Page images

from the Caspian Sea to the Khyber Pass lead through Herat, so that, in time of war, the nation holding this ancient city could control the fate of western India. In addition to its commanding position, the city of Herat, surrounded by a country of great fertility, could furnish all the supplies needed by a large army while conducting a war against the Indian Empire. For all these reasons there is no other such camping ground between the Caspian Sea and India, and it cannot be wondered at that England watches with keen suspicion every move in this direction made by the Russians.

The city of Kandahar is another stronghold against the advance of an enemy toward the passes through the mountains into India. The extension of the railroad into these regions is of great importance not only from the effect upon commerce, but also from a military point of view.

To the south of Afghanistan lies the rugged land of Baluchistan. It is bounded by India on the east and by Persia on the west, while to the south for a distance of more than five hundred miles the waves of the Arabian Sea break along its coast.

Baluchistan is a very mountainous region. Until within a few years, but little was known of the remoter sections of this land, where sandy deserts, dangerous to cross, are very common. There are no lakes of large size in Baluchistan, and no rivers of importance flow through it. Towns and villages are few and are widely separated.

The inhabitants live very much as the Turcomans do, and their principal possessions are herds of camels and flocks of sheep. As a consequence a large majority of the inhabitants of Baluchistan are nomads, wandering from place to place in search of pasturage for their cattle.

The capital is Kelat, a fortified town and the center of trade for the interior of the country. It is about seven thousand feet above sea level, and has, in consequence, an agreeable climate. It is not an attractive place. The streets are narrow and filthy, and the bazaar, although it is supplied with all kinds of necessaries, is not like the bazaars to be seen in the large cities of India and Japan.



THE peninsula forming the extreme southwestern corner of Asia is the home of the Arab. It is a land of great interest, not so much for the country itself, or the places to be seen there, as for its interesting history.

66 (l'er Arabia's desert sands

The patient camel walks, 'Mid lonely caves and rocky lands

The fell hyena stalks.

6. On her cool and shady hills

Coffee shrubs and tam’rinds grow; Headlong fall the welcome rills

Down the fruitless dells below.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Although some parts of Arabia are mentioned in the oldest historical records, and its shores were familiar to the earliest navigators, the greater portion of its territory has remained almost unknown. This is because so much of this land is a desert and has been but little explored by travelers.

Arabia forms a triangular peninsula, with its base, nearly a thousand miles long, resting on the Indian Ocean. Its eastern coast is washed by the Persian Gulf and its western coast by the Red Sea.

Arabia as a whole is not a fertile country, but is a high table-land, rising here and there to mountain ranges. In the southwestern portion are tracts of fertile country, and along the slopes of the mountains are rich pastures and cultivated fields. All along the coast are vast stretches of sand, at intervals reaching far inland to where they join the great desert, a wide waste of burning sand.

In the olden time Arabia was divided into three portions, — the rocky, mountainous country on the north; the great central desert; and the fertile land to the south, known as Arabia Felix, meaning the happy country. This last region is now known as Yemen, and is the most favored portion of all Arabia. Here vegetation is abundant, and the date palm yields its rich fruit, which is the staple food for large numbers of the natives. Great quantities of dates are ex

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

ported from Arabia to many countries of the civilized world.

Far beyond all other products in commercial importance is coffee, which is largely cultivated in Yemen. The coffee raised here is of a very superior quality and is called “ Mocha,” the name of the town from which it was formerly exported. This well-known coffee is grown on the highlands of the interior and is brought down to Aden by caravans.

Aden is the principal port of Arabia, and steamers to and from the East enter its harbor. The city and surrounding country are under the rule of Great Britain. From this port Mocha coffee is shipped to Europe and America.

In all parts of our own country the dates and the coffee grown in Arabia are well known and very much liked by our people. Not all the dates sold in our stores are grown in Arabia ; and a small portion only of the coffee we consume comes from that land.

It will interest and surprise you to learn from how many lands these two commercial products are obtained.

Beyond the great central desert of Arabia are sandy stretches, relieved here and there by fertile oases. The large towns are located on these fertile tracts and are the centers of the trade and agriculture of the country. Between the oases are wild, barren wastes of sand, like a sand sea, dividing town from town.

Though Arabia can boast no great rivers nor fertile fields, she can proudly claim to be the original country of those two most important animals, the camel and the horse.

« PreviousContinue »