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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

When driving one day in the environs of Teheran


The

Shah's stables are considered a very safe sanctuary. Houses of Europeans, or Europeans themselves, were formerly considered sanctuaries, but the habit has--fortunately for the residents--fallen into disuse. I myself, when driving one day in the environs of Teheran, saw a horseman leading a man whose neck was tied to a substantial rope. Much to my surprise, when near enough, the prisoner jumped into my carriage, and it was only after some persuasion on my side and a few pulls at the rope from the rider at the other end that the unwelcome companion was made to dismount again.

[Illustration: The Murderer of Nasr-ed-din Shah.]

When in the company of high Mullahs evil characters are also inviolable.

The largest square in Teheran is the Top Meidan or "Cannon plain," where several small and antiquated pieces of artillery are enclosed in a fence. Two parallel avenues with trees cross the rectangular square at its longest side from north to south. In the centre is a large covered reservoir. The offices of both the Persian and Indo-European Telegraphs are in this square, and also the very handsome building of the Bank of Persia.

The square is quite imposing at first sight, having on two sides uniform buildings with long balconies. The _lunettes_ of the archways underneath have each a picture of a gun, and on approaching the southern gates of the parallelogram

a smile is provoked by the gigantic but crude, almost childish representations of modern soldiers on glazed tiles. To the west is the extensive drill ground for the Persian troops. Another important artery of Teheran runs from east to west across the same square.

One cannot but be interested on perceiving along the main thoroughfares of Teheran a service of horse tramways working quite steadily. But the rolling stock is not particularly inviting outwardly--much less inwardly. It is mostly for the use of natives and Armenians, and the carriages are very dirty. The horses, however, are good. The Tramway Company in the hands of Russian Jews, I believe, but managed by an Englishman and various foreigners--subalterns--was doing pretty fair business, and jointly with the tramways had established a capital service of "Voitures de remise," which avoided all the trouble and unpleasantness of employing street cabs. The carriages, mostly victorias, were quite good and clean.

Among other foreign things, Teheran can also boast of a railway--a mere steam tramway, in reality--of very narrow gauge and extending for some six miles south of the city to the shrine of Shah Abdul Hazim.

The construction of even so short and unimportant a line met with a great deal of opposition, especially from the priestly class, when it was first started in 1886 by a Belgian company--"La Societe des Chemins de Fer et des Tramways de Perse." The trains began to run two years later, in 1888, and it was believed that the enormous crowds of pilgrims who daily visited the holy shrine would avail themselves of the convenience. Huge profits were expected, but unluckily the four or five engines that were imported at an excessive cost, and the difficulties encountered in laying down the line, which was continually being torn up by fanatics, and, most of all, the difficulty experienced in inducing pilgrims to travel in sufficient numbers by the line instead of on horses, mules or donkeys were unexpected and insoluble problems which the managers had to face, and which made the shareholders grumble. The expenses far exceeded the profits, and the capital employed in the construction of the line was already vastly larger than had been anticipated. One fine day, furthermore, a much-envied and respected pilgrim, who had returned in holiness from the famous shrine of Kerbalah, was unhappily run over and killed by a train. The Mullahs made capital of this accident and preached vengeance upon foreign importations, the work of the devil and distasteful to Allah the great. The railway was mobbed and the engine and carriages became a mass of debris.


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