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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

They are mostly along the Shela river banks


[Illustration:

A Caravan of Donkeys in Afghanistan.]

North of Kirtaka was a very pointed high conical hill, and not far from it a small replica of Fujisan in Japan, so much were the lines like those of the Japanese mountain. A great many of the drain channels from the mountains to the south extended very far into the desert and some as far as the God-i-Zirreh.

It is also very probable that in the days when Sistan was a most populous region, with uninterrupted towns and villages along and near the Halmund, numerous canals may have intersected the Zirreh region and rendered it a very fertile plain. History would indeed point forcibly towards such a hypothesis. Ample proof that the plain was inhabited still remains in the ruins of Godar-i-Chah, situated at the western limit of the Zirreh salt deposits, Chah-i-Mardan, where a ruined fort and a Ziarat are said to exist, Gumbaz-i-Chah, and others. All these places are now deserted and are being fast buried by the sand. They are mostly along the Shela (river) banks, and the natives of Sistan say that they have heard from their ancestors that when the Shela did flow freely its water was quite drinkable.

There was a well at Godar-i-Chah--hence its name, "the well of Godar"--almost entirely dried up and of water so foul that it was not possible to drink it, and another just as bad was said to exist at Gumbaz.

It would

be most interesting if one could get at the actual history of this part of the world and gain an insight into its former prosperity and civilisation. It is quite probable that Alexander, in his progress through Beluchistan and Sistan, must have come through this country. No army--not even with a new Craterus at its head--could, of course, march elephants, camels and horses through that country to-day, and this has led some critics to doubt that Alexander could have done so, or to believe that, if he did so, he must have been deceived by his guides who tried to bring him as far as possible from water. But those critics forget that in Alexander's days this portion of country was extremely civilised, fertile, and supplied with plenty of water--or else how can we account for the innumerable ruins we find there, and for the many canals for irrigation?

Sir Charles McGregor, Goldsmid, Bellew, Major MacMahon, Napier, and one or two others who have visited the country north of the Zirreh, can fully testify to the amazing remains of former prosperity in Sistan and south-west Afghanistan.

Sir Charles McGregor gives an amusing receipt for those who wish to know what the water at Godar-i-Chah is like without having the trouble of going there. "Take the first nasty-looking water you can find. Mix salt with it until it tastes as nasty as it looks, then impregnate it with gas from a London street lamp, and add a little bilge-water, shake vigorously and it is ready for use." Major McMahon also testifies to the accuracy of the above receipt, but, he adds, "it was not nearly so bad as much we found elsewhere."


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