CITY OF MASHHAD
There is a time difference of 2½ hours between Bombay and Mashhad. Therefore when it is noon in Mashhad, it is 9:30 A.M. in Bombay. Here Arabic time is in Vogue. That means when it is 6 P.M. it is 12 here. Thus, there is a difference of six hours. Just as English day begins after 12 midnight, here as per Islamic rules, the old day ends and a new day begins at 6 P.M. In the month of August the sun rises at 8 A.M. and sets at 6 P.M. It is not so hot in summer. August is the hottest month. The maximum temperature is 100’ Fahrenheit. We felt that the weather was very pleasant then. Snowfall begins from November and starts melting from March. The cold becomes less from April Zawwars are recommended to visit thereafter. They may return before November since it is very cold then. The most suitable time to visit Khurasaan is July, August or September which is considered a hot season there yet for us it is cool. A lot of fruits grow in this season and are very cheap. The cold from December to April is unbearably severe.
On three sides of the Mausoleum are bazaars. The merchants have shops and residences here. In one line there are restaurants, butcher’s shops, fruit sellers,cloth shops etc. The bread shops and eating houses are separate. A variety of meat dishes are available. On Fridays the bazaars and banks are closed.
Iranian currency is Tumaan, one Tumaan is ten Karaans. One Karaan is ten Annar and one Annar is two Shaahi. At present, hundred rupees are equivalent to 400 Karaans. Annar and Shaahi are like nickel. Four Karaans is about one Indian rupee. Karaan is made of silver and resembles our eight anna coin. Tumaan had no coins, only paper notes of one, two, five, ten, twenty, fifty and hundred. The latter are different in different towns. The town’s name is imprinted on each note. From town to town the notes pertaining to other places have to be exchanged, the currency notes are issued by a British bank namely Imperial Bank of Persia, which is surprising. Houses are mostly of earthen bricks. In the middle of the houses on the ground floor there are squares. In the center of the squares is a Huaz. The narrow streets are of stone. The Municipality is responsible for cleanliness of the streets and houses as also general improvements. New houses are at a distance from one another allowing streets to become broader. Private carriers bring water from nearby spring outside the town and levy charges from each house according to area. Water for domestic use is from bore wells.
Bombay has one horse drawn Victoria carriages. Here the carriages are slightly bigger and are drawn from a pair of horses. There are about 100 such vehicles. These were used to go for sight-seeing. For a 2 mile journey the rate is 2 Karans (i.e. eight annas of India). The travellers are either all male or all female, howsoever closely related they are. Unlike India the driving is on the right side.
In August there are fruits like grapes, peaches, shetoots, apricots, watermelons and melons. They are very luscious, fresh and cheap and are brought daily from the nearby gardens. The sweetness and taste of Iranian fruits cannot be compared with anywhere else in the world. To give an idea to the readers given below are the rates of different fruits. Here one Mun (maund) is of 40 seers of less weight. About 6 seers make a pound. This means 1 mound of this place is equal to about quarter mound of Indian.
Watermelons, grapes and apples cost one Karaan i.e. ¾ anna per one pound. Peaches and dudhi costs 2.5 Karaans i.e. 1 & ½ anna.
There are 8-10 qualities of grapes. The white kismis are long and round, the black and red are very sweet. Grapes are so cheap and even beggars and labourers could eat them to their hearts content. Daily thousands of Muns of grapes are sold. Peaches are also very sweet, tasty and cheap. One piece is bigger than our sweetlime (mosambi). They are so soft that they melt in our mouth. If we put it in our mouth it can be swallowed without chewing. Good quality peaches cost only 6 annas per dozen whereas such fruits would not even available in Bombay for rupees five. Apples are equally sweet and tasty. We once purchased 28 pieces for 4.5 annas. Melons and watermelons were sold by weight. These are very sweet and cheap. In short fruits are very cheap, tasty but newcomers may eat less to start with otherwise there is a fear of loose motions. They may eat as required after about a week.
There are 2 gardens in Mashhad. The big one is Baag-e-Milli. Many tress are planted therein and many benches are provided for sitting. Moreover, there is a refreshment stall. Tea, falooda and many kinds of sharbat (sweet drinks) are available here. People come here in big numbers for a walk. This garden is situated near Arak. The other garden is called Baagh-e-Naadiri. The famous emperor Nadir Shah, who had invaded India is buried in this garden.
There are many small gardens on the outskirts of Mashhad. Big red roses grow there. Their fragnance is very pleasant. Both rich and poor of the city are very fond of keeping roses with them.
Good quality grains like wheat, rice, moong, masoor, gram,vaal etc. can be had here cheaper than in India. Rice is small and of a very high quality, even better than Delhi’s high quality Basmati rice. It expands a lot after cooking. I have not seen such good quality rice in India. This rice comes from Resht province. People do not eat Bajra (Millet) here. Flour of wheat, rice and gram is also here.
Vegetables like brinjal, ladies finger, potato, onions, tomatoes, suvaa and methi are available here. These are fresh tasty and cheap. Sour lime is not available here.
Mail for India and other countries close twice a week on Saturday and Wednesday at one in the afternoon. Letters from Bombay take 25-28 days to reach here. They have to be sent 1731 miles by rail from Bombay to Duzdaab. 325 miles on camel from Duzdaab to Birjand, 144 miles on horseback from Birjand to Gunabaad and 170 miles in horse drawn carriages from Gunahbaad to Mashhad. In winter it takes longer as roads are covered with snow. As horses cannot travel on snow satisfactorily, mail is carried on ponies from Birjand to Mashhad. Government stamps are affixed on postal articles. Telegram charges for foreign countries are like in India. Within Iran it is 5 Karan for 10 words. Telegrams are accepted in Farsi and English languages. There are no printed forms for sending telegrams. We have to write it on plain paper and sign.
There are three main hospitals here. One is being mantained with the money of Imam Raza (A.S.) which is called “Daarus Shifaa-e-Hazrat”, in which all and specially Zawwars are treated. The other is run by the British Government and is in charge of a Parsi doctor, Mrs. Damri MD. Daily 300 patients are treated free of charge in this hospital. In addition to these two, there is an American missionary hospital in which fees are charged for treatment. Then there is a small free hospital of an Iranian which is called Shifaa Khana-e-Muntasariya.
There are no hotels here like in Bombay and in other big cities, with lodging, boarding and dining facilities, but restaurants serve cooked food including rice, mutton, brinjal, kabab, seekh etc. Bread is sold in separate shops where tandoori (tanoor) chappati rotis are also available. These are different from those in Bombay. Usually, these are one to one and a half feet wide and 5 to 6 feet long. Comparative rate is half that of Bombay.
There are innumerable samll roads in the city in addition to the big ones. All kinds of shops are situated on the Baalaa (upper) as well as Paaeen (lower) Khayaabaan (roads). Both these main roads start from the two opposite gates of the Haram Sharif. There is an area called Arak. Mainly foreigners reside here. British and foreign consulates and British hospitals are also here. Post and telegraph departments, army camp and government ammunition godown is situated here.
Mashhad is the capital city of Iran’s Khorasaan District. It’s population is nearly one lack. Many nearby villages are dependant upon this city. Therefore the business was brisk. Main imports included tea, sugar, silk cloth, glassware, etc. The Silk and glassware came from Russia in large quantities. Sign boards on shops are more in Russian language and less in English. Amongst foreigners, Englishmen are very few, others are Russians, Armenians, Turks etc. Main trade is in the hands of the Iranians. In local produce, hand-woven silk, silken handkerchiefs and carpets are very famous. Exports include wool, fruits, silk carpets etc. Moreover warm cloth is also made with wool which is mainly used by poor people. Unfortunately industry in Iran is almost nil. Otherwise if an adventurous businessman ventures he can manufactures Jam, jelly, murabba etc. from the cheap and good fruits, thus adding to the wealth and progress of the country. In our country (India) such fruit based articles arrive from Armenia, Australia and England while this industry awaits development in our neighborhood.
Iran has an area of about 6 lack square miles. Yet it’s railway line is only 52 miles from Mirjawa to Duzdaab (Zahedaan) and 4 miles from Tehran to Shah Abdul-Azeem. Totally 52 miles long railway looks tiny in comparison with her neighboring country India. India’s area is thrice that of Iran, that is, nearly 17 lack square miles and has a railway line 27,000 miles long. Fortunately the authorities have taken up this matter on hand. They have levied import duties on tea and sugar so that the money thus collected will be spent for railways. Now surveys are being made from Mohamara (Khorramshahr) to Tehran, Tehran to Mashhad and Mashhad to Duzdaab (Zahedaan). Survey is also being made at other places. Let us see when the future of Iran will get higher.