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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Stripped and only with a loin cloth


The

college is only some ninety years old. Its courts, its walls, its rooms, its dome, are most beautifully tiled all over, and, strange to say, it is kept in good repair and the gardens are well looked after. There is a handsome lecture-hall, with four strong receptacles high up in the corners of the room, and fret-work at the windows, not unlike Egyptian _musharabeahs_. Four very high ventilating shafts are constructed over the buildings to keep the rooms cool.

"Peace on Abraham" reads an elaborate inscription, quoted from the Koran, but applying in this case, Sirkar Agha's son tells me, to the founder of the institution. There are other inscriptions on the towers and ventilating shafts.

At the time of my visit the number of pupils was two hundred. The adjoining Hammam belonging to the College was, to our astonishment, also shown us. Such baths are underground and are reached by steps or by a slippery incline. These particular ones were very superior and had a beautifully tiled entrance, but the door itself was small and always kept closed. The first room was domed with a fountain playing in the centre and platforms, three feet high all round, on the matting of which lay spread a great many cotton towels, red and blue. The only light came from a centre aperture in the dome. High earthen jugs stood artistically resting against one another, and a few people were dressing or undressing preparatory to taking or after

having taken a bath. This was all that was done in this room.

Through a narrow slippery passage we entered another room, where the steamy heat was considerable. There were small sections round the room divided by a wall, like the cells of a monastery, and in each cell was a tap of cold water. Then we ascended through a small aperture into another and warmer room, spacious enough, but stifling with a sickening acid odour of perspiration and fumes of over-heated human skins. The steam heat was so great that one saw everything in a haze, and one felt one's own pores expand and one's clothes get quite wet with the absorbed damp in the atmosphere over-saturated with moisture.

There were two or three men, stripped and only with a loin cloth, lying down flat on their backs,--one undergoing massage, being thumped all over; another having the hair of his head and beard dyed jet-black. The reason that the Persian hair-dyes are so permanent is principally because the dyeing is done at such a high temperature and in such moist atmosphere which allows the dye to get well into the hair. When the same dyes are used at a normal temperature the results are never so successful. Further, a third man was being cleansed by violent rubbing. He needed it badly; at least, judging by the amount of black stuff that rolled from his skin under the operator's fingers. The attendants, too, barring a loin-cloth, were naked.

With perspiration streaming down my cheeks I took the photographs here reproduced, and then proceeded to a yet hotter small room--as suffocating a place as one may wish to enter in one's lifetime, or after! One received a positive scorching blow in the face as one entered it, the heat was so great. This is the last chamber, and in a corner is a tap of cold water with which the skin is repeatedly rinsed and made to sweat several times until the pores are considered absolutely clean. There were two people lying down in a semi-unconscious state, and although I was only there a few minutes I came out quite limp and rag-like. It ruined my watch, and only by very careful nursing I was able to save my camera from falling to pieces. On returning to the previous hot chamber it seemed quite cool by comparison, and when we emerged again into the open air, thermometer about 90 deg. in the shade, one felt quite chilled.


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