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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Miles of these kanats are thus bored


[Illustration: Making a _Kanat_.]

The palatial rest-house, the governor's palace, a mosque or two, and the convenient bath-houses for Mahommedans being barred, there is nothing particular to detain the traveller in Kasvin.

One hears that Kasvin occupied at one time a larger area than Teheran to-day. The remains of this magnitude are certainly still there. The destruction of the city, they say, has been due to many and varied misfortunes. Earthquakes and famines in particular have played an important part in the history of Kasvin, and they account for the many streets and large buildings in ruins which one finds, such as the remains of the Sufi Palace and the domed mosque. The city dates back to the fourth century, but it was not till the sixteenth century that it became the _Dar-el-Sultanat_--the seat of royalty--under Shah Tamasp. It prospered as the royal city until the time of Shah Abbas, whose wisdom made him foresee the dangers of maintaining a capital too near the Caspian Sea. Isfahan was selected as the future capital, from which time Kasvin, semi-abandoned, began its decline.

In 1870 a famine devastated the town to a considerable extent, but even previous to that a great portion of the place had been left to decay, so that to-day one sees large stretches of ruined houses all round the neighbourhood and in Kasvin itself. The buildings are mostly one-storied, very few indeed boasting of an upper floor. The pleasant impression one receives on entering the city is mostly caused by the quantity of verdure and vegetation all round.

One of the principal things which strike the traveller in Persia, especially on nearing a big city, is the literal myriads of curious conical heaps, with a pit in the centre, that one notices running across the plains in long, interminable rows, generally towards the mountains. These are the _kanats_, the astounding aqueducts with which dried-up Persia is bored in all directions underground, the canals that lead fresh water from the distant springs to the cities, to the villages, and to irrigate the fields. The ancient process of making these _kanats_ has descended unchanged to the modern Persian, who is really a marvellous expert--when he chooses to use his skill--at conveying water where Nature has not provided it. I watched some men making one of these _kanats_. They had bored a vertical hole about three feet in diameter, over which a wooden windlass had been erected. One man was working at the bottom of the shaft. By means of buckets the superfluous earth was gradually raised up to the surface, and the hole bored further. The earth removed in the excavation is then embanked all round the aperture of the shaft. When the required depth is attained a tunnel is pierced, mostly with the hands and a small shovel, in a horizontal direction, and seldom less than four feet high, two feet wide, just big enough to let the workman through. Then another shaft has to be made for ventilation's sake and to raise to the surface the displaced earth. Miles of these _kanats_ are thus bored, with air shafts every ten to twenty feet distant. In many places one sees thirty, forty, fifty parallel long lines of these aqueducts, with several thousand shafts, dotting the surface of the ground.


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