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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

For he was keen to know whether camel men


We still followed the dry river bed among hills getting lower and lower for about three miles on either side of us, and at last we entered a vast plain. We went N.N.W. for some twelve miles, when by the side of some low hillocks of sand and pebbles we came upon a caravanserai, and an older and smaller structure, a large covered tank of rain water (almost empty) which is conveyed here from the hills twelve miles off by means of a small canal.

To the S.S.E. we could still see the flat-topped mountain under which we had camped the previous day, and all around us were distant mountains. The flat plain stretching for miles on every side had deep grooves cut into it by water flowing down from the mountain-side during the torrential rains and eventually losing themselves in the sand.

On the English and some of the German maps these dry grooves are marked as large and important rivers, but this is a mistake. There is not a drop of water in any of them at any time of the year except during heavy storms, when the drainage of the mountains is immediately carried down by these channels and lost in the desert. It is no more right to mark these channels as rivers than it would be to see Piccadilly marked on a map of London as a foaming torrent because during a heavy shower the surplus water not absorbed by the wood pavement had run down it half an inch deep until the rain stopped.

To the N.E. we saw much more clearly than the day before the extensive salt deposits at the base of the mountains, and to the N.N.E. a grey mountain with a fluted top. A high mountain mass stretched from the South to the North-West and then there was a wide opening into another flat sandy plain. Far, far beyond this a distant range of high mountains could hardly be distinguished, for a sand-storm was raging in that direction and veiled the view with a curtain of dirty yellowish grey.

This caravanserai, called Haoz Panch (or "Fifth water") altitude 5,050 feet--was built by some charitable person to protect caravans during sand-storms, and also to supply them with water, which was quite drinkable, if one were not too particular, and if one did not look at it. The caravanserai, very solidly built, was left to take care of itself, there being no one in charge of it. The _kilns_ erected to bake the bricks with which the caravanserai had been built, still stood near it.

It is rather curious to notice what effect a drink of fair water has on the temper of one's men. My camel man, Ali Murat, for that was his name, was in high spirits and came to fetch me to show me how he made his bread, for he was keen to know whether camel men(!) in my country made it the same way! I reserved my answer until I had seen his process.

The hands having been carefully washed first, flour and water, with great lumps of salt, were duly mixed together in a bowl until reduced into fairly solid paste. A clean cloth was then spread upon the ground and the paste punched hard upon it with the knuckles, care having been taken to sprinkle some dry flour first so that the paste should not stick to the cloth. When this had gone on for a considerable time the paste was balanced upon the knuckles and brought gaily bounding to where the hot cinders remained from a fire of camel dung which had previously been lighted. The flattened paste was carefully laid upon the hot ashes, with which it was then covered, and left to bake for an hour or so.

When ready, Ali Murat brought me a piece of the bread to try--which I reluctantly did so as not to offend his feelings.


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