Persia/Chapter 41

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CHAPTER II.

COMMERCE.

Persia never was an essentially commercial country at any period of its history, unless when under the dominion of the Arabs. The caravans from the western provinces of the Saracen empire, then passed through it in their way to Transoxana and some parts of India. The laws of Zoroaster, which encouraged agriculture, naturally checked commerce; and as most of the rivers were unnavigable, there was not much internal traffic. The soil produces few things in sufficient quantity to be exported: some wheat, barley, rice, dates, and almonds, are, however, shipped at Bushire, Muscat, and other parts of the Persian Gulf.

The principal manufactured articles are gold brocade, silks, cotton stuffs of different kinds, leather, shawls of inferior quality, and rich carpets. With respect to shawls, observes Kotzebue, the Europeans are under a great mistake: those which are worn in Persia are the very worst I ever saw. We have seen people there admire shawls which no lady in our country would think of wearing; and I am therefore not surprised that the Persian ambassador at the court of Petersburg, who took a fancy to make a present of one to the Countess Orloff, should soon afterwards have the mortification to see it worn by her maid, while the countess herself had on a shawl of such value as absolutely astonished his excellency. The Persians cannot afford to pay the prices that are given for them at Constantinople and in Russia.

The cloths of Ispahan, Yezd, and Kashan, are exported to Russia by way of Astrachan, and exchanged for broad cloths, velvets, satins, and hardware. At Meragah and Shiraz, there are glass manufactories; and guns and piistols are made in almost all the large towns. The lances of Khorasan are in the highest estimation; they are made by descendants of those skilful cutlers whom Tamerlane transplanted from Damascus into that province. Yezd, a frontier city of Fars, is at present, from its advantageous position, the centre of the whole commerce of Persia.

Persia produces many species of gem and drugs, and among other assafœtida, great quantifies of which are exported to India: it receives in exchange sugar, indigo, spices, and several European commodities.