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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The inevitable kalian was called for


The road--if one may call it so--was extremely bad and hardly fit for wheeled traffic. After leaving Kum the vegetation ceased, and it was only at Langherut village that a patch of green refreshed the eye.

A few strolling wayfarers crowded round when the carriage stopped to give the horses a rest under the shade of a tree, and Sadek was cross-examined about the Sahib whom he was accompanying. It was quite amusing to hear one's self and one's doings commented upon in the most open manner, regardless of one's personal feelings, which are better discarded altogether while travelling in Persia. There is absolutely nothing private in the land of Iran. One's appearance, one's clothes, the quantity of food one eats, the amount of money one carries, where one comes from and where one goes, whom one knows, one's servants, one's rifles, one's cameras,--everything is remarked upon, as if one were not present. If one possesses no false pride and a sense of humour, a deal of entertainment is thus provided on the road.

Passangun could be perceived in the distance, and a dreary, desolate place it was when one got there. In the way of architecture, we found a large tumbling-down caravanserai, a tea-shop, and the Chappar Khana (the post-house). As to vegetation, thirteen sickly trees, all counted. Barren, uninteresting country surrounded the halting place.

I spent here a pleasant hour while waiting for my luggage to arrive on pack animals. A caravan of some fifty horses and mules had halted at sunset, and a number of pilgrims, with beards dyed bright-red, were making their evening salaams towards Mecca. Having removed shoes and duly washed their feet and hands, they stood erect on the projecting platform of the caravanserai, and after considerable adjusting of caps and head-scratching, assumed a meditative attitude, head bent forward, and muttered prayers with hands down. Then the hands were raised flat before the face, with a bow. Kneeling followed, with hands first resting on the knees, then raised again to cover the face, after which, with the palms of the hands resting flat on the ground, the head was brought down until it touched the ground too. A standing position was further assumed, when the temples were touched with the thumb while prayers were recited, and then the petitioners stooped low and fell a second time on their knees, saying the beads of their rosaries. The forehead was made to touch the ground several times before the evening prayers were over.

Next, food was cooked in the small fire places of the caravanserai, and tea brewed in large quantities. The inevitable kalian was called for, and the caravanserai boy brought out his interesting little arrangement to set charcoal quickly alight for the large cup of the kalian. To a string three feet long, hung a small perforated iron cup, which he filled with charcoal, one tiny bit being already alight. By quickly revolving the contrivance as one would a sling, the draught forced through the apertures in the cup produced quick combustion, and charcoal was at once distributed alight among the kalians of the impatient guests.

Much amusement and excitement was caused among the pilgrims by a fight between a puppy-dog and five or six small goats. Only one of these at a time fought the dog, while the others occupied a high point of vantage on which they had hastily climbed, and from that place of security displayed a keen interest in the fight.


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