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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

To the north we have a long line of kanats


Some

two farsakhs from Isfahan we went through a passage where the hills nearly meet, after which we entered a flat plain, barren and ugly. In the distance to the south-east lay a line of blackish trees, and another in front of us in the direction we were travelling, due east. Then we saw another bunch of pigeon towers.

Leaving behind the hills nearer to us to the north-west, west, and south-west, and the more distant and most fantastically shaped range to the south, my mules gradually descend into the plain. For an angle of 40 deg. from east to S.S.E. no hills are visible to the naked eye, but there is a long range of comparatively low hills encircling us from N.N.W. to S.S.E. and N.E. of the observer, the highest points being at 80 deg. (almost N.E.E.). To the north we have a long line of _kanats_.

Following the drunken row of telegraph poles we arrive at Gullahbad (Gulnabad)--a village in ruins. From this point for some distance the soil is covered with a deposit of salt, giving the appearance of a snow-clad landscape, in sharp contrast with the terrific heat prevailing at the time. This road is impassable during the rainy weather. As one nears the hills to the N.E. tufts of grass of an anaemic green cover the ground (altitude 5,250 feet).

Under a scorching sun we reached Saigsi (8 farsakhs from Isfahan) at six o'clock in the afternoon, and put up in the large caravanserai with

two rooms up stairs and ten down below around the courtyard. The difference in the behaviour of the natives upon roads on which Europeans do not frequently travel could be detected at once here. One met with the greatest civility and simplicity of manner and, above all, honesty, which one seldom finds where European visitors are more common.

There are few countries where the facial types vary more than in Persia. The individuals of nearly each town, each village, have peculiar characteristics of their own. At Saigsi, for instance, only 32 miles from Isfahan, we find an absolutely different type of head, with abnormally large mouth and widely-expanded nostrils, the eyes wide apart, and the brow overhanging. The latter may be caused by the constant brilliant refraction of the white soil in the glare of the sun (altitude of Saigsi 5,100 feet).

About four miles east of Saigsi and north of the track we come across five curious parallel lines of mud-heaps or dunes stretching from north to south. Each of these heaps is precisely where there is a gap in the mountain range to the north of it, and each has the appearance of having been gradually deposited there by a current passing through these gaps when the whole of this plain was the sea-bottom. These mud heaps are flat-topped and vary from 20 to 40 feet in height, the central row of all being the highest of the series. This is a grand place for wonderful effects of mirage all round us. To the W. spreads a beautiful lake in the depression of the plain--as complete an optical deception as it is possible to conceive, for in reality there is no lake at all.

Water is not at all plentiful here. One finds a reservoir made for caravans along this track. It is a tank 25 feet by 10 feet sunk deep into the ground and roofed over with a vault. The water is sent to it by means of a channel from the small village of Vartan north of it.

We gradually rise to 5,550 feet and again we have before us another beautiful effect of mirage in the shape of a magnificent lake with a village and cluster of trees apparently suspended in the air. My caravan man assures me that the village, which appears quite close by, is many miles off.

Long rows of _kanats_, ancient and modern, to the south-east warn us of the approach of a small town, and on the road plenty of skeletons of camels, donkeys, and mules may be seen. Fodder is very scarce upon this track, and many animals have to die of starvation. Also animals caught here during the rains cannot proceed in the sinking soft ground, and eventually die.


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