Men " of Gospel narrative were supposed 
to have lived, tradition ignoring the fact that frankin- 
cense and myrrh do not grow in Persia, and Marco 
Polo, with characteristic honesty, complains that he 
could get no accurate information about the Magi. 
He speaks, however, of their tombs, evidently being 
unaware that the reputed bodies of the " Three Kings " 
had, after numerous vicissitudes, been enshrined in 
Cologne Cathedral in 1164. 

Our traveller mentioned Yezd, or Yasdi, as " a good 
and noble city," and at the present day it still retains 
much of its commercial importance, its merchants 
being accounted among the most enterprising in Persia. 
The silk he speaks of is still one of its chief manu- 
factures, as is also the yasdi, if it be the handsome 
shawl-patterned material known as hasan kuli khan 
that is a specialite of the city. The position of the 
town on the edge of the desert with rolling sand-dunes 
close to its high walls, is not inviting ; but it owed 



264 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

its former prosperity to being on the great caravan 
route. 

Kerman, the next halt made by the Venetians, was 
prosperous from the same cause ; and both cities, being 
somewhat inaccessible, had escaped the brunt of the 
terrible Mongol invasion. Marco Polo would hardly 
recognise the squalid mud-domed Kerman of to-day, 
which covers only about a quarter of its former area, 
and is surrounded by crumbling ruins, as it stands near 
two steep limestone spurs on which are the scanty 
remains of the fortresses attributed to Ardeshir. The 
most prominent object in the city is the half-destroyed 
greenish-blue dome of a mosque in which is an inscrip- 
tion dating its foundation from 1242, and therefore it 
must have been newly erected at the time of the Polos' 
visit in 1271. 

The Venetian speaks of the embroideries of Kerman 
" with figures of beasts and birds, trees and flowers, and 
a variety of other patterns," and mentions the " hang- 
ings " made there. At the present day, the city, though 
producing beautiful shawls and embroideries, is chiefly 
noted for its carpets that are among the finest in the 
world. Curiously enough, for a Mohammedan country^ 
at the time of Marco Polo's first visit the province was 
ruled by an energetic princess, and years later, on his 
return from China, he found her daughter on the throne, 
a high-handed lady who murdered her brother, and in 
her turn was strangled by his widow and her own 
sister. 

When Marco Polo left Kerman on his way to the 
Gulf he says : " When you leave the city you ride on for 
seven days, always finding towns, villages and hand- 
some dwelling-houses, so that it is very pleasant 



MARCO POLO IN PERSIA 265 

travelling," This cannot be said to be the case now, 
for, to give one example, there is only a mud tea-house 
on the twenty-three miles between Kerman and Mahun, 
above which village the Venetian probably entered the 
hills by the old caravan route to Hormuz. But in the 
environs of Kerman there are remains of forts and 
villages in all directions, showing the former prosperity 
of a district, that now is depopulated ; and Marco 
Polo's important city of Camadi has been identified 
with the extensive ruins of the modern Shahr-i-Jiruft 
from which many coins, beads, and pottery have been 
exhumed. 

Even at the present day Persian roads are by no 
means secure for unarmed travellers, and the Venetians 
nearly lost their lives on their way south to the coast, 
being attacked by bandits in a dense fog. This they 
thought was caused by enchantment, not knowing that 
they are fairly common at certain seasons in the pro- 
vince of Kerman. 

The old Persian saying runs thus : " Were the world 
a ring, Hormuz would be the jewel in it," and this prob- 
ably is an allusion to the immense wealth formerly 
enjoyed by this port on the Persian Gulf, all the gold, 
spices, silks, ivory, jewels, and drugs of India and China 
being brought here to start on their long journeys north 
and west. It cannot be out of compliment to the 
climate, for Marco Polo speaks of that as " sickly " — a 
very appropriate term to those who know its capacity 
for fever ; nor can it be in reference to the natural 
charms of a spot baked by a torrid sun, which has no 
vegetation and a most scanty water supply. In the days 
of the Venetian the trade had been removed from the 
island of Hormuz to the mainland, and the big, bustling 



266 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

emporium was a very different-looking place to squalid 
Bandar Abbas, the modern port nearest to its former site. 

As we have said before, Marco Polo did not take ship 
at Hormuz, but struck northwards again to Kerman, 
from where he crossed the great desert, the Lut that 
cuts Persia in half, and is a terrible obstacle to com- 
merce. His experiences, owing to the lack and badness 
of the water, were decidedly unpleasant, as indeed have 
been those of other travellers in this inhospitable 
region. M. Khanikoff, the Russian traveller, speaks of 
this district as "a desert unequalled in aridity on the 
whole of the Asiatic continent, for the Gobi and Kizil 
Kum are fertile prairies compared to the Lut." 

When he emerged from this desert, our traveller 
speaks of the arbre sol, or arbre sec, of Khorasan, 
probably a gigantic plane-tree, some of these at the 
present day being a mass of rags and votive offerings, and 
regarded with a superstitious awe from their size and 
rarity. There is a curious old Persian picture represent- 
ing Alexander the Great demanding to learn his fate 
from the arbre sol. The tree, which is hung all over with 
the heads of different animals, presumably to signify its 
power of speech, is reported to have replied, to the 
great General's questionings, " Thou shalt conquer the 
world, but thou shalt never see Macedonia again." 
Beyond the tree two Persian saints are depicted seated 
by a pool from which they are drawing and eating the 
fish of everlasting life, and in Saadi's Gulistan we have 
a reference to this legend in the words, " Hast thou 
heard that Alexander went into darkness, and after all 
his efforts, could not taste the water of immortality } " 

The great conqueror is depicted as holding his fore- 
finger to his lips, an Oriental gesture of astonishment, 



MARCO POLO IN PERSIA 267 

Saadi often using the expression to " bite the finger of 
amazement." 

We cannot be sure from his narrative whether Marco 
Polo reached Balkh by way of Meshed and Nishapur or 
via Herat ; but his travels show us that Persia in the 
thirteenth century was far more prosperous and popu- 
lous than Persia in the twentieth, while her communi- 
cations to-day are almost in the same primitive state as 
they were in the time of the great Venetian. 

After these experiences the three Polos made their 
way to the Court of Kublai, the great Khan of Tartary, 
the ablest of the successors of Chinghiz and the con- 
queror of China. 

Here they stayed many years, and so attached became 
the monarch to the Polos, that he turned a deaf ear to 
all their hints that he should allow them to return home 
with their wealth. In fact there seemed every prospect 
that they would remain in China till their death, when 
envoys from Tabriz in north Persia arrived with the 
news that Kublai's grand-nephew, the Khan of Persia, 
was a disconsolate widower, and wished to replace his 
late wife by one of her relatives who dwelt near Pekin. 
The young Princess Kokachin was selected for the 
honour; but the ambassadors feared to take her by 
the long overland route to Persia with its hardships 
and perils, and begged the monarch to let them travel 
by sea. As they had no knowledge of sea-craft (no 
Persian has any at the present day) they urged that the 
Venetians, in whose powers they appeared to place 
boundless confidence, might accompany the party. Old 
Kublai Khan agreed to this with great reluctance, but 
gave the travellers a fleet of thirteen ships, and they set 
off on a voyage that lasted for two years. The would-be 



268 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

bridegroom was dead when they reached their destina- 
tion ; but the lady was promptly married to his nephew, 
and wept when she said goodbye to her kind escort. 

When the Polos reached Venice after an absence 
of nearly a quarter of a century, tradition has it that 
their relatives did not recognise them in their travel- 
ling garb of great sheepskin pushteens, with the wool 
worn inside as at the present day, and their huge, 
shaggy Tartar caps. To stimulate the memory of their 
kinsfolk they invited them all to a feast, after which, 
ripping up the seams of their travel-worn garments, 
a mass of precious stones poured out, to the amazement 
of the onlookers. At this sight, as the chronicler puts 
it with unconscious humour, "they recognised that, 
in spite of all former doubts, these were in truth those 
honoured and worthy gentlemen of the Ca Polo that 
they claimed to be . . . and straightway the whole city, 
gentle and simple, flocked to the house to embrace 
them and to make much of them with every conceivable 
demonstration of honour and respect." 

Across the ages three travellers and geographers 
stand out from the rest — the Greek Herodotus, the 
Chinese Chang Ki'en, and lastly Marco Polo, the 
subject of this chapter. 

The two former lived in the fifth and second centuries 
before Christ, and are therefore separated by a gulf 
of time from the Venetian, but all three visited Persia 
and great parts of Central Asia. To Marco Polo must 
be awarded the palm for the extent of his travels. To 
quote Sir Henry Yule,i "He was the first to trace 
a route across the whole longitude of Asia, naming 
and describing kingdom after kingdom which he had 
' " Marco Polo.'' 



MARCO POLO IN PERSIA 269 

seen with his own eyes : Persia, Badakshan, the Mon- 
golian Steppes, China, Tibet, Burma, Siam, Cochin 
China, Japan, the Indian Archipelago, Java, Sumatra, 
the Andaman Islands, Ceylon, and India." 

Before closing this chapter the writer must acknow- 
ledge her indebtedness not only to Sir Henry Yule's 
magnmn opus, but also to Major Sykes ^ for much of 
what she has written. 

When she was the latter's companion at Kerman 
he was keenly interested in finding out the great 
Venetian's routes through the province of that name, 
and a summer tour in the hilly country round the city 
was made with the object of following in the footsteps 
of Marco Polo. Both were thrilled at the idea that 
perhaps they were the first Europeans since the time 
of the Venetians to pass along the old caravan route 
now disused ; and one afternoon, riding across a 
grassy plateau in the Sardu, or Cold Country district, 
the ruins of a long-deserted caravanserai close to a 
steep pass gave them the certainty that they were 
standing on the edge of the "great descent" that Marco 
Polo had to negotiate in order to reach the city of 
Camadi, thus clearing up various disputed points as 
to his route to the Persian Gulf. 

Throughout the writer's stay in Persia the great 
Venetian was in a way interwoven with her life. Almost 
wherever she travelled, be it by Kum, Kashan, or Yezd 
to Kerman ; on the troublous, torrid waters of the 
Persian Gulf; or yet again in Makran with its fish- 
and-date-eating inhabitants, and its intense heat only 
tempered by occasional oases of palms, Marco Polo had 
preceded her. 

^ " Journeys of Alexander the Great and Marco Polo " (Society 
of Arts, June 4, 1897). 



CHAPTER XV 
A GLANCE AT THE ANTIQUITIES OF PERSIA 

THE traveller who has entered Persia by way of 
Bushire, and has surmounted the formidable 
kotals that lie between the sea and Shiraz, will from 
that city go to visit the Achsemenian and Sasanian 
remains in the valley of the Polvar, some forty miles to 
the north. 

If he is wise he will take Lord Curzon's " Persia " 
as his guide, for its masterly description of the history 
and purpose of the ruins he is about to see will both 
double his pleasure and save him from a sense of 
perplexity and confusion. 

The most famous of these remains is Persepolis, 
situated on the wide plain of Mervdasht, and called 
Takht-i-Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid) by the Persians, 
who consider the immense platform is too great a work 
to have been performed by mere mortals, and therefore 
ascribe it to one of their legendary monarchs whose 
behests were carried out by jinns and demons. 

These terraces, once covered with palaces, halls of 
audience and fire-temples, are built out from the side 
of the mountain and faced with huge stones, some of 
which, according to Lord Curzon, are fifty feet long 

and six to ten in width. The celebrated staircase is 

270 



THE ANTIQUITIES OF PERSIA 271 

still in situ, the steps of which are so shallow that 
the traveller can ride up them with ease and arrive 
at the Porch of Xerxes with its enormous sculptured 
bulls. The stone work still left of these magnificent 
buildings, which Shah Abbas, among others, used as 
a quarry, was hewn from the mountains, the workmen 
chiselling the vast limestone blocks for the platform 
close to the scene of their labours, and thus saving 
the toil of transport. 

The great audience hall of Xerxes, once supported 
on seventy-two fluted colums, only thirteen of which 
are still standing, is approached by four staircases, 
up which at No Ruz thronged the subjects of the King 
of Kings to pay tribute to their sovereign, or merely 
to gaze half bewildered at his splendour. Blazing with 
jewels, he would sit on a throne in the vast hall, a 
parasol, emblem of royalty, held above him, and 
attendants armed with fly-whisks beside him. Curtains 
would supply the place of walls to this audience- 
chamber, and would be raised when thousands were 
prostrating themselves to the earth before a sovereign 
whom they regarded as half divine. 

Not far from this hall, so impressive even in its ruin, 
is the palace of great Darius. The stone doorways 
and windows are still standing, though the mud-brick 
walls, formerly adorned with stucco-work, enamel tiles 
or paintings, have now all disappeared, the frosts, rains, 
and sunshine of many centuries having converted 
them into rubble and washed them away. But the 
cuneiform inscription, informing us that this palace was 
begun by the son of Hystaspes and completed by Xerxes, 
is almost as clear as when first incised on the limestone; 
and the finely carved processions of armed warriors. 



272 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

and the gigantic figure of the king killing a griffin of 
superhuman size, show to what a height art in Persia had 
attained some twenty-five centuries ago. 

Behind the Propylaea of Xerxes the traveller visits 
the remains of the Hall of a Hundred Columns, built 
by Darius the Great ; and Lord Curzon ^ says that this 
vast reception-room, the cedar roof of which was once 
upheld by a hundred and sixteen pillars, is only sur- 
passed in size by the hall of Karnak in Egypt. It has 
the indescribable fascination of being almost beyond 
doubt the palace fired by Alexander during a drunken 
revel ; for excavations have brought to light a mass of 
cedar-wood ash, not a trace of which is to be found 
in any other palace. Here, then, in the words of 
Dryden, 

"Thais led the way 
To light him to his prey 
And, like another Helen, fired another Troy." 

Perhaps what strikes the traveller most during a 
visit to Persepolis is the way in which everything is 
done to contribute to the glorification or semi-deifica- 
tion of the monarchs who built the palaces which they 
visited on occasions of ceremony. The sovereign is 
sculptured as seated in state on his throne with Ormuzd 
hovering above him ; or he is slaying some monster ; 
or half the peoples of Asia are represented as bringing 
tribute to his feet. This idea of the " Divine Right 
of Kings" is still extant in Persia and is carefully 
fostered in court circles, though sorely shaken in the 
land at large. 

The wonderful outburst of art to which we owe these 
' " Persia." 




t.,.^^.»s^. 



r*'*smm-'^. 



$^^ 




THE ANTIQUITIES OF PERSIA 273 

impressive ruins was influenced by both Assyria and 
Egypt, the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, and the 
occupation of the cities of the Nile by Cambyses, bring- 
ing the Persians into contact with these great civilisa- 
tions, from both of which they borrowed while 
preserving their own personality. 

The kings in their palaces at Persepolis had of course 
vast crowds of retainers, and the royal city of Istakr 
rose on the plain to supply the needs of these latter, the 
remains of one of its great limestone gateways still 
standing, and a lofty fluted column with bull-headed 
capital marking the site of what was in old days a fire- 
temple. 

The splendid rock-tombs of Naksh-i-Rustum, where 
Darius Hystaspes and three of his successors were laid 
to rest, are hewn out of a sheer wall of rock that rises to 
a great height above the plain. The tombs can only be 
reached by the aid of ropes, as they are between twenty- 
five to forty feet from the ground, and their carvings and 
inscriptions are still fresh ; but they have been entirely 
rifled of their contents. 

The Zoroastrian command to expose all dead 
bodies to be consumed by the birds of prey was 
not followed by these sovereigns, though enforced 
under the Sasanian dynasty during which the priest- 
hood had great influence. It may have been that 
the Achaemenians wished to copy the example of the 
Pharaohs. 

Next in interest to Persepolis are the remains of 
Pasargadae, formerly the famous capital of Cyrus the 
Great, and situated in the valley of the Polvar on 
the plain of Murghab. Here is to be seen the 
Takht-i-Suleiman, or Throne of Solomon, that monarch 



274 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

being frequently confused with the mythical Jamshid, 
as both are credited with having possessed superhuman 
powers. This great platform, built of blocks of lime- 
stone, so well fitted together that no mortar was either 
needed or used in its construction, once in all prob- 
ability supported the audience-hall of Cyrus the 
Achaemenian, and at some distance from it stands a 
low pillar on which is a figure crowned and having two 
pairs of wings, one raised towards heaven and the other 
sweeping the earth. This figure is pointed out by 
Persians as the originator of their past greatness ; and 
Lord Curzon says that the inscription, " I am Cyrus, the 
King, the Achaemenian," was formerly carved above 
the bas-relief. 

From here the traveller will make his way to what 
is the most interesting of all the remains — that is, the 
tomb of Cyrus, spoken of by the Persians as the 
" Sepulchre of the Mother of Solomon." When perfect 
it resembled a small Greek temple with its pedimented 
roof and the surrounding colonnade, which latter has 
entirely disappeared. Yet, even in its ruin, the visitor 
who clambers up the steps of the pedestal on which it 
stands is thrilled at the thought that here almost 
beyond doubt lay the remains of the founder of the 
Achaemenian line. Alexander, who overthrew that 
dynasty, came some two centuries after the death of 
mighty Cyrus to pay his respects to one whom he 
admired with the sympathetic reverence that one great 
soldier may feel for another. 

This cursory glance at what has descended to us from 
the centuries before our era would not be complete 
without some mention of Bisitun, twenty-four miles to 
the east of Kermanshah. On this fine ridge of rock, 



THE ANTIQUITIES OF PERSIA 275 

rising 1,500 feet above the plain, are carved the exploits 
of Darius the Great, and the famous inscription that 
gave to the world the key of cuneiform writing. Lord 
Curzon ^ speaks of this inscription, the secret of which 
was unravelled by Sir Henry Rawlinson, as " the most 
important historical document, albeit in stone, next to 
the Damietta Stone, that has been discovered and 
deciphered in this century." 

The remains of the Sasanian dynasty are principally 
in the form of magnificent rock-sculptures, perhaps the 
finest being carved on the cliff below the royal 
Acheemenian sepulchres to which we have already 
referred. 

The Persians call these monuments Naksh-i-Rustum 
(Pictures of Rustum), because they imagine that they 
depict the exploits of their national hero, their know- 
ledge of the history of Iran being entirely gleaned 
from the legends of the Shahnama. The most in- 
teresting commemorates the capture of the Roman 
Emperor Valerian by Shapur I. in 260 A.D. Shapur, 
above life-size, and adorned with the royal insignia, 
is mounted on horseback, and at his feet kneels the 
captive Csesar, his hands outstretched as if beseeching 
mercy from his proud conqueror — mercy which was 
asked in vain. Beside Valerian is another Roman 
prisoner to whom Shapur is giving what is supposed to 
be the royal circlet, thus signifying his installation of 
Cyriades on the throne of the Csesars. 

Not far from Kazerun lie the mounds, the fragments 

of wall, and the masses of rubbish that once was 

Shapur, the celebrated capital of the Sasanian monarch, 

and which was destroyed during the Arab invasion. 

^ " Persia." 



276 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Hardly anything is left of this royal town ; but on the 
banks of the stream that runs through a defile are 
several rock-sculptures, three of which portray the 
proudest event of Shapur's successful reign — that is, the 
capture of Valerian. In one of these the Csesar is being 
trampled beneath the horse of his conqueror, and 
another great panel, full of figures, commemorates 
Shapur investing Cyriades with the Imperial purple, 
the vanquished Valerian being a spectator of this scene 
so full of humiliation to him. 

High up on the side of the valley is a huge cave 
still containing the much mutilated gigantic statue of 
Shapur, which is said to have been worshipped as a god, 
and is, moreover, interesting as being the only antique 
statue ever found in Persia. 

Some four miles from Kermanshah are other remark- 
able Sasanian rock-sculptures at Tak-i-Bostan, or Arch 
of the Garden, and the finest of these, which show 
the influence of Greek art, are to commemorate the 
achievements of Khosru Parvis, whose reign is such 
a strange mixture of conquest and success during the 
first part, to be followed by defeat and misery at the 
last. 

There are, of course, many other remains of the past, 
but this chapter does not aim at giving a description of 
all the antiquities of Persia, but merely points out, in a 
cursory way, those that are the most celebrated. 



CHAPTER XVI 
SPORT AND AMUSEMENTS 

PERSIANS from their Shahs downwards have 
always been passionately fond of the chase, the 
murdered Nasr-ed-Din Shah loving to pursue the ibex 
and wild sheep in the numerous mountain ranges. 

But the typical sport of Persia is a gazelle shoot, 
these fleet creatures being found almost everywhere, and 
roaming the plains in small herds. The usual method 
of securing them is to ride in a big party towards the 
aim, the riders spreading out round the quarry and 
gradually closing in upon it. When the animals, 
which have taken little notice at first of the sportsmen, 
perceive that they are hemmed in, they try to break 
through the ring, and then ensues an exciting scene in 
which the firing is often reckless and leads to casualties 
among the riders as well as the game. Persians are 
able to handle a gun almost as well on horseback as off; 
for looping their reins on to the pommels of the high 
saddles in which they are tightly wedged, and turning 
right round in their seats, they fire behind, much 
as the Parthians of old discharged their celebrated 
arrows. 

Hawks are occasionally employed in this sport, the 
birds dashing at the heads of the gazelle again and 
277 



278 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

again, with the result that the animals are confused and 
their speed is checked, thus enabling the horsemen and 
tazi, or greyhounds, to come up with them. So fleet are 
they that the expression, " To sell the skin of a gazelle 
before you have caught it," is the Persian equivalent of 
counting one's chickens before they are hatched, and a 
familiar curse is to wish that a man may have to " catch 
his bread from the horn of a gazelle," thus condemning 
him to starvation. 

Hawking is a favourite form of sport, the birds some- 
times being trained to kill the great bustard, or obara, of 
the plains, which is as large as a turkey ; and they are 
also used in partridge shooting. Marco Polo, who twice 
visited Kerman, speaks of the hawks found in that 
province as the best and swiftest in the world, and the 
writer, who has been present at partridge-drives in the 
district, has had the opportunity of watching the birds 
at work. On these occasions every one is on horseback, 
and the " beaters " rush up and down the hills, yelling 
at the top of their voices to drive the partridges into 
the stony valleys, along which the sportsmen dash, 
paying no attention to the stones of all sizes with which 
the ground is liberally strewn. Pointers of dubious 
breed flush the game which is dropped at very short 
distances by the eager guns, and the hawks swoop at 
intervals on their bewildered prey. It would be impos- 
sible to describe the hurly-burly and the savage 
appearance of the party, clad in long flying coats with 
striped scarves round their skull-caps, and armed with 
guns and hunting-knives, every man shouting until he 
is hoarse, and apparently half delirious with excitement. 
Another method of shooting partridges, very different to 
this noisy one, is for the native huntsmen to creep along 



SPORT AND AMUSEMENTS 279 

behind a screen made of bright colours that attracts the 
inquisitive birds to their doom. 

Pheasants and woodcock abound near the Caspian, 
and the handsome francolin, or doraj, in the soutli. 
Quail shooting is a favourite spring pastime, the 
shooters tramping through the springing crops, and 
often accompanied by dogs which rouse the birds and 
make them fly up. 

Flocks of wild geese, wild duck, and teal are found 
near the streams and swamps, as are also snipe, but 
these latter are too difficult a quarry for the clumsy 
Persian gun. 

When any animal or bird is killed its throat must be 
cut before it breathes its last, with the formula, Bismillah 
er rahman er rahim (in the Name of God the all- 
Merciful). This is to render it halal, or fit for food, 
and the orthodox will not eat it if it is shot dead. 

The Persian Plateau, however, cannot be looked upon 
in any sense as a paradise for sportsmen, the game 
being scarce owing to lack of water and the consequent 
sparseness of food. Pigeons are found everywhere, and 
are often secured by throwing stones down the kanat 
holes that they frequent and shooting as the birds fly 
out. Indeed, one of the favourite amusements of a 
Persian is to sally forth with his gun, and he usually 
brings down something, for he is bound by no etiquette 
as to what to shoot, any harmless and inedible " cocky- 
oily " bird being stalked and finally secured with much 
exultation. 

Major St. John ^ mentions that a sport round Shiraz 
is to employ sparrow-hawks to catch the ubiquitous 
sparrow that haunts the kanat holes in hot weather, 
' "Zoology of Eastern Persia." Blandford. 



28o PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

The birds fly up as a stone is flung down the shaft, and 
the hawk usually kills its prey before the sparrow can 
take refuge in the next open shaft ; but sometimes the 
hawk in its eagerness follows its quarry down the water- 
course and can only be rescued with much difficulty. 
Fifteen or twenty sparrows are often killed in an hour's 
walk. 

Pigeon-flying is much in vogue ; but Dr. Wills,i who 
gives a capital account of this pastime, says that pigeon 
fanciers are looked upon with suspicion, as they have to 
go from roof to roof of the houses and therefore have 
many opportunities of glancing down into the ande- 
roons of their neighbours. 

Riding is perhaps the chief amusement in a country 
of horses ; though the practice of racing a horse at its 
top speed and then pulling it up sharply when in full 
gallop is not one that commends itself to an English 
rider, and accounts for a weakness often observable in 
the hind-quarters of Persian horses. Racing, however, 
is not practised except at Tehran, where there are yearly 
horse-races, which, if report is to be believed, are not 
conducted according to the strict rules of fair play. 

Persians have but few games. In olden days polo 
was the national pastime, and it is contended that it 
took its rise in Iran. It died out, however, some 
centuries ago, and has only been revived lately by 
the Europeans in the country. 

The nomad tribes are accustomed to fire from horse- 
back at a lemon thrown into the air, or at an egg placed 
on a mound of sand, turning right round in their 
saddles and smashing it as they pass it at full gallop. 
Another sport, termed doghela basi, is for the rider 
' " Land of the Lion and the Sun." 



SPORT AND AMUSEMENTS 281 

to fling a long stick on the ground with force and catch 
it as it rebounds into the air. Accidents frequently 
occur during this game, the players having sometimes 
been blinded ; and on one occasion, at all events, the 
stick killed a horse by piercing its chest. 

Wrestling is practised by all ranks, encounters of this 
kind exciting much interest, the object to be aimed 
at being to force the opponent to his knees; and nothing 
arouses more excitement among the spectators than such 
an exhibition. Bets are laid on the result, though 
the Prophet strictly forbade gambling ; and a battle 
royal is occasionally the sequel, the frenzied spectators 
breaking the ring and beating the wrestler whom they 
are not backing ! 

Tipcat ; also marbles (played with pebbles) ; a kind of 
rounders ; draughts ; backgammon ; card games and 
chess comprise a limited repertoire. It is said that 
Shah Rokh, youngest son of Timur the Lame, got 
his name because his father was playing at chess when 
the news of his son's birth was brought to him. At the 
moment of the announcement the Tartar conqueror 
had checked his opponent's king with his castle, the 
move in Persia being called Shah rokh. 

As games of chance were prohibited by the Prophet, 
cards are looked upon askance by all pious Moslems, 
dancing and music being practically confined to pro- 
fessionals. It is considered degrading for a gentleman 
to practise either art ; and the lutis, who are the chief 
performers, are looked down upon with contempt. The 
dancers posture, shuffle about ungracefully by pushing 
their feet from side to side ; and a great achievement is 
to bend backwards, until the head touches the ground, 
and to walk in that position without the aid of the hands. 



282 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

As to Persian music there is something curiously 
haunting about it ; but the hearer must first set aside 
all his European ideas of the art ; for to an ear trained 
to the octave the wild, tuneless music sounds like the 
fiddle-scraping of an orchestra before the overture 
commences. A gipsy-band will perhaps perform for 
his benefit, and he will notice how dirty are both the 
men and their instruments ; but the skill with which 
they manage the latter will soon strike him. A dark- 
faced man in a turban will play on a kind of zither, 
tapping its many strings continuously with a pair 
of wooden sticks, while squatting beside him a grey- 
beard is fingering a curiously primitive guitar {sitar). 
This is made of mulberry wood, the whole of the 
hollowed-out body being covered in with parchment, 
and the long neck has frets like a Spanish guitar and 
carved head pegs to tighten up the three strings which 
are struck with a plectrum. Two men will scrape away 
with black horse-hair bows on instruments that remind 
the looker-on of mandolines, the bowls being made out 
of pumpkins strengthened with ribs of wood, ivory, and 
bits of metal, and each instrument has a handsomely 
incised long metal spike to support it on the ground. 
Of course every band will have its drums. There will 
be a large one (the tumbak), and a pair of small 
ones, the covers of these latter made of different 
skins in order to alter the tone. The players wet 
the parchment to render it more resonant, and thud 
it with marvellously supple fingers, and one of their 
number will tap incessantly on what looks like a 
huge tambourine (the diara). A pipe and a horn 
probably complete the equipment of the band, the 
latter emitting fearfully discordant and ear-splitting 



SPORT AND AMUSEMENTS 283 

brays. The singers give vent at intervals to what 
seems a series of shrieks and yells, rocking themselves 
to and fro and making the most agonising grimaces, 
while the veins of their necks swell with their efforts. 
But though a Persian singer, straining his high falsetto 
voice to the utmost, as he executes many a shake 
and tremulo, may not please European taste, yet 
his songs of love or war have an appeal from their 
very strangeness, and if heard at a distance conjure 
up some of the glamour and mystery of the East. 

At ail events, the national music is far superior to the 
brass band imported from Europe and now the fashion 
in Persia. Every instrument is usually out of tune, 
and men and boys of all ages perform, with a result that 
may be more easily imagined than described ! 



CHAPTER XVII 
FOUR PERSIAN POETS 

AFTER reading, among other books, Professor E. G. 
Browne's authoritative work on the literature of 
Persia, the writer saw that it would be impossible in 
a book of this? kind to convey any real idea of such 
a large subject, and decided therefore that it would 
be more interesting to the general reader to give 
some account of the four great poets who enjoy a 
European reputation — Firdawsi, Omar Khayyam, 
Saadi, and Hafiz. 

Glancing back through the centuries we find that 
the Avesta, or Zoroastrian Scriptures, is the only 
literature left by the Medes ; the Achsemenian kings 
inscribed their achievements on the living rock, and 
the Parthian dynasty left no records at all. Under 
the Sasanian monarchs we hear of an epic written 
in Pahlavi, the spoken tongue, treating of the national 
legends, from which source Firdawsi, later on, drew 
largely for his great poem ; but it is not until some 
time after the Arab Conquest that what we know as 
Persian literature came into existence, everything being 
written in Arabic until about A.D. 850. From that 
date, over a thousand years ago, there have been Persian 

' " Literary History of Persia." 

2S4 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 285 

poets and writers, and so little has the language 
altered during this long interval that a Persian of 
to-day can read the earliest verse as easily as an 
Englishman can read Shakespeare. 

This literary movement reached its climax about 
A.D. 1000 in Firdawsi's great patriotic epic, the 
Shaknama, in which he collected the legends of 
the Persian monarchs and heroes from the earliest 
ages, carrying on and incorporating the work of the 
Persian poet Daqiqi, who was murdered when he had 
only composed a thousand couplets of the national epic. 
Firdawsi, born in the tenth century, was a small 
landowner living near Tus, a town in north-east 
Persia fam.ous for its poets, philosophers, and astrono- 
mers ; and it is said that he wrote his poem in order 
to provide his only daughter with a good dowry. 

It took over a quarter of a century to complete 
the sixty thousand couplets of the " Iliad of the East," 
as it has been called, and when finished Firdawsi 
dedicated it to that great patron of letters. Sultan 
Mahmud of Ghazna, who at first was delighted with 
the masterpiece. Unluckily for the poet, Mahmud's 
Vizier, who had introduced Firdawsi to his royal 
master, had powerful enemies, and these told the 
monarch that the epic savoured of unorthodoxy, 
and persuaded him to bestow on the writer a 
contemptible reward, some say giving him in silver 
the same number of coins that had been promised 
to him in gold. 

Firdawsi, outraged at this insult, for so he deemed 
it, flung the money to the keeper of the public baths 
and to a seller of sherbet, and then fled from the 
vengeance that he knew would overtake him when 



286 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

the Sultan should hear how his royal bounty had 
been spurned. He took refuge with a Persian prince, 
who persuaded him to suppress a bitter satire which 
he had composed upon Mahmud ; and after several 
years he ventured to return to Tus, where he lived 
in peace and died at a great age. 

His patron the Vizier had never forgotten him, 
and Professor Browne relates that the minister brought 
the poet to his royal master's remembrance in the 
following way. Mahmud, who was on a campaign, 
had just summoned a town to surrender, and said 
that he wondered what answer would be brought to 
him from the recalcitrant citizens. 

" And should the reply with my wish not accord 

" Then Afrasiyab's field and the mace and the sword," 

quoted the Vizier, and the monarch asked for the name 
of the author of the spirited lines. On hearing that 
they were from the Shahnarna and that the poet had 
never had any fitting reward for his great work, 
Mahmud, at last repenting of his former meanness, 
sent a caravan of camels laden with bales of indigo with 
sixty thousand dinars (said to be the amount of the 
reward promised originally) to the aged Firdawsi. 
But tradition relates that as the camels turned in at 
the Rudbar Gate, which is still standing, the remains 
of Persia's Homer were carried to a grave outside 
the city wall, the taint of unorthodoxy which had 
marred the success of his great work following him 
even after death, and preventing his burial in the 
public cemetery. 

Firdawsi is one of the greatest poets of all ages, and 
in his immense epic he traces in majestic and vivid 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 287 

language, the legendary history of Persia from the 
earliest ages up to the Arab Conquest. What the 
ordinary Persian of to-day knows of the history of his 
country is gathered from the Shahnama. To give 
an example of this, the writer was once told by an 
educated Persian that King Jamshid had instituted the 
Festival of No Ruz, her informant having no idea that 
he was speaking of a mythical personage. 

The legends narrated in this poem were the common 
property of all Irani, and a prose "Book of Kings " had 
already been compiled in Persian, translated from the 
old Pahlavi epic of the Sasanian monarchs, and from 
it the poet took much of his material. His poem 
begins by relating how in prehistoric ages the Persians 
sprang from a nomad tribe who dwelt in the Elburz 
mountains and hunted wild animals to provide them- 
selves with food and clothing. After a while they chose 
a king, Kaiumers by name, who was so wise that even 
the most savage beasts gave him homage, and his 
subjects would have prospered greatly under his rule 
if he had not had the misfortune to offend the King of 
the Demons^ who reigned over the rich province of 
Mazanderan. This monarch sent a huge army of 
giants and monsters into Persia, destroyed the force 
headed by the son of Kaiumers and obliged that ruler 
himself to flee into hiding. But the demons did not 
have things all their own way, for there arose a de- 
liverer for Iran in the person of the gallant Husheng, 
grandson of old Kaiumers. This youth called all the 
beasts of prey to fight under his standard, and instruct- 
ing the birds of the air to peck out the eyes of his 
assailants, he succeeded in routing the enemy with 
great slaughter, and killed the King of the Demons 



288 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

with his own hand. From this time Persia was safe 
from her foes, and her civilisation reached its climax 
during the long reign, lasting seven centuries, of great 
Jamshid, whom the Arab writers confuse with King 
Solomon on account of his extraordinary wisdom and 
power. 

This Persian potentate founded the national spring 
festival, forced the jinns to make splendid palaces 
for him, to build ships and launch them on the Caspian, 
and even to transport him through the air on his 
jewelled throne from one city to another. 

His reign was a Golden Age for Persia, for no one 
ever got ill, or old, or died, and all were prosperous, 
and might be so still if Jamshid, inflated with pride, 
had not angered the gods by aspiring to divine 
honours. At once the kingdom was invaded by Zohak 
and his Arab hordes, and the Persians, seeing that 
Fortune had turned her face from their sovereign, gave 
their allegiance to the usurper, who slew their late 
ruler. 

But they soon discovered what they had done in 
submitting to Zohak ; for their new king had two huge 
serpents growing from his shoulders, and these horrible 
creatures could only be appeased by feeding them with 
human blood. And now ensued centuries of misery 
for Iran, until the advent of a deliverer, Feridun by 
name, who is regarded by Persians as a symbol of 
justice and beneficence. It was revealed to Zohak in 
a dream that he would be shortly overthrown, and his 
diviners having informed him of the name of his future 
conqueror, then an infant, he pursued the young 
Feridun henceforth with such untiring zeal that the 
child could not have escaped from the death that 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 289 

threatened him, had it not been for a good genius who 
sheltered him in the Elburz Mountains. 

When Feridun was about sixteen the genius sent 
him splendidly armed and horsed into the capital of 
Zohak. As he entered the city he met Kavah, a black- 
smith, who, frenzied with grief and rage because his 
two sons had been offered up to the demon serpents, 
was urging the populace to rise against the tyrant, and 
holding up his leather apron as the standard of revolt. 
As soon as the crowd saw the princely youth they felt 
sure that he must be Feridun, the prophesied deliverer, 
and they called upon him to lead them. This he 
accordingly did, and Zohak met with the reward of his 
crimes at last, and was bound with chains and immured 
in a cavern on the side of Mount Demavend, where the 
Persians say that his groans can sometimes be heard at 
the present day. The blacksmith's apron, covered with 
jewels, was used for centuries as the national standard 
of Iran, until captured by the Arabs when they con- 
quered Persia. 

On the death of Feridun the interest of the legends 
shifts from the kings, and centres in the hero Rustum, 
who becomes the national Champion, and with the aid 
of his celebrated steed Rakhsh upholds the throne of 
Persia for generations, and constantly comes to the 
rescue of its often incompetent occupants. 

It is related that Rustum at the age of eight was as 
strong as the most powerful warrior in a kingdom of 
soldiers, and his first exploit was one that few grown 
men would have cared to perform. A great white 
elephant belonging to the king got loose one night 
and went about the city killing every one that it met. 
Rustum, being roused from sleep by the cries of the 



290 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

townsfolk, seized his iron-headed mace, and rushing to 
the door of the castle, commanded the soldiers on guard 
to let him out. The men refused on account of his 
tender age ; thereupon he knocked a soldier down, 
broke the massive lock of the door, and made his way 
to the seat of the disturbance. The elephant on seeing 
the boy charged straight at him ; but Rustum delivered 
the animal such a mighty blow with his mace, that after 
staggering for a moment it fell down dead, and the 
grateful populace acclaimed the lad as the Champion 
of Persia. 

Not long after this Afrasiyab, King of Tartary, in- 
vaded Persia with a vast army, and naturally Rustum 
was singled out to be one of the generals on the Persian 
side, but before he could go to his post he had the 
difficult task of finding a horse up to his great weight. 
He spent some days wandering about the grassy up- 
lands of Khorasan in search of a steed, and at last his 
eye fell upon a splendid roan foal following a mare. 
The men in charge of the horses warned the lad not to 
go near it, because its mother killed all who approached 
her offspring, which had demon blood in its veins. 
These warnings, however, only stimulated the hero, 
who promptly caught the foal with his lasso, and when 
the mare rushed at him open-mouthed, he felled her 
to the earth with one blow of his fist. And then 
ensued a wild struggle between the maddened foal and 
its future master, in which Rustum gained the day and 
a marvellous steed about which the Persians tell almost 
as many tales as about the hero himself. 

In the great battle which shortly ensued between the 
hosts of Iran and Tartary, such was the prowess of 
Rustum that the Tartar army was broken up and fled 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 



291 



in confusion across the Persian border, after which Iran 
had peace for many years. 

But when foolish King Kai Kaus ascended the throne 
of Persia he was so ill-advised as to invade the fertile 
province of Mazanderan, which was known to be the 
chosen haunt of the race of demons. 

Zal and Rustum were left in charge of the kingdom, 
and the monarch led his soldiers into the hostile 
country, where the great White Demon and his 
myrmidons caused darkness to envelope the Persian 
army and such huge hailstones to fall that many of the 
soldiers were killed, the rest with their king being taken 
captive and deprived of their sight. 

When news of this terrible disaster reached Persia 
Rustum, without a moment's hesitation, saddled his 
horse Rakhsh and rode off quite alone to free his 
sovereign, the adventures which befell him on this 
quest being perhaps the most famous in Persian legend, 
and reminding the reader of the labours of Hercules. 

On the first night of his journey Rustum was aroused 
by a great noise, and found that Rakhsh had been 
attacked by a huge lion, which, however, the noble horse 
had killed ; but the hero was angry with his faithful 
companion for having run such a risk alone, and 
commanded it to awake him in the future if danger 
threatened. A few nights later a monstrous serpent 
crept from its lair, and approached the warrior, but 
when Rakhsh neighed loudly the creature disappeared 
and Rustum saw nothing. The same thing happened 
as soon as the Champion had composed himself to 
sleep again, and this time he was much annoyed at 
being aroused, as he imagined, without need, and he 
actually threatened to kill his horse if such a thing 



292 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

occurred again. Just before dawn the monster made 
its third appearance, and Rakhsh, neighing, rushed 
at it with teeth and hoofs, while Rustum, springing 
to his feet, joined in the fight and slew the serpent. 

One evening in the wooded country of Mazanderan 
the hero and his steed found food laid out at their 
halting-place, and they were eating and drinking their 
fill with delight when a fair lady made her appearance. 
Rustum, wondering whether he and his horse owed 
their meal to her kindness, handed her a goblet of ruby 
wine, invoking the blessing of the gods upon it as he 
did so, and was horrified to see her turn into a jet-black 
demon before his eyes. He at once slew the apparition, 
and realising that he had entered the haunted country 
of Mazanderan, he was not altogether surprised that he 
and Rakhsh had next to make their way through 
a region where it was dark during the day as well as 
the night. 

At last, however, he reached the capital of Mazanderan, 
and at his approach the demon warriors guarding the 
city gates fled to the mountains, and the hero liberated 
his countrymen. The king, his nobility, and thousands 
of soldiers emerged from their dungeons into the 
daylight, but what was the horror of their rescuer to 
perceive that one and all were stone blind. Legend 
relates that the invincible Champion lifted up his voice 
and wept that his toils had been all in vain, for of 
what use to Persia would a blind monarch and a 
sightless army be? 

But when King Kai Kaus explained to his deliverer 
that all could recover their sight if they could bathe 
their eyes in the blood of the Div-i-Safid, or great 
White Demon, Rustum took heart again, and sallied 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 293 

off to accomplish what is considered to be the greatest 
exploit of his career. 

He tracked the monster to its den in the mountains, 
and at last found it asleep in its cave — a terrible crea- 
ture, covered from head to foot with white hair. When 
roused it issued forth, attended by a crowd of lesser 
demons, and, brandishing an enormous millstone above 
its head, it promptly threw it at Rustum. Luckily, this 
powerful missile fell short of its aim, and in another 
second hero and demon were struggling together in a 
life-and-death combat, the like of which had never been 
waged since the world began. Again and again first 
one and then the other got the mastery, and both became 
exhausted from severe wounds. In fact, Rustum was 
getting the worst of it when the gods vouchsafed him a 
miraculous accession of strength, and in a last despairing 
effort he hurled the demon on to the rocky floor of its 
cavern with such terrific force that it expired, rending 
the air with its yells. 

The hundreds of little demons that had watched the 
conflict with keen interest, shrivelled up and died at 
the moment of their master's decease, and Rustum, 
collecting some of the blood of his foe in his helmet, 
returned to the Persians and restored their sight with 
the horrible fluid. Thus ended the celebrated Heft 
Khan, or " Seven Stages " of Rustum, the Knight- 
Errant of Persia. 

After this Iran was at peace for a time, and her hero, 
having nothing particular to do, spent his days in 
hunting the fleet wild ass of the desert. On one of these 
expeditions he came to a little kingdom on the border of 
Khorasan, and fell in love with, and married, the princess. 

Rustum, however, was not the kind of man to care to 



294 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

be long at ease, and after some months he left his fair 
wife. But before they parted he gave her a talisman, 
telling her to bind it round the arm of her child if the 
gods should grant them a son, and to send him news if 
such an event should occur. 

In due course a splendid boy was born to Tamineh, 
who, fearing that her child might be taken from her 
should her husband know the truth, sent a trusty slave 
to inform him that he was the father of a daughter. 

The young Sohrab grew up full of pride at being the 
son of the great Champion, and when he was hardly 
more than a boy he sallied out into the world, mounted 
on a steed of the race of Rakhsh, and announcing that 
he intended to conquer Persia and place Rustum on the 
throne. 

Afrasiyab, king of Tartary, Persia's deadliest enemy, 
heard of the young hero, and wishing to gain such an 
asset for his side, persuaded him to join his army in an 
invasion of Persia. As of course the sovereign had no 
intention of handing Iran over to Rustum should he 
conquer the country, he told the generals of his army 
that they must be careful not to let Sohrab know which 
of the Persian warriors was his mighty father, hoping 
that the two Champions might engage in mortal combat 
and kill one another, thus leaving him free to seize 
Persia. 

King Kai Kaus had treated Rustum with base ingrati- 
tude of late years, having apparently forgotten how the 
hero had delivered him from the White Demon. He 
almost ignored the great warrior when he came to court ; 
but Rustum made no complaint, and lived in retirement 
in his province of Sistan. Yet, true patriot that he was, 
when the news of Persia's danger reached him, he lost 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 295 

no time in setting forth to the help of his sovereign. 
When he arrived at the Persian camp and heard on all 
sides highly-coloured accounts of the prowess of the 
young Tartar Champion, it is said that he wondered 
whether Tamineh could have deceived him and whether 
this wonderful Sohrab might not be in truth his own son. 
Sohrab, on his side, was anxious to have Rustum's tent 
pointed out to him, and commanded a captured Persian 
soldier to do so ; but the man, fearing from the youth's 
eagerness that he intended to slay the Champion by 
treachery, replied that the latter had not yet arrived 
from Zabulistan. 

On the next day the Persian and Tartar hosts fully 
armed stood opposite to one another waiting for the 
battle to commence, when suddenly Sohrab stepped 
out into the open space between the armies and loudly 
challenged the king Kai Kaus to single combat. A 
shudder ran through the Persians, for every man knew 
that their sovereign, caring only for luxury, did not 
excel in feats of arms, and a murmur went up that all 
would be lost unless Rustum came to the rescue. 
Messengers ran in haste to the tent where he lay, telling 
him that not a single Persian warrior dared to face 
young Sohrab, and thereupon the warrior, donning his 
suit of black mail, and telling the Persians that he 
wished to keep his name a secret from the Tartars, 
issued forth and met his opponent. 

As soon as he set eyes on the boy he was touched 
with pity on account of his youth, and urged him to 
give up the combat. " I will yield to no man save to 
Rustum," was the answer. " Are you by any happy 
chance that mighty hero ? " 

But the Champion only replied that he was but as a 



296 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

servant to the man who would never deign to fight 
with a mere child; and, stung by this taunt, Sohrab 
rushed angrily at his unknown father, and the fight 
began. 

So fierce was the encounter that both bled from many 
grievous wounds, and having bent their spears and 
swords and broken their clubs and bows, they began to 
wrestle, but as neither could get the advantage of the 
other, and as sunset was approaching, they agreed to 
continue their combat on the next day. 

On the morrow, when the Champions met face to face, 
Sohrab felt such a strong affection for his adversary, 
that he begged him to become his friend. Rustum, 
however, firmly declined his overtures, and soon they 
were locked together in a deadly wrestle, during which 
Sohrab got his foe beneath him, and was about to des- 
patch him when Rustum called out that it was against 
Persian custom to kill an enemy until he had bitten the 
ground twice. With a magnanimity which his father 
was far from sharing, the youth suffered his adversary 
to rise, and it was decided to conclude the fight on the 
morrow. 

The Tartars were furious with Sohrab for having 
allowed his enemy to escape when he had him in his 
power, and Rustum himself felt that night that in all 
probability he would be with the gods on the morrow, 
for he clearly saw that age had robbed him of much of 
his former strength and quickness. In his extremity 
he prayed to the dwellers above, and his prayer was 
answered, for when he met his foe the next day he felt 
himself endowed with miraculous power. 

With a cry of gratitude he fell upon his opponent, and 
though the wrestlers appeared evenly matched for a 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 297 

space, yet Sohrab's grip grew weaker as time went by, 
and Rustum, putting forth all his force in one great 
effort, hurled the youth to the ground, and instantly 
drove a dagger into his side. 

The air was rent with Persian shouts of joy and 
Tartar yells of grief; but the old hero noted none of 
these things, for he heard his adversary gasp out that 
he had invaded Persia in order to find Rustum, his father, 
who would assuredly avenge the death of his son. 

In an agony the Persian Champion asked Sohrab 
whether he possessed any token to prove that he was 
really the son of Rustum, and the dying youth begged 
him to strip off his coat of mail and he would find the 
talisman given years before to Princess Tamineh. 

When Rustum saw the amulet he knew that his son 
lay before him, and in his remorse he would have killed 
himself if Sohrab had not besought him to live and con- 
tinue to defend Persia. The youth then begged his 
father to allow the Tartar army to depart unscathed ; 
and having drawn the dagger from his side, he breathed 
his last, Rustum lying on the ground sobbing terribly, 
and Rakhsh, according to the legend, weeping with the 
voice of a man. 

As Matthew Arnold puts it in his fine poem^ — 

'' So, on the bloody sand, Sohrab lay dead ; 
And the great Rustum drew his horseman's cloak 
Down o'er his face, and sat by his dead son. 
As those black granite pillars, once high rear'd 
By Jemshid in PersepoHs, to bear 
His house, now 'mid their broken flights of steps 
Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side — 
So in the sand lay Rustum by his son." 



"Sohrab and Rustum." 



298 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

It is sad to relate that the end of the great Champion 
of Persia was compassed by treachery and by his own 
brother Shughad, who had always been jealous of his 
renown. 

The legend tells that this unnatural brother laid a plot 
with the King of Kabul, who invited Rustum to hunt 
with him. At a certain part of the road this monarch 
arranged a series of pits, which he ordered to be stuck 
full of swords and knives with the points upwards, and 
lightly covered over with earth. When they came near 
the fatal spot the king requested his guest to precede 
him ; but Rakhsh, snorting with terror, refused to move 
until beaten severely by his irate master, who, in spite 
of generations of experience of his steed's wisdom, never 
trusted to the faithful animal's instincts. On this occa- 
sion Rakhsh started forward with the pain, and fell into 
the death-trap, struggling out only to fall into another 
and yet another, until at last both horse and rider lay 
dying from their wounds, their murderers watching them 
with fiendish glee. Rustum asked his brother as a last 
favour to hand him his bow and arrows in order to keep 
off the beasts of prey that would attack them at night- 
fall ; and as soon as he had possessed himself of the 
weapon, he drew the bow with an expiring effort and 
shot the treacherous Shughad through the heart. 
Thereupon he fell back dead, and his noble steed 
breathed its last at the same moment, an unworthy 
ending to the lives of the greatest and longest-lived 
warrior and horse in legend. 

With the death of mighty Rustum the mythical 
Kaiani dynasty nears its end, and we now come to 
historical facts much embroidered with fiction. 

Alexander the Great, for example, actually figures as 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 299 

a Persian hero, in order to appease the vanity of those 
whom he conquered. According to the Shahnama his 
mother was the daughter of Philip of Macedon, and 
was married to Darius ; but was divorced by that 
monarch and sent back to Macedonia, where her son, 
the rightful heir to the Persian throne, was born. Thus 
when later on Alexander led his armies into Persia, he 
was really fired with the laudable desire to wrest his 
lawful inheritance from Darius the Second, his half- 
brother ! 

Firdawsi touches upon the Parthian period very 
lightly in his great epic, the Persians looking upon this 
dynasty as rude and uncultured. He then enters upon 
what to Iranians was the Golden Age of Sasanian rule, 
and finishes his poem with the Arab conquest of Persia, 
in the account of which he is careful to omit anything 
injurious to Mohammedan pride. Throughout this 
period he is on historical ground, though he inserts 
much romantic fiction, Ardeshir, the first Sasanian 
monarch's conquest of Kerman, being poetically de- 
scribed as an encounter between the king and a huge 
worm {kirm) or dragon. 

The writer has spoken somewhat fully of this 
legendary history of Persia, because it forms a part 
of the life of the people in a way hardly to be under- 
stood by more highly educated nations. Rustum and 
his exploits ; Jamshid possessor of power over genii ; 
Feridun the Just, and foolish Kai Kaus are all real per- 
sonages to the ordinary Persian, who delights to listen 
to a recitation from the Shahnama, and to feel his heart 
expand as he hears of the bygone glories of Iran. 

Although Firdawsi is the only poet whom we have 
mentioned, yet during his lifetime and later there was a 



300 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

great outburst of literary genius, spoken of by Professor 
Browne ^ as the " Ghaznawi Period," from the fact that 
it centred in Ghazna, where it received encouragement 
from Sultan Mahmud, that great patron of letters. The 
famous doctor and philosopher, Abu AH ibn Sina, 
known as Avicenna, whose writings so largely influenced 
Europe during the Middle Ages, is perhaps chief among 
many celebrated authors, and the poet Nizami, who 
flourished about a century after Firdawsi and wrote 
the Sikandarnama or "Book of Alexander," is still 
widely read. 

In the eleventh century Nishapur was famous for its 
learning and its commerce, both of which were fostered 
by the Nizam-ul-Mulk, a native of Tus, who was vizier 
to the Seljuk monarchs Alp Arslam and Malik Shah. 
This minister had such a love of learning that he was 
said to have given a tenth of his income annually to 
found and endow colleges, Nishapur and Isfahan, among 
other cities, profiting by his bounty. It is melancholy 
to think that the former town, the birthplace, residence, 
and grave of Omar, and once one of the richest and 
largest towns in Persia, is now merely a collection of 
mud-built houses with no traces of past splendour. 
About A.D. 1 1 53 it was devastated by the Turkomans, 
who burnt and destroyed it to such an extent that when 
the inhabitants ventured to return they found only a 
heap of ruins. Less than a century later the Mongol 
hordes swept into Khorasan, and not only was Nishapur 
again demolished, but the unfortunate townsfolk were 
massacred. Since then Turkomans, Uzbegs, and 
Afghans have done their best to prevent the town 
regaining its former prosperity — in fact, it is doubtful 
' " Literary History of Persia." 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 301 

whether the inhabitants of the district would have 
dared to return had it not been for the extreme fertihty 
of the soil. 

Here the astronomer-poet, Omar Khayyam, was born, 
probably about 1040, and curiously enough his reputa- 
tion in Persia rests on his achievements in astronomy 
and mathematics, educated Persians being surprised 
when informed that in England he is admired perhaps 
above all their poets, and that societies exist for the 
study of his quatrains. In the oldest " Lives of the 
Persian Poets" that has come down to us, written about 
A.D. 1200, there is no mention of Omar Khayyam, who 
owes his European and American fame to Fitzgerald's 
superb translation of his rubaHs, all of which cannot, 
however, with certainty be attributed to him. 

The information that we possess about the man 
whose very name carries a fascination to the Western 
world is but scanty. We hear that his father was 
probably a tent-maker, but that Omar was given the 
best education that the age afforded. He was well 
versed in the Koran, in Arabic, astronomy, and 
philosophy, and after a time spent at Merv, famous for 
its library, took up his residence at Nishapur, where he 
taught at the college, and was treated with high honour 
by Malik Shah. His knowledge of medicine caused 
him to be called in to prescribe when the little prince 
Sanjar was ill, and his pre-eminence in astronomy 
placed him on the committee of eight who were 
entrusted by Malik Shah with the reform of the 
Calendar. 

Omar Khayyam left behind him works on Euclid, 
algebra, metaphysics, and natural science, and had some 
reputation in his day as a poet, one of the quatrains 



302 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

which he composed at odd times being quoted by a 
later writer. As to religion, he was a disciple of great 
Avicenna, and was fiercely attacked on account of his 
reputation as a free-thinker and an atheist. 

He was also credited with a gift of foretelling the 
future, and this is brought out by one of his pupils, 
who writes that the master prophesied that his tomb 
would be hidden twice a year by the falling blossoms of 
fruit trees. This was regarded at the time as idle talk, 
but when Omar's follower visited the grave several 
years later and found the spot buried under the petals 
of peach and pear, he states that the prediction returned 
to his mind and that he wept the loss of his master, 
" that proof of the Truth," as he calls him. Omar's 
grave is still to be seen at Nishapur, but Major Sykes ^ 
writes that the remains of the poet are not permitted to 
rest within the shrine because he was a Sunni. His 
uninscribed plaster tomb is in an alcove open to the air, 
and perchance the spring winds carry falling blossoms 
to it. 

In every notice that we have of Omar he is called 
" the wise," " one of the most learned men in Khorasan," 
or " versed in all sciences," but nearly all speak with 
reprobation of his religious views, which one writer 
stigmatises as " corrupt and shameless," And yet when 
he died, about A.D. 1123, his passing might have been 
an example to those who denounced him. It is related 
that he was reading the works of Avicenna when he felt 
the approach of death, and, slipping his gold toothpick 
between the parchment leaves, he summoned his friends 
to hear his last words. When they were assembled he 

' "Pilgrimage to the Tomb of Omar Khayyam" {Travel and 
Exploration, September, 1909). 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 303 

performed the evening prayer, and then said, as he 
bowed his forehead to the ground, " O God ! truly 
I have endeavoured to know Thee according to the 
limit of my powers, therefore forgive me, for indeed the 
little knowledge of Thee that I possess is my only 
means of approach to Thee." With these words his 
soul passed from among those present, who were left in 
much grief. 

It is close upon eight centuries since Omar Khayyam 
passed away, and yet his thoughts on life and death are 
fresh as if he had written in our own generation, and to 
many his doubts are as insoluble. It is a great soul, 
athirst for a knowledge of God, and a passionate seeker 
after truth, that reveals itself to us, and in spite of 
difficulties and contradictions in his utterances, he 
appeals strongly to those who care for the spiritual 
more than for the material. 

It must be remembered that in the RubcHiyat each 
quatrain is complete in itself, and as these verses were 
written at different times and in different moods, they 
do not link on to one another to form a connected 
poem. 



" I sent my soul through the Invisible, 
Some letter of that after-life to spell : 
And by and by my Soul return'd to me, 
And answer' d, ' I myself am Heav'n and Hell. 



"We are no other than a moving row 
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go 
Round with the sun-illumined Lantern held 
In Midnight by the Master of the Show ; " 



304 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



"Yon rising Moon that looks for us again — 
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane ; 
How oft hereafter rising look for us 
Through this same Garden — and for one in vain 



"And when like her, O Saki, you shall pass 
Among the Guests Star-scattered on the grass, 
And in your joyous errand reach the spot 
Where I made One — turn down an empty Glass ! " ' 

Early in the thirteenth century Persia was invaded by 
the Mongols under Chinghiz Khan, who overran Asia, 
and even carried death and destruction as far as Ger- 
many. A blow was dealt to Persian civilisation from 
which it never recovered ; and it is horrible to read how 
these barbarians reduced Tus, the native city of Fir- 
dawsi, to a mass of ruins, and how they destroyed 
Nishapur, actually building the heads of the slain into 
pyramids. Men, women, and children were massacred 
in cold blood when the Mongols took a city, priceless 
manuscripts were burnt, the shrines despoiled of their 
treasures, and flourishing lands were turned into deserts. 
Fortunately the successors of Hulagu Khan embraced 
Islam, and henceforth matters were far easier for the 
conquered Persians ; in fact, the great poet Saadi of 
Shiraz is contemporary with the Mongol invasion. The 
Persians class this poet with Firdawsi and Anwari (the 
latter little known to European fame), calling them the 
" Three Prophets of Poetry." 

Saadi, whose real name is Musharrifu'd-Din, was born 
at Shiraz about 1184, and died there at a great age in 
' Fitzgerald's translation. 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 305 

1 29 1. Left an orphan in early youth, Saadi spent the 
student period of his life at Baghdad, the capital of the 
Khalifs and the seat of learning of the Mohammedan 
world, and while there made his first pilgrimage to 
Mecca. According to his biographers Saadi visited the 
sacred city no less than fourteen times in his long life, 
and always made the journey on foot. Even when a 
student at Baghdad, the fever of travel had seized upon 
him, for we read that he journeyed to Kashgar, the 
inhabitants of which far-off city received him well, 
having already heard of his literary fame. 

When his education was completed the poet started 
off on many years of travel, during the course of which 
he visited India, Syria, Arabia, and Asia Minor, among 
other countries, embodying many of his experiences 
in his poems. 

On one occasion he was captured by the Crusaders 
and made to dig in the trenches before Tripoli. He 
was, however, ransomed by a rich compatriot of 
Aleppo, who gave him his daughter in marriage, 
together with a dowry of a hundred dinars. The 
lady turned out a shrew, and according to the Gulistan 
made the poet's life a burden to him, saying on one 
occasion, " Are you not the man that my father bought 
from the Feringhis for ten dinars ? " " It is true," was 
the reply of Saadi ; " he ransomed me for ten dinars 
and then sold me into slavery to you for a hundred." 

Towards the end of his life Saadi built himself 
a hermitage outside the walls of Shiraz on the spot 
where his tomb now stands, and here he was visited 
by the noblest in the kingdom, who delighted to give 
him rich gifts. Of these he kept but little for himself 
and bestowed the rest on the poor, thus practising that 



3o6 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

liberality which he inculcates so frequently in his 
writings. 

The tomb of Saadi is a humble one in a neglected 
enclosure, and no admirers are buried round him as 
is the case with his brilliant compatriot Hafiz, the 
reason being that the author of the Gulistan and the 
Bustan is suspected of having been a Sunni. Such 
religious views are an unpardonable offence in Persia, 
the stronghold of the Shiah faith — in fact, a high priest 
of Shiraz, in a fit of fanaticism, actually destroyed the 
monument first erected over the poet's grave. On his 
headstone is carved the same Arabic inscription that 
is on the tomb of Hafiz : " He \i.e.^ Allah] is everlast- 
ing, and everything else passes away," and there is 
also a quotation from the Bustan. 

The Bustan (the Orchard) and the Gulistan (the 
Rose Garden) are considered Saadi's masterpieces, the 
former being a poem and the latter a mass of prose 
anecdotes, interspersed with verses. Besides several 
other works the poet is justly celebrated for his 
ghazals, or odes, in which he is only rivalled by his 
great fellow-townsman Hafiz. 

Here are a few lines from one admired by all 
Shirazis : — 

"O joyous and gay is the New Year's Day, and in Shiraz most 

of all ; 
Even the stranger forgets his home and becomes its willing 

thrall. 
O'er the garden's Egypt, Joseph-like, the fair red rose is king 
And the Zepyhr, e'en to the heart of the town, doth the scent of 

his raiment bring." ^ 



Translated by Professor E. G. Browne. 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 307 

The Gulistan is a collection of stories and pre- 
cepts inculcating lessons of morality, policy, and 
savoir vivre ; its reflections are often profound, and 
the many stones are told in a piquant and some- 
times epigrammatic style, the whole work being inter- 
spersed with verses that give it variety. In this mine 
of worldly-wisdom the moralist, the man of the world, 
and even the corrupt can find matter to their taste. 
It is not too much to say that, next to the Koran, 
the works of Saadi are the chief moral guide of his 
countrymen, and the traveller, if he have any inter- 
course with educated Persians of almost any class, 
will not be long in conversation with them before he 
hears the familiar Sa'adi guft (Saadi says). There is 
indeed much of wisdom and truth to be found in 
the poet's works, written in an elegant style and with 
an exquisite choice of language. Yet though a young 
man, thoroughly imbued with the precepts of the 
sage of Shiraz, would probably make a success of his 
life in a worldly way, yet he might run some risk of 
losing his own soul in the process. The poet writes 
in a manly spirit, loves tolerance, has an abhorrence 
of religious hypocrisy, and enjoins contentment and 
abstinence, yet his maxims would be apt to stifle any 
generous impulse of pity towards and trust in mankind. 

The following pretty conceit from the Gulistan shows 
only one side of the character of the shrewd dervish 
with his plentiful supply of mother-wit : — 

" A perfumed bit of clay came to my hand one day when I was 
in the bath, and I inquired, 'Art thou musk or ambergris, 
because thy deUcious odour intoxicates me ? ' It repHed, ' I was 
formerly a mere lump of clay, but I have been in the company 
of the rose.' " 



3o8 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

Of course, the standard of morality is not the same 
for the East as for the West, and we must remember 
that " an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth " is the law 
of Islam, there being no room for forgiveness of injuries 
in its code. This the following story shows : — 

" A soldier hit a pious man with a stone, but the 
dervish, being unable to avenge himself, bided his time 
and kept the stone. After awhile the soldier offended 
the king, who punished him by imprisoning him in a 
well, whereupon the dervish appeared, leant over and 
dropped the stone on his former enemy's head." Saadi 
goes on to draw the moral that it is unwise to contend 
with a wicked man when he is in power, but " wait till 
fortune renders him feeble, and then pick out his 
brains." 

There is also the story of King Hormuzd, who im- 
prisoned his father's ministers, and when asked what 
fault they had committed replied that they had done 
nothing wrong, but he perceived that they were afraid 
of their sovereign, and he imagined that this fear might 
urge them to take his life. " Dread him who dreads 
thee, O wise man ! Seest thou not when the cat 
becomes desperate how he plucks out with his claws 
the eyes of a tiger? The viper bites the shepherd's 
bare foot because it fears that he will crush in its head 
with a stone." 

And, again there is the tale of the youth who was 
instructed by a famous wrestler in all his tricks save 
one. The ungrateful stripling boasted to the king that 
he was as good a man, if not better, than his master, 
and the monarch accordingly ordered a trial of strength 
between the two. The veteran immediately threw his 
pupil by the aid of the trick that he had kept in reserve, 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 309 

and remarked that he had not taught it to the youth 
because he remembered the saying of the wise that it 
was folly to give so much strength to a friend that if he 
became a foe he would have the power to injure. 

Moreover, Saadi's regard for truth was not very 
strong, for in the first anecdote in the Gulistan the 
moral is inculcated that " A lie that results in good is 
better than a truth that brings trouble." These extracts 
are perhaps sufficient to show that the poet's message 
to his countrymen is that of a man of the world, not 
troubled with too many scruples, full of common sense, 
and anxious to stand well with the authorities both in 
this life and the next. 

The great poet Hafiz, really Shemseddin Mohammed 
by name, his sobriquet being given him from the fact 
that he had taken the theological degree of Hafiz, was 
born at Shiraz, probably in the early part of the four- 
teenth century. We first hear of him as being poet- 
laureate and in high favour at the court of Sultan Shah 
Mesoud, the Governor or Satrap of Fars, which province 
had Shiraz for its capital. 

This city, beautifully situated on a plain surrounded 
by mountains, is dear to the heart of every Persian, for 
Fars is the cradle of his race, and her capital, besides 
being his idea of an earthly paradise, has produced two 
of the greatest poets of Iran. Although Shiraz suffered 
from various changes of dynasty during the lifetime of 
Hafiz, yet it does not appear that they made any 
difference in the material circumstances of the poet, 
each ruler in his turn feeling proud of being the 
patron of the great lyrist. 

Fars, in common with the rest of the empire, had 



3IO PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

formed part of the realms of the Khalifate up to the 
sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, after which 
date it was ruled over by the dynasty founded by 
Hulagu Khan. As the later Sultans of this Mongol 
dynasty became effete, Persia was split up into number- 
less small kingdoms, over which satraps ruled with 
supreme power, and this state of affairs continued until 
the conquest of Timur the Lame at the end of the four- 
teenth century. 

There is a tradition that when the rough Tartar 
entered Shiraz in 1 393 he summoned the poet into his 
presence and demanded of him how he had dared to 
say in one of his lyrics that he would gladly give the 
conqueror's cities of Bokhara and Samarkand in 
exchange for the mole on the cheek of his beloved. 

" So but that Turk of Shiraz take my heart within her hand 
of snow, 
Bokhara, ay, and Samarcand, on her black mole will I be- 
stow." • 

It is said that Hafiz answered that such lavishness on 
his part had brought him to his present poverty, and the 
Tartar, laughing at the readiness of the reply, took him 
into favour. 

In those days a man of letters depended entirely 
upon the munificence of his patron, and it says much 
for the estimation in which learning was held that 
even when a robber-chieftain, such as the founder of the 
Muzafferi dynasty, seized the province, he immediately 
reinstated the poet in his office. 

Hafiz loved his native city passionately, only leaving 
her some three or four times during the course of his 
' viii. I, I. Payne's translation. 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 311 

long life, although sovereigns from other parts of Persia, 
from Baghdad, and even from India offered him great 
rewards if he would reside at their courts. 

In one of his odes he mentioned her famous stream 
and pleasure-garden in these words : — 

" Give cupbearer the wine that's left ; for thou'lt not find in 
Paradise 
The banks of Ruknabad, nor yet Musella's rosegarths all 
a-blow." ' 

And, indeed, he had some reason for his predilection, 
as the reader will see from the following quotation : 2 — 

" We were now at that point known to all students of Hafiz, 
called ' Tang-i-Allahu Akbar,' because whoever first beholds 
Shiraz hence is constrained by the exceeding beauty of the sight 
to cry out in admiration ' AUahu Akbar ' — ' God is most great ! ' 
At our very feet in a grassy, fertile plain, girt with purple hills 
(on the loftier summits of which the snow still lingered) and half 
concealed amidst gardens of dark stately cypresses, wherein the 
rose and the judas-tree in luxuriant abundance struggled with a 
host of other flowers for the mastery of colour, sweet and beauti- 
ful in its garb of spring verdure which clothed the very roofs of 
the bazaars, studded with many a slender minaret, and many a 
turquoise-hued dome, lay the home of Persian culture, the mother 
of Persian genius, the sanctuary of poetry and philosophy, 
Shiraz." 

Like Omar Khayyam, the lyrist was regarded as 
unorthodox by the " unco' guid " of his day, and at his 
death these latter did their utmost to prevent his burial 
with Mohammedan rites. According to tradition his 
friends proposed to settle the dispute by drawing a lot 
from a mass of his couplets written on slips and shaken 

"^ viii. 2, J. Payne's translation. 

^ "A Year among the Persians," Professor E. G. Browne. 



312 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

up in an urn, and their opponents agreeing to this, a 
child is said to have picked out the following lines at 
random : — 

"Withhold not the foot from the funeral of Hafiz ; 
For though he be drowned in sin, he fareth to Heaven." ' 

This, of course, settled the matter, and the poet was 
carried to his grave in peace. In spite of severe opposi- 
tion from the orthodox, who represented their famous 
fellow-citizen as an enemy to the Faith, and a man of 
immoral life, his poems spread speedily throughout 
Persia, India, and Turkey — in fact, wherever the Persian 
language was read or spoken. 

Hafiz was an epicurean, a man who snatched what 
pleasure he could from the passing hour, who enjoyed 
wine, women, and music, and rejoiced in the beauties of 
Nature. As regards religion, he appears to have been 
a tolerant man of the world with no particular bias to 
any creed. 

He is looked upon by some as a master in the art of 
pleasure, and by others as a saint, these latter opening 
the works of the poet at random with an invocation 
when they practise divination. Moreover, the Sufis who 
opposed him so fiercely during his lifetime actually 
pretended after his death that he was in reality one of 
their number, and that his constant allusions to the joys 
of love and wine were meant to be taken in a spiritual 
sense. This, however, will not be the view of the 
ordinary unbiassed reader, who will look upon the poet 
as the reverse of a mystic ; and the following couplets 
from one of his odes are characteristic as showing his 
fondness for Nature, wine, love, and music : — 
^ J. Payne's translation. 



FOUR PERSIAN POETS 313 

CXXI. 

I. "Now that the rose in the meads To life is returned from 
the dead, 
The violet prone at her feet Layeth in homage its head." 

3. " Sit never in rose-time without Beloved and ghittern and 
wine, 
For a week, like the season of life. Is the time of the 
roses red." ' 

The handsome tomb of Hafiz at Shiraz, planted 
round with tall cypresses, is constantly visited by all 
classes, the pleasure-seekers coming to pay homage to 
a master who understood the joie de vivre, and who 
loved art for art's sake ; while the religious look upon 
the poet as a mystic, whose most apparently material 
utterances have an esoteric meaning for the elect. Hafiz 
has thus the somewhat remarkable fate of being adored 
by both saints and sinners after his death, and his tomb 
is surrounded by the graves of countless admirers. 

Two among the various inscriptions on his tomb- 
stone show these different points of view : — 

" When thou passest by my tombstone, call down a blessing. 
For the libertines of the whole world will resort to it in 
pilgrimage." 

And in contrast to this sentiment is the following 
inscription : — 

"That Lamp of the mystics. Master Hafiz, 
(Who was a candle of the Divine Light, since he sought a 

resting-place in the Earth of Musalla), 
Look for his date from the Earth of Musalla." 



J. Payne's translation. 



314 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Only the first and fourth of these Hnes are actually 
inscribed on the tomb, but it is interesting to see how 
in these inscriptions the man of pleasure and the mystic 
both claim the poet for their own. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

A SLIGHT ACCOUNT OF THE ARTS AND 
CRAFTS OF PERSIA 

THE Persians have always been an artistic people, 
and the fine ruins of Persepolis, the great arch 
of Ctesiphon, and the bas-reliefs of Bisitun and Naksh- 
i-Rustum testify to their genius for architecture and 
sculpture during the Achaemenian and Sasanian dynas- 
ties. Although the Mohammedan religion forbade 
presentments of living things as contrary to the Koran, 
yet the noble mosques and shrines that adorn the 
principal cities, and not a few of the palaces and houses, 
prove that the Persians have not lost their sense of 
beauty. 

The traveller passing through the district round the 
Caspian will notice the carved and fretted woodwork 
ornamenting the better-class dwelling-places, which 
have many a quaint balcony and verandah ; and 
throughout the Persian Plateau he will admire the 
skilful use made of plaster, ordinary-looking houses 
being beautified with stucco facades and imposing-look- 
ing loggias supported on columns. Inside, the principal 
room will probably have an enormous window made of 
stained glass set in small leaded squares, the effect 
of the light streaming through and steeping the room 
315 



3i6 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

in soft colours being very beautiful. It must, however, 
be confessed that such a window is a dubious advantage 
during the winter, because, no putty being used, all the 
winds of heaven seem to blow freely between the count- 
less panes. 

A characteristic decoration of a house is to mould 
the ceilings in the honeycomb pattern, sticking hundreds 
of tiny pieces of mirror- work into the plaster when wet, 
the effect being quite fairy-like when the sun flashes 
upon the facets. Tiles are used extensively in decora- 
tion, also bricks glazed in several colours, and an 
effective mosaic. It is probably this latter that is men- 
tioned in the Book of Esther, where at the palace of 
Artaxerxes at Shushan the people feasted in the court- 
yard " upon a pavement of red and blue and white and 
black marble." ^ 

The domes and facades of all important mosques and 
shrines, some of the Shah's palaces, many gateways, 
and occasionally the vaulted roofs of the bazaars, are 
decorated with glazed tiles or bricks principally coloured 
in blues, greens, and yellows, relieved with black and 
white ; and in the clear atmosphere of Iran they give 
a touch of splendour to the scene. 

But at the present day nothing has been produced 
in any way comparable to the superb enamelled tiles 
found in the palace of Darius at Susa,^ baked five 
hundred years before our era, and showing an artistic 
genius in the portrayal of the figures of the archers and 
the sinuous bodies of the great lions of the frieze. Then 
ensues a long blank until we come to the beautiful 
twelfth- and thirteenth-century tile work, which degene- 

' Book of Esther. 

= " La Perse, la Chaldee et la Susiane." Dieulafoy. 



THE ARTS AND CRAFTS OF PERSIA 317 

rated, and is hardly worthy of mention after the death 
of Shah Abbas in the seventeenth century. These 
kashi (tiles), as they are called, indicating that the art 
took its rise in the city of Kashan, are still the glory 
of many mosques and shrines. Perhaps the most 
beautiful are those that go by the name of lustre 
or reflet. The glaze with which they were covered 
is now a lost art, and was mixed with gold or some 
other metal which gave it a peculiar iridescence. 

Sir Murdoch Smith ^ considers that lustre ware was 
made in Persia certainly six hundred, and possibly two 
thousand, years ago. As a rule these tiles have a pattern 
in rich brown on a white background, or vice versa, the 
usually conventional designs being outlined with great 
delicacy. In one large plaque from the ruins of old 
Kerman, now in Major Sykes' collection, the great 
purple Arabic letters, raised half an inch, are entwined 
with leaves of turquoise blue. Neither letter nor leaf 
is iridescent, but stands boldly out from a white and 
brown lustre background. 

Other kashi in the same collection come from north- 
east Persia, and are magnificent in their blues relieved 
by white and gold, and bear the date A.D. 1444. Their 
design is identical with the tiles that adorn Timur the 
Lame's fam.ous mosque at Samarkand, and which were 
made by men of Kum. 

The exquisite lustre ware used for objets de luxe is 
now hard to find, most of what we see in museums 
having been exhumed from the ruins of Rh6 (the 
ancient Rhages). One of the best specimens ever seen 
by the writer is in a hall of the Alhambra, and is a 
great two-handled vase, adorned with gazelles ; the 
^ " Persian Art." 



3i8 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

prevailing colours are blue and purple and the animals 
are outlined in golden brown on a white background. 
This vase, and its pair in the Madrid Museum, were 
made in Spain, and show how Persians influenced art 
under the Moorish occupation of that country. 

Early in the seventeenth century Shah Abbas im- 
ported Chinese workmen into his country to teach his 
subjects the art of making porcelain, and the Chinese 
influence is very strong in the designs on this ware. 
Chinese marks also were copied, so that to scratch an 
article is sometimes the only means of proving it to 
be of Persian manufacture, for the Chinese glaze, hard 
as iron, will take no mark. 

At the present day many of the old arts have died 
out, probably from lack of patronage ; in fact, practi- 
cally every fine building, bridge, or public work is 
popularly said to date from the time of Shah Abbas. 
Though of course this is an exaggeration, yet little 
has been done to improve the country and encourage 
its arts since the extinction of the Sefavi dynasty. 

The handsome repouss^ silver-work of Shiraz and the 
delicate incising on silver, characteristic of Isfahan, 
are still much practised in Persia. Graceful bowls and 
ewers for rose-water, jugs and lamps of brass have a 
lavish wealth of design which, however, does not equal 
the old work to be picked up in the country. The same 
also applies to the decorative modern damascened work 
of gold beaten into steel, and also to the richly adorned 
kalian tops ; for the translucent green and blue enamel 
and the wonderful groups of figures on small enamel 
plaques are seldom seen nowadays. 

The beautiful inlaid work of ivory, mother of pearl, 
and metal on wood is still carried to such a pitch of 



THE ARTS AND CRAFTS OF PERSIA 319 

perfection that Mr. Benjamin ^ counted four hundred and 
twenty-eight distinct pieces on a square inch of this 
work. Seal-cutting flourishes, for every one affixes his 
seal to a letter instead of signing his name ; and papier 
mache mirrors and pen boxes are still made. These 
latter cannot vie with the mellow tones of the old work, 
in which it is curious to see presentments of the Holy 
Family, copied from Italian pictures, and looking 
strangely out of place in a Mohammedan bazaar. 
Shah Abbas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 
sent Persians to Italy to learn painting, and this is one 
of the results ; another being the Italianesque treatment 
of designs for carpets made at that period. 

Fine writing must now be considered as practically 
a lost art, printing having largely replaced the cali- 
graphy which was valued so highly in the old days 
that large sums would be given for a single line by 
a skilled writer ; but at the present time there is little 
demand for illuminated manuscript copies of Saadi 
and Hafiz. 

As to textiles, velvet is made at Kashan, often with 
an effective pattern of cypresses and peacocks ; but it 
cannot be mentioned in the same breath with the 
old velvet, which has a colour and texture unknown 
to the modern. The specialite of Resht are showy 
embroidered saddle coverings, differently coloured bits 
of material being appliqued on to a cloth with braid and 
a variety of silk stitchings, the effect being good 
if somewhat garish. Kerman produces most elaborate 
embroideries on a fine woollen material, also splendid 
shawls, which are largely used for kalats or " coats of 
honour." These are presented by the Shah to a subject 
' " Persia and the Persians." 



320 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

he wishes to single out for distinction ; the courtiers 
wear them when in full dress, and they cover the bier 
of a rich man on its way to the grave. Yezd has a 
cypress-patterned silk material which is used for the 
same objects, and the traveller can purchase here 
marvellous "drawn-thread" work both in silk and cotton. 

It must be understood that everything in the country 
is made by hand, there being no machinery, and this 
gives an individuality to all that is produced. In fact, 
it is never wise to put off buying an article in the belief 
that others like it are certain to be brought up later for 
sale, as in all probability it is unique. 

Perhaps the art in which modern Persia chiefly 
excels is carpet-making, and there is hardly a visitor 
to the country who has not fallen under the spell of 
this beautiful industry. 

There are twenty to thirty different centres where 
carpets are produced, Sultanabad being the chief; and 
the towns of Kerman, Shiraz, Meshed, and Kermanshah, 
together with several nomad tribes, all weave these 
fabrics. 

They are made on hand-looms, and in the factories 
the pattern is read out to the weavers, most of 
whom are children. " Two green and four black 
forward, three to be left for grounding, six blue," 
&c., calls out the ustad from the carefully drawn 
design he holds, or, more probably, from memory. 
The children answer him in their piping voices, 
" Two green and four black to place, have eaten six 
blue," and so on, as they deftly twist and knot the 
fine wool, only one strand of wool going to each stitch 
in contrast to the three strands of the far coarser 
Meshed carpets. 



THE ARTS AND CRAFTS OF PERSIA 321 

Indigo and madder supply the chief of the imperish- 
able dyes ; a deep orange-colour is produced from the 
skins of grapes and pomegranates, and cochineal is also 
used. 

Sir George Birdwood ^ points out that carpets were 
primarily ritualistic, and that the "trees of life," the con- 
ventionalised animals, the " knop and flower " pattern, 
and the various scrolls and chevrons to be seen in 
the Persian carpet of to-day may all be traced back 
to their remote origin in Mesopotamia, probably over 
two thousand years before the Christian era. 

As the carpets produced at Kerman and those woven 
by the Tekk6 Turkomans are unrivalled for colour, 
fineness of pile, and beauty of design, and as they are 
totally dissimilar in appearance, a slight description of 
their characteristics may be of interest. 

The Kerman carpets are extremely fine in texture, 
and it is said that the wool of which they are made 
owes its special quality to the herbage on which the 
sheep and goats feed, and that if the animals are 
transported to other parts of Persia their fleeces 
become coarser in fibre. 

The designs on these carpets are very varied, 
and the unorthodox Persian, whose artistic instincts 
were too strong to suffer him to be bound by the 
Mohammedan law to copy nothing living, adorns 
his carpets with trees, flowers, animals, and birds, 
often with most charming effect. For example, a large 
Kerman rug may have the entire centre filled with a 
Persian white rose-tree, the single blooms showing 
clearly against a coffee-coloured ground. Parrots, 

^ "Antiquity of Oriental Carpets" {Journal Society of Arts, 
November 6, 1908). 



322 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

hoopoes, and bulbuls perch among its branches, while 
at its foot stand two cypresses, the trees of immor- 
tality, near which are doves with bleeding hearts. 
There are probably five borders, some narrow and some 
broad, to this beautiful work, the broadest having a 
cream ground on which a blue ribbon loops itself 
in fantastic knots. 

The Tekke Turkoman carpets are as finely woven as 
are the Kerman, and their pile when old looks just like 
velvet. In colouring, however, they are completely 
different, the groundwork of every carpet being a 
superb crimson which may in a few cases be a reddish 
brown. The characteristic pattern is said to be a copy 
of the bazuband or amulet case, which is fastened on 
the forearm of true believers to avert the "evil eye," 
and within this are conventionalised camels' heads 
stretching their long necks to nibble at trefoil, a 
reminiscence of the nomad life of the weavers. 
Another kind, woven by a different tribe, is distin- 
guished by a broad cross, much ornamented with 
indigo and creamy white, and supposed by some to 
have been inspired by the Nestorian Church, once so 
widely spread throughout Asia. 

A new Turkoman carpet is not a pleasing object 
to the European eye, its bright magentas and hard 
whites making a crude combination that gives little 
idea of the wonderful reds and creams that it will 
change into with the course of years, provided that no 
aniline dyes have been used. Nowadays old carpets 
are much sought after and are hard to get, as there is a 
great demand for them in the Constantinople bazaars, 
and Persians sometimes try to make a carpet kheili 
khadim^ or antique, by skilful doctoring. It is no 



THE ARTS AND CRAFTS OF PERSIA 323 

uncommon thing for a new carpet to be laid down in 
the bazaar for men and animals to trample over it, 
its owner affirming that this apparently drastic process 
brings up the pile and enhances the colours. This once 
done the carpet will last for a century, chairs not 
being in use in Iran, and footgear being left at the 
door of the room. Besides the ordinary carpets, 
giltms or cotton carpets (z'.^., with no pile), are much 
used in travelling, as they fold up easily ; and the 
floor of a room is often covered with the hand 
some nammads or felt carpets, very thick and heavy 
and with coloured designs on the grey or buff 
groundwork. 

But everything must give way to the splendour of 
the silk carpets, those most exquisite creations of the 
loom, their colours gleaming like jewels in the sun- 
light, and having a wonderful depth and richness. 

It may interest the reader to know how to choose a 
carpet. The dealer will spread out several before the 
would-be buyer, who will immediately turn up a corner 
of any one he may fancy in order to see whether the 
pattern is as clear on the wrong side as on the right, a 
sign of good weaving. He will next count how many 
stitches go to the square inch. Aniline dyes are for- 
bidden to be imported into Persia, but certain colours 
may have a suspicious look, and the purchaser will 
now wet his handkerchief and rub it hard on the carpet, 
rejecting it if there is the faintest colour on the linen. 
The next thing is to ascertain whether the kali lies 
straight on the ground and is not kaj, or crooked ; 
also whether it is stiff when folded over, as if otherwise 
it is loosely woven. The edges ought to be examined 
to see whether creases may not have been cut out of 



324 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

them and the rents fine-drawn together ; and Persians 
value a small pattern more highly than a large one, 
because the former requires more skilful weaving. 

As the inhabitants of Persia have been one of the 
most artistic nations in the world for over two thousand 
years, during which they influenced Greek, Roman, and 
Byzantine art, and were the originators of that termed 
Saracenic, it may be understood that it is impossible in 
the limits of a single chapter to give more than the 
merest glance at their art productions. 



fMi 




*^i:Mii* 



A 



CHAPTER XIX 

PERSIAN SUPERSTITIONS AND THE ART OF 
MEDICINE 

THE ordinary Persian has such a profound belief in 
ghouls, divs (demons), jinns, and afrits, that the 
European who can persuade him to talk about his 
superstitions will have the sense of being in the Middle 
Ages. The ghoul is supposed to lurk in lonely places, 
its aim being to lure travellers from their path and 
devour them. It is a huge monster with blood-stained 
jaws, but has the power of assuming any form it 
pleases, often appearing as an animal, or even as a 
human being, in order to deceive its intended victim. 
The gloomy "Valley of the Angel of Death," not 
far from Kum, is said to be haunted by these creatures, 
and this is the kind of tale that Persians tell about 
them : — 

"Once upon a time" (so a public story-teller sur- 
rounded by his audience will begin), " there lived a very 
holy dervish, Niamatulla by name. So pious was he 
that he spent most of his days at the shrine of the 
thrice-blessed Fatima at Kum, and he was held in such 
high esteem that when the m.ujtehid (high priest) of 
the mcsque died, he was chosen by general acclaim to 



326 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

succeed him, and his prayers and fasts were the marvel 
of the whole city. 

In fact so widely was the fame of his holiness spread, 
that the Shah on his throne summoned the saint to 
Tehran to ask his advice about some important matter 
of state. 

Now it may not be generally known by the Ferin- 
ghis that there is a certain district between Kum and 
the capital of Persia which is called the " Valley of the 
Angel of Death." Even in these days it is not safe for 
a man to traverse it alone ; but at that time no one 
unaccompanied could brave its precipitous tracks, lead- 
ing along terrific abysses, and hope to reach the end of 
his journey alive. 

Azrael, King of the Dead, dwells there, surrounded 
by his court of ghouls, who, as all the world knows, 
feed on corpses, and rejoice in wars and pestilences, 
as such events bring them food in abundance. These 
horrible creatures are for ever possessed with an 
insatiable hunger, and as, moreover, they have the 
power of turning into any shape they please, in order 
to allure the unwary traveller to destruction, they are 
not pleasant to meet upon a lonely road. 

Now when the royal command arrived from the 
Shah summoning the dervish Niamatulla to Tehran, 
there was much rejoicing among the Faithful at the 
honour paid to the imijtehid of Kum, and his disciples 
wished to accompany him in a body to the capital. 
What was their horror when the holy man announced 
that he intended to travel alone ! " What are ghouls and 
demons," said he, " to one who has made the pilgrim- 
ages to Mecca, Kerbela, and Meshed, and has there 
earned the titles oi Haji, Kerbelai^ and Meshedi? Do I 



SUPERSTITIONS AND ART OF MEDICINE 327 

not carry amulets sufficient to daunt an army of ghouls, 
and have I not enough suras of the Koran on the 
tip of my tongue to confuse the subtlest intellect 
among them ? " 

His disciples were forced to admit that he was in 
the right, and indeed all of you know that the Con- 
fession of Faith repeated aloud can rout the hungriest 
ghoul ; but few among you would care to put your re- 
ligion to such a severe test. 

However, Niamatulla was firm, and left the holy 
city unaccompanied, turning his back on Fatima's 
golden-domed shrine, as many of his weeping disciples 
feared, for ever. 

He had only just entered the " Valley of the Angel of 
Death," when he perceived a camel limping towards him, 
its halter trailing along the ground, and its sides 
heaving as if from exhaustion. Of course he knew at 
once that it must be a ghoul, and having looked to see 
whether the amulet case which contains the sacred sheep's 
eye from Mecca, together with that verse of the Koran 
which has power over all demons, was in its usual place 
on his forearm, he went forward confidently. As soon 
as he was close to the animal, it knelt upon the ground, 
as if begging the dervish to mount it ; but Niamatulla 
guessed immediately that its purpose was to spring over 
the precipice with him if he were so unwary as to get 
upon its back. Therefore he stood still, and catching 
the halter he remarked, looking into its eyes, " Mashal- 
lah ! Hast thou never heard how the jackal dipped 
itself in indigo, and thought it was the peacock ? " 

By this proverb the ghoul knew that it was dis- 
covered, and the camel vanished in a cloud of sulphur, 
leaving the rope in the hand of the dervish. 



328 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

The holy man continued his way rejoicing, but he 
had not gone much further when he was met by a 
traveller having such a remarkable likeness to his own 
brother who dwelt at Tehran, that for a moment he 
believed that the apparition must be his relative in 
truth. However, as he exclaimed '' Alhamdolillah ! " 
in his joy, he noted that the figure shuddered in every 
limb and by this infallible sign he knew that he was 
again confronted by the ghoul. 

" Bismillah ! " he remarked, " dost thou not know that 
only a Mazanderani dog can catch a Mazanderani fox ; 
which is to say, that only he who has steeped his soul 
in spiritual things can defeat the evil powers of the 
spirit world ? " And for the second time the demon 
vanished, and Niamatulla went forward praising Allah. 

But suddenly a most awful creature stood right in 
his path, vast and terrible, its jaws dripping with blood, 
and the holy man perceived that the fiend was about 
to try its power against him for yet a third time. 

Of course Niamatulla had no fear of the demon, 
though it was jet-black and had eyes which shot fire. 
He was well aware that the mention of his name alone 
would be enough to rout the ghoul utterly ; but the 
mujtehid had a kindly heart. He knew that not many 
of the Faithful were as well equipped as he to do battle 
with the servants of Azrael, and he bethought himself 
how he could destroy the fiend, and thus render the 
path through that accursed valley safer in the future. 
Of course all of you know that ghouls are not a 
clever race, and indeed there are many tales to show 
that a man, if he be quick-witted, may get the better 
of these horrible monsters. 

By the side of the track on which the ghoul ap- 



SUPERSTITIONS AND ART OF MEDICINE 329 

peared to Niamatulla stood a gigantic plane-tree, and 
the sight of its wide-spreading branches suggested to 
the holy man how he could carry out his purpose. 
Without evincing the least fear of the demon, he took 
the halter and twisted one end round a sturdy bough 
of the tree, leaving a hanging noose, the ghoul mean- 
while watching him full of astonishment. 

" Hast thou ever seen the foreigners play their 
games of skill in the capital ? " Niamatulla then in- 
quired of the demon, which became uneasy at the 
mention of foreigners ; because all ghouls are powerless 
in the presence of unbelievers, and are unable to harm 
the least among the Feringhis. 

The ghoul said that it had never been present when 
the foreigners amused themselves in the great square 
at Tehran, and the high priest then explained that one 
of their games consisted in running at full speed and 
endeavouring to thrust their heads into a noose which 
dangled from a post. It was not such an easy feat as 
it looked, he said, and he himself ran two or three times 
towards the noose hanging from the plane-tree, but did 
not appear to be able to thrust his head into the loop. 

The ghoul looked on vastly amused, and when 
Niamatulla stopped, apparently exhausted, it said, 
" This seems, O stranger, quite an easy matter," and 
rushing towards the noose it put its head into it. At 
the same moment the holy man hauled with all his 
might at the end of the halter, calling out, " In the 
name of the Blessed Prophet, and in the name of the 
twelve Imams, perish, accursed one, that darest to 
molest the True Believers." 

The ghoul was huge, and Niamatulla was a little 
man ; but the mujtehid of Kum was great in faith, 



330 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

and won the day in spite of tiie terrific yells and 
struggles of the fiend. 

The fame of the saint now spread throughout the 
length and breadth of Persia, and crowds came to gaze 
at the corpse of the strangled demon hanging from the 
plane-tree. It is said that the King of Kings himself 
travelled from Tehran for that purpose, and showed 
Niamatulla great honour during his lifetime, and raised 
a shrine to his memory when the saint at last joined 
the Prophet in the regions of the Blessed. A chorus 
of "-Shahbashr and '' Bal Ba!" and a shower of copper 
coins will be the reward of a successful storyteller. 

Ghouls are by no means confined to the " Valley of the 
Angel of Death." Their special habitat is the graveyard, 
and no Persian will cross a cemetery after sunset, even 
if he have to make a considerable detour to avoid it. 

They tell a story of how a man boasted to his friend 
of his courage, and to prove this agreed to go to the 
public cemetery after dark and hammer a big nail into 
the ground in the very centre of the haunted spot. He 
went on the appointed night and squatted down on his 
heels to drive the nail well home ; but having done 
so, he found himself unable to rise, and seized with fear 
he yelled for help in his terror. His friend, who had 
secretly followed him and had seen how in his haste he 
had hammered the nail into the long skirt of his coat, 
now appeared and released him with many a taunt at 
his cowardice ! 

Persians say that a true believer who utters the name 
of the Prophet in all sincerity can never be harmed by 
a ghoul, yet no one cares to run the risk of wandering 
among ruins, even in broad daylight, unless in company 
with a European ; the idea being that evil spirits decline 



SUPERSTITIONS AND ART OF MEDICINE 331 

to appear when Feringhis are present, because the latter 
do not believe in such visitants. 

Divs or demons, are supposed to be cat-headed 
men with horns and hoofs and are peculiarly active at 
night, no Persian caring to sleep alone lest these 
malignant spirits should harm him during the hours 
of darkness. On account of this rich men often hire 
a priest to share their bedroom. For the same reason 
no one will go into a dark room without exclaiming 
Bismillah ! (In the name of God) to scare away 
its possible ghostly occupant, and it would be sheer 
madness to whistle at night, as such an act would be 
an invitation to the demons to strangle the heedless 
man. It is also impossible to eat any food cooked on 
the previous day, as a devil may have overlooked it 
during the darkness and thus rendered it poisonous. 

Jinns and afrits are less dreaded than ghouls and 
demons, but no one will kill dogs or cats in case these 
animals are the dwelling-places of spirits that will 
wreak vengeance on those who have deprived them of 
their lodging. The public baths are said to be haunted 
by jinns, and on account of this no man likes to be 
alone in any of the numerous apartments, and no one 
dares to throw hot water at any distance from a house, 
but will pour it slowly and carefully near at hand or 
in the garden, murmuring Bismillah! as he does so. 
If the water be flung away carelessly it may fall on 
a jinn, which will, not unnaturally, be enraged and 
seek to exact retribution ; and for the same cause 
it is most dangerous to fling stones. If a Persian 
happens to be seized with an epileptic fit his ill- 
ness is laid at the door of these spirits, who, so the 
onlookers affirm, are beating the sufferer, probably on 



332 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

account of some bit of carelessness such as we have 
mentioned. 

AH over Persia on the desert plains the wind blows 
the dust up into columns, which spin round and round 
with great swiftness, and these the Persians call jinns 
or shaitans (devils), believing that if a mulla writes 
his good deeds on a piece of paper and can throw it 
into one of these whirls it will be transmuted into 
gold. 

Persians pay much attention to dreams, the taking of 
fals or lots, charms, witchcraft, and so on, and there- 
fore give considerable employment to astrologers. They 
themselves consult the Fates by opening the Koran or 
the poems of Hafiz at random or by means of the beads 
of their rosaries, but will do nothing of importance 
without calling in an astrologer. No journey can be 
undertaken, no bargain closed, no house inhabited for 
the first time, no city entered, or even medicine taken, 
unless the omens are propitious. These astrologers and 
some of the dervishes tell fortunes by spinning dice on 
brass rods, and then consulting a book of divination to 
see what the numbers portend, and they are also called 
in to recover stolen property. 

This was the mode of procedure in a case that came 
under the writer's notice. A gold bangle having un- 
accountably vanished, a servant boy who had been con- 
victed of dishonesty on a previous occasion was, not 
unnaturally, suspected of the theft. To make sure, a 
dervish was called in, and the servants being summoned, 
the holy man gazed fixedly at their faces as they stood 
before him. He then wrote all their names on slips of 
paper, rolling each slip into a little ball of dough, which 
he threw into a basin of water, and he then exclaimed, 



SUPERSTITIONS AND ART OF MEDICINE 333 

" The thief is in this room and the bracelet has not left 
the house ! " 

After reciting a certain passage of the Koran he 
picked a dough ball out of the bowl without looking, 
and it was found, when opened, to contain the name of 
the boy. This ceremony having been performed three 
times, and always with the same result, the culprit, 
volubly protesting his innocence, was hurried off to the 
prison, v/here he was immured in a dark and noisome 
dungeon. He was put on scanty rations of bread and 
water and suffered the bastinado, but nothing would 
persuade him to confess, until a youth, his bosom- 
friend, was sent to urge him to reveal the whereabouts 
of the bracelet, promising him a free pardon if he 
would do so. 

" Remove the big water-jar that stands in the corner 
of the courtyard of my master's house," said the thief, 
" and under it you will find a new brick which is quite 
loose, and if you pull this up you will see the bangle." 

The youth hurried to the house, where the directions 
of the thief were followed, and when the bracelet was 
recovered the fame of the dervish resounded throughout 
the city. 

Persians believe firmly in lucky and unlucky days. 
For example, the thirteenth of the month of Saffar is 
a day of evil omen, and all men and women leave their 
houses and spend the hours between sunrise and sunset 
in the open air in order to avert the harm that would 
probably overtake them were they to stay indoors. 
Therefore the scene outside the walls of a Persian 
town is one of unusual animation — horsemen galloping 
wildly about the plain, men shooting at a mark often 
placed in perilous proximity to the public highway, and 



334 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

the women repairing to gardens to indulge in swinging, 
it being wajib or lucky, to do so on this day. 

The peasants engage in the unusual dissipation of 
games, of which tip-cat and a kind of rounders appear 
to be the favourites, middle-aged men playing these 
with enthusiasm, and every one is careful not to give 
way to anger, as a quarrel is sure to lead to disaster. 

The Day of Judgment is supposed to take place on 
the last Wednesday in Saffar, consequently all Wed- 
nesdays are unlucky days, and the whole month is of 
evil omen, probably from the fact that Mohammed died 
during its course. Thirteen is an unlucky number in 
Persia, and no educated Persian can give any reason 
for this ; but the writer has been informed that the 
thirteenth of every month was a day of ill-omen with 
the ancient Parsis, from whom probably the Persians 
derive the superstition. 

To an ordinary Persian the good or bad fortune of a 
day depends upon the first face that he has seen after 
waking, and the well-to-do are always particular to have 
a servant with a "lucky" face near them when they 
open their eyes in the morning. Such people as public 
executioners and their children are said to have " black 
hearts " and consequently " unlucky " visages ; and in 
the writer's own experience everything that went wrong 
in the house was put down to an unfortunate servant, 
son of one of these ill-omened officials. 

When seeing the new moon for the first time Persians 
are careful to look at a " fortunate " face or at a " lucky " 
object, such as gold or silver, which they hold in readi- 
ness in their hands, but woe to the man whose glance 
falls accidentally on a veiled woman or on a dog ! 

On going on a journey it is well to leave the house 



SUPERSTITIONS AND ART OF MEDICINE 335 

with the face turned towards the door in order to ensure 
a safe return ; it is unlucky to send a letter unless a 
corner be cut off, and the edges must be clipped, as 
otherwise a man's wives may be untrue to him ; disaster 
may occur if a man commence walking with the left 
foot or if a gazelle pass on the left of a rider, and it is 
unwise to finish any building or large piece of embroidery 
completely lest death overtake the worker. On the 
other hand, it is lucky to be the first to enter a new 
building, and the Shah has been known to give an 
audience on some important matter in a freshly erected 
pavilion in order that the business on hand might pro- 
gress satisfactorily. 

It is also a usual custom to slay a goat in order to 
ensure prosperity to any personage who enters a town. 
On the approach of the traveller the animal is killed iti 
the middle of the road and its head is then placed on 
one side and its body on the other, the man thus 
honoured riding between the severed parts of the goat 
and across its blood ; sweetmeats are often thrown 
under the hoofs of the traveller's horse for the same 
purpose. 

All Persian women starting on a journey give money 
to the beggars to avert accident, and on one occasion 
when the writer's horse shied and was within an ace of 
precipitating her into the city-moat, she was assured by 
a Persian gentleman that the incident was entirely 
owing to her lack of charity as she left her home ! 

Travellers are sped on their way by being shown 
a mirror, or offered a glass of water on which floats the 
head of a flower, or perhaps the smoke of burning 
herbs is waved before them. To sneeze once when 
starting on any expedition is an evil omen, and Persians 



336 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

will look fixedly at the sun in order to induce a second 
or third sneeze. If they are unsuccessful they will put 
off their journey, as they have little faith in an invo- 
cation to Allah, which is supposed to be efficacious in 
averting disaster. Curiously enough, they also believe 
that if they are desiring anything ardently, and some 
one should happen to sneeze at the moment, their 
wish is certain to be granted. It is wise to suppress 
yawning as much as possible, for the Prophet said 
that when any one opened his mouth in a yawn the 
devil smiled ! 

It is unlucky to name a horse after a Persian, because 
any evil that may befall the animal will also overtake 
the man after whom it is called. If, however, an 
accident happens to a horse and the rider escapes un- 
scathed, the spectators say, " The horse has become a 
sacrifice," meaning that the injury meant for the rider 
has fallen on his steed. 

Throughout Persia there is a very strong belief in 
the "evil eye," and every European on entering the 
country is warned not to admire children or animals 
without uttering the word Mashallah to avert this 
malign influence. If he omit the precaution and 
harm follows," the entire blame of the sickness or 
accident to human being or horse will be laid at the 
door of the forgetful foreigner, and many Persians will 
refuse to mention the exact number of their children or 
possessions on this account. 

Blue is the colour to ward off the "evil eye," and 
every one who can afford it wears a turquoise ring ; 
the children are adorned with turquoises or blue beads, 
the latter being attached to the tails or harness of all 
horses, mules, camels, and donkeys in order to safe- 




PERSIAN BARBER EXTRACTING TEETH 



SUPERSTITIONS AND ART OF MEDICINE 337 

guard them. Turquoises are also supposed to save 
their wearers from being cheated in business ; but as 
every merchant carries one in a ring the effect must be 
considerably neutralised. 

Medicine in Persia must be classed under the head 
of superstitions, as it is absolutely unscientific and 
dependent upon astrology and charms. All diseases are 
divided into hot and cold, and are treated by contraries. 
For example, a man attacked with a burning fever will 
probably be carried out of the house in the depth of 
winter and laid in the stream of ice-cold water running 
through the garden, because the Prophet said that fever 
was hell-fire and must be extinguished by means of 
water. Cholera is treated in the same way, but the 
Persian doctor, however, invariably refuses to give 
water to his patients to drink, let their craving for 
it be ever so intense. He often administers the powder 
of rubies or emeralds as a tonic, and a ground-up 
pearl is occasionally resorted to when the patient is 
believed to be at the point of death. If any one 
is badly burnt the wounds will be smeared with soot 
from the bottom of the cooking vessels, and pome- 
granate juice will be taken internally. A remedy for 
pneumonia is to wrap the sick person up in a raw 
hide, sore eyes being cured by an application of 
powdered glass ! 

If witchcraft is suspected, one method is to bake 
eggs on the hearthstone of the patient's room, calling 
each by the name of some possible enemy. The egg 
that cracks first reveals the name of the wizard, and in 
order to free the sick man from his power the egg must 
be thrown into running water. Another plan is for 
the wife of the patient to beg bits of bread from the 



338 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

whole circle of his acquaintance, as if he can eat the 
food of the man who has bewitched him he will be 
cured. 

The following case of a kind of faith-cure came 
under the notice of an English doctor. 

A Persian lady of rank was afflicted with violent 
convulsions, which, as they did not yield to medical 
treatment, were put down to the work of a demon. 
Accordingly, a sartip, or colonel, who had a great 
reputation as an exorcist, was summoned to her aid. 
The procedure adopted was to light dozens of little 
lamps and place them all round the divan on which the 
patient lay, and the sartip then asked her again and 
again what she saw, but the answer was always the 
same, " Nothing but lamps." 

At last in despair he summoned an old woman whom 
he had cured of a like complaint, and she, on being 
adjured, immediately declared that she saw a devil. 
" Tell him to depart," said the colonel. " He says that 
in flying past this house he saw this lady and loved her 
so much for her beauty that he will never leave her," 
was the answer of the hag. The sartip^ summoning all 
his power, conjured the fiend to release his victim ; but 
the demon replied, according to the old woman, that he 
found his prey too much to his taste to desert her, and 
that the lady had " made roast meat of his heart." The 
sartip at this had reached the limit of his patience, 
and exclaimed in anger, " Then tell the demon that if 
he doesn't go at once, I will turn him into a Mohamme- 
dan." This dire threat caused the evil spirit to fly 
away in haste; but in spite of the colonel's victory 
his patient steadily became worse instead of better, and 
when my informant was summoned as a last resource, 



SUPERSTITIONS AND ART OF MEDICINE 339 

he found the lady so exhausted that heroic remedies 
were needed to save her life. 

Persians say that it is a good thing to get influenza, 
but that if the complaint attacks the head it turns 
the hair white, and they also affirm that those who 
have never been victims to mesh mesh as they call 
it, get grey very early in life. 

Faith-cures are not uncommon. Dervishes pretend 
to write powerful charms on scraps of paper, which 
when swallowed in a believing spirit effect a cure, 
and the chief stock-in-trade of a Persian doctor is 
a brass bowl the outside of which is elaborately incised 
with the signs of the Zodiac and texts from the Koran. 
The inner surface is engraved with short prayers to suit 
all diseases, and the doctor has merely to make a feint 
of unlocking with a key the prayer that alludes to his 
patient's complaint, and when the sick man has drunk 
the water with which the basin is filled he will speedily 
recover. An instance of this sort of cure is reported 
by an English lady-doctor, who was asked for a token 
by which her patient would be admitted to her pres- 
ence. For lack of anything better she gave a safety-pin, 
and was somewhat surprised that the sufferer did not 
make her appearance at the appointed time. Some 
days afterwards she appeared, beaming with joy, and 
exclaiming as she held out the safety-pin, " Salaams ! 
may the shadow of the gracious Khanum never grow 
less ! I placed the powerful Feringhi charm in a 
bowl full of water, and after drinking the liquid for 
seven days I was completely cured. Alhamdulillah ! " 
And, full of gratitude, she restored the pin to her 
bewildered preserver ! 

As might be expected from what has gone before, 



340 PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 

lunatics meet with no mercy in Persia. These unfor- 
tunates are put in the stocks, and their hands fastened 
with chains to the wall above their heads ; they are 
alternately beaten and starved, with the laudable inten- 
tion of driving the devil out of them ; they are dowsed 
with a decoction of herbs poured over them when 
violently roused from their slumbers by the yells of 
their misguided friends ; and they are confined in 
horrible dungeons. 

But enough has been said to give the reader some 
idea of the extraordinary network of superstition that 
encloses a Persian from the cradle to the grave, and 
from which only progress and the spread of education 
can free him. 

That these benefits may come to Persia, and that 
she may have her full share in what seems to be an 
awakening of the East, is the earnest hope of one 
who sympathises deeply with her and her people. 

May the perusal of this book add some of its readers 
to the ranks of those who wish well to Iran ! 

She has existed as a kingdom for some twenty-five 
centuries, and in the past her record has been glorious. 
So many of her sons have been famous that to-day 
it ought not to be impossible to find amongst their 
descendants one who will exhibit the statesmanship 
and patriotism of an Ardeshir, an Ismail, or a Shah 
Abbas, and lead his country to prosperity. 

Khoshbakht baa Iran ! 
(Good luck to Iran !) 



INDEX 



x\badeh, 71 

Abbas, Shah, 7, 31, 40, 59, 96, 
109, 112, 113, 128, 154, 173,228, 
260, 271, 317, 318 ; sword of, 169 

Abbas, 100 

Abdul Azhn, Shah, shrine of, 165 

Abdullah, 152, 154 

Abraham, 73, 136 

Abu All ibn Sina (Avicenna), 29, 
300, 302 

Achasmenian kings, the, 7, 13, 16, 
19, 39, 40, SO, 273 

Acre, 142, 262 

Afghan invasion of Persia, 31,, 32, 
40, S3, 99-100 ; the Amir, ill 

Afrasiyab, king of Tartary, 290, 294 

Agha Mohammed Khan, 32, 33, 
40, 48, 184 

Ahasuerus, 39 

Ahwaz, 153, 234-6 

Akbar, servant, 166, 168, 178, 179, 
185, 187 

Al Mukanna, story of, 1 39-40 

Al Tabari, historian, 242 

Alamut, 43, 44, 45 

Albigenses, the, 22 

Albuquerque, 228 

Alhambra, the, 317 

Aleppo, 305 

Alexander the Great, 16, 21, 40, 
124 192, 227, 274 ; death of, 17 ; 
camp of, destroyed, 193; sarcoph- 
agus of, 238 I legends of, 266-7 5 
his place in Persian history, 299 



Ali, 30-31, 73, 80, 95, 108, 113, 
129, 134 ; tomb of, 96 ; death of, 
146 ; and Fatima, 145-6 

Ali Akbar, 154 

Almsgiving, Mohammedan, 131, 
134, 136 

Alp Arslan, 29, 300 

American missionaries, 1 38 

Amrou, 146 

Andaman Islands, the, 269 

Andet-oon, the, 35, 54-6, 197, 
202 

Animals, Persian, treatment or, 
84-5; fodder, 215; wild ani- 
mals, 238-44; domestic animals, 
244-8 

Antichrist, Moslem belief regarding, 
134 

Antony, Mark, 19 

Anwari, fame of, 304 

Arab tribes of the Persian Gulf, 5, 
1 1 ; characteristics, 234 ; encamp- 
ments, 234; the Arab horse, 235-6 

Arabian Sea, 225 ; vegetation, 5 

Arabic language, the, 61, 64, 73, 74 

Arabistan, 5, 233, 237 

Araxes, the, 128 

Arbela, 16 

Abre Sol, the, of Khorasan, 266 

Architecture, Persian, 315-16 

Ardebil, 31 

Ardeshir, King, 21, 109, 124, 264, 
299 

Area of Persia, i 



342 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Armenia, conquest of, iS, 19, 21 

Armenians, 128-9, 13^ 

Army, the Persian soldier, 60-1 

Arnold, Matthew, " Sohrab and 
Rustum," 249, 297 

Arsaces I., 18 

Art, Persian, 316-19, 272-3 ; Sara- 
cenic, 28, 324 

Artabanus, 20, 21 

Artaxerxes, Longimanus, 39 ; palace 
of, 316 

Artaxerxes III., 15-16 

Artemisium, 15 

Aryans, the, 1 1 

Asia Minor, conquest by Cyrus, 13- 
14 

Askhabad, 88, 89, 90, 1 1 1 

Assassins, the 44-5 

Asses, Persian, 247 

Assyria, 14 

Astrabad, 32, 42 

Astrology, 332 

Astyages, 13 

Athens, burning of, 15 

Attar of Roses, 184 

Aurora, the, 177 

Aurungzebe, 53 

Austria, relations with Persia, 35, 61 

Austrian Tyrol, the, 107 

Avesta, the, 21, 124, 125, 284 

Avicenna. See Abu Ali ibn Sina 

Ayesha, 145, 146, 201 

Azerbaijan, 5, 14, 40, 123 

Basis sect, the, 36, 140-3 

Babylon, 14, 17, 40, 273 

Bactria, 13, 17 ; Tartar invasion, 

124 
Badakshan, 269 
Badgirs, 180, 237 
Bad-i-Sud-i-bist-ruz, the, 6 
Baghdad, the Khalifate at, 28, 29, 

30, 40, 227, 262, 305 ; sack of, 

310 



Bahram V. (Bahram Gor), 23, 238 ; 
legends of, 243 

Bahram Chubin, 25 

Bahramabad, 182-3 

Bahrein, 229-32 ; necropolis at, 227 

Bakhtiari, the, 5, 32, 34, 37, 38, 87 

Baku, 41, 88, 89 

Balkh, 124, 262, 263, 267 

Balsora. See Busreh 

Baluchistan, 5, 7, 8 ; inhabitants of, 
5, 188-9 ; heat of, 185 ; annex- 
ation of, 187 ; cairns, 189-90; the 
horse in, 191 ; the peasant of, 
210 ; British, 10 ; Persian, 188 

Bam, 33, 187 

Bampur, 192 

Bampur river, the, 190 

Bandar Abbas, 228, 230, 266 

Bandar Nasseri, 234 

Bandeh, the, 66 

Bastinado, the, 84, 196 

Bathing, 72-3 

Batoum, 41, 88 

Battle of the Camel, 146 

Bay an, the, 142 

Bazaars, 73, 88, 100, 161 

Baziiband, the, 322 

Beha, 142-3 

Belgians in Meshed, 91 

Belisarius, General, 23 

Benjamin, Mr. S. G. W., "Persia 
and the Persians " cited^ 152-3, 
319 

Bent, Mr. Theodore, 232 

Bird life Persia, 248-53 

Birdwood, George, " The Antiquity 
of Oriental Carpets," 222-3, 321 

Birootti, 197, 204 

Bisitun, bas-reliefs, 274-5, 3^5 

Bisitun, rock of, 25 

Blandford, Dr., 3 

Blizzards, 174 

Blocqueville, M. de, 1 10 
3, wild, 240-1 



INDEX 



343 



Bokhara, 29, 109, 261, 310; Mongol 
invasion, 30 

Bokhariotes, 100 

Bombay, 10 ; the Victoria Gardens, 
222-3 

Boussa, the, 9 

Bread, 212-13 

Bridge of Sirat, 77 

Browne, Piof. E. G., "Literary 
History of Persia," cited, 43 note, 
284, 286, 306 ; "A Year Amongst 
the Persians," cited, 140, 141, 214, 
311 

Buddhist beliefs, 122, 123, 132 

Buggelows, 228 

Bulbuls, 220, 252 

Burial customs, Persian, 76-8, 
120-1 ; ZorDastrian custom of 
exposure, 125-6, 180-1, 273 ; 
burial of woraen, 207-8 ; 

Burma, 269 

Bushire, 2, 10, 35, 230, 232-3, 254 

Busreh, 227-8, 262 

C/ESAR, Julius, 18 

Cairns in Baluchistan, 189-90 

Calendar, reform of the, 301 

Camadi (Shahr-i-Jiruft), 265, 269 

Cambyses, 14, 273 

Camels, 185, 245-6; the "Cam- 
elry," 191 

" Caravan of the Dead," 120-1, 207 

Caravaning, 162 

Carpets, Persian, 104 1 Kerman, 
184, 321 ; centres, 320 ; the hand 
loom, 320; designs, 321 ; Tekke 
Turkoman, 321-2 ; faking the 
antique, 322-3 ; silk carpets, 323 ; 
how to choose a carpet, 323-4 

Carrhse, battle of, 18-19 

Carriages, 162 

Caspian, the, climate, 2-5 ; fisheries, 

10; Russian influence, 34 
Cassius, 20 



Cats, Persian, 248 
Caucasus, the, 34 
Cemeteries, superstitions regarding, 

330-1 
Centipedes, 255-6 
Ceylon, 269 

Chadars, 199, 200, 202, 206 
Chang Ki'en, 268 
Chapar-khanas, 162, 173, l8l 
Chardin, " Voyages en Perse," 

cited, 31, 40, 109, 260 
Chargat, the, 198 
Charvadars, 120-1, 164, 183, 185 
Chedorlaomer, King, 237 
Chilau kabob, the, 71 
Chilaus, 70 

Children carpet-makers, 320 
China, 269 ; Christianity in, 128 ; 

early trade of, 262 ; Chinese art 

in Persia, 318 
Chinghiz lOian, 28-30, 1 16, 261, 304 
Chinvad, bridge of, 126 
Christianity in Persia, 25, 127, 128 
City of Martyrdom, 49 
Civil War of B.C. 323, 17 
Climate of Persia, 2-5 
Coal, scarcity of, 9 
Cochin China, 269 
Cockroaches, 225 
Coin, Persian, 163-4 
Colleges, military, 35 
Cologne Cathedral, tomb of the 

" Three Kings," 263 
Confucius, 122 
Conolly, 261 
Constantinople, Persian invasion, 

26 ; bazaars, lOO ; museum of, 238 
Constitution, the Persian, 36-8, 50 
Corruption, system of, 58-9 
Court, the Persian, description, 50 ; 

etiquette of, 51 ; ministers, 58 ; 

the system of corruption, 58-9 ; 

personal nature of the Govern- 
ment, 59 



344 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Cracow, 89 

Crassus, 18-19 

Crime and punishment, 84 

Crimea, the, 38 

Croesus, King of Lydia, 14 

Cromer, Lord, 10- 11 

Crops, Persian, 212-15 

Crows, 252-3 

Crusaders, the, 43, 132, 305 

Ctesiphon, Arch of, 40, 315 

Ctesiphon on the Tigris, 19, 24, 40 

Cuneiform inscriptions, 271 ; the 
key to, 275 

Curzon, Lord, " Persia," cited, 5, 53, 
61, 141, 238, 270, 272, 274, 275. 

Customs, Persian — Buying and 
selling, 47-8; dress, 56, 65-6, 
198-200, 200-1 ; servants, 67-8, 
82-3 ; slaves, 68-9 ; prayer, 69- 
70, 73 ; a well-to-do Persian's day, 
69-72 ; eating, 70-2 ; dyeing the 
hair, 72-3 ; the baths, 72-3 ; 
marriage, 74-6, 201-6 ; the 
Persian oath, 81-2 ; criminal 
punishment, 84; treatment of 
animals, 84-5 ; the poor of 
Persia, 103 ; dress, 198-200, 218 ; 
divorce, 204-5 5 uncleanliness, 
217-18; death and burial. See 
Burial customs 
Cyriades, enthronement of, 275, 276 

Cyrus the Great, 2, 13-14, 16, 17, 
39, 237, 273, 274 

Dakmehs, 180, 185 

Damietta Stone, the, 275 

Daniel, Book of, 236 

Daniel, tomb of, 237 

Daqiqi, poet, 285 

Darius I., 14-15, 39, 299; Persepolis, 
271-3 ; the cuneiform writings, 
275 ; palace of, at Susa, 316 

Darius II. , 299 

Darius III., 16 



Darwin, cited, 254 

Darya-i-Nur, the, 52 

Date-palms, 190, 213 

Day of Judgment, the Mohammedan 
134-S 

Days of omen, 333-4 

Decoration, Persian, 315-17 

Deforestation, 9, 184, 236,262 

Deioces, palace of, 39 

Delhi, 32 ; siege of, 52, 53 

Dellals, 47 

Demavend, volcano, 2, 45, 171, 253, 
289 

Demons, 291-3, 331 

Dervishes, 101-2, 150-I, 

Deserts, salt, 6-7 

Dieulafoy, M., cited, 237, 316 

Dieulafoy, Mme, 237 

Dishes, Persian, 70-2, 213 

Distance, measurement of, 167 

Div-i-SaJid, the White Demon, 292 

"Divine Right," 272 

Divorce, Persian, 126, 204-5 

Diz, the, 238 

Dizful, 236 

Dogs, pariah, loi, 247-8; Zoro- 
astrian reverence for, 125 

Doghela bazi, 280 

Doshan Tepe, palace of, 56 

Dove, the, 252 

Dreams, superstitions conceming,332 

Dress, the Persian woman's, 56, 
198-200 ; the boy's, 65 ; the Per- 
sian man's, 65-6 ; origin of the 
veil, 200-1 

Dryden, quoted, 272 

Durand, Sir Edward, 232 

Durand, Sir Mortimer, "Nadir 

Shah," 216 
Dust-storms, 18 1-2 
Dyes, Persian, 321 

East India Company, 228 
Eastwick, Mr., cited, 94, 1 10, 131 



INDEX 



345 



" Eating Sticks," 84, 196 

Ecbatana, 39 

Education, in Persia, 61 ; the Per- 
sian youth, 64 ; the Persian girl, 
197 ; village schools, 218-19 

Eed-i-Kurban, feast of, 136 

Egypt, 14, 15 

Elam (Arabistan), 5, 233, 237 

Elburz mountains, the, 2-3, 42-5, 
171, 287, 289 

Elizabeth, Queen, 31 

El-Kadinyyah, battle of, 27 

English influence in Persia — Tele- 
graph service, 9-10 ; relations with 
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, 35; the agree- 
ment of 1907, 38 ; English 
appearance of Resht, 41-2 ; the 
Legation, Tehran, 49, 57 ; Atti- 
tude towards the slave trade, 69 ; 
the Consulate, Meshed, 91 ; 
missionaries, 138; the English 
personality, 194-5 ? the Residency, 
Maskat, 226 ; policing the Gulf, 
229-30 

Enzeli, port of, 9, 41, 248 

Ephesus, Council of, 127 

Erivan, 41 

Erythras, King, 227 

Erzeroum, 41 

Esther and Mordecai, tombs of, 39 

Esther, Book of, 316 

Euphrates, the, 18, 149, 233 

Europe, Persian designs on, 16 

"Evil Eye," the, 63, 336 

Fables, Persian, 308 
Fahraj, 192, 193 
" False dawn," the, 186-7 
Fao, 233 

Fars (Pars), province of, i , 309 
Farsakh, term, 167 
Fasting, Moslem, 133-4, 21 1 
Fath Ali Shah, 33-4, 48, 49, 51,53, 
96, 172, 258 



Fatiha, the, 70 

Fatima, daughter of the Prophet, 169 

Fatima, shrine at Kum, 154, 1 69, 
205, 325, 327 

Ferhad, story of, 25' 

Feridun, 27, 288-9, 299 

Feringhis, 80, 81 ; Persian super- 
stition regarding, 329, 331 

Ferrier, cited, no 

Festivals, Moslem, 136-7 

Fin, garden of, 172 

Firdawsi, poet, the "Book of 
Kings," 29, 109 ; daughter of, 
98; fame of, 116, 304; tomb at 
Tus, 1 17-18; the Shahnama, 
284, 285-6 ; events related in the 
poem, 287-99 

Fire-worship. See Zoroastrianism 

Firuza, the, 1 18-19 

Fisenjan, the, 71 

Fitch, Ralph, 228 

Flora of Persia, 257-9; Persian 
love of flowers, 222-3 

Floyer, M., " Unexplored Baluchi- 
stan," 190 

Fourgeons, 89 

Foxes, 241-2 

Eraser, " A Journey into Khorasan," 
cited, 93, no, 117, 132, 169, 230 

French excavations at Susa, 237 

Friday, observation of, 73-4 

Fruit, Persian, 258-9 

Gabrs, 122, 125, 127, 179 

Gadir, festival of, III 

Gadir Khom, village of, 145 

Games, Persian, 280-3 

Ganges, the, 16 

Gardens, Persian, 219-23 ; English, 

at Tehran, 259 
Gathas, the, 21, 124 
Gazelle-shooting, 243, 277 
Geneses, Book of, 237 
GeokTepe, 88, 1 10 



346 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Georgia, 32 

Ghazna, 300 

Ghaznawi period of Persian litera- 
ture, 3CX) 

Gkolams, 57 

Ghouls, 171 

Gilan, 42 

Giltm, 166 

Goa, 228 

Gobi, the, 266 

Gobineau, Count, died, 153-4 

Gohar Shad, 93 

Golden age of Persia, 7, 31, 96 

Golf at Meshed, 108 

Gombrun (Bandar Abbas), 228 

Gothic architecture, characteristics, 
112 

Government, personal nature of 
the, 59 

Great cold, the, 163 

Greeks, 128 ; victory at Marathon, 
15 ; massacre by the Macedonians, 
17 

Gulahek, 57 

Gushtasp, King, 123 

Gwadur, 185, 193, 194, 226 

Hafiz (Shemseddin Mohammed) 
— account of, 309-10 ; lines, quoted, 
310-13; grave of, 311-12, 312- 
14; character of, 312-13; fame 
of, 332 ; mentioned, 79, 140, 157, 
216, 223, 306 

Hailstorms, 3, 214-15 

Haj, feast of, 136 

Haji Ibrahim, 32, 33 

Haji, title, 136, 137, 206, 326 

Hamadan, 39 ; white wines of, 216 

Hamun, the, 6, 249 

Hannibal, 19 

Hasan, 146-7 

" Hasan ! Husein ! " cry of, 144 

Hasan-i-Sabbah, 43-4 

Hasan kuli khan, 263 



" Hashish,'^ 44, 67 

Harun al Raschid, 28, 95 

Hawking, 277-9 

Helmand river, the, 6 

Henna, use of, 57, 73 

Heraclius, Emperor, 26 

Herat, 29, 35, ill, 267 

Herodotus, 64, 268 

' ' Highway of the Nations," 262 

Hindoos, 231 

Holdich, Sir Thomas, "The Indian 

Borderland," quoted, 191 
Holy Family, the, Mohammedan 

representations, 319 
Hoopoe, the crested, 251 
Hormuz, island of, 228, 230, 263 ; 

ancient trade of, 262, 265 
Hormuzd, King, story of, 308 
Horse, the, in Baluchistan, 191 
Horses, arab, 235-6, 244 ; Persian, 

244-S 

Horse-riding, Persian method, 280 

Houris, 78 

House, the Persian, 197-8 

Hulagu Khan, 30, 45, 262, 304, 
310 

Husein, 80, 96, 129 ; death of, 144, 
147-8, 149, 151, 168 ; commemo- 
rations, resume. oiz.tazieh, 154-6. 
See also Muharram 

Hyrcania, 239 

Hystaspes, 271-3 

Ibex, the, 243 

Idol-worship, 20, 21, 124, 129 

Ilyat tribe, the, il, 34 

Infant mortality, 218 

Imam Juma, the, of Meshed, 131-2 

Imam Reza, the — Legend of, 49, 
95, 169 ; mosque and shrine of — 
description,90-5, 1 1 6-1 7 ; history, 
96-7, 113; the graveyard, 97-8; 
the Caravan of the Dead, 120-1 ; 
women pilgrims, 206-8 



INDEX 



347 



Imams, the, 145 

Imperial Bank of Persia, 35, 48 

Imports and exports, 10 

India — Telegraph communication 
with Persia, 10, 35 ; conquest of 
Alexander, 16 ; Persian conquest, 
16, 32 ; postal service with Me 
shed. III; the Parsis, 122; 
Christianity in, 128; early trade 
of, 262 ; Marco Polo in, 269 

Indian archipelago, the, 269 

Indians, Mohammedan, character- 
istics, 83-4 

Indo-European Telegraph Com- 
pany, 35, 226 

Indus, the, 15, 17, 18, 227 

Insect life, 255-7 

Iran, ancient name of Persia, i ; 
history of, 13-38 

Irani, the, appearance, 11-12 

Irrigation in Persia, 212, 214 

Isaiah, 14 

Isfahan, 3, 31, 37, 40, 45, 128, 138, 
141, 180, 300; the people of, 86, 
176 ; Mosque of, 88 ; bygone 
splendour of, 161 ; caravaning 
to, 173-5 ; work of Shah Abbas 
in, 175 

Isfundiar, 124 

Ishmael, 136 

Islamism in Persia — Question of the 
Prophet's successor, 30, 80 ; obser- 
vance of Friday, 73-4 ; the name 
of God, 79-80 ; Moslem intoler- 
ance, 80, 81 ; teachings of, 129- 
37, 308 ; effect on the individual, 
137; perverts from, 138; other 
teachers, 1 39-43 ; the woman's 
position, 208-9 

Ismail Shah, 31, 140 

Ismaili sect, the, 43-5 

Issus, battle at, 16 

Istakr, 273 

Italian influence in Persian Art, 319 



Jackals, 242-3 

Jackson, Prof.Williams,"Zoroaster, " 
122-3 

Jagherk, 107-8 

Jalk, 192 

James I., 31 

Jamshid, King, 274, 287, 288, 299 

Japan, 269 

Jask, 226, 228 

Java, 269 

Jay, the blue, 250-I 

Jerusalem, siege of, 25 

Jewels, royal, 52-3 

Jews — ^Colony in Hamadan, 39 ; 
the Jews of Tehran, 54 ; trans- 
ported into Isfahan, 128-9; ^^^.y 
of Atonement, 136 

/ika, the, 52 

/inns, 171, 177, 181, 190, 248, 
270, 331-2 

Jzra, 163 

Julfa, 128, 138 

JuHan, Emperor, 22 

Jupa range, the, 186 

Justice, administration of, 61-2 

Kaaba, the, Mecca, 70, 73, 136-7 

Kabobs, 70, 71 

Kabul, King of, 298 

Kabutarkhan, 183 

Kafilas, 178, 181, 183 

Kafirs, 80, 81, 129 

Kak, 215 

Kahrisek, 165 

Kai Kaus, King, 291-2, 294, 299 

Kaiani dynasty, the, 298 

Kaianian Maliks, the, 192 

Kaiumers, King, 287 

Kajar tribe, the, 32, 33 

Kajaveh, 206 

Kakha, 90 

Kalats, 319-20 ( 

Kalians, 67, 76, 79, 151 

Kalma, the, 93 



348 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Kanats, 103, 104, 106, 221, 279 

Karachi, 10, 194, 225 

Karnak, Hall of, Egypt, 272 

Karun, the, 9, 22, 35, 153, 224, 233 

Kashaf Rud, the, 106-7, 116 

Kashan, 6, 10, 86, 171, 173, 263, 
269 ; the minar, 88 ; scorpions of, 
1 7 1-2; the Garden of Fin, 172 ; 
tiles of, 317 ; velvets of, 319 

Kashgar, 305 

Kashi^ 171 

Kasim, 154 

Kasr-i-Kajar, 57 

Kasvin, 43, 44, 45 

Kavah, leather apron of, 27, 289 

JCavir, the, 7, 168 

Kazerun, 275 

Kedkhoda, the, 62 

Kerbela, 96, 147, 149, 152, 156 ; 
pilgrims to, 206, 225 

Kerbelai, title, 206, 326 

Kerim KLhan, 32 

Kerman, 7, 21, 33, 138, 181, 182, 
263; cost of living at, 8; shawls, 
54> 65, 319-20; Gabrs, 122; 
the approach to, 183-4 '■• the 
modern town, 184; Zoroastrians 
of, 185 ; the Desert, 186 ; trade 
of, 262 ; Marco Polo's visit, 
264-5 ; Venetian routes, 269 ; 
carpets, 320-2 

Kermanshah, 274 ; carpets, 320 

Khaka, 116 

Khalifate, the, 30, 40, 145, 148 

Khanum Mariam, the, 138 

Khanikoff, M., cited, 266 

Khans, 91 

Khiva, 109 

Khorasan, province of, 6, li, 17, 
32, 88, no, 293, 300 

Khosru I., 23-4, 40, 242 

Khosru Parvis, 24-7, 109, 276 

Khutbah, the, 73 

Khuzistan, lions of, 238 



Killing animals, formula used, 279 

' ' King of Kings , " the title , 1 9 , 40, 50 

Kipling, Rudyard, "The Feet of 
the Young Men," quoted, 195 

Kishm, 230 

Kismet, 131, 218 

Kizil Kum, the, 266 

Kobad, 23 

Kohrud river, 173 

Kohrud, village of, 173 

Kokachin, Princess, 267-8 

Kolah Feringhi, 221 

Koran, the, 61, 64, 73, 135 

Kotals, 2, 232, 233, 270 

Koweit, 229 

Krasnovodsk, 88, 89 

Kublai Khan, 261, 262; court of, 
267 

Kuchan, 89 

Kufa, Mosque of, 146 ; death ot 
Husein, 147 

Kuh-i-Basman, volcano of, 188 

Kuh-i-Nur, the, 52-3 

Kuh-i-Sangi, 108 

Kum, 6, 165, 269, 317, 325 ; the 
gold-domed shrine, 88, 205 ; the 
road to, 168 ; tomb of Fatima, 
169 ; pilgrimages to, 169 

Kurdish tribes, the, 37, loo 

Kurratu 'l-'Ayn, poetess, 141-2 

Kuzehs, 103 

Kwajah Rabi, shrine of, 1 12-13 

Ladgusht, 192 
Lagoon, the, 6 
Language, the Persian, 1 1 
Lar river, the, 253 
Laristan, 5 

Law, the Persian, 61-2 
Legations, the, Tehran, 49 
Lent, 144 
Leonidas, 15 

" Lion and the Sun," emblem of 
the, I, 48, 90 



INDEX 



349 



Lions, 238-9 

Literature, Persian, 284-314 

London, route to Meshed from, 88-90 

Louvre Museum, the, 237 

Lur tribe, the, 34 

Luristan, 5 

Lustre ware, 317-18 

Lut, the, 6-8, 185, 188, 266 

Luft, Ali Khan, 32-3, 188 

Lutis, 128, 239, 281 

Lynch and Hotz, Messrs., 234 

Macedonians, the, 17 
Macrinus, Emperor, 20 
Madrid Museum, example of lustre 

ware, 318 
Magi, the, 21, 123, 263 
Mahdi, 141 ; return of the, 134 
Mahmud of Ghazna, Sultan, 285- 

6, 300 
Mahun, village of, 186-7, 265 
Majlis, the, 36, 138-9 
Makran, S.-Qi) 227, 269 
Malamir, the, 233 
Malan range, the, 227 
Malaria, 6, 42 
Malcolm, Mr. "Five Years in a 

Persian Town," cited, 82, 83 
Malcolm, Sir, John " Persian 

Sketches," cited, 51, 172, 258 
Malik Shah, 29, 300, 301 
Mamum, Khalif, 95 
Man, the Persian — Position, 63-4, 

dress, 65-6 ; his ascendancy over 

the woman, 79 ; personality, 79- 

80 ; religious behefs, 80-1 ; 

characteristics — veracity, 81-3 ; 

ingratitude, 83-4 ; patriotism, 

85-7 
Mani, 22 

Manicheeans, the, 22 
Marathon, victory of, 15 
Markham, Sir Clements, *' History 

of Persia," cited^ 26 



Marriage customs, 74~6> 201-6 

Marseilles, 41 

Maskat, 226, 228, 230 ; treaty with 
Britain, 227 

Mashkel river, 193 

Mausoleums, mud-built, 192 

Mazanderan, province of, 141, 258, 
287, 291, 292 

Mecca, 26, 63, 70, 73, 136, 145 ; 
the road to, 136-7 ; pilgrimages, 
206, 305 

Medes, the, 39 ; history, 13 

Medicine, the art of, 325, 337-40 

Medina, 145 

Alehalas, 228 

Meh'rab, the, 73 

Meidan-i-Mashk, the, Tehran, 48 

Meidan-i-Shah, Tehran, 49 

Mehmankhana, 166 

Merv, 28, 29, 139, 301 

Mervdasht, plain of, 270 

Meshed, 32,40,49,81,86, 240,267; 
cost of living in, 8 ; route from 
Europe, 2 ; customs, 51-2 ; the 
route from England, 88-90 ; gate- 
ways, 90; the citadel, 91; the 
sanctuary, 91-2 ; the mosque and 
shrine, 92-7, 135, 169 ; the 
surrounding graveyard, 97, 98 ; 
the Khiaban, 98 ; the bazaar, 
99-100; the streets, 1 00, 103-5; 
the dervishes, 101-2 ; an old 
Seyid, 102 ; environs, 106-21 ; 
postal service to India, III; the 
Musalla, iii ; shrine of Kwajah 
Rabi, 112-13; sport in, 113-15; 
processions, 149-51, 156; Un- 
believers in, 161 ; pilgrimages, 
206 ; English gardens, 259 ; car- 
pets, 320 

Meshedi, title, 206, 326 

Mesopotamia, 321 

Mesoud, Sultan Shah, 309 

Minars, 180 



350 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Minerals, Persian, lo 

Mirage, the, 157 

Mirza AH Mohammed, 141-2 

Mirza Taki Khan, 169, 172 

Mirza Yahya, 142 

Missionary work in Persia, 138-9 

Mithridates the Great, 18 

Moawiyeh, 146-7 

Mobeds, 123 

Modakhel, 58, 59 

Mohamera, 233 

Mohammed, death of, 30-1, 334; 
his descendants, 145-6 ; his wife, 
200, 201 

Mohammed Ali Shah, reign of, 
35-8 ; the constitution revoked, 
50 ; relations with foreign min- 
isters, 57 ; court customs, 57-8. 

Mohammed Shah, 34 

Mohammedan invasion of Persia, 
II, 19, 26-8, 124, 275-6, 299 

Mohammedanism in Persia. See 
Islamism 

Mongol invasion of Persia, 8, 11, 
28-30, 45, 96, no, 116, 261, 300, 
304. 310 

Mongolian Steppes, the, 269 

Monsoon, 226 

" Moon of al Mukanna," the, 140 

Moore, " Lalla Rookh," 139, 257 

Moors, the, 216 

Morieh, " Haji Baba," 87 

Mosque ot Fatima, 90-8, 169, 205 

Mosul, 262 

Motor-cars, 58 

Mountains — Elburz range, 2-3, 42-3, 
45 ; Jupa range, 186 

Mourners, hired, 76 

Muezzin, the, 69, i57> 217 

Muharram, 54, 102, 144; proces- 
sions, 149-51, 156; ceremonies- 
149-56; self-mutilation, 150; the 
" Passion Play," 151-6 

Muir, Sir William, " Life of 



Mahomet," cited, 129-30, 133-4, 

145, 208 
Mujtehid, 100, 135 
Mules, Persian, 232-3 
Mullas, 76, 77, 78, 95, 129, 135-6, 

151, 155, 207 
Murdab, the, 248 
Murghab, plain of, 273 
Musalla of Meshed, 39, III 
Music, barbaric, 49, 151 ; National, 

282-3 
Muzaffer-ed-Din Shah, 35, 36 ; the 

Constitution, 50 ; customs, 57 
Mystics. See Sufis 

Nachod, 72 

Nadir Shah, 40, 53, 135, 172, 192 ; 
conquests of, 31-2 ; siege of 
Delhi, 52 

Nagara-Khana, Tehran, 49 

Naksh-i-Rustum, rock-tombs, 273, 
275; bas-reliefs, 315 

Nan, 213 

Napoleon, 227 

Nasr-ed-Din Shah, 34-5, 36, 48, 57, 
96, no, 165, 169, 198, 277 

National Assembly, 36, 138-9 

National Council, 38 

Nationalist party, the, 37 

Navy, the Persian, 224 

Nearchus, Admiral, 227 

Nehavend, battle of, 27 

Nejef, 96 

Nestorians, the, 22, 138, 235, 322 ; 
account of, 127-9 

New Testament, the, Mohammedan 
attitude towards, 80 

Niamatulla, story of, 325-30 

Nigaristan Palace, Tehran, 49 

Nile, the, 17 

Nirvana, 123 

Nishapur, 10, 29, 267, 301 ; tur- 
quoise mines of, 11 8-1 9 ; devasta- 
tion of, 300-1, 304 



INDEX 



351 



Nizami, Poet, 109, 300 

Nizam-ul-Mulk, 29, 43-4, 300 

No Ruz, feast of, 28, 35, 53, 102, 

136, 271, 287 
Nomads of Persia, 219 
Nushirvan the Just, 24 

Oath, the Persian, 81-2 

Odessa, 38 

"Old Man of the Mountain," 43, 

44-5 
Oman. Gulf of, 225 
Omar, Khalif, 129, 146, 189; burnt 

in ef&gy, 129, 148-9 
Omar KLhayyam, 29, 43 ; the 

Rtiba'iyat, lines quoted, 243, 

303-4 ; fame of, 301 ; grave of, 

302 ; death, 302-3 
Ophthalmia, 182 
Opium habit, the, 213-14 
Ormuzd, 123, 124, 125, 126 
Orodes, King of Parthia, 18-19 
Orthodox Christians, 128 
Othman, 146 
Overland route to Meshed, 89 

Pahlavi language, the, 109, 

284 
Palms, a source of wealth, 190, 213 
Parsis, the, I, 122, 127, 334 
Parthian period of Persian history, 

17-20, 299 
" Parthian shot," the expression, 17 
Pasargadse, 39, 273 
"Passion Play" in Tehran, 151-6 ; 

a resume of a translation, 154-6 
Patriotism, Persian, 85 
Payne, J., translations of Hafiz,3io 

311,312,313 
Peacock throne, the, 53 
Peasant, the Persian, 210-13 
Pearl fishery, the, 231, 232 
Pelly, Sir Lewis, " The Persian 

Miracle Play," 153-4 



Persepolis, 16, 21, 39, l6l, 238,270, 
315; destruction, 124; Porch of 
Xerxes, 271 ; hall of Darius, 271 ; 
Propylsa of Xerxes, 272 ; the 
rock-tombs of Naksh-i-Rustum, 

273 

Persepolis, the, 224 

Persian Gulf, the— Climate, 2-5; 
vegetation, 5 ; Arab tribes of the, 
11; the slave trade, 69, 224 ; the 
peasant, 210 ; history, 227 ; 
trade, 227-8 

Persis, province of, 21 

Philip of Macedon, 299 

Phoenicians, the, 227 

Phraates, 19 

Physical features of Persia, 2-7 

Pigeon-flying, 280 

Pigeons, 252 

Pilau, the, 70, 71, 213 

Pilgrimages to Kum, 169 ; to Ker- 
bela, 225 ; women pilgrims, 206 

Pir-i-Bazaar, 41 

Plat^a, victory of, 15 

Plateau of Persia, 43 ; sport on the, 
279 

Polo, Marco— Travels of, 44, 128, 
280; at Meshed, 108-9; route 
taken by, 209, 260-7, ; the 
Golden Tablet, 261 ; at the 
court of Kublai Khan, 267 ; re- 
turn to Venice, 267-8 ; the extent 
of his work, 268-9 '■> a^t Kerman, 
278 

Polvar, the, 270, 273 

Pompey, 18 

Population of Persia, 1 , 1 1 

Portugal, possessions in Arabia, 
226, 228 

Postal service, Persian, 35, iii 

Posting in Persia, 162 

Polygamy, decay of, 75, 126 

Poverty, prevalence of, 7-8 

Prayer, Moslem, 69-70, 73, 130-2 



352 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Precious stones, 52 
Predestination, doctrine 01, 130 
Processions, 149-51, 156 
Propylaea of Xerxes, Persepolis, 272 
Protestants, 128 
Proverbs, Persian, 160, 176, 196, 

201, 203, 209, 219, 242, 247, 

248, 251, 265, 278, 308 
Punishments, national, 65, 84 
Pushteens, 99, 268 

Quakers, 141 
Queens of Persia, 27 
Quietists, 141 

Railways, Persian, 9, 165 

Rainfall, 4 

Raksh, steed of Rustum, 186, 289, 
290-8 

Ramazan, 54, 78, 133-6, 211 

Rawlinson, Sir Henry, 6 ; the sec- 
ret of the cuneiform writing, 275 

Recitals, 155-6 

Regan, 188 

Renaissance, the, in Persia, 31 

Reptiles, 254 

Resht, rainfall,4 ; description, 41-2 ; 
embroideries of, 319 

Reza, sowar, iii 

Rhe (Rhages), ruins of, 317 

Rivers, Persian — Zendeh Rud, 3 ; 
Helmand, 6 ; Karun, 9 ; Tigris, 

19 
River courses, dry, 193 
Roads, Persian, 9, 41, 89, 178-9 
Rock-dwellings, 177 
Rock-sculptures, 275, 276, 284 
Rock-tombs, 273 
Roman Catholics in Persia, 128, 

138 
Rome, attempted conquest of Par- 

thia, 18-26 
Rosary or tasbih, the, 1 32 
Rose-water, 220 



Rostov, 89 

Rudbar Gate of Tus, 286 

Rukh Shah, 96 

Russia — Caspian fisheries, 10, 253 ; 
Persian attempts to conquer, 15 ; 
encroachments on Persia, 34; 
the Duma, 36 ; siege of Tabriz 
raised, 37 ; relations with Persia, 
38, 41, 89; the gate of Meshed, 
90 ; Russian Consulate, Meshed, 

91 

Rustum, adventures of, 5, 275, 289- 

97 
Ruzakhana, the, 149, 155 

Saadi (Musharrifu'd-Din) — 
Fables of, 24, 241-2 ; fame of, 
79, 216, 304; maxims of, 196, 
219, 251 ; the Gulistan, 266-7, 
305-9 ; account of, 304-5 ; the 
Bustan, 306 

Saba (Sava), 263 

Sacrifice, Moslem, 136 

Saffari dynasty, 29 

St. John, Major, cited, '238, 254, 
279 

Salads, 249 

Sakkas, 149 

Salamis, battle of, 15, 224 

Salt deserts, 168, 171 

Samarkand, 310; mosque of Timur, 

317 
Samanian dynasty, the, 29 
Samovars, 99, 173 
Sanabad, garden of, 96 
Sand-storms, 192 
Sanjak, 213 
Sanjar, Prince, 301 
Saracenic art, 28, 324 
Sardar-i- Assad, the, 37, 38 
Sardu, the, 269 
Sasan, 21 
Sasanian dynasty, the, 7, 19, 21-8, 

31, 40, 50, 109 



INDEX 



353 



Sattar Khan, 37 

Satrapies, the, 17 

Scorpions of Kashan, 171-2, 255 

Sefavean dynasty, 31, 32, 40, 96, 
140 

Seleucia, destruction of, 20 

Seleucidae, the, 17, 18 

Seleucus, General, 17 

Self-mutilations, 150 

" Sepulchre of the Mother of Solo- 
man," 274 

Servants, Persian, 67-8, 82-3, 175 

Severus, Alexander, 21 

Seyids, 94, 100, 102-3, 131, 134, 
207 

Shagirds, 1 62 

Shah, the — Customs-dress, 50- 
51; eating, 52; the royal 
jewels, 52-3 ; feast of No 
Ruz, 53-4 ; his wives, 54-6 ; 
palaces outside Tehran, 56-7 ; 
his revenue, 211 

Shahnama, legends of the, 123, 
275 

Shahrbanu, Princess, 154 

Shahr-i-Jiruft, 265 

Shaitan, 186 

Shatiial, the, 235 

Shapur I., capture of Valerian, 21-2, 
236, 275-6 ; the dam at Shuster, 
234, 236 

Shapur II., 22-3 

Shapur, city of, 275-6 

Shar, the, 61, 135 

Shat-el-Arab river, 233, 262 

Sheikhs, appearance, 229-30 

Shemsh, 181 

Sherley brothers, the, 260 

Sherley, Sir Anthony, 40, 109 

"Sherry" introduced into Spain, 
216 

Shiahs, 30-1, 44, 129, 145, 148, 
189, 225 

Shikar chi, 178 



Shimr, 148, I54,"i68 

Shimran, slope of, 57 

Shiraz, 2, 32, 40, 141, 232, 309 
population, 11, 86; white wines 
of, 216 ; lions of, 238 ; beauty of, 
310-11 ; carpets, 320 

Shirin, Queen, 25, 109 

Shrines, tombs of just governors, 
59; Baluchistani, 189-90 

Shughad, treachery of, 29S 

Shushan, 39, 316 

Shtishati, the steamer, 236 

Shuster, the irrigation dam at, 22, 
24, 234, 236 

SJuihtrckis, 187 

Siam, 269 

Siesta, the, 221 

Silk industry, the, 215, 263 

Silver-work, 318 

Sipahdar, the, 37, 38 

Sirdabs, 236 

Siroes, 26 

Sistan, province of, 5-6, 29, 294 

Skobeleff, 88, no 

Slaves, Persian, 68-9, Turkoman 
raids, 109-10 ; the Gulf policed 
by England, 224, 229 

Smerdis, 14 

Smith, Sir Murdoch, cited, 317 

Smyrna, bazaars, lOO 

Social conditions, poverty, 7-8; 
cost of living at Tehran, 8 ; ap- 
pearance of the Irani, I1-12 

Socrates, 122 

Soh, 173 

Sohrab, adventures of, 294-7 

Solomon, King, 288 ; legend of, 
251 ; throne of, 273-4 

Solon, 124 

Sowars, iii 

Sparrow-hawks, 279-80 

Sphinx, H.M.S., 227 

Sport, Persian, 1 13-15, 277-83 

Stanley, Dean, quoted, 131 



354 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Statue, antique, single example, 
276 

Stevenson, R. L., quoted, 159 

Stoddart, 261 

Stork, the, 249 

Story-tellers, public, 98 

Sufism, 140-1, 312 

Seelabs, 193 

Sultanabad, 320 

Sumatra, 269 

Sun, the emblem, 3, 216-7 

Sunnis, 30-1, 113, 129, 189, 225, 
306 

Superstition, Persian, 325-40 

Susa, 236, 237 ; palace of Darius, 
316 

Sykes, Major, "Ten Thousand 
Miles in Ve.xAa.,'" cited, 108, 119, 
189, 227, 262, 263, 269 ; " Pil- 
grimage," cited, 302 ; his Persian 
collection, 317 

Tabriz, 35, 40, 141, 180; siege of, 
1908, 36 ; colleges, 61 ; the cita- 
del, 88 ; trade of, 262 

Taft, village of, 178, 179 

Takht, 221 

Takht-i-Jamshid, 270 

Takht-i-ravan, 206 

Takht-i- Suleiman, 273-4 

Takht-i-Taous, throne of, 53 

Tak-i-Bostan, 276 

Tamerlane, 128 

Tamineh, Princess, 293-4, 295, 
297 

Tarantulas, 255 

Tartar invasion of Persia, 30 

Tartars of Timur, 28 

Tartary, fire-worship in, 123 

Tavernier, 260 

Taxation, 59 

Tazieks, Persian, 15 1-6 

Tchai-khanas , 98 

Tea-shops, Persian, 98 



Tehran, 33, 35, 37, 40, 142, 263 ; 
journey from Europe, 2, 41-5 ; 
cost of living at, 8 ; description, 
45-6 ; roads, 46 ; the rainy sea- 
son, 46-7 ; bazaars, 47-8 ; 
monuments, 48 ; the Legations, 
48-9 ; the Nigaristan, 49 ; the 
Meidan-i-Shah, 49 ; the Shah's 
palace, 52-6 ; environs, 56-8 ; 
education in, 61 ; Gabrs, 122 ; 
the " Passion Play," 151-6 ; a 
journey from, 163, et seq. ; the 
British Minister, 253 ; English 
gardens in, 259 ; horse-racing in, 
280 

Tekke, Turkomans of, carpets 
made by, 321, 322 

Telegraph communication, 9-10, 35 

Thales, 124 

Thermopylae, pass of, defence, 15 

" Three Wise Men," the, 263 

Threshing, 215 

Tibet, 269 

Ticks, 170, 256-7 

Tiflis, 41 

Tigers, 239 

Tigris, the, 19, 227, 233 

Tiles, enamelled, 171, 183, 316-17 

Timur the Lame, 30, 310 ; mosque 
at Samarkand, 317 

Tipcat, 281 

Togrul the Seljuk, 29 

Tombs of Bahrein, 231-2 

Towers of Silence, 126, 181 

Trade routes, 262 

Trading customs, 47, 48 

Trajan, 20 

Transcaspia, 88 

Transcaspian Railway, 89-90 

Transcaucasian Railway, 88 

Travelling, modes of, 162-3 '■> suit- 
able outfit, 163-4 

Tripoli, 305 

True Cross, the, mention of, 25 



INDEX 



355 



Tuesday, Zoroastrian observance of, 

127 
Tufangchis, 160 
Tup Meidan, the, Tehran, 48 
Turanians, the, 14, 99 
Turkish invasion of Persia, 29 
Turkoman raids, 100, 109-10, 245, 

300 ; Massacre at Geok Tepe, 88, 

1 10 ; Turkomans utilised for the 

postal service, iii 
Turquoise, the, 52, 63, 1 18-19; 

mines of Nishapur, 10, 1 1 8- 19 
Tus, 29, 95, 96, 98, 285-6 ; shrine 

of Imam Reza, 1 16-17 ; tomb of 

Firdawsi, 1 17-18; reduction of, 304 

Urf, the, 61 
Urumiah, Lake, 123 
Urumiah, Nestorians (rf, 128 
Uzsbegs, the, n, 96 

Valerian, Emperor, 21-2, 236, 
275-6 

Vali Ahd, the, 41 

" Valley of the Angel of Death," 
168 ; story of, 325-30 

Vambery, Prof., " Life and Adven- 
tures," died, 93, 109, 120-I 

Vegetation of Persia, 5, 258 

Venice, 228, 260 

Vespasian, Emperor, 20 

Vienna, 89 

Village, the Persian, 57, 216-17 

Vine, culture of the, 216 

Vishtaspa, King, 123 

Volcano — Demavend, 2, 45 ; Kuh-i- 
Basman, 188 

Vultures, 181, 250 

Water, value of, in Persia, 49, 

222 
Wills, Dr. "Persia as it is," cited, 

215 ; " Land of the Lion and the 

Sun," cited, 256, 280 



Winds, the bad-i-sud-i-hist ruz, 
6 

Windsor Castle, 57 

Wine industry, the, 216 

Wives of the Shah, 54-6 ; temporary 
wives, 95 

Wolves, 240 

Woman in Persia— Treatment of the 
European woman, 47 ; the Shah's 
wives, 54-6 ; dress, 56, 198-200 ; 
punishment for crime, 62 ; her 
social position, 63-4; marriage, 
74-5, 201-6 ; her position in the 
house, 75-6 ; paradise, 78-9 ; 
Sigehs, 95 ; Zoroastrian women, 
1 26-7 ; effect of Islamism on her 
position, 129-30, 137, 169,208-9; 
under Babism, 143 ; at the " Pas- 
sion Play," 1 5 1-2 ; the woman of 
Baluchistan, 189 ; proverbs con- 
cerning, 196; the girl's education, 
197 ; seclusion of, 197-8 ; the 
day's occupation, 200 ; origin of 
the veiling of, 200-201 ; her 
anxiety to have a son, 204-5 ; 
burial customs, 207-8; village 
women , 218; Nomad women, 2 1 9 

Wrestling, 281 

Xenophon, 64 
Xeres, wine industry of, 216 
Xerxes of Persia, 15 ; his navy, 224; 
Persepolis, 271-2 

Yazdigird III., 27 

Yezd, 7, 138, 141, 262, 263, 269, 
Gabrs, 122 ; the fire temple, 125, 
126 ; Babism in, 143 ; the Desert 
City, 177-81 ; limestone cliffs, 
179; Zoroastrians of, 179,180-1; 
Towers of Silence, 181 ; Marco 
Polo's visit, 263-4 

Yezdikhast, village of, 177 

Yezid, Khalif, 147-8 



356 



PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE 



Yule, Sir Henry, ' ' Marco 
cited, 262, 268-9 

Zabulistan, 295 
Zainab, 154 
Zal, 291 
Zanjan, 141 
Zeid, his wife, 200 
Zend dynasty, 32, 40 
Zendah Rud, the, 3 
Zil-i-Sultan, the, 55, 176 



Polo," 



Zohak, King, 27, 288-9 

Zoroastrianism — First converts, 13; 
stamped out in Persia, 20-2, 28 ; 
an account of, 122-7; death of 
Zoroaster, 124 ; restrictions on 
Zoroastrians, 126-7 5 the symbol 
of the sun, 216-17 ; burial cus- 
toms, 273 

Zoroastrians of Bombay, i; of Yezd, 
179, 1 80- 1 ; of Kerman, 185 

Zulfakar, the sword, 135 



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