« AnteriorContinuar »
The country passed through to-day was extremely beautiful. The undulating hills forming the valley of the Tigris are now clothed in their spring garments; waving grass, intermingled with flowers of every hue, forms a rich landscape which the eye is unaccustomed to meet in the alluvial plains below. Perpendicular cliffs, composed of masses of conglomerate, laid bare by the abrasion of the stream, seeming to threaten the destruction of the vessel, should they fall, are happily contrasted with their carpeted summits. The háwis of alluvium, projecting from the various points of the valley of the Tigris, are highly cultivated by the Jebbúr Arabs on the E. and the Mahjammah on the W. Obtained some good bearings and angles from the mast-head. Shortly after sunset the S. wind fell, and heavy rain followed with thunder and lightning, but before morning the sky again became clear.
At sunrise on the 5th resumed our route, contending against a heavy stream of 6 knots an hour, and occasionally slight rapids in the narrow channels. Obtained our fuel at Kádisiyah at 7h. 48m.
While taking in wood, I visited the remains of the old fortress and city of Kádisiyah, situate about 1 mile froin the river. I never had so agreeable a walk. The country is literally covered with wild grass of every sort in full blossom. Flowers of every tint and hue were crushed beneath our feet, and the very air was perfumed by them. The city is of an octagonal form, with round towers at each angle, between which 16 buttresses or bastions are placed, 37 paces distant from each other. A gap exists in the centre of either side, which no doubt held the gates of the fortress, but all traces of these are now gone. The wall by measurement was originally 50 feet in thickness, and is at present about 25 feet high. Its interior face must have comprised an entire range of vaulted chambers, one of which is still uninjured, and affords a good specimen of the general structure. It is built of sun-dried bricks, 18 inches square and 5 thick. No buildings at present exist within its area; but on a minute examination, at one-third the distance across the interior from its western side, I. discovered the traces of a wall which extended from the southern ramparts in a line due N. for 1240 paces. This line of wall at the distances along it of 700 and 790 paces, and at its termination, had other walls, connected with and extending from it at right angles, or due E., for 450 paces, where they break off abruptly. A perfect oblong enclosure of 250 paces long from N. to S., and 100 broad, occupied the space between the northern parallels. A high mud rampart appears to have surrounded the town, leaving a space between it and the outer defences, 70 feet wide. The great canal of the Nahrawán is seen stretching far to the eastward, and passing within 200 yards of the N.E. angles of the fort. A band, or cut from the Nahrawán, about 1 inile N.W. of the city, watered the country between it and the Tigris, and ran along the W. face of the fortification, throwing out a branch in a S.S.E. direction, at a short distance below its junction with the Nahrawán. This offshoot entered the fort at its N.W. angle, and ran in a S.S.E. direction to the angle of the city wall, where it bifurcated, one branch passing along the N. face of the city, while the other, running parallel with the western wall for 640 paces, suddenly turned to the east through an opening in it. After supplying the town, I presume both this and the southern branch must have been employed in irrigation. It is probable indeed that the whole space between the walls of the city and the outer defences contained gardens, for no mounds of any size or extent are to be met with, which could lead us to conclude that buildings of any importance existed there.
From the S.W. angle of Kádisiyah observed bearings. There can be no doubt, I imagine, that this city was one of importance during the flourishing period of the Khalifate, and probably owes its decline and subsequent abandonment to the decay of that vast canal, the Nahrawán river. A small oblong enclosure, called El Sanam (the Idol), existed formerly on the summit of the cliffs now washed by the Tigris, but only half of it at present remains, the river having swept away the remainder; the walls, however, on the face of the cliffs, are plainly distinguishable, and, unlike Kádisiyah itself, are built of fine kiln-dried bricks; no inscription or sculptures are to be seen there. The half of a statue (whence the enclosure has its name) of black stone, similar to that of Egypt, was found here some years ago, and is now in the possession of Dr. Ross. The latitude of Kádisiyah by a meridional observation of the sun is 34° 4' 38".
On the high land forming the western valley of the Tigris, and immediately opposite to or due W. of Kádisiyah, there are the remains of a neat square town of some extent, called Istabolát (stables). The streets and buildings can be traced by a great number of parallel mounds, and broken brick walls at right angles with each other. A ruined wall of kiln-dried bricks and a ditch surround it. The Dijeïl leaves the Tigris close to this place; its northern and more ancient mouth is now dried up. It has a S.E. direction, and after passing the end of the Median Wall and the villages of Harbah and Sumeíchah is finally lost near the Tarmiyah water. The country is now considerably more elevated.
Having got a meridian observation, we continued our course at 12h. 15m. passing the head of the Dijeïl and Istábolát, and at 12h. 45m. El Kaim. Saw a solid quadrangular tower situated at
televatering en testing
the head of the S. branch of the Nahrawán. It is certain that this magnificent canal had two large branches, from which it received its supply of water, and by some it is imagined that a small canal, called the Nahr Háfeh, having its mouth at the foot of the Hamrin range, where it is severed by the Tigris, might be called a third. The Nahr Háfeh, however, is much smaller than the other two branches. It joins the centre one near the Kanţarah el Resás, from whence this main branch pursued a S.E. direction, meeting the branch from El Kaim, which flowed in a more easterly direction a little above the junction of the 'A'dhem with the Tigris. From this spot they became one united stream, considerably more elevated than the surrounding country, and pursuing an uninterrupted course S. eastward over the 'A'dhem, the Diyálah, and the present bed of the Tigris, it formerly fertilized the immense plains of Irák by its many ramifications to the neighbourhood of the Persian Gulf.
An opening to the S. of El Kaim, I have since heard, is a duct from this splendid work. In March 1843, I visited the junction of the two larger branches where the remains of a “ Sidd” or “band” still exist. A tower must also have stood on this site formerly, for the ground was strewed with remains of buildings, glass, and pottery. Opis is represented by some as having occupied this position, but I hardly think that opulent city could have left no further traces of its existence than the insignificant remains here met with at present.
From El Káim to Sánarrah the ascent of the river is very difficult. The fall or inclination of its surface is plainly visible to the eye. Opposite to El Káim a single fall took us forty minutes to overcome, and had we not been assisted with a westerly wind, which enabled us to make sail, our further progress would probably have been stopped.
Reached Sámarrah, April 6, at 7 A.M. The modern town, situate on the cliffs forming the left bank of the Tigris, is now encircled by a strong wall built at the expense of the influential Shiah population from India. When I visited it in 1843, this wall was just begun. The town was previously open, and suffered much from the demands of the Bedouins. They used to encamp outside and threaten to pillage the place if their demands were not complied with; it is, however, now secure and free from such visits. But a great oversight has been committed in not extending the walls to the margin of the cliffs overlooking the river, for the Bedouins could at any time destroy the aqueduct which conveys water to the town, and thus, by cutting off the supply of this necessary article, compel the inhabitants to come to terms. It is, however, on the whole, a miserable town, and owes its importance chiefly to two handsome tombs surmounted by cupolas, the larger being that erected over the remains of the Imam Husein 'Askari. It has recently been repaired, and, I believe, was formerly covered with gold, similar to the cupolas at Kádhimeïn, Kerbelá, and Nyaf; it is now perfectly white, the present funds not being sufficient to give it its former splendour. The smaller cupola, or that of the Imám Mehdi, is very pretty, being beautifully enamelled with yellow and white flowers on a bluish-green ground. Medbí was the last of the Imáms revered by the Shí’ahs, and is said to have disappeared from the earth at this spot. A large hole, over which this edifice is erected, points out the place from which it is also believed he will at some future period re-appear. It is therefore much venerated by Mohammedans, especially by the Shi'ahs. Pilgrims from all parts of Persia resort to this place annually. I am informed that 10,000 is the yearly average of the number of those who visit this sacred spot, but I am inclined to believe this amount is even under the truth. No tax is levied on the pilgrims, but the proprietors of the kháns and houses, in which they reside, pay to the government 2 Riega piastres for each individual. The modern town comprises about 250 houses, with a Sunni population slightly under 1000, who possess among them barely 100 stand of arms. The town is farmed by the government this year to the present Zabit Seyyid Husein for 280,000 Riega piastres, a sum nearly equal to 6601. sterling.
About half a mile to the N. of the modern town a curious spiral tower is situated. It is called the Malawiyah. I ascertained its height to be 163 feet, as near as possible. From its summit a fine view of the extent of ancient Sámarráh is obtained. Heaps of bricks, glass, pottery, and fragments are strewed in every direction, and the outlines of many edifices are plainly distinguishable. The former town is said to have been watered by a tunnel cut under ground, having its mouth in the neighbourhood of the Hamrin ranges. Traces of this tunnel are still to be seen in the remains of the wells (named Kámát or Káríz) descending into it. Both the Malawiyah and the remains of an oblong building (a Jámi' or Medreseh) close to it, are built of fine bricks, and with the greatest neatness. The Medreseh is about 810 feet in length and 490 broad, having 12 buttresses between the corner bastions on its N.W. and S. E. faces, and 10 on its N. E. and S.W. sides. The great entrance faces the Kéblah, and shows at once its Mohammedan origin. A fountain appears to have existed in the centre of its court. Its walls are at present about 30 feet high, and on its S.W. side the remains of arched windows are discernible. To the N.N.W. of the Malawiyah, about 2} miles distant, are the remains of the Palace of Mótasim, the eighth Kaliph of the Abbasides. Its entrance is now all that is left standing. The ruins around occupy a large space, and have vaulted chambers beneath
them. Many an idle tradition is attached to these subterranean apartments by the Arabs, and, moreover, Beckford's · Vathek ' owes its origin to this place. During our visit to it in 1843 we descended into the vaults by means of a rope and block, much to the dismay of the frightened natives, who would not trust themselves near the spot, but awaited the termination of our enterprise with a superstitious dread. They firmly believe that a lion has chosen this place to hold his court in, and when we again made our appearance on “terra firma” scatheless, they thanked God for our deliverance. The vaults are of some extent, and cut out of the limestone rock, but have brick roofs. A few scraps of old and much rusted iron and a fathom or two of decayed rope rewarded our labours.
The site of the ancient Sámarráh was undoubtedly well chosen. The broad and rapid Tigris bounded it to the W., the S. branch of the Nahrawán extending from the Kantarah-el-Reşás to the river 'A'dhem on the N., and the N. branch of the Nahrawán extending from Al Káim in an easterly direction to its junction with the other branch on the S., thus enclosing a triangle of rich land, whose longest side was 35 English miles, and the remaining two 20 miles in length. Many towns occupied this area, and the numerous canals, offshoots from the great Nahrawán, crossing it in a diversity of lines, attest its former cultivation. At this time not a blade of grass or a single tree breaks, the monotony of the extensive view from the top of the Malawiyah; a death-like silence prevails around the fallen city, interrupted only by the howling of a jackal, who has just issued from some of its deserted vaults.
W. by N. of the palace, and on the undulating mounds which form the right boundary of the valley of the Tigris, another ruin, apparently of the same character and date, is seen. The buttresses, which occur at regular intervals along the walls, and are partly standing, give to the whole, when viewed at a distance, the resemblance of a group of columns. These buttresses are circular or square pedestals neatly built of fine brick-work. It is called “Ashik,” or “ the lover.” Some high mounds in the valley of the river, about half way between the palace and this ruin, or rather nearer to the latter, mark, I think, the site of some very ancient ruin, probably Babylonian. The Arabs, however, call them “Máshúkeh,” or “the beloved ;” and a bridge over the Tigris is said to have formerly connected them together, notwithstanding which, tradition has here preserved a tale similar to the well-known feat of Leander.
About four miles N. of the modern town of Sámarráh, a high tumulus stands in the plain. It is called Tel Alíj, or the “nosebag mound,” and is said by tradition to have been raised by some former ruler ordering his troops each to bring the nose-bag