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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration Camel Men saying their Prayers at Sunset


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER V

Salt sediments as white as snow--Brilliant stars--Plaintive songs of the camel men--An improvisatore--Unpleasant odour of camels--A large salt deposit--No water and no fuel--A device to protect oneself against great heat--Amazing intelligence of cats--Nature's ways and men's ways--A hot climb--A brilliantly coloured range--Sea shells and huge fossils.

On November 11th at ten o'clock p.m. we gladly left poisonous Lawah and spent the night (November 12th) traversing a mountain region by a flattish and low pass, and then travelling due north entered the actual _Dasht-i-lut_--the sandy Salt Desert, the sediment of surface salt being in some places so thick and white as to resemble snow. Here and there some hillocks of sand relieved the monotony of the dreary journey, otherwise flat sand and surface salt extended as far as the eye could see.

The nights, even when there was no moonlight, were so clear, and the stars and planets so brilliant, that with a little practice one could, for general purposes, see almost as well as by day.

The night was terribly cold, which I felt all the more owing to the fever, as I hung resting my head on the padded pommel of the saddle and my legs and arms dangling at the sides. A howling, cutting wind blew and made it impossible to cover one's self

up with blankets, as they were constantly being blown away, no matter how well one tucked one's self in them.

There was a certain picturesque weirdness in these night marches in the desert--when one could dissociate one's self from the discomforts. The camel men had some sad, plaintive songs of their own--quite melodious and in good tune with the accompaniment of dingling bells hanging from the camels' necks. There was a musician in our party--Ali Murat's young brother--who carried a flute in his girdle during the day, but played upon the instrument the whole night--some doleful tunes of his own composition, which were not bad. True, when one had listened to the same tune, not only scores but hundreds of times during one night, one rather felt the need of a change, but still even the sound of his flute was a great relief in the dreary night marches. Occasionally, when the fancy took him, and he made some variations in the airs, the camel men, who slept while mechanically walking, would join in to sing in a chorus.

Overhead the stars gleamed with a brightness that we can never dream of seeing in Europe, and in the distance we now began to perceive some phantom-like hills rising from the whitish-grey surface of the desert. A good deal of the poetry of the desert is, nevertheless, lost each time that the camel on which you ride breathes. Behold! one is brought to earth very soon! The rancid smell which comes in regular whiffs is sickening. So is the powerful stench of his hump when it gets heated by the pads of the never-removed saddle.

About every two miles a few minutes' rest is given to the camels, then on again they slowly swing forward, the nose of one being attached by a long string to the tail rope of the preceding animal.

[Illustration: Author's Camel Men in their White Felt Coats.]

[Illustration: Camel Men saying their Prayers at Sunset.]


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