Fragrance in Travel Literature-Mesopotamia/Iraq




Narrative of a residence in Koordistan : and on the site of ancient Nineveh; with journal of a voyage down the Tigris to Bagdad and an account of a visit to Shirauz and Persepolis
Rich, Cladius James

For the first hour of our stage we proceeded up the
banks of the pretty Leilan, covered with mulberry, pome-
granate, a kind of dwarf poplar, willow, and other trees;
besides that in many places the ground looked dyed with
the quantities of roses, that perfumed the air.

We reached at twenty minutes before eight a
dismal plateau, or wide extent of gravelly ruins, in
heaps, and wild-looking furrows. Our road through
it was N. 50 E. At eight we came to other ridges
of inclined strata, answering the former description ;
but more and more covered with gravelly soil as we
advanced. Here and there were patches of barley,
We met a small Koordish caravan, laden with
myrtle (mord) , packed in bags ; it gave out a deli-
cious fragrance. It is used, I believe, in the dyeries

Meek is in the district of Sakiz, which commenced
at the little stream just before we reached Seifatala.
The honey of all this part of the country is very
famous, from the number of aromatic plants which
crow hereabouts. Tired as I was, I went to see a
bee-hive in a garden close by. The garden was
prettily planted with flowers and aromatic herbs. It
contained a cottage, or rather hut, built of wattles.
On one side of it were inserted tubes of earthenware,
or ]-ather hardened mud, open at one end, with a
small aperture at the other, or outwards. A^'^lien they
want to take the honey, they open the opposite side
of the hut to that in which the tubes are inserted, and
light a fire of straw, Avhen the bees immediately
escape through the small aperture into the air, leav-
ing the honey at the disposal of the proprietor. They
drew out one of the tubes, and showed me the bees
at Avork on several combs. They were so intent on
their occupation, that they did not assault the in-
truder.

At eight we halted for a little while on the side of a
hill. The ground before us Avas enamelled with every kind
of flower, and there was an agreeable aromatic odour
from quantities of wild sage, thyme, &c. Opposite to us,
on the other side of the plain, in the hills, were some prettily-
situated villages, with a few scattered trees, which were a
pleasant sight to us, the great defect of these mountains and
plains being their bareness of wood. Not far from us was
the tent of the Master of the Hor.se of Abdulla Pasha, whose
horses were scattered about grazing.


In the evening we took a stroll through the beautiful
garden, and the air was quite scented with the smell of
roses. I feel very unwilling to leave this delightful spot for
the town, which does not look at all inviting, and the houses
are all said to be very wretched. I would fain remain
where I am ; but if the good-natured, kind Pasha shows any
eagerness for our going into the town, I would rather sacri-
fice my own wishes and oblige him.

At eight we halted for a little while on the side of a
hill. The ground before us Avas enamelled with every kind
of flower, and there was an agreeable aromatic odour
from quantities of wild sage, thyme, &c. Opposite to us,
on the other side of the plain, in the hills, were some prettily-
situated villages, with a few scattered trees, which were a
pleasant sight to us, the great defect of these mountains and
plains being their bareness of wood. Not far from us was
the tent of the Master of the Hor.se of Abdulla Pasha, whose
horses were scattered about grazing.

We finally marched at a quarter past six. The
country was covered with wormwood {ijuo.slian in
Turkish) as yesterday, with some origanum, and
many other plants, that I, ignorant as I am of these
subjects, did not recognize. The Wormwood sent
forth a refreshing, agreeable odour. We saw much
barley yet green ; and some few patches which they
were preparing to reap.

We pitched our tents
on an eminence over the valley of the Leilan water ;
the banks of which were ornamented by a little
grove or garden, as at Plussein Islam. 'The situa-
tion was really exquisite ; and in the valley we dis-
covered a briar rose of England, the the perfume
of which was infinitely more pleasing to us than all
the odours of the East.

We left Kifri at six, the children of the
village following, and smothering us with roses. We crossed
a range of gravelly hills, proceeding from those of Kifri,
and joining the hills we had crossed on coming from
Bagdad, the only interruption being the Kifri torrent, which
has opened for itself a passage into the valley of Tchemen,
through \A'hich passage, a wide and gradual one, Mr. Rich
rode yesterday to Eski Kifri.


All these valleys, especially that of the Leilan
water, contain numerous little villages, embosomed
in gardens of fruit-trees and roses, which at this
season render them perfect little paradises. The
base of the hills, or plateau, is sandstone; which here
and there shows itself in strata inclined in the same
degree and direction as those of the JMatara branch
of hills. Over this is a concretion, or conglomeration
of pebbles, which, wearing away, forms a gravelly
soil.

Travels in Mesopotamia (1827)

Buckingham, James Silk, 1786-1855


The Lake of Zilgah, as clear as the finest
crystal, had its surface unagitated by the
slightest breath of air, the calm that reigned
becoming still softer and more balmy as the
evening dosed. Along its borders wL fidl
and verdant bushes, which overhung its waters,
and cast at once a refreshing fragrance, and
a welcome shade around. These interesting
combinations formed as fine a scene, either
for poetry or painting, as any of the foun-
tains of Greece could have done, though all
the Naiads of the stream had been conjured
up to aid its effect.


We slept in the open air beneath a starry
canopy of unusual brilliance ; and the purity
of the atmosphere, with the sweet odour of the
fresh young grass, was such as to make even
perfumed halls and downy couches inferior by
the contrast

The country was a plain throughout, as even as the sea, and full of worm-
wood : if any other kind of shrubs or reeds grew there, they
had all an aromatic smell ; but no trees appeared.

At Cabura, in Mesopotamia, (which is
thought to be Nisibis under another name,) there is a foun-
tain of water, which hath a sweet and redolent smell ; set-
ting it aside, I know not any one of that quality in the
whole world again.

From the gulf to Ararat : an expedition through Mesopotamia and Kurdistan (1917)
Hubbard, G. E. (Gilbert Ernest), b. 1885

Two features which I always welcome
in an Eastern bazaar were, however, conspicuously
absent — the all-pervading smell of saffron and the
rhythmic thud-click-click-thud of the spice-grinder's
pestle and mortar ; but there was compensation
for the loss in the brightness of the colour scheme.
There is a glad note in the architecture which is
lacking in the more austere styles of Cairo and
Stamboul — the result, no doubt, of Persian in-
fluence. The gateways leading to mosques are
many of them covered with green, blue, and
white tiles, with here and there a splash of red,
set in minute and intricate designs. Dainty little
archways surprise you at odd corners, and now
and then you catch a gHmpse of a tUe - clad
minaret or dome encircled with a broad frieze of
graceful Kufic script. At one place in the main
bazaar there is a saint's tomb hidden behind a
delicately painted fagade of pink roses. The
roses are all worn away at the level of a woman's
lips ; I suppose the saint has some special blessing
to bestow on his fair devotees.


The desert at this season of the year, where not
too much impregnated with salt, is covered with
patches of young grass as smooth and as fine as
the lawn of a cathedral close. Among the grass
grow tiny aromatic plants, almost indistinguish-
able to the eye, but filling the whole air with a
pleasant, keen smell. The efiects of mirage are
often startling. Our caravan, when on the march,
straggled over two or three miles of country, and
to any one riding somewhere near the middle the
head and tail of the procession seemed always to
be marching through a smooth, shallow lake ; occa-
sionally, for some unfathomable cause, the mules
and men would execute a bewildering feat of
" levitation " and continue their |;progress in the
sky. Often we saw a lake spread out on the
horizon, stretching a long arm towards us to
within a few hundred yards ; at other times a
clump of palms or a group of mounted men
appeared in the distance, only to resolve them-
selves, as we approached nearer, into bushes of
low desert scrub or a grazing flock of goats.^


It came almost as a physical shock, the abrupt
passing from the arid, sun-scorched desert which
had filled our whole horizon for so many weeks
past, into this new world of soft green foliage,
fruit -blossom, and running water — almost like
plunging on a broiling summer's day into a deep
clear pool. We rode at first along a narrow path
between mud walls, crossing and recrossing a
swift - flowing stream, whose waters were dyed
like blood by the soil of the "Red Mountains,"
whence it came. Masses of may and pomegranate
blossom surged over the wall and hung above the
path, while a sea of tree-tops of every shade of
green stretched beyond. Date-palms reared their
serene crests high above into a world of their own,
like proud folk disowning any connection with
their lowly neighbours around, and a dying frond
here and there catching the sun struck a note of
dull gold against the surrounding green. Now
and again a blue jay or a kingfisher flashed across
the path, and the air was full of the noise of
cooing doves and the sweet scent of orange blossom.
Along the walls at intervals there were heavy
timber doors leading into the orchards, each one
fitted with a little peep-hole just large enough to
allow a tantalising glimpse of the view beyond
where streamlets sparkled through the tall,
luxuriant grass. One felt like Alice peeping
through the keyhole of the garden door and
longed for her magic bottle !

The town itself, set in the centre of endless
gardens and tobacco - fields intersected by rows
of tall French poplars, is of a considerable size,
having extended appreciably since the Russians
began to police the country and brought a
hitherto unknown security of life and property
to its inhabitants. There is a mile or so of fine
vaulted bazaar running through the centre of
the town, rich with the scents of leather and
spices, and very grateful when one passes into
its cool, voluptuous atmosphere from the glare
and the heat outside.

The town itself straggles for nearly a mile along
the northern bank. Like many other Eastern
cities it possesses a meretricious charm, hiding
away an ignoble jumble of mud-built houses be-
hind a singularly picturesque river front. Sliding
past it in a belem, the impression one receives is
of blue-painted balconies, tented coffee-shops, and
fragrant gardens, with a few intervening creeks
spanned by high-arched bridges of mellow brick-
work.