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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

We continued thus for some twelve miles as far as Shamsi


The

abandoned village of Assiabo Gordoneh, now in ruins, tells us a sad story. The village at one time evidently ran short of water. Hundreds of borings can be seen all round it in all directions, but they must have been of no avail. The place had to be forsaken.

The sand dune is here 80 feet high. The space between these two sand dunes--plateau-like--is nicely cultivated in patches where some water has been found.

We arrived in the evening at Biddeh, a very large and most weird place, with habitations partly cut into the high mud banks. The houses were several storeys high. The greater number of buildings, now in ruins, show evidence of the former importance of this place and the wonderful ancient aqueducts with the water carried over a high bridge from one side of a ravine to the other are of great interest. This must have been a prosperous place at one time. The whitish clay soil has been quaintly corroded by the action of water, and one finds curious grottoes and deep, contorted, natural channels. A mosque and several impressive buildings--the adjective only applies when you do not get too near them--stand high up against the cliff side. The whole place is quite picturesque.

The mules go along a narrow lane between walled fields, and then by a steepish ascent among ruined houses and patches of cultivation we reach the summit of the clay dune, on which the newer village of Meiboh

(Maibut)--3,940 feet--is situated.

There is a most beautiful (for Persia) caravanserai here with a delightful domed tank of clear spring water, in which I then and there took a delicious bath, much to the horror of the caravanserai proprietor who assured me--when it was too late--that the tank was no _hammam_ or bath, but was water for drinking purposes. His horror turned into white rage when, moreover, he declared that my soap, which I had used freely, would kill all the fish which he had carefully nursed for years in the tank. We spent most of the evening in watching the state of their health, and eventually it was with some relief that we perceived all the soap float away and the water again become as clear as crystal. To the evident discomfiture of the caravanserai man, when we paid the last visit to the tank at 4 a.m. just previous to my departure, no deaths were to be registered in the tank, and therefore no heavy damages to pay.

There is nothing one misses more than baths while travelling in central and eastern Persia. There is generally hardly sufficient water to drink at the various stages, and it is usually so slimy and bad that, although one does not mind drinking it, because one has to, one really would not dream of bathing or washing in it! Hence my anxiety not to lose my chance of a good plunge at Meiboh.

On leaving Meiboh at 4 a.m. we passed for a considerable distance through land under cultivation, the crop being principally wheat. A large flour-mill was in course of construction at Meiboh. After that we were again travelling on a sandy plain, with thousands of borings for water on all sides, and were advancing mainly to the south-west towards the mountains. We continued thus for some twelve miles as far as Shamsi, another large village with much cultivation around it. After that, there were sand and stones under our mules' hoofs, and a broiling sun over our heads. On both sides the track was screened by mountains and by a low hill range to the north-east.

About eight miles from Shamsi we entered a region of sand hills, the sand accumulations--at least, judging by the formation of the hills--showing the movement of the sand to have been from west to east. This fact was rather curious and contrasted with nearly all the other sand accumulations which we found later in eastern Persia, where the sand moved mostly in a south-westerly direction. No doubt the direction of the wind was here greatly influenced and made to deviate by the barriers of mountains so close at hand.


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