The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Azerbijan

Oxus to Samarkand

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On Thursday, the 21st of August, they reached a great river called the Viadme {River Oxus}, which is another of the rivers which flow from Paradise. It is a league in width, and flows through a very flat country, with great and wonderful force, and it is very muddy. It is lowest in winter, because the waters are frozen in the mountains, and the snow does not melt: but in the month of April it begins to increase, and goes on increasing continually for four months; and this is because the summer melts the ice and snow. Last summer they said that it had swollen much more than usual; for it increased so much that the water reached a village, near the banks, and destroyed many houses, doing great damage {The famous River Oxus rises in the lake of Sirikol, which is fifteen thousand six hundred feet above the sea. It is a sheet of water, fourteen miles long and one broad, on the high table land, called by the natives Bami-i-duniah. After watering the valley of Badakshan, passing through a mountainous region, thirty miles south of the old city of Balk, the River Oxus enters the desert, and flows past Khiva into the sea of Aral, fertilizing a tract of land, about a mile broad, on either side. It formerly had another outlet into the Caspian, but that channel is now dried up. It is navigable, and free from rocks, as far as Koondooz, a distance of six hundred miles; but there are vast swamps at its mouth. Its average depth is nine feet, and the current runs at the rate of four knots an hour. The inundations commence in May and end in October, and the river is often frozen over in the winter. Large flat-bottomed boats are used on the river, fifty feet long by eighteen, with the gunwale three feet above the water, when loaded. They are made of logs of wood clamped together with iron, and one hundred and fifty men might be embarked on one of them. A bridge of these boats has usually been used by conquerors, in all ages, to transport their invading armies across the River Oxus. - Burnes; Abbott; Fraser}. This river descends from the mountains, flows through the plains of the territory of Samarkand, and the land of Tartary, and falls into the sea of Baku {The Caspian}. It separates the government of Samarkand from that of Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) .