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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

CHAPTER XXIV Severe wind Kum

style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER XXIV

Severe wind--Kum, the holy city--Thousands of graves--Conservative Mullahs--Ruin and decay--Leather tanning--The gilt dome--Another extortion--Ingenious bellows--Damovend--The scenery--Passangun--Evening prayers--A contrivance for setting charcoal alight--Putrid water--Post horses--Sin Sin--Mirage--Nassirabad--Villages near Kashan.

On a deserted road, sleepy and shaken, with the wind blowing so hard that it tore and carried away all the cotton curtains of the carriage, I arrived at Kum (3,200 feet above sea level) in the middle of the night. The distance covered between Teheran and Kum was twenty-four farsakhs, or ninety-six miles.

As we approached the holy city there appeared to be a lot of vegetation around, and Sadek and the coachman assured me that this was a region where pomegranates were grown in profusion, and the castor-oil plant, too. Cotton was, moreover, cultivated with success.

Kum is, to my mind, and apart from its holiness, one of the few really picturesque cities of Persia. I caught the first panoramic glimpse of the shrine and mosque at sunrise from the roof of the post house, and was much impressed by its grandeur. Amidst a mass of semi-spherical mud roofs, and beyond long mud walls, rise the gigantic gilded dome of the mosque, two high minarets, and

two shorter ones with most beautifully coloured tiles inlaid upon their walls, the general effect of which is of most delicate greys, blues and greens. Then clusters of fruit trees, numerous little minarets all over the place, and ventilating shafts above the better buildings break the monotony agreeably.

Kum, I need hardly mention, is one of the great pilgrimages of Mahommedans. Happy dies the man or woman whose body will be laid at rest near the sacred shrine, wherein--it is said--lie the remains of Matsuma Fatima. Corpses are conveyed here from all parts of the country. Even kings and royal personages are buried in the immediate neighbourhood of the shrine. Round the city there are thousands of mud graves, which give quite a mournful appearance to the holy city. There are almost as many dead people as living ones in Kum!

Innumerable Mullahs are found here who are very conservative, and who seem to resent the presence of European visitors in the city. Access to the shrine is absolutely forbidden to foreigners.

Immense sums of money are brought daily to the holy city by credulous pilgrims, but no outward signs of a prosperous trade nor of fine streets or handsome private buildings can be detected on inspecting the bazaar or streets of the town. On the contrary, the greater part of the residences are in a hopeless state of decay, and the majority of the inhabitants, to all appearance, little above begging point.

Leather, tanned with the bark of the pomegranate, and cheap pottery are the chief industries of the holy city. On inquiring what becomes of all the wealth that comes into the town, a Persian, with a significant gesture, informed me that the Mullahs get it and with them it remains.

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