Page images
PDF
EPUB

The streets and avenues of Ispahan are badly kept, and its mosques and palaces are in ruins.

On the journey to the south from Ispahan, after toilsome days and nights, we enter the old city of Shiraz, the most important city in southern Persia

66 Where Time the measure of his hours,
By changeful bud and blossom keeps,
And, like a young bride crowned with flowers,
Fair Shiraz in her garden sleeps.”

Like other cities of Persia, Shiraz is more interesting because of its history than for anything now to be seen.

It is famous the world over as the birthplace of two of Persia's greatest poets — Sadi and Hafiz — whose verses are loved by all their countrymen.

In the bazaar, which is surely one of the most interesting in Persia, is a busy throng of turbaned men and closely veiled women.

Among the handicrafts we have seen in Asia none are more pleasing than the engraving and carving on silver which we see performed by the skilled workmen of Shiraz.

Not far from Shiraz is one of the noted places in the very earliest history of Persia.

This is Persepolis. Now but a ruin and a desolate scene, it was once the seat of empire, when Darius and Xerxes ruled not Persia alone, but a great part of the ancient world. Here they built their proud halls, of which the colonnades of pillars, the flights of royal stairs, and the gigantic portals are all that remain:

“ Those black granite pillars, once high-reared
By Jemshid in Persepolis, to bear
His house, now 'mid their broken flights of steps
Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side.”

From Shiraz the traveler hastens on to reach the shores of the Persian Gulf, and gladly sees before him the end of his journey at Bushire.

Bushire is situated on a peninsula. The houses, built of mud, and with flat roofs after the Persian fashion, are crowded along the shore. The numerous date and palm trees planted about it give the town a picturesque appearance, but a closer inspection reveals it to be one of the filthiest places to be found in Persia. The bazaars are small and are principally engaged in fitting out caravans for the overland journey across Persia.

The harbor at Bushire is very unsafe, and ships are anchored outside in the open sea. Every cargo is taken ashore in the small native boats.

Among other famous cities in Persia, the holy city of Meshed should be mentioned. Meshed is loved by all Persians as the burial place of the Imams, or prophets. It is the Mecca of the Persians. It has, what is not common in Oriental cities, a wide, straight avenue extending the entire length of the city. Down the center of this street runs a canal, crossing which are many narrow footbridges. From this canal drinking water is obtained ; and it also serves many of the people as a place in which to wash their clothing! Trees of many kinds —mulberry, elm, and willow-grow along either side of this canal.

A dense crowd, made up of all classes and nationalities, throng the avenue. The merchant, the dervish, and the pilgrim in his travel-stained garments, are all seen here. The sacred buildings are on this avenue, and toward them the pilgrims hasten to kiss the iron grating before the Imams' tomb.

Yezd and Kirman are great cities of eastern Persia. The shawls of Kirman rival those of Cashmere. The finest shawls are made of the soft hair which grows nearest the skin of the goat. Others are made from the wool of the sheep which are raised in the country near by.

These shawls are made by men and boys who work in dark, poorly ventilated rooms. The patterns are never before the workers, but must be learned by heart. The number of figures and designs wrought into these patterns are so great that this is a severe test of the memory.

In Yezd are many Parsees. They are treated badly by the Persians and Mohammedans, yet they continue to carry on much of the trade of the country and are rich and thrifty, as we saw the Parsees were in Bombay.

The people of Persia are mostly Mohammedans and are very

hostile to believers in any other faith. We shall note the bitter hatred of all other faiths by the Moslem more plainly in Arabia, the home of Mohammed.

CHAPTER XXIV.

TURKESTAN, AFGHANISTAN, BALUCHISTAN.

To the east and northeast of Persia is a large area divided among several nations. This whole country deserves careful study, because it appears destined to be of immense importance as the probable battle ground for the future possession of India.

Inhabiting the northern districts of this country are the Turkoman tribes of countless horsemen — fierce plunderers who ride with amazing swiftness, and who many times have made raids upon the people dwelling between Bokhara and Meshed. These wild and lawless tribes owe allegiance to no chief in particular, but will follow the one who can assemble the greatest number of warriors to ride forth and plunder the surrounding country. They have no fixed home, but move their black tents from one plain to another, when compelled by want of pasturage for their cattle.

For many years Russia has been, and is yet, expanding her possessions in the Far East. The advance made by the Russians in Central Asia has already given them control of Turkestan, and the only barrier now remaining between their outposts and the Indian Empire is the kingdom of Afghanistan. To complete her dominion over this land of barbarism, Russia has built the TransCaspian railroad through the heart of the old Tartar Empire. Besides opening up the country and developing all its resources, the railroad is a highway for the introduction of the methods and ideas of western nations. Afghanistan is a rocky, mountainous land, in whose valleys abundant harvests are grown. In the fertile lowlands, grapes, apricots, pears, plums, corn, and tobacco may be raised.

be raised. To the southwest is a vast sand desert stretching away towards the Persian frontier.

On the oases of the desert are groves of date palms, refreshing the wearied traveler by their grateful shade and luscious fruit. To the north are the snow-crowned Hindu-Kush Mountains; and to the east are the Suliman Mountains, overlooking the Indus and the Vale of Cashmere.

The Afghans inhabiting this rugged land are a restless and warlike race, and they exhibit the same intrepid courage found among the mountaineers of all countries.

Although a small country, Afghanistan has been the scene of many wars. Men of great renown and events of world-wide importance are associated with its history. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane are among the warriors who added to their fame in Afghanistan. These famous conquerors were followed by the founders of the Mogul Empire, who swept over this country and forced their way through its mountain passes on their way to India.

The great cities of Afghanistan are Herat in the west, Kabul in the east, and Kandahar in the center. Of these cities, Herat is of great military importance, and, because of its position, has been called the “Gate of India." Built upon a height commanding the surrounding country, the walls and towers of Herat make it a fortress of vast strength. The principal roads

« PreviousContinue »