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Bokhara, Khiva (riú Merv), and to the westward by four different routes to as many important Persian cities. In addition to its central position, the richness of the plain on which it is built, owing to the fine system of irrigating canals from the Hurirud River, has from early times attracted population both to the city and the numerous villages scattered over the plain. So fertile is Herat that, though many of the canals have been allowed to fall into ruin, the country still produces grain far in advance of the wants of its settled inbabitants. Sir Henry Rawlinson describes the city as forming a quadrangle of nearly a mile square, protected by walls and a citadel of sun-dried brick on a high artificial mound. But what distinguishes Herat from other Oriental cities, and at the same time constitutes its chief defence, are the stupendous earthworks on which the city wall is built. This pile averages 250 feet in width at the base, and about 50 in height, and as it is crowned by a wall 25 feet high and 14 feet thick at the base, supported by about 150 semicircular towers, and is further defended by a ditch 45 feet wide and 16 feet deep, it presents the appearance of imposing strength, though General Ferrier considers the place as nothing more than a redoubt, which could not hold out against a European army for twenty days at a stretch. The wall is unprotected by flanking defences, and as the city is dominated from the rising ground at the northeast angle, and the water supplying both the ditch and the town could be cut off by an enemy holding the outside city, it coull soon be starved or forced into subjection, the wells and reservoirs inside the walls being unequal to the wants of the inhabitants. Herat is nevertheless a very strong place. It has stood repeated sieges, and in 1837 beat off for ten continuous months a Persian army of 35,000 regular troops, supported by fifty pieces of artillery, and in many cases—we have Sir Henry Rawlinson's authority for the statement-commanded by Russian officers. It is there. fore thought that, though at present weak according to modern ideas of strength, with the expenditure of a little money and some engineering skill it could be made one of the least pregnable places in Asia. The population of the city is very fluctuating. It has contained as many as 100,000 inhabitants, but by war and neglect the population has dwindled away until at the present moment it does not number more than about 22,000 souls. There are, indeed, tales of a time when a million and a half of traders and warriors assembled within its walls. If so the city must have been vastly larger than it is at present: but it is always well to treat with discreet scepticism the statements of Oriental historians regarding the magnitude of their cities and the magnificence of their kings. The immense mass of ruins, broken pottery, crumbling walls, decayed bricks, and earthen mounds scattered over the plain of Herat point, however, to a period when the “Granary of Asia” was a city of infinitely greater magnificence than at present, and some of the ancient palatial buildings yet remain to attest, even in their decadence, the former grandeur of Herat. For instance, the mosque of Mosulla is described by General Ferrier as still, in spite of its falling into decay, one of the most imposing structures of the kind in Asia. The beautiful blue and gilt tiles, and the texts from the Koran which appear over the arches, Captain Marsh * considers in their execution simply marvellous. The tomb of
* “A Ride Through Islam” (1877), p. 141.
Abdullah Ansari, a Mussulman saint, the numerous marble mausoleums of the Princes of the House of Timur, and various Royal buildings, are also well worthy of notice.
The population of the city and neighbourhood is of a very mixed character. Originally Aryan, they have in time got mixed with Turco-Tartaric elements, and are inferior to the broad-featured, fat-faced tribes, who, from the dawn of history, have held the mountains from Cabul to Herat. The history of Herat is really the history of the East, every dynastic revolution, or foreign invasion, or civil war in Central Asia, having more or less centred about that city. In 1838 the Heratees beat off a Persian army; in 1857 they became independent, but in 1863 they became again incorporated with the Afghan monarchy, with which sixty years earlier they were conjoined. At present they are nominally subject to Cabul, but in reality, since that kingdom has got disrupted, the Heratees may be said to be practically their own masters. Its trade, we may add, is subject to fluctuations. It can feed a large population over its regular residents; its mountains abound in minerals; its silk manufactures are, or ought to be, flourishing; and the carpets of Herat are famous all over the East. The net revenue of the province is said, in ordinary times, to be about £100,000 per annum, but in the course of the endless civil wars and invasions to which it has been subjected, Herat has become practically a desert. Under a stable government it is capable of being what it once was—as it is still practically—the “Garden of the East,” and the “Granary of Asia.”* Bamiam, beyond the Haji-Gak Pass, is chiefly remarkable for its architectural remains and primitive cave dwellings still occupied as houses. Jelalabad, 97 miles from Cabul—which is again 186 from Peshawur, and 307 from Candahar—is placed at a height of 1,916 feet, in the middle of a plain, well watered and covered with villages, forts, and gardens. The town itself is small, and, though embosomed in gardens, is of a rather poor character. The chief events in its history are the siege which Sir Robert Sale sustained within its walls from November, 1841, till April, 1842, and its occupation during the recent war. Charikar and Istalif are larger towns. Kalat-i-Ghilzai is a fortress of some importance. Girishk is a fort with an insignificant village about it. Farrah, a place of great antiquity, is surrounded by a huge earthen rampart, but otherwise consists of only a few half-ruined houses, the vicissitudes which the town has undergone having all but ruined it. Zarni, in the littleknown country of Ghur, to the east of Herat, is more remarkable for its ruins than for anything else. It may be added that the Akhond of Swat, a semi-religious, semipolitical potentate, has also in this land of many chiefs a territory, † and the awe which his mysterious character imposes is all-powerful. The late Akhond, who died in 1877, was a man of the fiercest fanaticism; but of his successor little is known, and less cared, though in all likelihood he is secretly exercising influence more important for evil than many of the chiefs whose names are prominently before the public.
The future of Afghanistan it is difficult to presage with anything short of pessimism. More than seventy years ago one of the chiefs told Mountstuart Elphinstone, when he urged
* Malleson : « Herat” (1880).
† Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society (1880), p. 434; Leitner : “ Kohistan;” Mezőköverd : Kohistan” (1872), &c.
the advantages of quiet and security under a strong king, “We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood; but we will never be content with a master.” Since those days we have had abundant experience of the Afghans, but nothing has transpired which leads us to question the soundness of this estimate of the people, with whose affairs the Anglo-Indian Government—unhappily for us, and not very fortunately for them-has had so frequently to deal.
AFGHAN TURKESTAN AND THE OTHER CENTRAL Asiatic States.
Far west, in the basin of the Oxus, are several provinces usually considered subject to the Ameer of Cabul, and hence, owing to the country here and for far around having originally been under the control of Khans of Turkish origin, it is known as Afghan Turkestan, the final syllable “stan,” which occurs in the name of so many Eastern countries, signifying simply "country.” The river Oxus flows through the greater part of Central Asia, and finally debouches, in the midst of swamps, into the Sea of Aral, though there exists strong grounds for believing that at one period—but whether in historical or in geological times opinions differ—it reached the Caspian, and of late years strenuous efforts have been made by the Russian authorities to divert it into its old channel, which can still be traced, and so supply direct water communication through the heart of Asia, from the territories of the Czar to the border of Afghanistan.
Badakshan, in the valley of one of the tributaries of the Oxus, famous for its rice, wheat, horses, cattle, camels, sapphires, rubies, and lapis lazuli, is one of the most easterly of these little States of the Hindoo Koosh. Its capital is a series of small hamlets called Jirm and Faizabad. But the Badakshees are in reality not an urban but an agricultural people, and do not therefore herd much in towns. The country has been much subject to civil wars and invasions, and is at present nominally under the rule of the Ameer of Cabul, though the chiefs of the sixteen districts of which it consists in reality are independent, and only pay tribute and do military service to the Meer of Faizabad, who in his turn pays—or paid—tribute to the Afghan monarch.
Wakhan, higher up the valley of the Oxus, is in its turn tributary to Badakshan, and being too far removed from the turmoil of the surrounding countries to be much troubled,
is fairly prosperous and inhabited by a fine race fond of arms and sports, and deriving
considerable profit from the transit trade which passes between Eastern and Western Turkestan along the Oxus Valley, and over the Pamir Steppe. The slave trade is, however, also one of the sources of wealth. So abundant, indeed, are the captives which they kidnap either from the neighbouring principalities, or from the “Kaffir” country, that a strong man is considered a fair equivalent for a good dog or horse, while a stout girl will be readily bartered for four horses.*
Kunduz, at one time an independent Khanate, is also now tributary to Afghanistan. The capital of the same name is a small mud town, in the midst of gardens, orchards, and cornfields cultivated by Uzbegs, a Mongolian race, and Tadjiks, a people of Persian origin. •
Kulm was another Khanate which fell under Afghan control. Its old capital was embosomed amid orchards famous for their productiveness; but the site of the town exposing it to inroads from the wild Uzbeg horsemen, it was transferred to its present site-four miles south—where it consists of “a cheerless group of villages, comprised of mud houses with domed roofs, connected by gardens enclosed by a mud wall.” It contains about 15,000 people, and does a considerable trade. Another of its strongholds is Haibak, which, with its beehive-like houses clustering round a castle on an isolated eminence, presents a rather imposing appearance.
Balkh, the Bactria of the Greeks, is a more important State, lying on the border of the Great Turkoman desert; but nowadays it presents no traces of its ancient civilisation, or even of the prosperity which it possessed in the days when it was the centre of Mohammedan civilisation in Central Asia. The capital, Uem-ul-Bilad ("the mother of cities”), was in those days a large town thirty miles in circuit. The inner town, surrounded by a ruined wall four or five miles. in circumference, is now entirely deserted; and but a scanty population occupies the outer city, the bulk of the people now residing in the new capital of Afghan Turkestan, the fortified town of Takhtapul, eight miles north of the site of old Bactria.
Andkhui, another oasis formed by the termination of a mountain stream, was long an independent Khanate, inhabited by Turkomans, Tadjiks, and Uzbegs; but it is one of the provinces known as the Four Domains, viz., Shibrghan, Maimana, Siripul, and the oasis named. At one time it contained 50,000 inhabitants, but it is now fallen into decay. Maimana, or Maimeyne, is more flourishing. Its people, numbering about 100,000, are Uzbegs, and at one time were notorious slave traders. Siripul has fewer people, the greater number Uzbegs, the rest Hazaras. From the latter Colonel Yule mentions that a tribute of slaves used to be exacted by the dominant race, and Hazara widows were at one time claimed as Government property and sold by auction. The settled population is about 18,000, but there are also many nomads whose tents dot the valley, and who carry on trade with the owners of the fine orchards and cornfields which now occupy a considerable part of it.
* Yule: "Book of Ser Marco Polo," Vol. I., p. 1871; Wood: “Journey to the Source of the River Oxus” (Edition of 1873); Montgomerie : Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XLII., pp. 132 and 180; Yule : Ibid, p. 438; Rawlinson: Ibid, p. 482, and Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XVII., p. 108; Yule: Encyclopædia Britannica ; Burslem: “A Peep into Turkestan," &c.