A Year Amongst the Persians: Teheran


HITHERTO I have, in describing my travels, followed pretty closely the journals which I kept during their continuance, only amplifying such things as appeared unfamiliar or interesting, and suppressing or abridging entries which I deemed to be of consequence to no one but myself. Now, however, a different plan becomes necessary; for since I continued at the Persian capital for about ten weeks, and since many days passed uneventfully, either in study or in conversation with friends and acquaintances, a full record of this period would necessarily be both prolix and unprofitable. I shall therefore include in this chapter all that I have to say about the people, topography, institutions, public buildings, gardens, squares, palaces, mosques, and educational establishments of .Teheran, to which I shall add a short notice on the royal family, a description of some entertainments to which I was admitted as a guest, and a few anecdotes illustrative of the Persian genius and character.

      Now, my stay at .Teheran was divided into two periods, differing somewhat in character. During the first, which began on the second day after our arrival (24th November), and ended with the departure of my companion H--- on 29th December, we lodged at Prevost's Hotel, and were for the most part occupied with sight-seeing and social distractions, from both of which we derived much profit and pleasure. But when we had become


thus generally conversant with the life of the capital, H who had no special interest in the language, literature, or science of the Persians, and whose time was, moreover, limited, desired to continue his journey to the Persian Gulf; while I, finding at Teheran facilities for the prosecution of my studies which I was unwilling to let slip, wished to remain there. So, finding our objects incompatible, we were compelled to separate. He left Teheran for the south on 29th December, taking with him our Turkish servant 'Ali, who was unwilling to remain in Persia longer than he could help, since he found the people and the climate equally uncongenial. These, then, journeyed gradually southwards, halting for a while at the chief towns through which they passed, until about the beginning of April they reached Bushire, and thence took ship homewards.

      Soon after their departure, about the beginning of the new year (1888), I was invited by my friend the Nawwab Mirza Hasan 'Ali Khan, a Persian nobleman whose acquaintance I had made in London, to take up my abode with him in a house which he had rented near the English Embassy. Of this kind offer I very gratefully availed myself, and continued for the remainder of my stay in Teheran (i.e. till 7th February 1888) an inmate of his house, to my great pleasure and advantage. For my whole desire was, as my host well knew, to obtain as full an insight as possible into Persian life; and though he was thoroughly conversant with the English language, yet, out of regard for me, he rarely talked with me save in Persian, except that in the evening he would sometimes ask me to read with him a chapter of Carlyle's Heroes and Hero-Worship, which work, by reason of the favourable opinion of the Prophet Muhammad entertained by the author, is very highly esteemed by Muhammadans acquainted with English. Moreover most of my host's visitors and all his servants were Persian, and spoke, for the most part, only Persian (though his younger brother, an officer in the Persian army, and two of his nephews, whom I had known in London, had been


educated partly in England and spoke English extremely well), so that I was not only able but forced to make much progress in speaking and understanding. And during all this time I was able to benefit by the teaching of a very able scholar, Mirza Asadu'llah of Sabzawar, a pupil of the late Haji Mulla Hadi of Sabzawar, the greatest philosopher whom Persia has produced during the nineteenth century. Thus was I enabled to obtain some insight into the philosophical doctrines current in Persia, of which I shall say something in the next chapter.

      The European colony in Teheran is considerable, and the society which it affords equally remarkable for distinction and hospitality. It comprises the corps diplomatique attached to the different embassies (and almost every European nation of note is represented, as well as the United States of America); the staff of the Indo-European Telegraph; the American missionaries, several merchants and men of business; and a few Europeans employed in the Persian service. From many of these I received much hospitality and kindness, which I shall not soon forget, and on which I would gladly dwell did I feel justified in so doing. But my business at present is not to attempt an inadequate discharge of personal obligations (a discharge, moreover, which would probably be unacceptable to those to whom I am so indebted), but to depict with such fidelity as I may the life, character, and customs of the Persians. Of the European colony then, I will say no more than this, that it is associated in my mind with every feeling of gratitude and every pleasant remembrance which kindness and hospitality received in a strange land can evoke in the heart or impress on the mind of the recipient.

      Teheran, as everyone knows, was not always the capital of Persia. In the most ancient days the province of Fars, or Persia proper, and at a later time Isfahan, generally enjoyed this dignity. At other times, when, on the decay of some great dynasty, the empire was split up into numerous fragments, princes of different dynasties often reigned over one or two provinces, fixing the


seat of government at the most important town in their dominions.

      Under the Safavi kings, when the ancient greatness of Persia enjoyed a temporary revival, it was Isfahan which was graced by their splendid court. About a century ago, when the great struggle between the Zend dynasty and the family of the Kajars was in progress, the former, represented by the noble and generous Karim Khan, had its capital at Shiraz, while the latter, personified by that atrocious and bloodthirsty tyrant Aka Muhammad Khan, fixed their headquarters at Teheran. On the final victory of the latter, the northern city, situated as it is near the lands from which sprung the originally Turkish tribe of the Kajars, was definitely raised to the rank of capital, and has enjoyed this dignity ever since, while each of the three kings who succeeded the founder of the dynasty further exerted himself to enlarge and beautify the city.

      Teheran, as it is at present, is a large town lying in a slight hollow, just sufficient to prevent its being seen from any distance on the plain; roughly speaking circular in shape; and entirely surrounded by walls of unbaked clay, and for the most part by a ditch as well. Access is given to the interior by twelve gates, which are as follows:--


      To the north of the city are numerous gardens; some, like Behjetabad and Yusufabad, situated within a short walk of the walls; some in the villages of Shimran, like Kulahak and Tajrish, which serve as summer retreats to the Europeans and rich Persians, distant five or six miles from the town; and others yet more distant, on the slopes of Elburz. Some of the gardens belonging to the royal family are very beautifully laid out, as, for example, the garden called Kamraniyye, which is the property of the Shah's third son, the Na'ibu's-Saltana. The Persians take the greatest delight in their gardens, and show more pride in exhibiting them to the stranger than in pointing out to him their finest buildings. Yet to one accustomed to the gardens of the West they appear, as a rule, nothing very wonderful. They generally consist of a square enclosure surrounded by a mud wall, planted with rows of poplar trees in long straight avenues, and intersected with little streams of water. The total absence of grass seems their greatest defect in the eyes of a European, but apart from this they do not, as a rule, contain a great variety of flowers, and, except in the spring, present a very bare appearance. But in the eyes of the Persian, accustomed to the naked stony plains which constitute so large a portion of his country, they appear as veritable gardens of Eden, and he will never be happier than when seated under the shade of a poplar by the side of the stream, sipping his tea and smoking his kalyan. What I have said applies to the great majority of gardens in Persia, but not to all; for some of those in Shiraz are very beautiful, and, except for the lack of the well-trimmed lawns which we regard as so indispensable to the perfect beauty of a garden, might well defy all competition.

      Many of the gardens near Teheran are cultivated by "Guebres,"


the remnant of the ancient faith of Zoroaster. The headquarters of Zoroastrianism in Persia are at Yezd and Kirman, in and about which cities there may be in all some 7000 or 8000 adherents of the old creed. In other towns they are met with but sparingly, and are not distinguished by the dull yellow dress and loosely- wound yellow turban which they are compelled to wear in the two cities above-mentioned. As I shall speak of this interesting people at some length when I come to describe my stay amongst them in the only two places in Persia where they still exist in any numbers, I will not at present dwell on their characteristics further than to allude briefly to their dakhme, or "tower of silence," situated two or three miles south of Teheran, on one of the rocky spurs of the jagged mountain called Kuh-i-Bibi Shahr-banu.

      Bibi Shahr-banu was the daughter of the unfortunate Yezdigird III, whose sad fate it was to see the mighty empire of the Sasanians and the ancient religion of Zoroaster fall in one common ruin before the savage onslaught of the hitherto despised Arabs, ere he himself, a hunted fugitive, perished by the hand of a treacherous miller in whose house he had taken refuge. The daughter subsequently married Huseyn, the son of 'Ali, thus uniting the royal blood of the house of Sasan with the holy race of the Imams and the kindred of the Arabian prophet. To this union is perhaps to be attributed in some degree the enthusiasm with which the Persians, bereft of their old religion, espoused the cause of 'Ali and his successors (or in other words the Shi'ite faction of the Muhammadans) against the usurpations of those whom the Sunnis dignify with the title of Khalifa, or vicegerent of the Prophet. After the calamities suffered by the family of 'Ali at the hands of their ruthless foes, Bibi Shahr-banu is said to have fled to Persia, and to have found a refuge from her oppressors in the mountain just to the south of Teheran which still bears her name. It is said that the place where she hid is still marked by a shrine which has the miraculous property of being


inaccessible to men, though women may visit it unimpeded. Where this shrine is I do not know, neither did I make any attempt to test the truth of the legend.

      The Guebres' dakhme is situated midway up a sharp ridge which descends from the summit of this mountain on the northern side, and is a conspicuous object from a distance. It consists of a circular tower of clay or unbaked brick, of the grayish colour common to all buildings in Persia. The wall, which is provided with no door or gate, is about forty-five feet high on the outside; inside (as we could see by ascending the spur on which it stands to a point which overlooks it) its height, owing to the raised floor, is probably not more than ten feet The floor of the tower consists of a level surface broken at regular intervals by rectangular pits. Whenever a Zoroastrian dies, his body is conveyed hither, and deposited by two of his co-religionists (set apart for this duty) inside the dakhme and over one of these pits. The carrion birds which hover round this dreary spot soon swoop down, tear it in pieces, and devour its flesh, till nothing is left but the disarticulated bones, which fall into the pit below. Little, therefore, remains to tell of those who have been laid in this charnel-house; and from the ridge above, where I could see almost the whole of the interior, I counted not more than two skulls and a few long bones. Of course the total number of Zoroastrians in Teheran is very small and the deaths do not probably exceed two or three a year, which may to some extent explain the paucity of remains in the dakhme. Yezd and Kirman have each two dakhmes, similarly constructed, and situated in like manner on the spurs of mountains at a distance of several miles from the city. These five dakhmes constitute, so far as I know, the total number now in use in Persia' This method of disposing of the dead often strikes Europeans as very disgusting, and, indeed, it would clearly be inapplicable to a thickly-populated, flat country with a humid atmosphere. In Persia, however, where the air is so clear, the sun so strong,


the population so sparse, and mountains so numerous, I can well imagine that no inconvenience was caused by its adoption, even in the days when the whole population was Zoroastrian.

      Near the mouth of the valley which lies to the north of the Kuh-i-Bibi Shahr-banu, and on the opposite side to the dakhme, is a tablet cut in the rock (in rough imitation of the ancient monuments about Persepolis), bearing the figure of a king, and an inscription in modern Persian. Though of such recent date, it possesses none of the clearness still discernible in its Sasanian prototypes, and the writing on it is already almost illegible.

      Below this, at the end of the valley, are to be seen the remains of gigantic mud walls, which are said to have formed a portion of the ancient city of Rey (Rhages), though by some this is supposed to have lain farther from Teheran towards the east, near the present village of Varamin. Rather nearer to the Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim road (which crosses the mouth of the valley at right angles) are two high brick towers, one of which is called the Tower of Toghrul.

      Of the little town of Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim itself, which is chiefly notable for its very fine mosque and its very detestable population (the place being what is called "bast," that is, a sanctuary or city of refuge, where all criminals are safe from pursuit), I shall have something to say in another chapter. It was to this place that the railway of which such great things were expected, and which it was hoped might be extended farther south--perhaps even to the Persian Gulf--was laid from Teheran. When I returned there in the autumn of 1888 on my way home, this railway was open, and was running some eight or ten trains a day each way. Its prosperity, alas! was short-lived: before the end of the year it was torn up and completely wrecked by a mob, exasperated at the accidental death of a man who had tried to leap from the train while it was in motion.

      That the friends of this man, whose death was brought about solely by his own folly and rashness, acted unreasonably in


revenging themselves on the railway I do not for a moment wish to deny. That the deep-seated prejudice against this and other European innovations which found its manifestation in this act is equally unreasonable, I am not, however, disposed to admit. I think that the jealousy with which the Persian people are prone to regard these railways, tramways, monopolies, concessions, and companies, of which so much has been heard lately is both natural and reasonable. These things, so far as they are sources of wealth at all, are so, not to the Persian people, but to the Shah and his ministers on the one hand, and to the European promoters of the schemes on the other. People who reason about them in Europe too often suppose that the interests of the Shah and of his subjects are identical, when they are in fact generally diametrically opposed; and that the Shah is an enlightened monarch, eager for the welfare and progress of a stubborn and refractory people who delight in thwarting his benevolent schemes, when in reality he is a selfish despot, devoid of public spirit, careful only of his own personal comfort and advantage, and most averse to the introduction of liberal ideas amongst a people whose natural quickness, intelligence, and aptitude to learn cause him nothing but anxiety. He does everything in his power to prevent the diffusion of those ideas which onduce to true progress, and his supposed admiration for civilisation amounts to little more than the languid amusement which he derives from the contemplation and possession of mechanical playthings and ingenious toys.

      I can only pause to notice one other object of interest outside the city walls, to wit, the pleasantly-situated palace of Dawshantepe (which means in Turkish "Hare-hill"), where the Shah often goes to pursue the chase, to which he is passionately devoted. This palace, of dazzling whiteness, stands on an eminence to the north-east of the town, and forms a very conspicuous feature in the landscape. Besides the palace on the hill there is another in a garden on its southern side, attached to which is a small menagerie belonging to


the Shah. This collection of animals is not very extensive, but includes fine specimens of the Persian lion (shir)*, whose most famous haunt is in the forests of Dasht-i-Arjin, between Shiraz and Bushire, as well as a few tigers (babr), leopards (palang), and baboons (shangal).

      Having spoken of what is without the city, I must now say something about the chief monuments contained within its walls. These are very few, and, for the most part, of little interest. Teheran is an essentially modern town, and as such lacks the charm which invests Isfahan, Shiraz, Yezd, and other Persian cities of more respectable antiquity. In the eyes of its own inhabitants, however, it appears the ne plus ultra of splendour. It has two European hotels; it is intersected, especially in the northern quarter, by several wide, straight thoroughfares, some of which are even lighted by gas, and one of which certain Europeans and their Persian imitators are pleased to designate the "Boulevard des Ambassadeurs." There are also several large squares, some of which are embellished with tanks and fountains worthy of a sincere admiration. In addition to all this the bazaars (situated in the southern quarter) are extensive and flourishing; the situation of the town, in full view of the snow- capped mountains of Elburz, is unquestionably fine; and the air is clear and exhilarating. In a word, it is a pleasant place to stay in, rather than an interesting place to see. Nevertheless, some of my readers may desire to obtain a clearer notion of what is, after all, the present capital of Persia. Let me ask them, then, to accompany me in imagination for a stroll through the northern quarter of the city, in which are situated most of the parks, palaces, and public buildings, all the embassies except the Russian, and the residences of almost all the Europeans and many of the more opulent and influential Persians.


      We will begin our walk at the northern end of the Khiyaban-i- 'Ala'u'd-Dawla ("Boulevard des Ambassadeurs"), a fine broad straight avenue, running almost due north and south. Entering this from the north through the waste land which intervenes (or did intervene in 1887) between it and the Behjetabad and Dawlat Gates, we first pass, on the right-hand side, the fine garden and buildings of the English Embassy. Lower down on the same side are the German and American Legations. Near the latter, a street running westwards leads to the church schools and residences of the American missionaries. On the left (east) side of the avenue the finest building is the Turkish Embassy remarkable for a magnificent gate adorned with an inscription in letters of gold. On the same side are the French and Italian Legations, and a little lower down the office of the Indo-European Telegraph. Beyond this are a few European shops, as well as the two hotels already mentioned; opposite these are several more shops, one of which belongs to a photographer--a Russian, I believe--who sells excellent photographs at the very cheap price of four tumans (about twenty-four shillings) a hundred. Below this point, as well as in some places above it, the sides of the avenue are formed by colonnades of brick, within which are situated a few small Persian shops, dealing chiefly in groceries Passing under an archway guarded by sentries, we enter the north-west corner of the Meydan-i-Topkhane, or Artillery Square This is of great size, and is surrounded by barracks, the white walls of which are profusely decorated with rude representations the national symbol, the lion and the sun

      From this square emerge five great streets or avenues- on sometimes called the "Rue de Gaz," on the east side; two on the south; and two (one of which we have already traversed) on the north. Leaving the three which belong to the eastern portion of the square for future consideration, we continue in a direct southward line across the western end, and enter another avenue, which leads us past some of the Persian Government


Offices (the road opposite to which is, during a considerable part of the day, blocked by carriages and horses) into a very pretty square, well paved and girt with trees, called the Meydan-i-Arg ("Citadel Square"). The central portion of this is occupied by a large basin of water of octagonal shape, surrounded by gas lamps. At its southern end is a raised stone platform, on which stands a large gun mounted on wheels. This gun is remarkable, in common with Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim, the royal stables, and sundry other places, as affording sanctuary to those who are pursued by the law. It has, indeed, the disadvantage of being a very small "city of refuge," and one which would not long be tenable; nevertheless, for the time being, the fugitive is safe in its shadow.

      Quitting the Meydan-i-Arg, and traversing a short bazaar containing a few small shops, we come out into another broad street, which at this point runs at right angles to our path, but which, if we turned to the left and followed its course eastwards, would be found to bend gradually into a northerly direction, and would conduct us back to the Meydan-i-Topkhane. By this road we propose to return; but before doing so, let us take a glance at the intricate mazes of the bazaar. To do this, we cross the road and enter a square known as the Sabze-Meydan, or "Herb Market." In its centre is the usual tank of water, and it is surrounded by the shops of watchmakers, tobacconists, and other tradesmen, mostly of Armenian nationality. We cross towards its southern side, and enter the hatmakers' bazaar (Kuche-i-kulah- duzan), where any variety of Persian head-dress may be purchased, from the light cloth hat affected by the Armenians and Europeanised (firangi-ma'ab) Persians, costing only three or four krans (about two shillings), to the genuine lambskin kulah, costing thirty, forty, or even fifty krans.

      Having passed the hatmakers, we come to the shoemakers, and, if we continue our way perseveringly towards the south, we shall eventually arrive at the gate of Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim,


unless, as may easily happen, we lose our bearings hopelessly in the labyrinthine mazes which we must traverse, distracted either by a string of majestic camels, past which we contrive to edge ourselves, or by a glittering array of antique gems, seals and turquoises, exposed in a case at our very elbow

      As, however, we have already visited the dakhme in the Mountain of Bibi Shahr-banu and the ruins of Rey, and as we shall pass through Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim on our journey southwards, it is unnecessary to explore the bazaar any farther at present. Bazaars, after all, are much alike, not only in Persia but throughout the Muhammadan world; there are the same more or less tortuous vaulted colonnades, thronged with horses camels, and men; the same cool recesses, in which are successively exhibited every kind of merchandise; the same subdued murmur and aroma of spices, which form a tout ensemble so irresistibly attractive, so continually fresh, yet so absolutely similar, whether en in Constantinople or Kirman, Teheran or Tabriz.

      Instead of pursuing our way farther, therefore, we strike to the left from the shoemakers' bazaar, and, without even pausing to examine the array of saddles, bridles, whips, saddle-bags leather water-bags, and other travellers' requisites exhibited to our gaze, make for the Bazar-i-dunbal-i-khandak ("Market behind the moat), and, following this for a while, soon emerge once more into the broad open street which we crossed at a point farther west to reach the Sabze-Meydan. At the point where we have now entered it, it has already begun to assume a northerly direction to reach the Meydan-i-Topkhane, towards which we again bend our steps. On our left we pass the very modern-looking palace called Shamsu'l-Imara ("the Sun of Architecture"), with its lofty tower, and come to the Daru'l-Funun, or university. Here English, French, Russian, Medicine (both ancient and modern), Mathematics, and other useful accomplishments are taught on European methods. The students vary in age from mere boys to youths of eighteen or nineteen, and are distinguished a military-looking uniform. They not only receive their


education free, but are allowed one meal a day and two suits of clothes a year at the public expense, besides being rewarded, in case of satisfactory progress and good conduct, by a very liberal distribution of prizes at the end of the session. Arabic, Theology, and Metaphysic do not enter into the curriculum, but are relegated to the ancient madrasas attached to some of the mosques and endowed by pious bequests. The best madrasas, however, must be sought for, not in Teheran, but in Isfahan, the former capital

      Just above the Daru'l-Funun is another fine building, intended, I believe, to serve as a Central Telegraph Office which shall combine the hitherto separated European and Persian branches. Not far above this we re-enter the Meydan-i-Topkhane, this time at the south-east corner. To our right the "Rue de Gaz" emerges from the square, and runs eastwards. In it dwells a Turkish haircutter of well-deserved fame, but beyond this it possesses few features of interest, and we may therefore pass it by, and cross to the north-east corner of the square, whence we enter another avenue similar to and parallel with the Khiyaban-i-'Ala'u'd-Dawla in which we commenced our walk. This avenue is bounded on the right by a fine garden, the Bagh-i-Lale-zar ("Garden of the Tulip-bed"), which belonged, I believe, to the talented Riza-Kuli Khan, generally known as the Lala-bashi, or chief tutor of the Shah, whose numerous works, varied in matter but uniform in merit, are alone sufficient to prove that Persian literary ability has not, as some would pretend, ceased to exist. Little else besides this claims our attention here, and if we pursue our way up this avenue we shall finally reach a point where it is crossed by another broad road running at right angles to it. This latter, if we follow it to the left, will bring us out where we started from, in front of the English Embassy.

      Although the walk just described has led us through most of the principal streets and squares, and past a number of the


chief buildings and palaces, a few objects of interest which lie apart from the route traversed deserve a brief notice.

      First amongst these I will mention--because it can be disposed of in a very few words--another large square, called Meydan-i-Mashk ("Drill Square"), which lies to the north-west of the Meydan-i-Topkhane. Though somewhat smaller than the latter, it is very spacious, and serves admirably the purpose to which, as its name implies, it is appropriated--that of a place d'armes, or exercising-ground for the troops.

      Next to this, the palace called Nigaristan ("Picture Gallery"), which was the favourite residence of the second king of the Kajar dynasty, Fath-'Ali Shah, deserves mention. It is situated no great distance from the English Embassy, and derives its name from the numerous highly-finished paintings with which the walls of some of its chambers are decorated. In the largest room I counted no less than 118 full-length portraits, which included not only Fath-'Ali Shah and his numerous sons and ministers, but also the staffs of the French and English Embassies (headed respectively by General Gardanne and Sir John Malcolm) then resident at the Persian Court, the names of all these being indicated in Persian characters. The portraits, which seem to have been carefully and accurately executed, were completed in the year A.H. 1228 (A.D. 1812--13) by one 'Abdu'llah, as is witnessed by an inscription placed under them. The only other noticeable feature of the Nigaristan is a beautiful marble bath furnished with a long smooth glissoire, called by the Persians sursurak ("the slide"), which descends from above to the very edge of the bath. Down this slope the numerous ladies of Fath- 'Ali Shahs harem used to slide into the arms of their lord, who was waiting below to receive them.

      It remains to say a few words about the mosques, which are of less interest than those of almost any other Muhammadan City of equal size. One of the finest is quite recent; and was indeed, still in process of construction when I visited it. It was


commenced by the late Sipahsalar, whose career is generally reported to have been brought to an abrupt close by a cup of "Kajar coffee," while he was in retirement and disgrace at Mashhad. The construction of the mosque, rudely interrupted by this sad event, was subsequently resumed by his brother, the Mushiru'd- Dawla, whom I had the honour of visiting. He received me with the easy courtesy characteristic of the Persian nobleman; questioned me as to my studies, the books I had read, and the towns I proposed to visit on leaving Teheran; and, after allowing me to inspect the various rooms (some furnished in Persian and others in European style) in his large and beautiful house, kindly sent a servant with me to show me the mosque, which I might otherwise have had difficulty in seeing. The fine large court of the mosque, in the centre of which is a tank of water, is surrounded by lofty buildings, devoted partly to educational, partly to religious purposes. On the walls of these is inscribed on tiles the wakf-name, or detail of the endowment, in which is set forth the number of professors and students of theology and the kindred sciences who are to be maintained within the walls of the college. Of the former there were to be four, and of the latter, I think, 150.

      It is generally very difficult to visit the interior of mosques in Persia; for in this respect the Shi'ite Muhammadans are much more strict than the Sunnis, and a non-Muslim can, as a rule, only enter them in disguise. I once resorted to this expedient to obtain a glimpse of another mosque in Teheran, the Masjid-i- Shah, which I visited with two of my Persian friends. Although we only remained in it for a very short time, we did not wholly escape the critical gaze of sundry mullas who kept hovering round us, and I was not sorry to emerge once more into the bazaar; for the consequences of discovery would have been, to say the least of it, disagreeable. From the little I have seen of the interiors of Persian mosques, I should say that they were decidedly less beautiful than those of Constantinople or Cairo.


      I have already had occasion to speak of the Daru'l-Funun, or university, and I mentioned the fact that it included a school of medicine. Through the kindness of Dr Tholozan, the Shah's physician, I was enabled to be present at one of the meetings of the Majlis-i-Sihhat ("Congress of Health," or Medical Council), held once a week within its walls. The assembly was presided over by the learned Mushiru'd-Dawla, the Minister of Education, and there were present at it sixteen of the chief physicians of the capital, including the professors of medicine (both the followers of Galen and Avicenna, and those of the modern school). The discussion was conducted for the most part in Persian, Dr Tholozan and myself being the only Europeans present; but occasionally a few remarks were made in French, with which several of those present were conversant. After a little desultory conversation, a great deal of excellent tea, flavoured with orange juice, and the inevitable kalyan, or water-pipe, the proceedings commenced with a report on the death-rate of Teheran, and the chief causes of mortality. This was followed by a clear and scientific account of a case of acute ophthalmia successfully treated by inoculation, the merits of which plan of treatment were then compared with the results obtained by the use of jequirity, called in Persian chashm-i-khurus, and in Arabic 'aynu'd-dik, both of which terms signify "cock's eye." Reports were then read on the death-rates and causes of mortality at some of the chief provincial towns. According to these, Kirmanshah suffered chiefly from ague, dysentery, and small-pox, while in Isfahan, Kirman, and Shahrud, typhus, or typhoid, joined its ravages to those of the above- mentioned diseases. My faith in these reports was, however, somewhat shaken when I subsequently learned that they were in great measure derived from information supplied by those whose business it is to wash the corpses of the dead. Some account was next given of a fatal haemorrhagic disease which had lately decimated the Yomut Turkmans. As these wild nomads appeared to entertain an unconquerable aversion to medical men, no


scientific investigation of this outbreak had been possible. Finally, a large stone, extracted by lithotomy, was exhibited by a Persian surgeon; and after a little general conversation the meeting finally broke up about 5 p.m. I was very favourably impressed with the proceedings, which were, from first to last, characterised by order, courtesy, and scientific method; and from the enlightened efforts of this centre of medical knowledge I confidently anticipate considerable sanitary and hygienic reforms in Persia. Already in the capital these efforts have produced a marked effect, and there, as well as to a lesser extent in the provinces, the old Galenic system has begun to give place to the modern theory and practice of medicine.

      Having now spoken of the topography, buildings, and institutions of the capital, it behoves me to say something about its social aspects. I begin naturally with the royal family.

      Of Nasiru'd-Din Shah, the reigning king, I have already said something. His appearance has been rendered so familiar in Europe by his three visits to the West, that of it I need hardly speak. He has had a long reign, if not a very glorious one, for he was crowned at Teheran on 20th October 1848, and there seems every likelihood that he will live to celebrate his jubilee. He came to the throne very young, being not much more than seventeen or eighteen years of age. Before that time he had resided at Tabriz as governor of the province of Adharbayjan, an office always conferred by Kajar sovereigns on the Crown Prince. The Kajars, as I have already said, are of Turkish origin, and the language of Adharbayjan is also a dialect of Turkish; whence it came about that Nasiru'd-Din Shah, on his accession, could scarcely express himself at all in Persian--a fact to which Dr Polak, about that time his court physician, bears testimony. Even now, though he habitually speaks and writes Persian, and has even composed and published some poems in that language, he prefers, I believe, to make use of Turkish in conversation with such of his intimates as understand it.


      I wish to insist on the fact that the reigning dynasty of the Kajars are essentially of Turkish race, because it is often overlooked, and because it is of some political importance. When the Shah was in England, for instance, certain journals were pleased to speak of him as a "descendant of Cyrus," which is about as reasonable as if one should describe our own Prince of Wales as a descendant of King Arthur. The whole history of Persia, from the legendary wars between the Kiyanian kings and Afrasiyab down to the present day, is the story of a struggle between the Turkish races whose primitive home is in the region east of the Caspian Sea and north of Khurasan on the one hand, and the southern Persians, of almost pure Aryan race, on the other. The distinction is well marked even now, and the old antipathy still exists, finding expression in verses such as those quoted above at p. 84, and in anecdotes illustrative of Turkish stupidity and dullness of wit, of which I shall have occasion to give one in a subsequent chapter. Ethnologically, therefore, there is a marked distinction between the people of the north and the people of the south--a distinction which may be most readily apprehended by comparing the sullen, moody, dull-witted, fanatical, violent inhabitants of Adharbayjan with the bright, versatile, clever, sceptical, rather timid townsfolk of Kirman. In Fars, also, good types of the Aryan Persian are met with, but there is a large admixture of Turkish tribesmen, like the Kashka'is, who have migrated and settled there. Indeed this intermixture has now extended very far, but in general the terms "northern" and "southern" may, with reservation, be taken as representing a real and significant difference of type in the inhabitants of Persia. Since the downfall of the Caliphate and the lapse of the Arabian supremacy, the Turkish has generally been the dominant race; for in the physical world it is commonly physical force which wins the day, and dull, dogged courage bears down versatile and subtle wit. Thus it happens that to-day the Kajars rule over the kinsmen of Cyrus and Shapur, as ruled in earlier days the


Ghaznavids and the Seljuks. But there is no love lost between the two races, as anyone will admit who has taken the trouble to find out what the southern peasant thinks of the northern court, or how the Kajars regard the cradle of Persia's ancient greatness.

      Of the Shah's character I do not propose to add much to what I have said already, for, in the first place, I am conscious of a prejudice against him in my mind arising from the-ineffaceable remembrance of his horrid cruelties towards the Babis; and, in the second place, I enjoyed no unusual facilities for forming a weighty judgment. I have heard him described by a high English official, who had good opportunities of arriving at a just opinion, as a liberal minded and enlightened monarch, full of manliness, energy, and sound sense, who, in a most difficult situation, had displayed much tact and wisdom. It must also be admitted that, apart from the severities practised against the Babis (which, with alternate remissions and exacerbations, have continued from the beginning of his reign down to the present time), his rule has been, on the whole, mild, and comparatively free from the cruelties which mar nearly every page of Persian history. During the latter part of his reign, especially, executions and cruel punishments, formerly of almost daily occurrence, have become very rare; but this is partly to be attributed to the fear of European public opinion, and desire to be thought well of at Western courts and in Western lands, which exercise so strong an influence over his mind.

      For most of the more recent Babi persecutions the Shah was not directly responsible. It was his eldest son, the Zillu's-Sultan, who put to death the two "Martyrs of Isfahan" in 1879, and Mirza Ashraf of Abade in 1888; and it was in his jurisdiction (though during his absence) that the persecutions of Sih-dih and Najaf-abad occurred in the summer of 1889*; while the cruel


murder of seven innocent Babis at Yezd in May 1890 lies at the door of Prince Jalalu'd-Dawla, son of the Zillu's-Sultan, and grandson of the Shah. The last Babi put to death actually by the Shah's order was, I think, the young messenger, Mirza Badi', who brought from Acre, and delivered into the king's own hands at Teheran, the remarkable apology for the Babi faith addressed to him by Beha'u'llah1. This was in July 1869.

      In extenuation of the earlier and more wholesale persecutions it has been urged that the Babis were in rebellion against the Crown, and that the most horrible of them, that of September 1852, was provoked by the attempt made by three Babis on the Shah's life. But this attempt itself (apart from the fact that, so far as can be ascertained, it was utterly unauthorised on the part of the Babi leaders) was caused by the desperation to which the Babis had been driven by a long series of cruelties, and especially by the execution of their Founder in 1850 2. Amongst the victims also, were several persons who, inasmuch as they had been in captivity for many months, were manifestly innocent of complicity in the plot, notably the beautiful Kurratu'l-'Ayn, whose heroic fortitude under the most cruel tortures excited the admiration and wonder of Dr Polak3, the only European, probably who witnessed her death.

      These executions were not merely criminal, but foolish. The barbarity of the persecutors defeated its own ends, and, instead of inspiring terror, gave the martyrs an opportunity of exhibiting a heroic fortitude which has done more than any propaganda, however skilful, could have done to ensure the triumph of the cause for which they died. Often have I heard Persians who did not themselves belong to the proscribed sect tell with admiration how Suleyman Khan, his body pierced with well-nigh


a score of wounds, in each of which was inserted a lighted candle, went to the place of execution singing with exultation:

"In one hand the wine-cup, in the other the tresses of the Friend-- Such a dance do I desire in the midst of the market-place!"

The impression produced by such exhibitions of courage and endurance was profound and lasting; nay, the faith which inspired the martyrs was often contagious, as the following incident shows. A certain Yezdi rough, noted for his wild and disorderly life, went to see the execution of some Babis, perhaps to scoff at them. But when he saw with what calmness and steadfastness they met torture and death, his feelings underwent so great a revulsion that he rushed forward crying, "Kill me too! I also am a Babi!" And thus he continued to cry till he too was made a partaker in the doom he had come out only to gaze upon.

      During my stay in Teheran I saw the Shah several times, but only once sufficiently near to see his features clearly. This was on the occasion of his visiting the new telegraph-office on his way to the University, where he was to preside over the distribution of prizes. Through the kindness of Major Wells, then superintendent of the Indo-European Telegraph in Persia, H-- and myself were enabled to stand in the porch of the building while the Shah entered, surrounded by his ministers. We afterwards followed him to the University and witnessed the distribution of prizes, which was on the most liberal scale, most of the students, so far as I could see, receiving either medals, or sums of money averaging three or four tumans (about 1 pound). The Shah sat in a room opening out into the quadrangle, where the secretaries of state (mustawfis), professors, and students were ranged in order. Around him stood the princes of the royal family, including his third son, the Na'ibu's-Saltana, and the ministers of state. The only person allowed


to sit beside him was his little favourite, "Manijak," who accompanied him on his last journey to Europe.

      The Shah's extraordinary fondness for this child (for he did not, at the time I saw him, appear to be more than eleven or twelve years old) was as annoying to the Persian aristocracy as it was astonishing to the people of Europe. It galled the spirit of the proud nobles of Persia to watch the daily-increasing influence of this little wizened, sallow-faced Kurdish lad, who was neither nobly born, nor of comely countenance, nor of pleasant manners and amiable disposition; to see honours and favours lavished upon him and his ignoble kinsmen; to be compelled to do him reverence and bespeak his good offices. All this now is a thing of the past. Within the last year or so Ghulam Khan, the Kurd, better known as "Manijak" (which, in the Kurdish tongue, signifies a sparrow), and somewhile dignified by the title of 'Azizu's-Sultan ("the Darling of the King"), fell from favour, and was hurled from the pinnacle of power down to his original obscurity. The cause of his fall was, I believe, that one day, while he was playing with a pistol, the weapon exploded and narrowly missed the Shah. This was too much, and "Manijak" and his favoured kinsmen were shorn of their titles and honours, and packed off to their humble home in Kurdistan. Perhaps it was, after all, as well for them; for "the Darling of the King was far from being the "Darling of the Court." Sooner or later his fall was bound to come, and had it been later it might have been yet more grievous.

      The Shah has five sons. Two of these, the Salaru'l-Mulk and the Rukunu'l-Mulk, were, at the time of which I write, mere children. They were described as beautiful and attractive boys but neglected by their father in favour of Manijak. The third son is entitled Na'ibu's-Saltana. He resided in Teheran, and to him was entrusted the government of the city and the supreme military command.


      The two elder sons were born of different mothers, and as the mother of the Vali-'ahd was a princess, he, and not his elder brother, was chosen as the successor to the throne. That the Zillu's-Sultan inwardly chafed at being thus deprived of his birthright is hardly to be doubted, though he was in the meanwhile compensated for this in some measure by being made governor of the greater part of Southern Persia, including the three important cities of Shiraz, Yezd, and Isfahan, at the last of which he resided in almost regal state. Here he collected together a considerable body of well-drilled troops, who were said to be more efficient and soldierly than any of the regiments in Teheran. Besides these he had acquired a number of guns, and his magazines were well provided with arms and ammunition. In view of these preparations, and the energy and decision of character discernible in this prince, it was thought possible that, in the event of his father's death, he might dispute the crown with his younger and gentler brother, the Vali-'ahd, in which case it appeared not improbable that he might prove victorious, or at least succeed in maintaining his supremacy over Southern Persia.

      All such speculations, however, were cast to the winds by an utterly unforeseen event which occurred towards the end of February 1888, while I was at Isfahan. In the beginning of that month both the Zillu's-Sultan and the Vali-'ahd had come to Teheran, the former from Isfahan, the latter from Tabriz, to pay a visit to their father. A decoration was to be presented to the former by the English Government for the protection and favour which he had extended to English trade and enterprise, towards which he had ever shown himself well disposed. Suddenly, without any warning, came the news that he had been deprived of all his governments, with the exception of the city of Isfahan; that he and some of his ministers who had accompanied him to the capital were kept to all intents and purposes prisoners within its walls; that his deputy-governors at Yezd, Shiraz, and other


towns were recalled; and that his army was disbanded, his artillery removed to Teheran, and his power effectually shattered. On first hearing from the Shah that of all the fair regions over which he had held sway, Isfahan only was left to him, he is reported to have said in the bitterness of his heart, "You had better take that from me too"; to which the Shah replied, "I will do so, and will give it to your son " (Prince Jalalu'd-Dawla, then governor for his father at Shiraz). This threat was, however not carried out, and the Zillu's-Sultan was left in possession of the former capital as a remnant of his once wide dominions

      Passing from the Shah and his sons, we must now turn our attention to one or two other members of the royal family Fore most amongst these is (or rather was, for he died in 1888 while was still in Persia) the Shah's aged uncle, Ferhad Mirza, Mu'ta- madu'd-Dawla, with whom, through the kindness of Dr Torrence of the American Missionary Establishment, and by means of his interest with Prince Ihtishamu'd-Dawla (the son of Ferhad Mirza, and, since the downfall of the Zillu's-Sultan, governor of Shiraz and the province of Fars), I obtained the honour of an interview We found him seated, amidst a pile of cushions, in his andarun, or inner apartments, surrounded by well-stocked shelves of books. He received us with that inimitable courtesy whereby Persians of the highest rank know so well how to set the visitor completely at his ease, and at the same time to impress with the deepest respect for their nobility. I was greatly struck by his venerable appearance and dignified mien, as well as by the indomitable energy and keen intelligence expressed by the flashing eye and mobile features, which neither old age nor bodily infirmity was able to rob of their animation. He talked much of a book called Nisab, written by himself to facilitate the acquisition of the English language (with which he had some acquaintance) by his countrymen. Of this work he subsequently presented me with a copy, which I value highly as a souvenir of its illustrious author. It is arranged on the same plan as the


Arabic Nisabs1 so popular in Persia--that is to say, it consists of a sort of rhymed vocabulary, in which the English words (represented in the text in Persian characters, and repeated in English characters at the head of the page) are explained successively by the corresponding Persian word. The following lines, taken from the commencement of the work, and here represented in English characters, will serve as a specimen of the whole:--

      I doubt greatly whether such a method of learning a language would commend itself to a European student, but with the Persians, endowed as they are with a great facility for learning by heart, it is a very favourite one.

      Prince Ferhad Mirza professed a great kindliness for the English nation as well as for their language; nor, if the following narrative be true, is this to be wondered at, since his life was once saved by Sir Taylor Thomson when endangered by the anger of his nephew, the Shah. Fleeing from the messengers of the king's wrath, he took refuge in the English Embassy, and threw himself on the protection of his friend the Ambassador, who promised to give him shelter so long as it should be necessary. Soon the


royal farrashes arrived, and demanded his surrender, which demand was unhesitatingly refused. They then threatened to break in by force and seize their prisoner, whereupon Sir Taylor Thomson drew a line across the path and declared that he would shoot the first man who attempted to cross it. Thereupon they thought it best to retire, and Ferhad Mirza remained for a while the guest of the British Embassy, during which time Sir Taylor Thomson never suffered him to partake of a dish without first tasting it himself, for it was feared that, violence having failed, poison might, perhaps, be employed. Ultimately the Shah's anger subsided, and his uncle was able again to emerge from his place of refuge.

      Before the close of our audience, Ferhad Mirza asked me how long I intended to stop in Teheran, and whither I proposed to go on leaving it. I replied that my intention was to proceed to Shiraz as soon as the spring set in, since that it was the Daru'l-'Ilm ("Abode of Knowledge"), and I thought that I might better pursue my studies there. "That," replied Ferhad Mirza, "is quite a mistake: 500 years ago Shiraz was the Daru'l-'Ilm, but now that has passed, and it can only be called the Daru'l-Fisk" ("Abode of Vice").

      Ferhad Mirza had little reason to like Shiraz, nor had Shiraz much better reason to like Ferhad Mirza. He was twice governor of that town and the province of Fars, of which it is the capital, and was so unpopular during his administration that when he was recalled the populace did not seek to hide their delight, and even pursued him with jeers and derisive remarks. Ferhad Mirza swore that the Shirazis should pay for their temporary triumph right dearly, and he kept his word. After a lapse of time he was again appointed governor of the city that had insulted him, and his rule, never of the gentlest, became sterner than ever. During his four years of office (ending about 1880) he is said to have caused no less than 700 hands to be cut off for various offences. In one case a man came and complained that he had lost an ass, which was subsequently found amongst the animals belonging


to a lad in the neighbourhood. The latter was seized and brought before Ferhad Mirza, who, as soon as the ass had been identified by the plaintiff, ordered the hand of the defendant to be cut off without further delay, giving no ear to the protestations of the poor boy that the animal had of its own accord entered his herd, and that he had not, till the accusation of theft was preferred against him, been able to discover its owner. Besides these minor punishments, many robbers and others suffered death; not a few were walled up alive in pillars of mortar, there to perish miserably. The remains of these living tombs may still be seen just outside the Derwaze-i-Kassab-khane ("Slaughter-house gate") at Shiraz, while another series lines the road as it enters the little town of Abade, situated near the northern limit of the province of Fars. On another occasion a certain Sheykh Madhkur, who had revolted in the garmsir, or hot region bordering on the Persian Gulf, and had struck coins in his own name, was captured and brought to Shiraz, together with two of his followers, one of whom was his chief executioner. Ferhad Mirza first compelled the Sheykh to eat one of his own coins, and then caused him and his followers to be strangled and suspended from a lofty gibbet as a warning to the disaffected. Notwithstanding his severity, Ferhad Mirza enjoyed a great reputation for piety, and had accomplished the pilgrimage to Mecca. His son, as I have said, was, early in 1888, appointed Governor of Shiraz, where the reputation of his father caused his advent to be looked forward to with some apprehension.

      The only other member of the Persian royal family whom I met was one of the brothers of the Shah, entitled 'Izzud-Dawla, who, if less important a personage than Ferhad Mirza, was by no means less courteous. He asked many questions about recent inventions in Europe, manifesting an especial interest, so far as I remember, in patent medicines and dynamite.

      Having now completed all that I have to say about the reigning dynasty, I will speak shortly of Persian dinner-parties at Teheran.


As these are seen in a more truly national form in the provinces where chairs, tables, knives, and forks have not yet obtruded themselves to such an extent as in the semi-Europeanised capital I shall leave much that I have to say on this subject for subsequent pages. Most of the Persians with whom I was intimate at Teheran had adopted European habits to a considerable extent; and during my residence there I was only on two occasions present at a really national entertainment.

      The order of procedure is always much the same. The guests arrive about sundown, and are ushered into what corresponds to the drawing-room, where they are received by their host and his male relations (for women are, of course, secluded). Kalyans (water-pipes) and wine, or undiluted spirits (the latter being preferred), are offered them, and they continue to smoke and drink intermittently during the whole of the evening. Dishes of "ajil" (pistachio nuts and the like) are handed round or placed near the guests; and from time to time a spit of kebabs (pieces of broiled meat) enveloped in a folded sheet of the flat bread called nan-i- sangak*, is brought in. These things bring out the flavour of the wine, and serve to stimulate, and at the same time appease, the appetite of the guests, for the actual supper is not served till the time for breaking up the assembly has almost arrived, which is rarely much before midnight.

      As a rule, music is provided for the entertainment of the guests. The musicians are usually three in number: one plays a stringed instrument (the si-tar); one a drum (dunbak), consisting of an earthenware framework, shaped something like a huge egg-cup and covered with parchment at one end only; the third sings to the accompaniment of his fellow-performers. Sometimes


dancing-boys are also present, who excite the admiration and applause of the spectators by their elaborate posturing, which is usually more remarkable for acrobatic skill than for grace, at any rate according to our ideas. These, however, are more often seen in Shiraz than at Teheran. Occasionally the singer is a boy; and, if his voice be sweet and his appearance comely, he will be greeted with rapturous applause. At one entertainment to which I had been invited, the guests were so moved by the performance of the boy-singer that they all joined hands and danced round him in a circle, chanting in a kind of monotonous chorus, "Baraka'llah, Kuchulu! Baraka'llah, Kuchulu!" ("God bless thee, little one! God bless thee, little one!"), till sheer exhaustion compelled them to stop.

      When the host thinks that the entertainment has lasted long enough, he gives the signal for supper, which is served either in the same or in another room. A cloth is laid on the floor, round which are arranged the long flat cakes of "pebble-bread" which do double duty as food and plates. The meats, consisting for the most part of pilaws and chilaws* of different sorts, are placed in the centre, together with bowls of sherbet, each of which is supplied with a delicately-carved wooden spoon, with deep boat-shaped bowl, whereof the sides slope down to form a sort of keel at the bottom. The guests squat down on their knees and heels round the cloth, the host placing him whom he desires most to honour on his right side at the upper end of the room (i.e. opposite the door). At the lower end the musicians and minstrels take their places, and all, without further delay, commence an attack on the viands. The consumption of food progresses rapidly, with but little conversation, for it is not usual


in Persia to linger over meals, or to prolong them by talk, which is better conducted while the mouth is not otherwise employed. If the host wishes to pay special honour to a guest, he picks out and places in his mouth some particularly delicate morsel. In about a quarter of an hour from the commencement of the banquet most of the guests have finished and washed their hands by pouring water over them from a metal ewer into a plate of the same material, brought round by the servants for that purpose. They then rinse out their mouths, roll down their sleeves again, partake of a final pipe, and, unless they mean to stay for the night, depart homewards, either on foot or on horseback, preceded by a servant bearing a lantern.

      Such is the usual course of a Persian dinner-party; and the mid-day meal (nahar), to which guests are sometimes invited, differs from it only in this, that it is shorter and less boisterous. Although I have described the general features of such an entertainment in some detail, I fear that I have failed to convey any idea of the charm which it really possesses. This charm results partly from the lack of constraint and the freedom of the guests; partly from the cordial welcome which a Persian host so well knows how to give; partly from the exhilarating influence of the wine and music (which, though so different from that to which we are accustomed, produces, in such as are susceptible to its influence, an indescribable sense of subdued ecstasy); but more than all from the vigour, variety, and brilliancy of the conversation. There is no doubt that satiety produces somnolence and apathy, as is so often seen at English dinner-parties. Hence the Persians wisely defer the meal till the very end of the evening when sleep is to be sought. During the earlier stages of the entertainment their minds are stimulated by wine, music, and mirth, without being dulled by the heaviness resulting from repletion. This, no doubt, is one reason why the conversation is, as a rule, so brilliant; but beyond this the quick, versatile, subtle mind of the Persian, stored, as it usually is, with anecdotes,


historical, literary, and incidental, and freed for the time being from the restraint which custom ordinarily imposes on it, flashes forth on these occasions in coruscations of wit and humour, interspersed with pungent criticisms and philosophical reflections which display a wonderful insight. Hence it is that one rarely fails to enjoy thoroughly an evening spent at a Persian banquet, and that the five or six hours during which it lasts hardly ever hang heavily on one's hands.

      The Persians have only two full meals in the day--nahar, which one may call indifferently either breakfast or lunch, since on the one hand it is the first meal of the day, and on the other it is not taken till a little before noon; and sham, or supper, which, as I have already stated, is eaten the last thing before retiring for the night. Besides these two meals, tea is taken on rising in the morning, and again in the afternoon.

      The usual way in which a Persian of the upper classes spends his day is, then, somewhat as follows: He rises early, often before sunrise (which, indeed, he must do, if devotionally inclined, for the morning prayer), and, after drinking a glass or two of tea (without milk, of course) and smoking a kalyan, sets about the business of the day, whatever it may be. About noon, or a little earlier, he has his breakfast (nahar), which differs little from supper as regards its material. After this, especially if the season be summer, he usually lies down and sleeps till about 3 p.m. From this time till sunset is the period for paying ca so he either goes out to visit a friend, or else stays at home to receive visitors. In either case, tea and kalyans constitute a prominent feature in the afternoon's employment. Casual visitors do not, as a rule, remain long after sunset, and on their departure, unless an invitation to supper has been given or received, the evening is quietly passed at home till the time for supper and be arrives. In the case of government employes, as well as shop- keepers, tradesmen, and others, whose hours of work are longer, a considerable portion of the afternoon may have to be spent in


business, but in any case this rarely lasts after 4 or 5 p.m. Calls may also be paid in the early morning, before the day's work commences. The true Persian life is, however, as I have before remarked, much better seen in the provinces than in the capital where European influences have already wrought a great change in national customs. Further remarks on it will therefore find a fitter place in a subsequent chapter.

      I must now return to my life in the Nawwab's house, and the society which I there met. Amongst the visitors were a certain number of Afghans who had formed the suite of Ayyub Khan before his attempted escape, and who were now to be transferred to Rawal Pindi in India, by way of Baghdad The arrangements for their journey were entrusted mainly to my host and, for a time, few days passed without his receiving visits from some of them. On these occasions I used often to remain in the room during the conversation, half of which, although it was conducted in Persian, was nearly unintelligible to me; for the Afghans speak in a manner and with an accent quite peculiar to themselves. These Afghans, who wore coloured turbans wound round a conical cap, after the Indian fashion, were troublesome and cantankerous fellows, seeming never to be satisfied, and always wanting something more--a larger allowance of money, more horses, or more sumptuous litters for the journey. As a rule, too, their expressions betokened cruelty and deceit, though some of them were fine-looking men, especially an old mulla called Kazi 'Abdu's-Salam, who had held an important position under the late Amir, Shir 'Ali.

      For the most part, however, the visitors were Persians, and of these a large proportion were natives of Shiraz, to whose eulogies of their beloved city (for all Shirazis are intensely patriotic) I used to listen with unwearying delight. They would praise the beautiful gardens, the far-famed stream of Ruknabad the soft, sweet speech of the south, and the joyousness of the people; but when I exclaimed that Shiraz must be a very paradise,


they would shake their heads sadly and say, "the place, indeed, has no fault--vali sahibi na-darad--but it has no master," thinking, perhaps, of the happy time when the virtuous and noble Karim Khan the Zend held his court there, and rejoiced in his palace, when he heard the sounds of merriment from the town, that his people should be free from care and sadness.

      One constant visitor was the Nawwab's brother-in-law, Aka Muhammad Hasan Khan of the Kashka'i tribe which dwells in the neighbourhood of Shiraz. When he had ceased for a while the disquisitions on philosophy which were his favourite theme, and had temporarily exhausted the praises of "the Master," as he called his teacher in the science, Mirza Abu'l-Hasan Jilve, he, too, used to revert to the inexhaustible subject of the beauties of his native land. "You must on no account postpone your visit to Shiraz later than the Nawruz" (the Persian New Year's Day, which corresponds with the vernal equinox), he would say, "for then, indeed, there is no place on the face of the earth so beautiful. You know what the Sheykh (i.e. Sa'di) says--

      In the evening, when I was alone with the Nawwab, or his brother 'Isa Khan, a colonel in the Persian army, or my old friends, his nephews, the talk would turn on religion, philosophy, or literature. Sometimes they would entertain me with anecdotes of celebrated men and accounts of curious superstitions and customs; sometimes the Nawwab would play on the si-tar, on which he was a proficient; while sometimes they would explain to me the intricacies of the Muhammadan prayers and ablutions, and the points wherein the Shi'ites differ from the Sunnis, both in practice and belief. They did not fail on these occasions to point out the meaning which underlies many of the ordinances of Islam. "The fast of Ramazan," they said, "appears to you a


most grievous burden for a prophet and legislator to lay upon his followers, but in truth in this is its very value, for, as it is enjoined on all alike, the rich are made to realise what hunger and thirst, which they would otherwise never experience, really are. Thus they are enabled to understand the condition of those who are always exposed to these trials, and brought to sympathise with them and to strive to ameliorate their lot more than the would otherwise do. So, too, with our prayers, and the ablutions by which they must be preceded. It is true that there is no special virtue in praying and washing oneself five times a day; but it is evident that one who is enjoined to remember his Creator thus often, and to keep his body pure and clean, will always have these objects in view, and will never through negligence fall into forgetfulness of God and disregard of personal cleanliness. Moreover, we are forbidden to pray in any place which has been forcibly taken from its owner, or in which he does not give us permission to perform our devotions. This continually serves to remind us to be just and courteous in all our dealings, that our prayers may be acceptable to God."

      Sometimes the conversation was of a lighter character, and turned on the sayings of witty and learned men, their ready replies, and pungent sarcasms. Of these anecdotes I will give a few specimens.

      Sheykh Sa'di was unrivalled in ready wit and quickness of repartee, yet even he once met with his match. It happened in this wise. The young prince of Shiraz, who was remarkable for his beauty, went one day, accompanied by his retinue, to visit a mosque which was being built by his orders, and which is still standing. As he passed by a workman who was digging, a piece of mud flew up from the spade and touched his cheek. Sa'di' who was walking near him, saw this, and immediately exclaimed making use of a quotation from the Kur'an, "Ya laytani kuntu turaba!" ("O would that I were earth!"*). The prince, hearing


Sa'di speak, but failing to catch his remark, asked, "What does the Sheykh say?" Another learned man who was present instantly interposed: "May I be thy sacrifice! it was naught but a quotation from the Holy Book--'fa-kala'l-kafiru, "Ya laytani kuntu turaba!"'" ("and the infidel said, 'O would that I were earth!'") Sa'di had made use of the quotation, forgetting for the moment in whose mouth the words were placed. His rival had not forgotten, and, while appearing merely to justify Sa'di, succeeded in applying to him the opprobrious term of kafir (infidel).

      'Obeyd-i-Zakani was another celebrated poet, chiefly noted for the scathing satires which flowed from his pen. Even when he was on his death-bed his grim humour did not desert him. Summoning successively to his side his two sons and his daughter, he informed them, with every precaution to ensure secrecy, that he had left behind for them a treasure, which they must seek for, on a particular hour of a certain day after his death and burial, in a place which he indicated. "Be sure," he added in conclusion, "that you go thither at that hour and at no other, and above all keep what I have said secret from my other children." Shortly after this the poet breathed his last, and when his body had been consigned to the grave, and the day appointed for the search had come, each of his three children repaired secretly to the spot indicated. Great was the surprise of each to find that the others were also present, and evidently bent on the same quest. Explanations of a not very satisfactory character ensued, and they then proceeded to dig for the treasure. Sure enough they soon came on a large parcel, which they eagerly extracted from its place of concealment, and began to unfold. On removing the outer covering they found a layer of straw, evidently designed to protect the valuable and perhaps fragile contents. Inside this was another smaller box, on opening which a quantity of cotton-wool appeared. An eager examination of this brought to light nothing but a small slip of paper on which something was written. Disappointed in their


search, but still hoping that this document might prove of value either by guiding them to the real treasure, or in some other way they hastily bore it to the light, and read these words--

Whether the children were able to appreciate this final display of humour on the part of their father is not narrated by the historian.

Satire, though, for obvious reasons, cultivated to a much smaller extent than panegyric, did not by any means cease with the death of 'Obeyd-i-Zakani, which occurred about the year A.D. 1370. The following, composed on the incapable and crotchety Haji Mirza Akasi, prime minister of Muhammad Shah, may serve as an example:--

"The Haji did not leave a single dirham in the domains of the king; Everything, small or great, he expended on kanats and guns-- Kanats which conveyed no water to the fields of his friends And guns which inflicted no injury on his enemies."*

      The wasteful and useless extravagance of Haji Mirza Akasi here held up to ridicule was unfortunately far from being his greatest or most pernicious error. It was he who ceded to the


Russians the sole right of navigating the Caspian Sea, remarking, with a chuckle at his own wit, "Ma murghabi nistim ki ab-i-shur lazim dashte bashim," "We are not waterfowl that we should stand in need of salt water," to which he presently added the following sage reflection:--"Barayi mushti ab-i-shur na-mi-shavad kam-i- shirin-i-dust-ra talkh namud" ("It wouldn't do to embitter the sweet palate of a friend for the sake of a handful of salt water").

      Readiness is a sine qua non in a Persian poet. He must be able to improvise at a moment's notice. One day Fath-'Ali Shah was riding through the bazaars surrounded by his courtiers when he happened to notice amongst the apprentices in a coppersmith's shop a very beautiful boy, whose fair face was begrimed with coal dust.

      "Bi-gird-i-driz-i-mis-gar nishaste gard-i-zugahl" ("Around the cheeks of the coppersmith has settled the dust of the coal"), said the king, improvising a hemistich; "now, Sir Laureate" (turning to his court-poet), "cap me that if you can!

      "Sada-yi mis bi-falak mi-ravad ki mah giriftast" ("The clang of the copper goes up to heaven because the moon is eclipsed"), rejoined the Laureate, without a moment's hesitation. To appreciate the appositeness of this verse the reader must know that a beautiful face is constantly compared by the Persians to the moon, and that when there is an eclipse of the moon it is customary in Persia to beat copper vessels to frighten away the dragon which is vulgarly supposed to have "eaten" it. This rhetorical figure (called "husn-i-ta'lil"), whereby an observed effect is explained by a fanciful cause, is a great favourite with the Persian poets. Here is another instance of a more exaggerated type, in a verse addressed by the poet Rasikh to his sweetheart--


      Could a neater compliment, or one more exaggerated, be imagined?

      It is the fashion with some scholars to talk as if literary and poetical talent were a thing of the past in Persia. No mistake could possibly be greater. Everyone is aware of that form of hallucination whereby the Past is glorified at the expense of the Present; that illusion which is typified both in the case of individuals and nations in the phrase, "the happy days of childhood." Men not only forget the defects and disagreeables of the past, and remember only its glories, but they are very apt to weigh several centuries of the Past against a few decades of the Present. "Where," the enthusiastic admirer of older Persian literature exclaims, "are the Rudagis, the Firdawsis, the Nizamis, the 'Omar Khayyams, the Anvaris, the Sa'dis, the Hafizes, the Jamis, of the glorious Past? Where are such mighty singers to be found now?" Leaving aside the fact that these immortal bards ranged over a period of five centuries, and that when, at certain periods, the munificent patronage of some prince collected together a number of contemporary poets (as at the so-called "Round Table" of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni), posterity (perhaps wisely) often neglected to preserve the works of more than one or two of them, it may confidently be asserted that the nineteenth century has produced a group of most distinguished poets, whose works will undoubtedly, when duly transfigured by the touch of antiquity, go to make up "portions and parcels" of the "glorious Past." Of modern Persian poets the greatest is perhaps Ka'ani, who died about A.D. 1854. In panegyric and satire alike he is unrivalled; and he has a wealth of metaphor, a flow of language, and a sweetness of utterance scarcely to be found in any other poet. Although he lacks the mystic sublimity of Jami, the divine despair of 'Omar Khayyam, and the majestic grandeur of Firdawsi, he manifests at times a humour rarely met with in the older poets. One poem of his, describing a dialogue between an old man and a child, both of whom stammer,


is very humorous. The child, on being first addressed by the old man, thinks that his manner of speech is being imitated and ridiculed, and is very angry; but, on being assured and finally convinced that his interlocutor is really afflicted in the same way, he is appeased, and concludes with the words--

The best poets at present living are Mirza-yi-Farhang1 and Mirza-yi-Yezdani, both of whom I met at Shiraz. They are the only two surviving brothers of Mirza Davari, also a poet of great merit; their father, whose nom de guerre was Wisal, was widely famed for his poetic talent; and their sons already manifest unmistakable signs of genius. The conversation of my kind friends, who desired that I might become acquainted with everything calculated to illustrate Persian life, did not, however, confine itself only to the masterpieces of national poetry. Nursery rhymes and schoolboy doggerel also came in for a share of attention. As a specimen of these I may quote the following:--

Which may be paraphrased thus:--


      I have already alluded to practical jokes, and described one perpetrated by a wit of the fourteenth century. Let me add another of the present day, which, if rougher than that of 'Obeyd- i-Zakani, was at least intended to convey a salutary lesson to the person on whom it was practised. Amongst the dependents of the governor of a certain town was a man who was possessed by the desire to discover some means of rendering himself invisible. At length he had the good fortune (as he thought) to meet with a dervish who agreed, for a certain sum of money, to supply him with some pills which would produce the desired effect. Filled with delight at the success which appeared at length to have crowned his efforts, the would-be dabbler in the occult sciences did not fail to boast openly before his comrades, and even before the governor, that on a certain day he would visit them unseen and prove the efficacy of his new acquisition. On the appointed day, having taken one or two of the magical pills, he accordingly came to the governor's palace, filled with delightful anticipations of triumph on his own part and envious astonishment on the part of his friends. Now the governor was determined, if possible, to cure him of his taste for the black art, and had therefore given orders to the sentries, servants, and other attendants, as well as to his own associates, that when the would- be magician arrived they were all to behave as though they were unable to see him. Accordingly, when he reached the gate of the palace, he was delighted to observe that the sentries omitted to give him the customary salute. Proceeding farther, he became more and more certain that the dervish's pills had produced the promised effect. No one looked at him; no one saluted him; no one showed any consciousness of his presence. At length he entered the room where the governor was sitting with his associates. Finding that these too appeared insensible to his presence, he determined to give them a proof that he had really been amongst them in invisible form--a fact which they might otherwise refuse to credit. A kalyan, or water-pipe, was standing


in the middle of the room, the charcoal in it still glowing. The pseudo-magician applied his lips to the mouth-piece and began to smoke. Those present at once broke out into expressions of astonishment. "Wonderful!" they exclaimed, "look at that kalyan! Though no one is near it, it is just as if some one were smoking it: nay, one can even hear the gurgle of the water in the bowl." Enchanted with the sensation he had caused, the "invisible" one became bolder. Some lighted candles were in the room; one of these he blew out. Again exclamations of surprise arose from the company. "Marvellous!" they cried, "there is no wind, yet suddenly that candle has been blown out; what can possibly be the meaning of this?" The candle was again lighted, and again promptly blown out. In the midst of fresh expressions of surprise, the governor suddenly exclaimed, " I have it! I know what has happened! So-and-so has no doubt eaten one of his magical pills, and is even now present amongst us, though we cannot see him; well, we will see if he is intangible as well as invisible. Ho, there! bacha-ha!* Bring the sticks, quick! Lay about you in all directions; perhaps you will be able to teach our invisible friend better manners." The farrashes hastened to rain down a shower of blows on the unfortunate intruder, who cried out loudly for mercy. "But where are you?" demanded the governor. "Cease to be invisible, and show yourself, that we may see you." "O master," cried the poor crestfallen magician, "if I be really invisible, how happens it that all the blows of the farrashes reach me with such effect? I begin to think that I have been deceived by that rascally dervish, and that I am not invisible at all." On this, amidst the mirth of all present, the sufferer was allowed to depart, with a recommendation that in future he should avoid the occult sciences; an injunction which one may reasonably hope he did not soon forget.

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