A Year Amongst the Persians: From Tabriz to Teheran



ON Monday, 7th November, bidding farewell to our kind host, we quitted Tabriz as we had entered it, with Farach's animals, which we had decided to re-engage at sixty-five krans a head (nearly 2 pounds sterling) for our journey to the capital. Contrary to the general rule, we managed to begin our journey with a good long stage of eight farsakhs.* We passed nothing of interest except a large sheet of water, lying to the north of the road, on which were multitudes of water-fowl; and, as we had made a late start, it was more than an hour after sundown when we reached Haji-Aka, where we halted for the night.

      Next day we were joined on the road by a horseman of respectable appearance, who accompanied us on our journey as far as Miyane. His name, as I discovered, was Mirza Hashim, and his conversation did much to beguile the tediousness of the way. Approaching the subject with some diffidence, I asked him to tell me what he knew about the Babi insurrection at Zanjan. He answered that he could not tell me much about it, except that the insurgents, whose numbers hardly exceeded 300 fighting


men, held at bay an army of nearly 10,000 men for nine months. He added that he had himself known one of them who had succeeded in effecting his escape after the sack of the town, and who used to boast that he had with his own hand slain 1000 of the royal troops!

      In the course of the morning we passed a fine-looking though somewhat ruined building, situated on the left side of the road opposite to the village of Tikme-Tash, which our companion informed us was a palace built for the Shah nearly forty years before, on the occasion of his visiting this part of his dominions. Since then it has remained unused, and has been allowed to fall into disrepair. Another neglected palace of this sort exists farther east, at Sultaniyye.

      Farther on we passed two fine old caravansarays, constructed with the care and solidity which characterise all the work done in the glorious days of the Safavi kings. These, however, we passed without halting, and pushed on to Kara Chiman, a picturesquely situated village, lying somewhat to the south of the main road in a little valley through which runs a river bordered with groves of poplar trees. Here we obtained very good quarters in a clean, well-constructed balakhane (upper room), commanding a fine view of the valley, river, and village.

      Next morning (9th November) we passed, soon after starting, two large villages, situated at some distance from the road, the one to the north, the other to the south. The former is called Bashsiz, the latter Bulghawar. Beyond these there was little worthy of note in the parched-up undulating country through which our road lay, until, about 3 p.m., we reached our halting- place, Suma, where we obtained good quarters at the house of one Mashhadi Hasan. In the evening we received a visit from our travelling companion, Mirza Hashim; and as our next stage would bring us to Miyane, which enjoys so evil a reputation by reason of the poisonous bugs which infest it, we asked him whether it was true, as is currently reported, that the bite of


these animals proves fatal to a stranger. After assuring us that this was sometimes the case, he informed us that the so-called "Miyane bug," or "mala," was not altogether confined to that town, but that it also occurred in Suma, the village wherein we then were. The villagers, he added, have the following curious story about its origin:--

      Once upon a time a native of Suma went to the neighbouring village of Hashtarud, where he became involved in a quarrel with the inhabitants, which culminated in his being murdered by them. From the body of the murdered man emerged a number of these malas, which established themselves in the village of Suma. Whenever a native of Hashtarud arrives there, they remember the blood-feud which exists, and avenge the death of their "ancestor" by inflicting a fatal bite upon the descendant of his murderers. To all others, however, their bite, though painful, is comparatively harmless.

      Mirza Hashim then told us of the severity of the winters at Ardabil, and showed us a woollen cap with coverings for the ears, admirably adapted for a protection against severe cold. Having informed me that he had refused to sell it for fifteen krans (rather less than ten shillings), he offered to make me a present of it. Of course I politely declined his offer, telling him that I could not consent to deprive him of so valuable a possession; for I had no need of the cap, and did not think it worth the sum he had mentioned.

      Europeans travelling in Persia have sometimes complained of what they regard as the meanness of the Persians in offering presents in return for which they expect money. It appears to me that this complaint arises from a failure to understand the fact that such an offer from a man of distinctly lower rank than oneself is merely tantamount to a declaration that he is willing to sell or exchange the article in question. When he offers to give it as a present, he merely uses the same figure of speech as did Ephron the Hittite in negotiating the sale of the cave of


Machpelah with Abraham. All peoples make use, to a greater or less extent, of similar euphemisms, and we have no more right to blame a poor Persian for offering us a "present," in return for which he expects to receive equivalent value, than to censure as sordid the desire expressed by a cabman to be "remembered" by us.

      As I have touched on this subject, I may as well say something about presents in general. There are not fewer than eight words more or less commonly used in Persian in this sense. Of these, three, viz. armaghan, rah-avard, and sawghat, signify any object which one brings back from a journey to give to one's friends at home. Yadigar is a keepsake, to remind the owner of the absent friend by whom it was given. Hadiyye is a general term for any sort of present. There remain the terms ta'aruf, pish-kesh, and in'am, each of which requires a somewhat fuller explanation.

      The first of these signifies a present given to some one of about the same social rank as the donor. In such cases no return is usually expected, at any rate in money. Sometimes, however, the term is used by one who, while desirous of receiving the monetary equivalent of that which he offers, does not wish to admit his social inferiority to the person to whom the "present" is offered by using the term pish-kesh.

      When, however, a peasant, servant, muleteer, gardener, or the like, offers a present of flowers, fruits, or fowls to the traveller, he calls it a pish-kesh (offering), and for such he generally expects at least the proper value in money of the article so offered. When the "present" is something to which a definite monetary value can be assigned (e.g. an article of food), this is only right and proper. To expect a poor villager to supply travellers gratis with the necessaries of life, which he can often ill spare, and to blame him for desiring to receive the value of the same, is surely the height of absurdity. With presents of flowers the case is somewhat different. It often happens that the traveller, on visiting a garden, for instance, is confronted on his exit by a row of


gardeners, each of whom offers him a bunch of flowers. He is then placed in rather a dilemma, for, on the one hand, he feels some delicacy in refusing what may, after all, be a gift prompted solely by courtesy and kindness; while, on the other hand, he may not care to pay several krans for that which is of no use to him. Even in this case I think that Europeans are partly to blame for a custom which has, in some of the more frequented parts of Persia, become an intolerable nuisance. My reason for believing that what sometimes amounts to little less than a system of extortion (theoretically capable of unlimited expansion so long as there is a handful of flowers in the village and a peasant to bring and offer the same) originally grew out of a graceful and courteous custom of welcoming a stranger by presenting him with a nosegay, is that in parts of Persia less frequently visited by Europeans, such as the neighbourhood of Yezd and Kirman, I have often been given a handful of roses or other flowers by a passing peasant, who continued on his way after the accomplishment of this little act of courtesy without once pausing or looking back in expectation of receiving a reward.

      As regards the last kind of present, the in'am, or gratuity, it is, as its name implies, one bestowed by a superior on an inferior, and is almost always given in the form of money. The term is applied not only to the presents of money spoken of above, but to the gratuities given to villagers in whose houses one puts up for the night, keepers of caravansarays and post-houses at which one alights, shagird-chapars who accompany one on each stage in postlng to show the way and bring back the horses, -servants in houses at which one stays, and, in short, anyone of humble rank who renders one a service. To determine the amount which ought to be given in any particular case is sometimes rather a difficult matter for the traveller.

      A reliable native servant is of great use in this matter; and should the traveller possess such, he will do well to follow his advice until he is able to judge for himself. The most costly


in'ams, and those which one is most inclined to grudge, are such as must occasionally be given to the farrashes of a governor or other great man, who are sent to bear a present from their master, or to meet the traveller and form his escort. To these I shall have occasion to allude again.

      I must now return from this digression to our march of 10th November. The day was cloudy and overcast, and soon after we had started a gentle rain began to fall. We crossed the river Kizil Uzan in several places, and for a considerable distance wended our way along its broad gravelly bed. Traversing the crest of a hill soon after mid-day, we came in full view of the little town of Miyane, which looked very pretty with its blue domes and background of poplars and willows. We had no sooner reached the outskirts of the town than we were met by a number of the inhabitants, each eager to induce us to take up our quarters at his house, the advantages of which he loudly proclaimed. No sooner had we alighted at one place to examine the quarters offered, than all the competitors of its owner cried out with one accord that if we put up there we should assuredly suffer from the bite of the poisonous bugs with which, they averred, the house in question swarmed. We accordingly moved on to another house, where the same scene was repeated, each man representing his own house as the one place in the town free from this pest, and everyone except the owner uniting in the condemnation of any quarters which we seemed likely to select. Finally, in despair we selected the first dean-looking room which presented itself, and occupied it, regardless of the warnings of the disappointed competitors, who at length departed, assuring us that we had pitched on one of the very worst houses in the whole town.

      Soon after our arrival we took a walk through the town, and visited the tolerably good bazaars (in which we purchased some dried figs, and a fruit called idar, or, in Turkish, khunnab, somewhat resembling a small date, with a very large stone), and the


imamzade, of which the blue dome is the most conspicuous feature of Miyane. Here, as it was Thursday evening (shab-i- jum'a, the eve of Friday), many people were assembled to witness a ta'ziya, or representation of the sufferings of the Imams Hasan and Huseyn. In the enclosure surrounding the building was seated a half-naked man, who held in his hand a scourge armed with iron thongs, wherewith he occasionally struck himself on the shoulders and back. All those who entered this enclosure from which we were excluded, kissed the chains which hung in festoons across the gate.

      On returning to our quarters we found a man who had brought his horse to consult us about its eye, which had received a slight injury. After advising him as to its treatment, we entered into conversation with him. He warned us that in spite of the apparent cleanliness of our lodging, he knew for certain that there were bugs in it; but on questioning him further, it appeared that his only reason for saying so was that he had seen one three years ago. Nevertheless, he advised us to take two precautions, which he assured us would protect us from injury: firstly, to keep a candle burning all night; secondly, to take a small quantity of the spirit called 'arak just before going to bed. We neglected the first of these measures, but not the second; and whether owing to this, or to the absence of the malas, we slept untroubled by the noxious insects which have given to Miyane so evil a reputation.

      Our road next day led us towards the imposing looking mass of the Kaflan-Kuh. A tortuous path brought us to the summit of the pass, whence we again descended to the river, which we crossed by a fine bridge. On the other side of this bridge we were met by a man who besought us to help him in recovering his horse from the soldiers at an adjacent guard-house, who had, as he alleged, forcibly and wrongfully taken it from him. We accordingly went with him to the guard-house, and endeavoured to ascertain the truth of the matter, and, if possible, effect a


satisfactory settlement. In answer to our enquiries, the soldiers informed us that they had reason to suspect that the horse had been stolen, as it was too valuable an animal to be the lawful property of the man in whose possession they had found it. They added that if he desired to recover it, he must go to Miyane and obtain a paper from some respectable citizen to certify that the horse really belonged to him, when it would be restored to him. With this explanation and promise we were compelled to be satisfied, and proceeded on our way till we reached another pass. On crossing this, we entered on an immense flat table-land, the surface of which was thrown into conical mounds resembling gigantic ant-hills, and thinly covered with mountain plants, which perfumed the air with their fragrance. The ground was riddled with the holes of what appeared to be a kind of jerboa. These little animals were very fearless, and allowed us to approach quite close to them before they retreated into their burrows.

      About 4 p.m. we reached the compact and almost treeless village of Sarcham, where we halted for the night. Just before reaching it we came up with one of those "caravans of the dead, so graphically described by Vambery. The coffins (which differ in some degree from those used in Europe, the upper end being flat instead of convex, and furnished with two short handles, like a wheelbarrow) were sewn up in sacking, to which was affixed a paper label bearing the name of the deceased. Each animal in this dismal caravan was laden with two or three coffins, on the top of which was mounted, in some cases, a man or woman, related probably to one of the deceased, whose bodies were on their way to their last resting-place in the sacred precincts of Kum.

      We had no difficulty in getting lodgings at Sarcham, for the place contains an extraordinary number of caravansarays, considering its small size, and the inhabitants vied with each other in offering hospitality.

      Next day (Saturday, 12 November) we started early, being


given to understand that a long stage lay before us. All day we followed the course of the river, which is a tributary of the Kizil Uzan, though here it seems to be known by the name of the Zanjan-ab. Dense fogs obscured the sun in the earlier part of the day, but these rolled away as the heat increased, leaving a cloudless sky. The air was perfumed with the scent of the plant which we had observed on the preceding day. On our march we passed three immense caravans, consisting respectively of 102, 72, and 39 camels, bearing merchandise to Tabriz. There is to my mind an indescribable dignity about the camel, who seems to eye one scornfully with half-turned head as he passes majestically on his way; and the sight of a string of these animals was one of which I never grew weary. On the road we saw a serpent as well as numbers of lizards, and a small tortoise which our muleteers called spargha, a word which I have never heard elsewhere, and which seems to be purely local.

      About 3 p.m. we reached the village of Nikh-beg, where we halted. It is a squalid-looking place, devoid of trees, and only remarkable for a very fine old caravansaray of the Safavi period, which bears an inscription over the gateway to the effect that it was repaired by order of Shah Safi, who alighted here on his return from the successful siege of the fortress of Erivan. While copying this inscription, we were surprised and pleased to perceive the approach of Mr Whipple, the American missionary, who was posting from Tabriz to Hamadan to visit his fellow-workers there.

      Our next stage brought us to the considerable town of Zanjan so celebrated for its obstinate defence by the Babis against the royal troops in the year 1850. It lies in a plain surrounded by hills, and is situated near, but not on, the river called Zanjan-ab, which is at this point surrounded by gardens. The town has never recovered from the effects of the siege, for, besides the injury which it sustained from the cannonade to which it was exposed for several months, a considerable portion was burnt


by the besieged on one occasion, when they were hard pressed by the enemy, to create a diversion. We entered the town by the western gate, passing on our left an extensive cemetery, of which two blue-domed imamzades constitute the most conspicuous feature.

      We alighted at a caravansaray near the bazaar, which we visited shortly after our arrival. It is not very extensive, being limited to one long street running east and west more than half through the town (which is much longer in this direction than from north to south). The great drawback to Zanjan is the enormous number of beggars who throng its streets and importune the traveller for alms with cries of "Allah nejat versin! Allah nejat versin!" ("May God give you salvation!"). In this respect it is unrivalled, so far as I have seen, by any town in Persia, with the exception of Kirman; and even there, though the poverty of the mendicant classes is probably greater, their importunity is far less.

      In the evening we received a visit from a very rascally looking Teherani with a frightful squint, who enquired if we had any 'arak, and, on learning that we had, requested permission to introduce some companions of his who were waiting outside. These presently appeared, and, having done full justice to the 'arak, which they finished off, suggested that we might perhaps like to hear a song. Without waiting for an answer, one of them broke forth into the most discordant strains, shouting the end of each verse which struck him as peculiarly touching into the ear of the man who sat next him, who received it with a drunken simper and a languid "Bali" ("Yes"), as though it had been a question addressed to him. When this entertainment had come to an end, the eyes of our visitors fell on my pocket-flask, which they began to admire, saying, "This bottle is very good, and admirably adapted for the pocket...but we have already given enough trouble." As I affected not to understand the purport of their remarks, they presently departed, to our great satisfaction.


From the difficulty which the squint-eyed man seemed to experience in getting his feet into his shoes, I fancied that our 'arak was not the first which he had tasted that night.

      We remained at Zanjan during the next day, for I was anxious to examine the town and its walls, with a view to obtaining a clearer idea of the history of the siege, and the causes which had enabled the Babi insurgents to keep the royal troops at bay so long. Sir Henry Bethune, quoted by Watson in his History of Persia under the Kajar Dynasty, says that in his opinion the place ought to have been subdued by a regular army in a few days, and, so far as I can judge, it possesses no natural advantages as a stronghold. It is true that it is surrounded by a wall (now destroyed in some places), but though this averages twenty or twenty-five feet in height, it is built of no stronger material than unbaked clay. The desperate resistance offered by the Babis must therefore be attributed less to the strength of the position which they occupied than to the extraordinary valour with which they defended themselves. Even the women took part in the defence and I subsequently heard it stated on good authority that, like the Carthaginian women of old, they cut off their long hair and bound it round the crazy guns to afford them the necessary support. The fiercest fighting was on the north and north-west sides of the town, by the cemetery and Tabriz gate. Unfortunately there was no one from whom I could obtain detailed information about the siege. This I regretted the more because I was convinced that, could I have found them, there must have been many persons resident in Zanjan who had witnessed it, or even taken part in it. I had, however, at that time no clue to guide me to those who would probably have preserved the most circumstantial details about it, viz. the Babis. There was therefore nothing to induce me to prolong my stay, and accordingly, after one day's halt, we left Zanjan on 15th November for Sultaniyye. The road from Zanjan to Sultaniyye runs through a perfectly flat stony plain bounded by low hills to the north and the south,


and is devoid of interest. Nearly three hours before reaching the latter place we could plainly see the great green dome of the mosque for which it is so celebrated. From a distance this appeared to form part of a mass of buildings, which, on nearer approach, proved to be a large palace constructed in the modern style, and situated some way to the north-west of the mosque.

      We paid a visit to the mosque immediately on our arrival, and were shown over it by an old Seyyid who spoke Persian. It is built in the shape of an octagon, and is surmounted by the large green dome which forms so conspicuous a feature of the landscape. From one side of the octagon (that farthest from the road) is thrown out a rectangular annexe containing the mihrab. The main entrance is on the east side. The interior of the building is lined with most exquisite tile-work, and beautiful inscriptions in Arabic. In some places, where these tiles have been destroyed or removed, an older, deeper layer of still finer pattern is visible. As the mosque is no longer used, the European traveller meets with none of the difficulties which usually form an insuperable obstacle to visiting similar buildings in Persia. The village of Sultaniyye must formerly have been a flourishing place, but it now consists of only a few hovels, which form a sad contrast to the ancient splendour of the mosque.

      As to the date when the mosque was built, our guide was unable to inform us, but he said that it had been repaired and beautified by Shah Khuda-bande, concerning whom he repeated some lines of doggerel, which we had already heard from the muleteer, and which ran as follows:--

The last line of this is Turkish: what event it alludes to, or what its real purport is, I was unable to ascertain. Our guide informed us that some time ago a European engineer had spent a week


at this place, making elaborate plans and drawings of the mosque. Having completed our inspection, we offered a small sum of money to the old Seyyid who had accompanied us; but he bade us give whatever we wished to his son, a little boy, who had also followed us. I accordingly gave him two krans, which appeared to me a sufficient recompense for the amount of trouble we had given, but the Seyyid seemed to be of a different opinion, remarking that it was "a very trivial sum for people of distinction." I asked him what reason he had for supposing that we were people of distinction," to which he only replied that we were "mukhtar"--free to do as we pleased.

      Besides the mosque and the palace, there are several little imamzades at Sultaniyye, and I was anxious to remain another day to examine these. Farach, however, appeared to divine my intention and took pains to frustrate it, for he avoided me all the evening, instead of corning in after supper, as he usually did, to discuss the events of the day, and sent off all the baggage early in the morning, so that we had no course open to us but to proceed. After another uneventful stage, we reached our next halting-place of Khurram-dere--a pretty village situated on a river, surrounded by poplars and willows--about 4.30 p.m. Here, as usual, we were very hospitably received by the villagers, two of whom came out some distance to meet us and conduct us to their house, where we were lodged in a very good upper room, thickly carpeted, and furnished with eight large windows provided with shutters.

      Next day we started early, the muleteers pretending that they would try to reach Kazvin that evening, which, as I believe, they had from the first no intention of doing. Our road ran towards the north-east in the direction of a low range of hills. On reaching the highest point of the ridge we could see before us the mighty range of the Elburz mountains, which separates Persian Irak from the humid, richly-wooded provinces bordering on the Caspian Sea. Between us and these mountains lay a wide, flat,


stony plain, in which the position of Kazvin was clearly indicated by the thin pall of blue smoke which hung over it. Towards this plain our road now began to descend, and in a few minutes we arrived at the village of Kirishkin, where the muleteers announced their intention of halting for the night--a decision from which it was impossible to move them, and to which I was in great measure reconciled by the kindly welcome given to us by the inhabitants. Here, indeed, a marked change was observable in the people, who appeared much brighter, more intelligent, and more amiable than the natives of Adharbayjan. The latter, with their scowling faces and furtive gray eyes, are not popular amongst the Persians, whose opinion about the inhabitants of their metropolis, Tabriz, is expressed in the following rhyme:--

The change in the appearance of the people is accompanied by a change in language, for this was the first place we came to at which the Persian tongue appeared to preponderate over the Turkish.

      At this village we obtained the most sumptuous quarters in a large room, twenty-five feet long by fifteen wide, thickly spread with carpets. A few works of Persian poetry, placed in niches in the wall, showed that our entertainers united a taste for literature with a love of comfort. In the course of the evening we received a visit from our host and his sons. One of the latter--the one to whom the books chiefly belonged--was a bright intelligent youth who discussed the merits of various Persian and Turkish poets with great zest. I was much amused at one remark which he made. Speaking of the recently-concluded ta'ziyas (dramatic representations of various moving episodes in the lives of the Prophet and his successors), and especially of the scene wherein the "Firangi ambassador" at


the court of Damascus, moved by the misfortunes and patience of the captive believers, embraces Islam, and is put to death by the cruel tyrant Yezid, he said, "How I wish you had come here a little earlier, for then we could have borrowed your hats and clothes for the Firangis, and indeed you might have even taught us some words of your language to put in the mouths of the actors who personated them. As it was, not knowing anything of the tongue of the Firangis, we had to make the actors who represented them talk Turkish, which seemed to us the nearest approach possible to Firangi speech."

      Next day we reached Kazvin after a short stage, during which we descended into the plain of which I have already spoken. Here we intended to halt for a day to see the town, which is of considerable size and contains many fine buildings. Amongst these is a mihman-khane, or guest-house, which is one of a series constructed between Enzeli and Teheran, and thence as far south as Kum. At this, however, we did not put up, as I was anxious to cling for a few days longer to the more Oriental abodes to which I had become not only accustomed, but attached, and which I foresaw would have to be abandoned on reaching Teheran in favour of more civilised modes of existence. Unfortunately, our muleteers, either through indifference or ignorance, took us to a very poor caravansaray, far inferior in comfort to the quarters which we had enjoyed since leaving Zanjan, where we had suffered in a similar way. Indeed it is usually the case that the traveller (unless provided with introductions) fares less well in the towns than in the villages

      We spent most of the following day in wandering through the bazaars and examining the appearance of the town and its inhabitants. The bazaars were much like those which we had already seen at Khuy, Tabriz, and Zanjan; but as regards the people, the advantage was decidedly in favour of the Kazvinis, who are more pleasing in countenance, more gentle in manners and rather darker in complexion than the Adharbayjanis. Persian


is spoken by them universally, but almost all understand Turkish as well.

      The road from Resht to Teheran, which is the route usually taken by those entering Persia from Europe, passes through Kazvin. This road we now joined, and by it we proceeded to the capital, accomplishing the journey thither in three days. As it is probably the best known and the least interesting of all the roads in Persia, I will not describe it in detail, and will only notice certain points which appear worthy of mention.

      First of all the mihman-khanes, or guest-houses, of which I have already spoken, merit a few words. They were built, I believe, by order of Nasiru'd-Din Shah on his return from his first visit to Europe. They are intended to afford the traveller by the ordinary route to the capital greater comfort and better accommodation than are obtainable in caravansarays, and to fulfil in some degree the functions of a hotel. I cannot say that I was at all favourably impressed by these institutions, at the first of which, called Kishlakh, we arrived on the evening of the day of our departure from Kazvin (20th November). It is true that they are well built, and stand in gardens pleasantly surrounded by trees; that the rooms are furnished with European beds, chairs, and tables; and that cooked food can be obtained from the attendants. But these advantages are, to my mind, far more than counterbalanced by the exorbitance of the charges and the insolence of the servants, which contrasted painfully with the ready hospitality, genial courtesy, and slight demands of the villagers in whose humble but cleanly homes we had hitherto generally found a resting-place at the end of our day's journey.

      The mihman-khane, in short, has all the worst defects of a European hotel without its luxury. Let me briefly describe our experiences at one--that of Kishlakh--as a specimen which will serve for all. On our first arrival we are discourteously told that there is no room. Remonstrances and requests are alike useless, so we prepare to move on and try to find a village where we can


halt for the night, which is now rapidly advancing. We have hardly started, after a considerable delay to allow of the baggage- animals coming up, when a man runs after us and informs us that there is room. No explanation or apology is offered for the previous statement, but, as no other habitation is in sight, we decide to turn back. On dismounting, we are conducted to a room littered up, rather than furnished, with several beds, a number of cane-bottomed chairs, and a table or two. The windows are furnished with tawdry curtains; the walls are bedecked with tinselled mirrors and gaudy pictures; while on the washing- stand a single ragged tooth-brush is ostentatiously displayed by the side of a clothes-brush, which would seem to be intended to serve as a hair-brush as well.

      While contemplating this chaos of luxury, and meditating somewhat sadly on the unhappy effect produced in Eastern lands by the adoption of Western customs, I became aware of a stir outside, and, rushing out, was just in time to see the Imam-Jum'a or chief ecclesiastic, of Tabriz drive up in a carriage followed by a number of attendants in other vehicles. By the side of the road lay the bleeding carcase of a sheep, whose throat had just been cut to do honour to the approaching dignitary. This not very graceful custom is common in Persia, and Mr Abbott, the British Consul at Tabriz, informed me that he had great difficulty in preventing its performance whenever he returned to Persia after an absence in Europe.

      Before we retired for the night--not on the unattractive- looking beds, but, as usual, on our Wolseley valises--we received another proof of the advance of European ideas in the neighbourhood of the capital in the form of a bill (a thing which we had not seen since we left Erzeroum), in which two krans were charged for "service," which charge the bearer of the document was careful to inform us was not intended to prevent us from bestowing on him a further gratuity. The total amount of the bill was eight krans--not much, indeed, but about double the sum which we had


usually expended for a night's lodging hitherto--and we were requested to settle it the same evening--a request which showed that a becoming suspicion of one's fellow-creatures was amongst the European "improvements" introduced by the mihman-khanes.

      The muleteers, who had been compelled to pay an exorbitant price for food for their animals, were not less disgusted than ourselves, and declared that they would henceforth avoid mihman- khanes entirely. Next day, accordingly, passing two of these, we made a long stage, and halted about nightfall at a walled village called Kal'a-i-Imam-Jum'a, where we were assured by Farach that we should find "everything that our hearts desired." Unless he fancied that our hearts would desire nothing but melon- peel, which was scattered freely about the floor of the little cell where we took up our quarters, Farach's promise must have been dictated less by a strict regard for truth than by a fear of being compelled by us to halt at a mihman-khane. However, we eventually succeeded in obtaining some bread from a kindly Persian who had become cognisant of our need, and with this, and the last remains of the preserved meats bought at Trebizonde, we managed to appease our hunger, consoling ourselves with the thought that this would be our last night in the wilderness for the present, and that on the morrow we should be amongst the fleshpots of Teheran.

      Next morning we were astir early, for the excitement of being so near the Persian capital made sloth impossible. Yet to me at least this excitement was not free from a certain tinge of sorrow at the thought that I must soon bid farewell to the faithful Farach, whom, notwithstanding his occasional obstinacy and intractability, I had learned to like. Moreover, difficult as may be the transition from European to Asiatic life, the return is scarcely easier. I sighed inwardly at the thought of exchanging the free, unconstrained, open-air existence of the caravan for the restraints of society and the trammels of town life; and it was


only when I reflected on the old friends I should see again, and the new friends I hoped to make, that I felt quite reconciled to the change before me.

      This day's march was the most interesting since leaving Kazvin. To the north, on our left hand, towered the long range of the Elburz mountains, much loftier and bolder in outline here than at their western extremity; nor had we proceeded far when there burst suddenly on our view the majestic snow-capped cone of Mount Demavend, where, as ancient legend runs, the tyrant- parricide, Zahhak, lies bound in chains. At the base of this giant wall are gentler slopes, covered with villages which serve as a summer retreat to the more opulent when the heat of the capital has become intolerable. Near the road for some distance runs the river Karach, bright and rippling; while, to the south of this, numerous little villages set with poplars diversify the monotony of the gray stony plain. Once or twice we passed bands of soldiers returning from their military service to their homes in Adharbayjan, and then a mighty caravan of III camels wending its slow course westwards. Then, all at once, our eyes were dazzled by flashes of light reflected from an object far away towards the south, which shone like gold in the sun. This I at first imagined must be the situation of the capital, but I was mistaken; it was the dome of the holy shrine of Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim, situated five or six miles south of Teheran, which, lying as it does somewhat in a hollow, is not dearly seen until it is almost reached. At length, however, at a little roadside tea-house, where we halted for refreshment, we came in sight of it.

      Many such tea-houses formerly existed in the capital, but most of them were closed some time ago by order of the Shah. The reason commonly alleged for this proceeding is that they were supposed to encourage extravagance and idleness, or, as I have also heard said, evils of a more serious kind. Outside the town, however, some of them are still permitted to continue their trade and provide the "bona fide traveller" with refreshment,


which, needless to say, does not include wine or spirits.

      At length, about sunset, we entered the city by the Derwaze-i- Naw (New Gate), and here we were accosted by one Yusuf Ali, who, though he wore the Persian dress, was, as he proudly informed us, a British subject of Indian nationality. We asked him what accommodation was to be found in Teheran. He replied that there were two hotels, one kept by a family called Prevost, of French or Swiss extraction, the other by a man called Albert, and advised us to go to the latter, because it was cheaper. As, however, we purposed making a sojourn of some length in the capital, and the comfort of our abode was therefore a matter of more importance than when we were halting only for a night or two, we determined to inspect both places on the following day, and in the meantime, as it was now late, to take up temporary quarters at a caravansaray situated not far from the gate whereby we had entered.

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