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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

And at the two most delightful minarets


The

swordmaker and gunsmith displays many daggers and blades of local make and a great number of obsolete Belgian and Russian revolvers; also a good many Martini and Snider rifles, which have found their way here from India. Occasionally a good modern pistol or gun is to be seen. Good rifles or revolvers find a prompt sale in Persia at enormous figures. Nearly every man in the country carries a rifle. Had I chosen, I could have sold my rifles and revolvers twenty times over when in Persia, the sums offered me for them being two or three times what I had paid for them myself. But my rifles had been very faithful companions to me; one, a 256. Mannlicher, had been twice in Tibet; the other, a 30.30 take-down Winchester, had accompanied me through the Chinese campaign, and I would accept no sum for them.

One is carried back a few score of years on seeing the old rings for carrying gun-caps, and also gunpowder flasks, and even old picturesque flintlocks and matchlocks; but still, taking things all round, it is rather interesting to note that there is a considerable number of men in Iran who are well-armed with serviceable cartridge rifles, which they can use with accuracy. Cartridge rifles are at a great premium, and although their importation is not allowed, they have found their way in considerable quantities from all sides, but principally, they tell me, from India, _via_ the Gulf.

One of the notes of the bazaar is

that in almost every shop one sees a cage or two with humming-birds. In the morning and evening a male member of the family takes the cage and birds out for a walk in the air and sun, for the dulness and darkness of the bazaar, although considered sufficiently good for Persians themselves, is not regarded conducive to sound health and happiness for their pets.

CHAPTER XXXII

The Grand Avenue of Isfahan--The Madrassah--Silver gates--The dome--The Palace--The hall of forty columns--Ornamentations--The picture hall--Interesting paintings--Their artistic merit--Nasr-ed-din Shah's portrait--The ceiling--The quivering minarets.

The grand Avenue of Isfahan, much worn and out of repair, and having several lines of trees along its entire length of half a mile or so down to the river, is one of the sights of the ancient capital of Persia.

About half-way down the Avenue the famous Madrassah is to be found. It has a massive, handsome silver gate, in a somewhat dilapidated condition at present, and showing evident marks of thieving enterprise. At the entrance stand fluted, tiled columns, with alabaster bases, in the shape of vases some ten feet in height, while a frieze of beautiful blue tiles with inscriptions from the Koran, and other ornamentations, are to be admired, even in their mutilated condition, on tiles now sadly tumbling down.

So much for the exterior. Inside, the place bears ample testimony to former grandeur and splendour, but at present hopeless decay is rampant here as everywhere else in Persia. The Madrassah is attributed to Shah Sultan Hussein, the founder of the Shrine at Kum, and some magnificent bits of this great work yet remain. One can gaze at the beautiful dome, of a superb delicate greenish tint, surmounted by a huge knob supposed to be of solid gold, and at the two most delightful minarets, full of grace in their lines and delicately refined in colour, with lattice work at their summit.


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