Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/170

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143
PERSIA.

not, however be charged with a particular fondness for gambling, which they never pursue to excess.

The Persians are acquainted with tennis and dice; the game of backgammon is common among them, but they know little of chess. Their cards, called kandjafeh, are of wood, ninety in number; they are very cleverly painted, and marked with eight colours. They have also a game which is very common in Turkey, by the name of mangala.

Most of these games are confined to the lowest classes of the people. The priests hold persons who play, especially if for money, in little estimation, and believe that they will suffer in a future world for these acts of impiety.


CHAPTER XIII.

OF THE HOUSES OF THE PERSIANS.

Nothing can have a duller appearance than a Persian city. Most of the houses are built of bricks baked in the sun, and covered with a plaster made of mud and chopped straw; so that a stranger would conceive them to be wholly constructed of earth.

Mr. Morier, speaking of Ispahan, says: In forming his idea of this city, let not the reader bring it in comparison with any of the capitals of Europe. Here are no long or broad streets, no architectural beauties, and few monuments of private wealth or public munificence. At Ispahan, (and it is nearly the same in all despotic countries) the interior of houses is much better than their exterior would indicate. Indeed, where scarcely any thing of the house is seen from the street, but a dead wall, as is the case with the generality of Persian houses, there is not much room for exterior ornament. The constant succession of walls unenlivened by windows, gives a character of mystery to their dull streets, which is greatly heightened by now and then observing the women, through the small apertures made in the wall, stealing a look at the passengers below.

The entrances to the houses from the street are generally mean and low. A poor man's door is scarcely three feet in height; and this is a precautionary measure, to hinder the servants of the great from entering it on horseback, which, when any act of oppression is going on, they would make no scruple to do. But the habitation of a man in power is known by his gate, which is generally elevated in proportion to the vanity of