From the persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea
Persia is the home of roses and poppies, consequently the late spring or early summer is the best time to visit the country. The British India Company have a Persian Gulf service, and Bushire is the port of debarkation, the route being to Shiraz, Ispahan and Teheran. The trip is made on horseback as far as Ispahan, and thence by post. Owing to the fierce heat from the sun, the trip as far as Shiraz is best made by night stages. Hotels there are none, and as travelers are obliged to camp in the common caravanserai, the trip is not advisable for ladies. Military escort is necessary.
Shiraz is about six days', or rather nights', travel from Bushire by a rough mountain road ascending to the immense plateau. Shiraz is a walled city in more senses than one, and a Persian motto says that " It is more easy to enter Shiraz than to leave." A promenade on the housetops is the proper thing. The city remains the same that it was a thousand years ago, and Christians are held at a long discount. The Bagh-i-Takht, with its seven terraces overlooking Shiraz, means the " garden of the throne," and is crown property; nevertheless it is in a ruinous condition. Situated on a spur of the mountains, which at this point are scarcely more than a mile from the bazaars, it is one of the great gardens of the world. Excursions can be made also to the tombs of the poets Hafiz and Saadi. The latter fought in Palestine against the crusaders. The tombs are located in a charming cemetery, full of orange and rose trees, where the nightingales may be heard singing from twilight to early dawn.
Ispahan is reached in about ten days from Shiraz, the altitude of the plateau permitting travel by day. A detour is made from the main route two or three days after leaving Shiraz, to visit the cyclopean ruins of Persepolis, the ancient capital of Xerxes and Darius. These ruins are in a wonderful state of preservation, especially the bas-reliefs. The mountains surrounding the ruins are honeycombed with tombs, and a little farther on are the pyramids of the still more ancient shrine, the Mecca of a now nearly obsolete religion, Zoroastrianism, or fire-worship. The approach to Ispahan is charming, after the long journey across the sinister desert. The oasis on which the city is located is a mass of roses, poppies and verdure, out of which arises the turquoise-blue city, seen as in a dream of fairyland, with palaces of sapphire and radiant with brilliants of many colors. Nearer approach, however, to the city soon banishes the illusion, and the reality is not so pleasant. Christians are generally made to camp outside in the Armenian quarter. The Ischarbag, which leads to the city, was once a famous avenue thronged with Persian elegants. The city is entered by a magnificent galleried bridge (believed to be the finest in the world), built of gray bricks embellished with blue enamel, and dates from the time of Shah Abbas, about 1565, when Ispahan had reached the height of its prosperity. The streets of the city of Ispahan are walled and somber. In the center of the city is the Imperial Mosque (Mesjid-i-Shah), built entirely in sapphire and turquoise-blue. Close by is the Palace of Shah Abbas, built in old Assyrian style, and a little farther on is the Mesjid-i-Juma, built (A.D. 755) in yellow enamel, the oldest and most venerated mosque in all Persia. Tamerlane slew more than 100,000 of the city's inhabitants in two days, and in 1721 it was invaded by the Afghans, who sacked it and defiled and overthrew the palaces, gardens and houses. It has not yet recovered from this disaster.
Teheran is reached in about seven days from Ispahan by post via Natanz, or horse via the Kuhmd Pass (7,250 feet), the distance being about 280 miles. The third day's camp from Ispahan will probably be made at Kashan, founded by Khalif Haroun el Raschid. the hus- band of the Sultana Zobude, the popular heroine of " The Arabian Nights." The fifth day the town of Koum is reached, celebrated for its Golden Mosque, where repose the bones of Fatima, the granddaughter of the prophet. The location and surroundings of the little tomb form one of the most picturesque and oriental sights in Persia, but Christians are not permitted to visit it.
Teheran, the capital of Persia, is a much more modern city than either Shiraz or Ispahan. It lies at the foot of Tochal Mountain (13,000 feet), and forty miles away is Mount Demavend (18,600 feet). The palace of the shah is, of course, the chief attraction. The western travels of the late shah were not wholly wasted time, and both the city and the palace have within these last few years become much Europeanized.
From Teheran, four or five days by carriage (200 miles) across a wooded mountain country will bring the traveler to Recht on the Caspian Sea, where connection can be made to Enzeli, and a Russian steamer can be taken to the petroleum city of Batoum.