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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The letters are so big that they can be seen from Kerman


On going through the pass we find ourselves in the centre basin formed by the mountainous crescent, and here we have another deserted settlement smaller than Farmidan, also to all appearance not more than a century old, and directly under the lee of the precipitous rocky mountains. A high building of a rich burnt-sienna colour, with a dome of stone and mortar--the latter said to have been mixed with camel's milk, which gives the mortar greater consistency--is to be seen here. This, too, is supposed to have been a fire temple. Its base is quadrangular, with two tiers of three windows each. A small lateral wall is next to the entrance, but nothing is to be seen in the interior except the bare walls.

East of this, on the face of the cliff and several hundred feet above the valley, one is shown a gigantic inscription, "Ya Ali," in white characters depicted on the rock. The letters are so big that they can be seen from Kerman, about three miles off. This is a pilgrimage well worth making, for they say every wish of those who climb up to the inscription will come true. Two qualities are required--a very steady head and the agility of a monkey. The angle of the rock is very steep,--almost vertical, as can be seen on the left side of the photograph, which I took from the site of the inscription looking down upon the ruined city and the whole Kerman plain. The only way by which,--on all fours,--one can climb up is so worn, greasy and slippery, owing to the many pilgrims who have glided up and down, that it is most difficult to get a grip on the rock.

Yet the going-up is much easier than the coming down. The full-page illustration shows the man who accompanied me just about to reach the inscription,--I took the photograph as I clung to the rock just below him, as can be seen from the distortion of his lower limbs caused by my being unable to select a suitable position from which to take the photograph. We were then clinging to the rock with a drop below us in a straight line of several hundred feet.

We reached the inscription safely enough, and sat on the edge of the precipice--the only place where we could sit--with our legs dangling over it. Screened as we were in deep shadow, we obtained a magnificent bird's-eye view of the Kerman plain, brilliantly lighted by the morning sun, and of the forts to our left (south-west) and the many ruins down below between ourselves and Kerman city. A bed of a stream, now dry, wound its way from these mountains to almost the centre of the plain, where it lost itself in the sand beyond a cluster of ruined buildings. Undoubtedly at some previous time this torrent carried a good volume of water to the village, and this accounts for the deserted settlement being found there.

The letters of the inscription were ten feet high, painted white.

[Illustration: A Steep Rock Climb, Kerman.

Photograph of Guide taken by the Author on reaching the Inscription several hundred feet above the plain.]

The man who had climbed up with me related an amusing incident of the occasion when H. E. the Governor of the city was persuaded to climb to inspect the inscription. Hauled up with the assistance of ropes and servants, he became so nervous when he reached the inscription and looked down upon the precipice below that he offered a huge reward if they took him down again alive. Although otherwise a brave man he was unaccustomed to mountaineering, and owing to the great height, had been seized with vertigo and was absolutely helpless and unable to move. With considerable difficulty he was hauled down and safely conveyed to his palace.


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