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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The Persian is a dreamer by nature


it must not be understood that Persians do not care for money. There is, on the contrary, hardly a race of people on the face of the earth with whom the greed for money is developed to such an abnormal extent as in all classes in the land of Iran! But, you will ask, how can money be procured or increased fast and without trouble in a country where there is no commercial enterprise, where labour is interfered with, where capital cannot have a free outlet or investment? An opening has to be found in illicit ways of procuring wealth, and the most common form adopted is the loan of money at high interest on ample security. As much as 50 per cent., 80 per cent., 100 per cent. and even more is demanded and obtained as interest on private loans, 15 per cent. being the very lowest and deemed most reasonable indeed! (This does not apply to foreign banks.) All this may seem strange in a Mussulman country, where it is against all the laws of the Koran to lend money at usury, and it is more strange still to find that the principal offenders are the Mullahs themselves, who reap large profits from such illegal financial operations.

The Persian is a dreamer by nature; he cannot be said to be absolutely lazy, for he is always absorbed in deep thought--what the thoughts are it does not do to analyse too closely--but he devotes so much time to thinking that he seldom can do anything else. His mind--like the minds of all people unaccustomed to hard work and steady,

solidly-built enterprise--runs to the fantastic, and he ever expects immense returns for doing nothing. The returns, if any, and no matter how large they may be, are ever too small to satisfy his expectations.

As for time, there is no country where it is worth less than to the natives of Persia. The _manana_ of the Spaniards sinks into perfect insignificance when compared with the habits of the land of Iran. Punctuality is unknown--especially in payments, for a Persian must take time to reflect over everything. He cannot be hurried. A three months' limit of credit--or even six months--seems outrageously short in the eyes of Persians. Twelve months and eighteen, twenty, or twenty-four months suit him better, but even then he is never ready to pay, unless under great pressure. He does disburse the money in the end, capital and interest, but why people should worry over time, and why it should matter whether payment occurs to-day or to-morrow are quite beyond him.

If he does transact business, days are wasted in useless talk and compliments before the subject with which he intends to deal is incidentally approached in conversation, and then more hours and days and weeks, even months have to elapse before he can make up his mind what to do. Our haste, and what we consider smartness in business, are looked upon by the Persian as quite an acute form of lunacy,--and really, when one is thrown much in contact with such delightful placidity, almost torpor, and looks back upon one's hard race for a living and one's struggle and competition in every department, one almost begins to fancy that we are lunatics after all!

[Illustration: The Arrival of a Caravan of Silver at the Imperial Bank of Persia.]

The Persian must have his hours for praying, his hours for ablutions, more hours for meditation, and the rest for sleep and food. Whether you hasten or not, he thinks, you will only live the number of years that God wills for you, and you will live those years in the way that He has destined for you. Each day will be no longer and no shorter, your life no sadder and no happier. Why then hurry?

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