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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Particularly in the neighbourhood of Isfahan


Two days later I departed for Yezd. There is no high road between the two cities; only a mere track. No postal service and relays of horses are stationed on the track, but, by giving notice some days previous to one's departure, horses can be sent out ahead from Isfahan to various stages of the journey, until the Kashan-Nain-Yezd road is met, on which post horses can again be obtained at the Chappar Khanas. This, however, involved so much uncertainty and exorbitant expense that I preferred to make up my own caravan of mules, the first part of the journey being rather hilly.

On leaving Isfahan there are mountains to the south, the Urchin range, and also to the east, very rugged and with sharply defined edges. To the north-east stand distant elevations, but nothing can be seen due north. We go through a great many ruins on leaving the city, and here, too, as in other cities of Persia, one is once more struck by the unimportant appearance of the city from a little distance off. The green dome of the Mosque, and four minarets are seen rising on the north-east, five more slender minarets like factory chimneys--one extremely high--then everything else the colour of mud.

The traffic near the city is great. Hundreds of donkeys and mules toddle along both towards and away from the city gate. The dust is appalling. There is nothing more tantalizing than the long stretches of uninteresting country to be traversed in Persia, where, much as one tries, there is nothing to rest one's eye upon; so it is with great relief--almost joy--that we come now to something new in the scenery, in the shape of architecture--a great number of most peculiar towers.

[Illustration: Agriculture and Pigeon Towers near Isfahan.]

These are the pigeon towers--a great institution in Central Persia. They are cylindrical in shape, with castellated top, and are solidly built with massive walls. They stand no less than thirty to forty feet in height, and possess a central well in which the guano is collected--the object for which the towers are erected. A quadrangular house on the top, and innumerable small cells, where pigeons lay their eggs and breed their young, are constructed all round the tower. These towers are quite formidable looking structures, and are so numerous, particularly in the neighbourhood of Isfahan, as to give the country quite a strongly fortified appearance. The guano is removed once a year. After passing Khorasgun, at Ghiavaz--a small village--one could count as many as twenty-four of these pigeon houses.

Some amusement could be got from the way the Persian telegraph line had been laid between Isfahan and Yezd, _via_ Nain. There were no two poles of the same height or shape; some were five or six feet long, others ten or fifteen;--some were straight, some crooked; some of most irregular knobby shapes. As to the wire, when it did happen to be supported on the pole it was not fastened to an insulator, as one would expect, but merely rested on a nail, or in an indentation in the wood. For hundreds of yards at a time the wire lay on the ground, and the poles rested by its side or across it. Telegrams sent by these Persian lines, I was told, take several days to reach their destination, if they ever do reach at all; and are usually entrusted for conveyance, not to the wire, but to caravan men happening to travel in that particular direction, or to messengers specially despatched from one city to the other.


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