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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Our last halt before reaching Yezd

There were numerous villages, large and small, on both sides of the track. Hodjatabad, our last halt before reaching Yezd, only sixteen miles further, had a handsome caravanserai, the porch of which was vaulted over the high road. It was comparatively clean, and had spacious stabling for animals. Delicious grapes were to be obtained here, and much of the country had been cleared of the sand deposit and its fertile soil cultivated.

Fuel was very expensive in Persia. At the entrance of nearly every caravanserai was displayed a large clumsy wooden scale, upon which wood was weighed for sale to travellers, and also, of course, barley and fodder for one's animals. The weights were generally round stones of various sizes.

Jaffarabad, a very large and prosperous place, stood about one mile to the north-west of the caravanserai, and had vegetation and many trees near it; this was also the case with the other village of Medjamed, which had innumerable fields round it.

Firuzabad came next as we proceeded towards Yezd, and then, after progressing very slowly,--we sank deep in sand for several miles--we perceived upon a rugged hill a large round white "tower of silence," which had been erected there by the Guebres (or Parsees) for the disposal of their dead. We skirted the mud wall of Elawad--where the women's dress was in shape not unlike that of Turkish women, and consisted of ample, highly-coloured trousers and short zouave jacket. The men resembled Afghans.

I here came across the first running camel I had seen in Persia, and on it was mounted a picturesque rider, who had slung to his saddle a sword, a gun, and two pistols, while round his waistband a dagger, a powder-flask, bullet pouch, cap carrier, and various such other warlike implements hung gracefully in the bright light of the sun. A few yards further we came upon a ghastly sight--a split camel. The poor obstinate beast had refused to cross a narrow stream by the bridge, and had got instead on the slippery mud near the water edge. His long clumsy hind-legs had slipped with a sudden _ecart_ that had torn his body ripped open. The camel was being killed as we passed, and its piercing cries and moans were too pitiful for words.

The mountain on which the huge tower of silence has been erected--by permission of Zil-es-Sultan, I was told--is quadrangular with a long, narrow, flat-topped platform on the summit. The best view of it is obtained from the south. Sadek told me in all seriousness from information received from the natives, that the bodies are placed in these towers in a sitting position with a stick under the chin to support them erect. When crows come in swarms to pick away at the body, if the right eye is plucked out first by a plundering bird, it is said to be a sure sign that the ex-soul of the body will go to heaven. If the left eye is picked at first, then a warmer climate is in store for the soul of the dead.

After leaving behind the Guebre tower we come again upon thousands of borings for water, and ancient _kanats_, now dry and unused. The country grows less sandy about eight miles from Yezd, and we have now gradually ascended some 320 feet from the village of Meiboh (Maibut) to an altitude of 4,230 feet. Here we altogether miss the flourishing cultivation which lined the track as far as the Guebre tower, and cannot detect a single blade of grass or natural vegetation of any kind on any side. There are high mountains to the south-west and east.

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