The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Azerbijan

River Oxus

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On Thursday afternoon they departed, and slept amongst some tents of the Chatagais, in a plain, near the banks of a river. These Chatagais have received the privilege from the lord, to go where they like for pasture for their flocks and herds, as well in summer as in winter; and they serve the lord in his wars, whenever they are called for. They do not leave their women, children, and flocks behind, when they go to the wars, but take them all with them. The women, who have little children, when they travel, carry them in small cradles before them, on their horses, and they tie these cradles with broad bands, which they fasten round their waists; and thus they travel with their children, and ride as light as if they were without them. The poor people carry their children and tents on camels, and this way of travelling is very wearisome for the children, as the camels go very uneasily. Not only do these people, whom we met on the road, live in these plains; but there are a vast number of others, for, when we found some in any place, many others also appeared, in one part or another, and so we travelled amongst them. Near towns, and places where there was water and pasture, we met many of them, and they were so burnt by the sun, that they looked as if they had come out of hell {The inhabitants of these deserts, who formed part of the host of Timur, have ever since been famous for their terrible inroads into the Persian province of Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) . They are Turkmans of the Sunni creed, a cruel and rapacious race, and so far cowardly as always to prefer flight to facing a superior force. They are divided into three tribes, namely, the Yamoots, Goklans, and Tuckehs. The Yamoots consist of about twenty-five thousand families, and are settled between Khiva and the river Attruck; they are the least ugly of the Toorkman tribes. The Goklans, of twelve thousand families, live between Astrabad and the Attruck; and the Tuckehs, of thirty-five thousand families, wander between the sources of the Attruck and the. town of Merve. The arms of the Turkmans are a spear ten feet long, and a sword. They are excellent horsemen, and pass their lives in pillage and rapine. Their raids into Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) are called chapows. When a chief determines upon making one, a month is given to his followers, to get their horses into proper condition. Spies are sent out, and news being brought, the whole party gallops swiftly on the prey, whether caravan or village. In a few minutes all is over, the people carried off into slavery, and the village burnt. The prisoners are tied to the saddle bows of the captors, and are treated with horrible cruelty, until they are finally sold in the slave markets of Khiva. The horses of the Turkmans have been known to go over six hundred miles in six days. The tents of these Turkmans are of a conical form, the framework being of wood, and folding up. Thick felts are stretched over this frame, and the tent may be made very warm, so as to protect its inmates from the severe winters.-Fraser; Ferier}. This country was very flat, and very hot, and most of the troops who followed the lord, travelled by night; and the ambassadors remained amongst these tents of the Chatagais, until night. On Friday, at noon, they came to a village, where they dined, and took their siesta. In the night they arrived at a great city, the name of which I have forgotten, but it was very large, and formerly it was walled, but now the wall is fallen, and most of the city is deserted, and in this city there were great edifices and mosques. The ambassadors were here presented with robes, and received with great honour. On Saturday they departed on fresh horses, and slept amongst some tents of the Chatagais. On Sunday there was such a high wind that the men were obliged to dismount, and it was so hot, that it felt like fire. The road led through sandy deserts, and the wind raised the sand in clouds, and concealed the road, so that they lost it many times during the day {This is the desert between Khiva and Merve. It is a broken and irregular surface of deep sand, with a small growth of brushwood, affording excellent fuel, and of the thorny herb which the camel loves}. The knight sent for a man from the tents, to guide them, and it pleased God that they should find their way to a village called Alibed, where they took their siesta, and remained until the wind went down. In the night they slept at another village Called Ux; but, as soon as the horses had eaten their barley, they set out again, and travelled all night, amongst small villages, and fruit gardens. On Monday, the 18th of August, they arrived at a city called Vaeq, which is very large, and surrounded by a broad earthen wall, thirty paces across, but it is breached in many parts. This city had three divisions, and the first, between the first and second wall, was quite uninhabited, and much cotton was sown there. The second was inhabited; and the third was well peopled; and, though the other cities we had seen were without walls, this one was well provided with them. In this city the ambassadors were received with much honour, and were given meat and wine, and robes, and horses. On Tuesday they departed, and slept near a village, and on Wednesday they dined and took their siesta in a village, and passed the night in the open air.