Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/172

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145
PERSIA.

canals and alleys of trees. Each house has a divan-kaneh, or an apartment for the reception of' visitors. When it is of, large dimensions, there are two fire-places adorned with paintings and window-glass; and on each side there is a closet, of which no use seems to be made.

It is difficult to form a correct notion of the extent of buildings in Persia. The women have their particular apartments; called harem-kaneh, or zenaneh; and the servants, who are frequently very numerous, also have rooms for their exclusive occupation.

The furniture of a Persian house 'is extremely simple,,when compared with ours. We find in them neither beds sumptuously decorated, nor tables and chairs of costly wood, nor chandeliers and lustres, nor those numberless articles of various forms and materials, with which European luxury decorates our apartments. In Persia, the furniture consists of a thick coarse felt which covers the floor, and over which is spread a rich Persian carpet. People in middling circumstances content themselves with the felt alone. Instead of chairs, small mattresses about a yard wide are placed on the floor round the room, and covered with chintz, silk, or cloth gold. Cushions set on end close to the wall serve to lean against.

When it is time to retire to rest, a mattress is spread upon the carpet, with a blanket or counterpane, and two pillows of down. This is all the bed used by the Persians, and they lie in it without undressing. The mattress is of velvet, and the counterpane of silk brocade, or cloth of gold or silver. Articles of this kind are not changed perhaps for a century; for these velvets and brocades never wear out, owing in part to the extreme dryness of the atmosphere.

In Persia, a native never enters a room in boots or slippers; and when a foreigner attempts any transgression of this usage, it is looked upon as the height of ill-breeding, if not quite a premeditated insult. As these people use the carpet not merely for domestic purposes, but to kneel down on when they say their prayers, it is considered in some measure sacred; and hence arises the custom of a visitor always leaving his slippers at the room-door. The term door here means whatever denotes the way of ingress to the apartment; for though, in general, there is a double door of carved or painted wood, which may be closed at pleasure, yet it is so seldom shut in the day, that we usually find a silk curtain filling the vacant space of the entrance; its light drapery being not only a cooler but a more elegant appendage than a thick heavy door. An attending servant raises the curtain at the approach of a visitor, and drops it on his having entered. That the custom of such draperies is of great antiquity, we find in various authors. Plutarch, for instance, informs us that