Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/171

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

its owner. A lofty gate is one of the insignia of royalty; such are the Allah Capi at Ispahan, and the Bab Homayan, or Sublime Porte, at Constantinople. Such an ornament to a dwelling so much attracts the public eye, that it is carefully avoided by those who fear to be accounted rich, lest it should excite the cupidity of their governors. The merchants of Ispahan, for instance, some of whom are very rich, have purposely mean entrances to their houses, whilst the interior is ornamented with great luxury.

The houses of Ispahan are one story in height, but composed of so many apartments, that even the meanest of them covers a considerable area: for the extent that we occupy in our high houses, is in Persia laid out horizontally. They are built either of earth or brick, end their uniformity in height and colour produces a very dull appearance when seen collectively.

The traveller just quoted gives a humorous enumeration of the noises characteristic of a Persian city. First, at the dawn of day, the muezzin are heard in a great variety of tones, calling the people to prayers from the tops of the mosques: these are mixed with the sounds of cow-horns, blown by the keepers of the hummums, to inform the women, who bathe before the men, that the bathe are heated and ready for their reception. The cow-horns set all the dogs in the city howling in a frightful manner. The asses of the town generally beginning to bray about the same time, are answered by all the asses in the neighhourhood: a thousand cocks then intrude their shrill voices, which, with the other subsidiary noises of persons ceiling to each other, knocking at doors, and cries of children, complete a din very unusual to the ears of a European. In the summer season, as the operations of domestic life are mostly performed in the open air, every kind of noise is heard. At night, all sleep on the tops of their houses, their beds being spread upon their terraces, without any other covering over head than the vault of heaven. The poor seldom have a skreen to keep them from the gaze of passengers; and as we generally rode out on horseback, says the traveller, at an early hour, we perceived on the tops of houses people either still in bed or just getting up, and certainly no sight was ever stranger. The women appeared to be always up the first, while the men were frequently seen lounging in bed long after the sun was risen. The universal custom of sleeping on the house-top, speaks much in favour of the climate of Persia; and indeed we found that our repose in the open air was much more refreshing than in the confinement of a room.

On entering the door of a house of any consequence, a long passage generally leads to a spacious court, which has a fountain at the farthest extremity, while the sides are bordered by