Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

seat themselves upon the divan, at the same time carelessly holding their weapons, or laying them down by their side. Eren Turkish officials then would not dare treat them otherwise than with the utmost deference. They are ever well informed upon all measures of the government.

These chiefs are in some instances so powerful that the Turkish government pays them an annual sum to keep them quiet; and sometimes provincial governors and pashas are in league with them in their depredations, sharing their profits and plunder. The more powerful of these predatory chiefs are seldom brought to punishment. Occasionally, however, one is lured into a snare and made to suffer. Sometimes he is invited to an entertainment given professedly by the government in his honor, when poison will be mixed in his cup, or a secret assassin plunge the dagger into his heart while seated at the table.

The residences of these Kurdish chiefs are strongly fortified, or in alınost inaccessible retreats, built of stone or of heavy timbers. A description of one, in which the writer of this Article with his family passed a night, in Central and Eastern Asia Minor, may not be without interest. It was situated in a strong defile among some very high and precipitous mountain ranges, and was a large edifice, partly of stone and partly of wood. Our caravan of thirty horses and mules, heavily laden, entered through a large door, perhaps ten feet square, into one of the lower apartments. Here was ample room for unloading, with space for boxes and merchandise. There were also numerous stables adjacent, into which our horses were taken from this area. We ascended by a flight of steps into the upper apartments. The one allotted us was perhaps twenty-four feet by twenty, with divans and cushions covered with silk, surrounding three sides, and the centre covered with a very rich Persian or Kurdish carpet. The walls were white, and ceiled with considerable taste and ornament. IIere the chief, with his noble warriors, entertained us, making numerous and intelligent inquiries about our country, people, &c. The wife of the chief, in a richly embroidered dress, with several of her attendants, also visited us, passing some hours in free and easy con

vei'se.

IIer manners were full of dignity, grace, and ease. She was very fair, and her head-dress, covered with ornaments and embroidery, gave her a queenly appearance. IIer little girl of five or six years, for whom she showed much affection, was very rosy and beautiful.

On retiring for the night, we found the coverings of the beds to be of crimson silk and satin ; the heavy warm comforters were covered with stuffs of richest silk, brought from Damascus or Aleppo. There were other similar rooms occupied by the numerous household. Around this large building or castle, there could be seen huts half under ground, dispersed here and there, in various nooks and wild places of the pass.

The chiefs are usually elected, but chosen in the same family. Sometimes, when partially subject to the Turkish government, the tribes propose these to the authorities, and they are recognized, and receive a kind of investiture. Frequently an election, as it stimulates the ambition of the different members of the same family, becomes bloody by a combat. There is, however, usually a regular form of succession, the office descending, not necessarily from father to son, but sometimes to the brother standing next in age to the deceased chief. If there are not brothers of the chief living in the tribe, then the oldest son of the oldest brother succeeds in office. There is usually among them a kind of seniority.

Some tribes are almost entirely, or at least half nomadic, and these are most given to plunder. In winter they live in the lower valleys, in luts, some of which are under ground; where flocks, people, and provisions are all in the same habitation, and are admitted at the same door. Sleeping in one of these hospitable mansions at night, when traveling in Central Asia Minor, the writer was roused out of his sleep by a calf attempting to step over him to the back side of his bed. On his protesting, however, against such liberties, and showing some active opposition, the intruder desisted, and the remaining part of the night was passed without further disturbance.

These semi-nomadic tribes find themselves in the spring in the low valleys or plains with their flocks, for all the Kurds are shepherds, though not all robbers. Then, as the summer advances, they generally ascend to the high table lands and sides of the mountains, moving their tents from time to time as the flocks consume their pasturage. The snows melting above, the sides of the mountain are kept green. At midsuinmer they nearly reach the summits. Then, as the cool season advances, they retrace their steps, and find themselves, at the beginning of winter, back again at their old habitations.

Their summer tents are of various kinds and colors, generally, however, of very coarse material and dark color. They surround these with a screen of reeds, within which their goods and booty, and all things deemed necessary to life, are kept. These enclosures are very light and easily transported. They are used also to separate the apartments of the men from those of the women, and, at times, to make parks for the flocks. These low black tents, thus arranged, they prefer to the nicest city accommodations. Here they are at home and happy. Here they eat, sleep, and dispense the rites of hospitality. A hole some feet in diameter and depth serves as a place for fire and cooking. This is usually in the centre, above which there is a small opening in the roof'; but, by the least breeze, the tent is frequently filled with smoke almost to suffocation; to this they get accustomed, and do not seem to regard it as any inconvenience. The horses are generally attached to pickets planted without the enclosure, and are kept saddled.

The finest horses in Asia Minor are possessed by the Kurds. Beautiful white horses they are extremely fond of riding, with their large cloaks of crimson hanging down about their persons, and almost covering the animal in their ample folds. These horses are trained to leap difficult places, and to run with great speed; their fleetness over rocky and perilous paths is truly amazing. The Kurd is very strongly attached to his horse, bestowing upon it every mark of the tenderest affection, and the noble animal seems well to appreciate it. Most of the tribes indulge very much in various exercises on horseback. They gallop in large companies, shake, and sometimes throw their long spears, fire their pistols, and make such shouts as Kurds alone can make. They all excel in horsemanship and in throwing the lance.

The dress of the chiefs is very imposing; though of the same form or style as that of the Turks or Persians, yet it is of lighter and more brilliant colors. The under garments are of rich material of silk, satin, or muslin, of varied colors, then over all a large crimson cloak, embroidered with gold or silver thread. Their turbans are sometimes of enormous size, made up of perhaps two or three dozen handkerchiefs wound round the fez or red cap. The shawl with which they gird themselves, the only ligature about their persons, is a prominent article, and usually of great expense, being the rich Persian or Indian silk, radiated with rich colors. Clothed thus, their dresses far surpass the sombre hues worn by the Persians. The Kurds give much more care to their dress than do the Turks ordinarily. A style of dress frequently seen is thus described by Lerch: “Hussein, every pleasant May-day, was dressed in white, though he possessed only one white dress, which he himself always washed in the river. Under the white garment he wore a vest of black cloth, open before, and embroidered with silk and silver thread. His friend, Ali, was also always cleanly and elegantly dressed.” The dresses of the mountaineers, who are poor and much exposed in winter, are coarse in material, and often plaited and quilted. The dress of the females resembles, in many respects, that of the men, except that it is fitted better to the shape. The common dress is made mostly of the flowered stuff of the country. That of the wife of a Kurdish chief is sometimes exceedingly rich. Damascus stuff of silk embossed or worked with gold and silver, girdles richly embroidered and fastened before with a large gilt or golden clasp set with pearls or precious stones, bracelets, diamonds, and emeralds, with a beautiful classical style of headdress, exquisitely light and graceful, or turbans that resemble crowns,-all contribute to give the charm of dignity and beauty to the women.

The chiefs, with their attendant warriors, are always well armed and ready for attack. In the girdle are frequently seen two large pistols, a yataghan of Damascus, or a poignard; from

the shoulder by straps hang a sword and rifle, and a long spear or lance is gracefully carried in the hand. Thus armed, upon their fleet horses in their brilliant costume, dashing fearlessly over the rough mountain passes, they appear the worthy and kingly lords of their mountain heritage.

As a people, they are very strong, possessing noble forms, tall, with broad shoulders, erect head, black hair, and large black eyes, which are the highest constituent of beauty in the East. Their whole appearance makes no unpleasing impression. In stature they excel the Turks, and the clear and often deep expression of the eyes gives them the mark of the Indo-European race. Their uncommon exertions and hardships from their youth do not prevent them from attaining an advanced age. They often reach one hundred years in the full possession of their mental and physical powers. Rich, the celebrated English traveler in the East, declares that he has nowhere seen so many fine, hale old persons of both sexes as in Kurdistan. Notwithstanding the apparent disadvantage of climate, they are a very strong and healthy people. The children, too, are clear skinned and ruddy. A Kurdish child is a hardy, light,

. active little creature. These children, at the same time, are all remarkably well-behaved. True, they often have fierce conflicts and struggles among themselves, in which they are encouraged by their parents, but they always go through with them in a very good-natured way.

Like the Arabs, the Kurds are renowned for their hospitality. In visiting them in their tents, we were ever sure of receiving a cordial welcome. The fattest lamb or kid of the flock was slaughtered and placed entire before us, all cooked, and standing in a mountain of rice. This is their pilaf, a choice dish throughout all the East. Numerous other dishes, savory in sinell and taste, would always be present, of which we were forced, by etiquette, to partake. Our spoons, or more generally our fingers, must go into the same dish with all the others, and we must eat with a relish. No greater insult can be given a Kurdish host than not partaking of his bounty. It is a custom to which they are strongly bound, that if they eat with one they become his firm and constant friend, and a

« AnkstesnisTęsti »