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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration Plan of Kuh i Malek Siah Ziarat


[Illustration:

Plan of Kuh-i-Malek Siah Ziarat.]

To the west of the tomb, between it and the enclosing wall, was a great collection of long sticks and tree branches--which must have been brought here from a great distance--and at their foot offerings of all sorts, such as goat-horns, ropes, leather bags, hair, stones, marble vessels, and numberless pieces of cloth.

In the spring of each year, I am told, the Beluch make a pilgrimage to this Ziarat, and deposit some very quaint little dolls made with much symbolic anatomical detail.

Extending west, in the direction of Mecca, from the main Ziarat, were nine more stone cairns, most of them having a _panache_ of sticks and being divided into sets of three each, with a higher wall in the shape of crescents between. A second wall of round stones protected the north-west side of the Ziarat. Where it met the entrance way into the inner wall there was a much used sacrificial slab where sheep were beheaded.

To the north-east of the Ziarat were a number of cairns, and a small stone shelter in which lived a hermit. This old fanatic came out to greet us with unintelligible howls, carrying his vessel for alms, and a long stick to which a rag was attached. He touched us all on the head with it, which was meant as a blessing, and we gave him some silver pieces, which he said he did not want for himself, but for the Ziarat.

He wore chains like a prisoner. He appeared to be in an advanced stage of idiocy and _abrutissement_, caused by his lonely life in his 5 feet cubic stone cabin among the desolate Malek-Siah mountains.

Having at this place rounded the most westerly point of the Afghan frontier we turned due east on a tortuous but well defined track. At this point began the actual British road, and being from this point under British supervision it was well kept, and made extremely easy for camel and horse traffic.

Three miles from the Ziarat the sand hills began to get smaller and smaller to the west, but still remained high to the east. One was particularly struck by the peculiar formation of the mountains. To the west they formed a continuous rugged, irregularly topped chain, with sharp pointed peaks, whereas to the east we had isolated, single domed hills all well rounded and smooth.

Where the track turns sharply south-east we entered a vast basin with picturesque high mountains to the south and north, and a series of single well-rounded mounds in front of them, rising from one to two thousand feet above the plain.

On nearing Robat one finds the scenery plainly illustrating the entire evolution of a small sand hill into a high mountain. We have the tiny mounds of sand, only a few inches high, clogged round tamarisk shrubs, then further higher and higher mounds, until they spread out so far that two, three, or more blend together, forming a low bank, and then banks increase to high dunes 40 feet, 50 feet, 100 feet high. These grow higher and higher still; the sand below is compressed by the weight above; water exercises its petrifying influence from the base upward, and from the centre outward, and more sand accumulates on the upper surface until they become actual hill ranges of a compact shale-like formation in horizontal strata, each stratum being slightly less hardened than the underlying, and each showing plainly defined the actions of water and sun to which they were exposed when uppermost. Then, above these hills, further accumulations have formed, which solidifying in turn have in the course of centuries become high mountains. They have, however, never lost the characteristics of the little primary accumulation against the humble tamarisk, to which they still bear, on a large scale, the closest resemblance.


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