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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration The Quivering Minarets near Isfahan


The

minarets are not very high, some thirty-five feet above the roof of the Mesjid, or about seventy-five feet from the ground. The whole structure, of bricks and mud, is--barring the dangerous crack--still in good preservation. On the outside, the minarets are tiled in a graceful, geometrical transverse pattern of dark and light blue.

A visit to the sacred shrine of the quivering minarets has miraculous powers--say the Persians--of curing all diseases or protecting one against them, hence the pilgrimage of a great number of natives afflicted with all sorts of complaints. Beggars in swarms are at the entrance waiting, like hungry mosquitoes, to pounce upon the casual visitor or customary pleasure-seeker of Isfahan, for whom this spot is a favourite resort.

CHAPTER XXXIII

Isfahan the commercial heart of Persia--Dangers of maps in argument--Bandar Abbas--The possibility of a Russian railway to Bandar Abbas--Bandar Abbas as a harbour--The caravan road to Bandar Abbas--Rates of transport--Trade--British and Russian influence--Shipping--A Russian line of steamers--Customs under Belgian officials--Lingah--Its exports and imports.

Isfahan is for England the most important city, politically and commercially, in Western Persia. It is the central point from which roads radiate to all parts

of the Shah's Empire. It is the commercial heart, as it were, of Persia, and the future preponderance of Russian or British influence in Isfahan will settle the balance in favour of one or the other of the two countries and the eventual preponderance in the whole of Western Iran.

Khorassan and Sistan stand on quite a different footing, being severed from the West by the great Salt Desert, and must be set apart for the moment and dealt with specially.

[Illustration: The Quivering Minarets near Isfahan.]

A reliable map ought to be consulted in order to understand the question properly, but it should be remembered that it is ever dangerous to base arguments on maps alone in discussing either political or commercial matters. Worse still is the case when astoundingly incorrect maps such as are generally manufactured in England are in the hands of people unfamiliar with the real topography and resources of a country.

To those who have travelled it is quite extraordinary what an appalling mass of nonsensical rubbish can be supplied to the public by politicians, by newspaper penny-a-liners, and by home royal geographo-parasites at large, who base their arguments on such unsteady foundation. It is quite sufficient for some people to open an atlas and place their fingers on a surface of cobalt blue paint in order to select strategical harbours, point out roads upon which foreign armies can invade India, trade routes which ought to be adopted in preference to others, and so on, regardless of sea-depth, currents, winds, shelter, and climatic conditions. In the case of roads for invading armies, such small trifles as hundreds of miles of desert, impassable mountain ranges, lack of water, and no fuel, are never considered! These are only small trifles that do not signify--as they are not marked on the maps--the special fancy of the cartographer for larger or smaller type in the nomenclature making cities and villages more or less important to the student, or the excess of ink upon one river course rather than another, according to the cartographer's humour, making that river quite navigable, notwithstanding that in reality there may not be a river nor a city nor village at all. We have flaming examples of this in our Government maps of Persia.


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