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also been denied “Iran,” as the country is called by the natives. The rivers
The rivers on the outer edge of the plateau are useful for irrigating purposes, but for little else, while Central Persia obtains the water which moistens its fields from the melting of the snows in the neighbouring mountains. This water is led off by canals, or underground channels. But as the supply is uncertain, should the snow or rain fail in the mountains, famines
as frequent in Persia as in India, the main difference being, that while the latter country can always rely with certainty on English aid in its troubles, the former cannot build any hope on the compassion or foresight of its governing classes. Perhaps the most painful proof of this was that while the European residents during the last famine raised a large sum for the relief of the wretched people, the Shah could with difficulty be persuaded to subscribe £300 to the fund !
The younger Cyrus characterised Persia as a country where the “ people perish with cold at one extremity, while they are suffocated with the heat at the other." This epigrammatic bit of meteorological description is in the main true. As a rule, the summers are excessively hot, and the winters in many parts of the country as proportionately cold. The only region where the climate is comparatively equable is along the shores of the Caspian. But the moderately warm summer and mild winter are neutralised by the unhealthiness of the region. Again in Dashtistan-or the region of the Persian Gulf—the heat of the summer is almost unbearable, but the winter and spring are most enjoyable. In the interior there are greater extremes, and the winds are not unqualifiably welcome ; for while the northwest breezes bring coolness, they also bear drought in their train. The south-east gales are, on the contrary, wet, but the wetness is accompanied with warmth, which makes life at that season an existence passed in a vapour bath. As a rule, the spring and autumn are the best months. Mr. Mounsey * describes the climate of Shiraz at that season as “delicious.” The plain is then green, and the gardens filled with rose-trees and nightingales. The cherries are ripening, but the green almonds are the fruit in which the Persians, who are immoderately fond of such unwholesome delicacies, indulge most. Lady Sheil is quite as enthusiastic about the spring. It begins about “Now Rooz,” or the New Year Festival that is, on the 22nd of March, and lasts until the middle of May, when it becomes a great deal too hot for the enjoyment of ordinary mortals. “After this journeys are made at night, for though the nights are still cold, the weather is getting hot during the day. The sudden approach and rapid advance of the spring are very striking. Before the snow is well off the ground the trees burst into bloom, and flowers shoot forth from the soil. At Now Rooz the snow was lying in patches on the hills, and in the shaded valleys, while the fruit trees in the gardens were budding beautifully, and green plants and flowers sprung up on the plains on every side.” As the summer progresses, the heat gets so intolerable in a city like Teheran, that every one who can afford it deserts the town for the country. The valleys of the Elburz Mountains are favourite spots for rustication. Here the Shah with all his Court encamps, though the marquees, with their retinue of
*"Journey through the Caucasus and Persia” (1872).
servants, ministers, courtiers, and soldiers, to the number of three or four thousand, present less the appearance of a temporary camp than that of a luxurious series of canvas and silken palaces. Ispahan, though hot, is not unhealthy, and the nights are comparatively cool; the climate of this part of the world possesses, therefore, an advantage over that of most parts of India, where the nights are often as warm and oppressive as the day. In July people sleep on the roofs of their houses, for the nights are usually clear and bright, the air dry, and the little dew that falls quite harmless. * By the beginning of October the world of Teheran has returned to town, and in December those who were forced to flee the city from heat have often to complain of cold. Then ice forms on the pools, though it melts before noon, when the sun is warm, and the temperature like that of an English spring day, but by evening again the thermometer approaches the freezing point. Winter is considered to end with February, when the snow which for a few weeks overlies the country melts away, and travelling becomes pleasant. The religion and arts of Persia have already been described. The poor people are, as a rule, very poor, and the rich, though in many cases of superior education to the Turks and other Mohammedans, are, as a rule, sensual, avaricious, and utterly without scruples, and if possessed of
any conscience, are able to exercise a singular control over its better impulses. The soil is fertile if irrigated, and can sustain most temperate and sub-tropical crops; and in the towns the arts of the craftsmen supply what few goods enable Persia still to carry on a little foreign trade. The wines of Shiraz are celebrated in Eastern poetry—but nowhere else in modern times—and the silk reared on the leaves of the mulberry trees is entitled to the respect of even those outside the Iran border.
Turquoises are found in the Elburz mountains, but the mines are not developed, and with the exception of salt made from the brine of Lake Urmia, or collected from the incrustations of the plateau, there is little or no mineral wealth in the country. A contrary impression prevails, owing to the notoriety which the Shah's diamonds have obtained in Europe. Doubtless, the Ruler of Persia is possessed of more gems than any other potentate—the Czar of Russia, perhaps, excepted—but his collection was not made within his own dominions. Mr. Eastwick, who was permitted to see the monarch's treasure-house, describes the room as containing jewels to the value of six or seven millions, laid out on carpets at the far end of the room. “The first thing that struck me was the smallness of the door, and the steepness of the stairs. It was not a nice place to escape from, if one had tried to make off with a crown or two. In such a show of gems as seemed to realise the wonder of Aladdin's lamp, the eye was too much dazzled, and the memory too confused for description. But I remember that at the back of all was the Kaianian crown, and on either side of it two Persian lambskin caps adorned with aigrettes of diamonds. The crown itself was shaped like a flower-pot, with the small end open, and the other closed. On the top of the
was an uncut ruby, apparently without flaw, as big as a hen's egg. In front of the crown were dresses covered with diamonds and pearls, trays with necklaces of pearls, rubies, and emeralds, and some hundreds of diamond, ruby, and turquoise rings. In front of these, again, were gauntlets and belts covered with pearls and diamonds, and conspicuous among them the Kaianian belt, about a foot deep, weighing, perhaps, 18 lbs.,
* Binning : “Two Years in Persia” Vol. II., p. 321. † “ Races of Mankind” Vol. III., pp. 221–246.
and one complete mass of pearls, diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. One or two scabbards of swords are said to be worth a quarter of a million each.” There are sapphires in this extraordinary room as big as marbles, rubies and pearls the size of nuts, and many emeralds, varying in dimensions from half an inch square to one and three-quarter inches long, and an inch broad. In a sword scabbard wbich is covered with diamonds there is not
a single stone smaller than the nail of a man's little finger. There are, lastly, among other treasures, an emerald as big as a walnut, covered with the names of kings who had possessed it, and turquoises so large and lovely as almost to justify the plaudits which the Persian poets have bestowed on them. Turquoise work was, indeed, in the days of the Greeks, a speciality of the Persians. Armour of gold decorated with the gem was greatly admired, and to this day the lapidaries of Teheran and Ispahan pride themselves on their skill in inlaying the stone with designs and inscriptions. The finest stones come from Nishapour in Khorassan, where the deposits have been worked from the remotest antiquity. The Persian Government make no explorations on their own account, but lease the mines to the speculators at an annual rent of 500 tomans.* In Chardin's † day-that is, two centuries ago—these rough turquoises were piled up on the floor of the Treasury in Ispahan "like heaps of grain," and the polished gems filled “innumerable leather bags, weighing 15 to 50 lbs. each.” The explanation of this collection was that the Shah in those times, as in ours, took all the best stones. Great quantities are also taken by Persian and Tartar merchants to the fair of Nishni-Novgorod in Russia. Emeralds are also highly valued by the Persians, and among the Shah's pearls there is reputed to be one worth £60,000. Some of the stones are used as talismans. On Nassr-e-Din's first visit to Europe, he carried with him a five-pointed star, which is firmly believed to have the power of forcing conspirators to confess their treason, and a cube of amber which is considered capable of rendering the wearer invulnerable. Another of the amulets cherished by the enlightened monarch of Persia is a little casket of gold, studded with emeralds, which, like "fern seed,” permits the wearer to “walk invisible ;” but, unbappily, its virtues have not had a proper field for their display among the occupants of the Persian throne, for it refuses to exercise them on behalf of any save a celibate. Finally, amid a multitude of similar costly rubbish used as “fetishes,” are a scimitar in which a diamond is set, and a “magic dagger." These weapons render the wielder invincible. But, here again, the genii who guide them have taken care to surround tools so valuable with the compensating drawback—that the person using the dagger will die by it. Accordingly, it is kept in a sandal-wood casket to guard against any such contingency, so that in the end it is very harmless against either friend or foe. I
THE PRODUCTS, ETC.
To return to the soil. The wheat of Persia is as fine as could be desired; the only trouble is, that there is too little of it; and among the other crops are cotton, rice, and tobacco. The Persian horse is only surpassed by that of Arabia, and the fine fabrics woven from the fleeces of the sheep and goats, which graze on the mountain slopes, bear a high name throughout the East; while among animals less valuable may be mentioned the lion and leopard, the antelope, wolves, jackasses, tigers, and boars, which the Shah and his courtiers -or at all events the Shah-take such delight in hunting in the forests of Elburz near the Caspian. The fish caught in the rivers flowing into the Caspian form a valuable source of revenue to the people living on their banks; and though less known than the carpets, silks, shawls, and arms of the city craftsmen, the sturgeon sent to Russia yield a scarcely less substantial return. The interior trade is carried on mainly by caravans, which meet and diverge from certain points. For instance, a Kafila or caravan emporium is Tabriz (p. 312), where the traders of Northern India, Bokhara, Cabul, Baloochistan, and Samarcand meet those of Persia to barter or sell their wares, or to obtain the European cotton cloth which arrives here by way of Constantinople and Trebizond. Through Anzati, on the Caspian the people of Resht and Teheran draw their supplies; but the chief ports of the kingdom are Bushire and Bunder Abbas, on the Gulf of Persia, where the trade is almost entirely in the hands of the British and Arabs.
* In a
there are 1,000 “ dinars," or 20 “shahis,” equal to 11d. In a “toman” there are 10 kerans, or 9s. 31d.
†“Harris's Collection of Voyages and Travels," Vol. II. | Binning: “Two Years in Persia” Vol. II., p. 230; Pigott: "Persia, Ancient and Modern” p. 299.
Bushire is a Europeanised form of Abri Sheyhr, “Father of Cities." Mr. Geary describes the town as built on a long peninsula of sand, which projects at right angles to the coast line, and so Aat that the square tower-like houses of grey sandstone appear to rise out of the water like a Persian Venice. The place is very hot. Hence, the little wind-towers, fifteen or twenty feet high, erected on the summit of all the better-class houses in order to catch every breath of wind that blows, and send it down flues into the rooms below, enable the inmates to exist during the summer heats. On the land side the city is “protected” by a ruinous wall, in which the breeches made by the British artillery, when they bombarded it during the Persian war, have never been repaired. On the sea front there is no wall, but at intervals a few dilapidated towers command the strand. The harbour, formed by two banks of sand, somewhat protect from the fury of the waves, which during the wild “gulf-squalls” rise so fiercely; but large vessels have to anchor in the roads without, greatly to the profit of the Bushire boatmen, who during rough weather dictate their own terms to the ship-captains. Mr. Geary describes the town at the date of his visit—that is, two years ago—as one of the largest along the shores of the Persian Gulf; but in its narrow, tortuous, and altogether unpaved and undrained streets, it bears a family resemblance to the others in the same region. The endless droves of mules have worn their way into deep channels which run down the centre, leaving pedestrians to pick their way along the higher grounds. As the place has never been swept since it was built, except by the plague, filth and evil smells are over all. The plague periodically visits it, and the town is dotted with graveyards so filled with bodies, that the wonder is the place is habitable. Yet mules and donkeys laden with grain give Bushire an air of business; and the endless knots of beggars, who whine pertinaciously at every