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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Mounted Consulate ghulams preceding and following me


It

is very difficult, under such circumstances, to stop any length of time at any particular spot to study the shops, the shop-people, and the buyers, for instead of being an unobserved spectator, one is at all times the principal actor in the scene and the centre of attention, and therefore a most disturbing element in the crowd.

There are so many complicated and tiresome formalities to be adhered to in order to avoid offending the natives, or the officials, or the susceptibilities of foreign residents, who seem to feel responsible for the doings of every traveller--and who, at all events, remain to suffer for the untactful deeds of some of them,--and there are so many things one must not do for fear of destroying the prestige of one's country, that, really, if one possesses a simple and practical mind, one gets rather tired of Persian town life, with its exaggerated ties, its empty outward show and pomp and absolute lack of more modest aims which, after all, make real happiness in life.

[Illustration: The Square, Isfahan.]

As for European ladies it is considered most improper to be seen with uncovered faces in the bazaar. In fact, walking anywhere in the town they are generally exposed to insult.

I once took a walk through the various bazaars, but the second time, at our Consul's recommendation, was advised to ride in state, with gold-braided,

mounted Consulate ghulams preceding and following me, while I myself rode a magnificent stallion presented by Zil-es-Sultan to our Consul. The horse had not been ridden for some time and was slightly fresh. The place to which we directed our animals was the brass bazaar, the most crowded and diabolically noisy place in the Shah's dominions.

The sudden change from the brilliant light of the sun to the pitch darkness of the vaulted bazaar, affected one's sight, and it was some few seconds before one could distinguish anything, although one could hear the buzzing noise of an excited crowd, and the cries of the ghulams ordering the people to make room for the cavalcade.

In nearly all bazaars of the principal cities of Persia a very good custom prevails. One or more streets are devoted entirely to the same article, so that the buyer may conveniently make comparisons, and the various merchants are also kept up to the mark by the salutary competition close at hand thus rendered unavoidable. A Persian does not go to a shop to buy anything without going to every other shop in the bazaar to ask whether he can get a similar article better and cheaper. Such a convenience as fixed prices, alike for all, does not exist in the Persian bazaar, and prices are generally on the ascending or descending scale, according to the merchant's estimate of his customer's wealth. It is looked upon as a right and a duty to extort from a rich man the maximum of profit, whereas from a poor fellow a few shais benefit are deemed sufficient.

To buy anything at all in the bazaar involves great loss of time--and patience,--excessive consumption of tea plus the essential kalian-smoking. Two or three or more visits are paid to the stall by Persian buyers before they can come to an agreement with the merchant, and when the goods are delivered it is the merchant's turn to pay endless visits to his customer's house before he can obtain payment for them. Long credit is generally given by merchants to people known to them. There is comparatively little ready money business done except in the cheapest goods.


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