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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration The Nushki Robat Track


Merchants

despatching goods to Persia by the Nushki-route should be careful to have each of the original invoices of their goods attested by some qualified officer at the place from which the goods are despatched. By doing this they will find that their goods will be passed through the Persian Customs at the frontier with no trouble and no delay. The invoices should be clearly written in the English or French languages.

The number of travellers along the Nushki-Sistan route is gradually increasing, several officers returning to England travelling by it; but I was assured that I was the first European who had travelled on that route in the opposite direction, viz, from England to Quetta.

Only British subjects and Persians, it is stated, are allowed to travel on this route, and some quaint instances of inconceivable official formality on the part of the Government of India are cited. For instance, a German was allowed to travel by the route from Quetta to Sistan, but another German who wished at the same time to travel from Sistan to Quetta was arrested at the frontier, detained some two months in Sistan, and permission refused.

I myself had quite an amusing experience at a certain station with a travelling police officer, who was not aware of my coming, and seemed in a great state of mind, fearing that I should prove to be a Russian spy!

[Illustration:

The Nushki-Robat Track.]

The only thing to be regretted along this route, and one which I think will be a perpetual cause of friction and annoyance with the Persians and Russians--as I am sure it would be to us were we in their case--is that we should allow pilgrims to use this trade route in order to visit the sacred shrine of Imam Raza in Meshed. The number is so fast increasing that it is proposed, I believe, to provide special accommodation for pilgrims at every stage between Quetta and Robat.

Now, there are pilgrims and pilgrims. Some are no doubt well-to-do people and deserve to be looked after; but the greater number are decrepit, sickly fanatics, burdened with all sorts of ailments, whose wish it is to go and die and be buried in the vicinity of the sacred shrine. Furthermore, not only do the living ones go and breathe their last in Meshed (or more frequently upon the road), but among their personal luggage they try to bring over corpses of relations for interment in the holy burial place. The passage of corpses to Persia through Beluchistan is not permitted by the local government, but occasional attempts are made to smuggle them through, and it is not a very easy matter to detect them, not even by the smell of the corpses, which can be no worse than that of the living pilgrims. Even at best these parties of pilgrims are a miserable, half-decomposed lot, with bundles of filthy rags. When anybody dies on the road, attempts--generally successful--are invariably made to bring the bodies along.

That we have had, and still have, the plague in India is a matter we cannot very well hide; that the passage across the Beluchistan and Persian deserts should be a sufficient disinfectant as far as individuals go is also theoretically probable; but I am not certain that the theory would apply to the filthy rags and bedding. I would not speak so feelingly had I not seen these pilgrims myself.


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