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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

And is the chief Russian import into Ghilan


One

is struck by the great number of shoe shops in the bazaar, displaying true Persian shoes with pointed turned-up toes,--then by the brass and copper vessel shops, the ancient and extremely graceful shapes of the vessels and amphoras being to this date faithfully preserved and reproduced. More pleasing still to the eye are the fruit shops, with huge trays of water-melons, cucumbers, figs, and heaps of grapes. The latter are, nevertheless, not so very tasty to the palate and do not compare with the delicate flavour of the Italian or Spanish grapes.

Somewhat incongruous and out-of-place, yet more numerous than truly Persian shops, are the semi-European stores, with cheap glass windows displaying inside highly dangerous-looking kerosene lamps, badly put together tin goods, soiled enamel tumblers and plates, silvered glass balls for ceiling decoration, and the vilest oleographs that the human mind can devise, only matched by the vileness of the frames. Small looking-glasses play an important part in these displays, and occasionally a hand sewing-machine. Tinned provisions, wine and liquor shops are numerous, but unfortunate is the man who may have to depend upon them for his food. The goods are the remnants of the oldest stocks that have gradually drifted, unsold, down to Baku, and have eventually been shipped over for the Persian market where people do not know any better. Resht is the chief city in the Ghilan province.

Ghilan's

trade in piece-goods is about two-thirds in the hands of Russia, while one-third (or even less) is still retained by England,--Manchester goods. This cannot well be helped, for there is no direct route from Great Britain to Resht, and all British goods must come through Bagdad, Tabriz, or Baku. The two first routes carry most of the trade, which consists principally of shirtings, prints, cambrics, mulls, nainsooks, and Turkey-reds, which are usually put down as of Turkish origin, whereas in reality they come from Manchester, and are merely re-exported, mainly from Constantinople, by native firms either in direct traffic or in exchange for goods received.

One has heard a great deal of the enormous increase in trade in Persia during the last couple of years or so. The increase has not been in the trade itself, but in the collection of Customs dues, which is now done in a regular and business like fashion by competent Belgian officials, instead of by natives, to whom the various collecting stations were formerly farmed out.

It will not be very easy for the British trader to compete successfully with the Russian in northern Persia, for that country, being geographically in such close proximity, can transport her cheaply made goods at a very low cost into Iran. Also the Russian Government allows enormous advantages to her own traders with Persia in order to secure the Persian market, and to develop her fast-increasing industrial progress,--advantages which British traders do not enjoy. Still, considering all the difficulties British trade has to contend with in order to penetrate, particularly into Ghilan, it is extraordinary how some articles, like white Manchester shirtings, enjoy practically a monopoly, being of a better quality than similar goods sent by Russia, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Italy or Holland.

Loaf sugar, which came at one time almost entirely from France, has been cut out by Russian sugar, which is imported in large quantities and eventually finds its way all over Persia. It is of inferior quality, but very much cheaper than sugar of French manufacture, and is the chief Russian import into Ghilan.


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