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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The dunes were about 200 yards apart


To

the east some miles off were Dolehtabad (village), then Tuti and Sakawa, near Lutok.

South-east before us, and stretching for several miles, a flat-topped plateau rose to no very great height above the horizon, otherwise everything was flat and uninteresting all around us. Some very curious walls of black mud mixed with organic matter, built to shelter sheep from the fierce north winds while proceeding from one village to another, can be seen in the _lut_. These black dashes on the white expanse of salt and sand have about the same effect on the picturesqueness of the scenery as coarse scrawls with a blunt pen on a fine page of calligraphy. You see them here and there, scattered about, all facing north, like so many black dashes in the otherwise delicate tones of grey and white of the soil.

When we had gone some miles on this flat, hard stretch of ground, where the heat was terrible, we had to make a detour round a large marsh. Then beyond it stood five parallel banks of sand, 25 feet high, with horizontal layers of half-formed stone up to half the height of the dunes. The dunes were about 200 yards apart.

In the afternoon we arrived at Warmal, where water seemed plentiful and good. Here too, as in the centre of most villages and towns of Persia, a pond of stagnant filthy water could be seen. The pond at Warmal was of unusually ample proportions and extended through the whole

length of the village, which was built on both sides of this dirty pond. Numerous canals branched off from this main reservoir, and in fact, had one had a little imagination, one might have named this place the Venice of Sistan. At sunset swarms of mosquitoes rose buzzing from the putrid water, but from a picturesque point of view the effect of the buildings reflected in the yellow-greenish water was quite pretty.

To facilitate transit from one side of the village to the other, a primitive bridge of earth had been constructed across the pond, but as the central portion of it was under water it was necessary to remove one's foot-gear in order to make use of the convenience.

Characteristic of Warmal were the quaint balconies or terraces, in shape either quadrangular or rectangular, that were attached to or in close proximity of each house. They were raised platforms of mud from 2 to 4 feet above the ground, with a balustrade of sun-burnt bricks. On these terraces the natives seek refuge during the summer nights to avoid being suffocated by the stifling heat inside their houses.

A difference in the construction and architecture of some of the roofs of the houses could be noted here. The roofs were oblong instead of perfectly circular, and when one examined how the bricks were laid it seemed extraordinary that the vaults stood up at all. These were the only roofs in Persia I had seen constructed on this particular principle.

The bricks were laid round the vaults for two-thirds of the roof at an angle of 45 deg. and the other third in a vertical position. There was the usual upper central aperture and occasionally one or two side ones.

The natives were very civil and obliging, and as usual they all crowded round to converse.

"Sahib," said one old man, "you must come to settle here."

"Why should I settle here?"

"It is very cheap to build houses at Warmal."

"How much does it cost to build a house?"


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