National Geographic : 1914 Dec
WHERE ADAM AND EVE LIVED BY FREDERICK AND MARGARET SIMPICH AGDAD! What a magic word to conjure with! How it hints at ro mance, adventure, intrigue! No place in all the ancient East stood out so splendidly. No tales can compare with the "Arabian Nights," the old tales of Bagdad. From childhood the name of the mystic city and its famous Caliph, Harun-al-Rashid, have been familiar words to us all. But how many Americans know just where Bagdad really is or how important it has lately become? When word came that I must go to Bagdad I lost days getting "routed," as the tourist agents call it. A through ticket from America to Bagdad is hard to buy. It is much easier to be routed all the way round the world-along the beaten trail. Even on the Atlantic steamer the word "Bagdad" stamped on my ticket seemed to confuse folks. When the purser read it he scowled and was puzzled; later I heard him tell a boy in low tones-to bring an atlas. He was brushing up on geography, locating Bag dad (see map on another page). The road to Bagdad, you will admit, is devious and long. My ticket was good for one continuous ride from New York to Egypt, over Pharaoh's bones in the Red Sea, past Cain's tomb at sun scorched Aden, to Colombo, Bombay, Karachee, Maskat, old pirate haunt and ancient stronghold of Albuquerque, the Portuguese; thence up the boiling Persian Gulf, past Sinbad's treasure island of Hormuz, to Busra, the "Balsora" of the "Arabian Nights;" and, lastly, 500 miles up the winding Tigris, past the reputed tomb of the prophet Ezra-shrine of Jewish hordes-to Bagdad! Seventeen thousand miles from San Francisco, my starting point; five changes of ships, two months of travel!* * Europeans going to Bagdad sometimes travel by rail to Aleppo, and from there make a three-weeks' caravan journey over the desert to Bagdad; but disturbances among the Bed ouins often render this route very dangerous; the journey is also possible only during the cooler months. Most travelers reach Bagdad via Suez, Bombay, etc. IIERE, THEN, IS BAGDAD Here, then, is Bagdad - in Turkish Arabia, near the Persian frontier, hard by old Eden, man's birthplace. Here on the classic soil of Babylon, Nineveh, and Opis once flourished the pick of the hu man race; here was the center of the world's wealth, power, and civilization. And back to this ancient region modern men are turning, to reclaim its lost areas, open its mines and oil deposits-to re store the Garden of Eden! From the deck of a Tigris steamer Bagdad looms up boldly, its splendid sky line of domes and minarets reminding one of some "Midway" of World's Fair memory. An odd pontoon bridge con nects the two parts of the city, separated by the yellow Tigris. On the west bank is the old town, inclosed by date and orange groves. From here the new Bag dad-Aleppo Railway will start on its long run across the trackless desert. East of the river, on the Persian side, is "new" Bagdad, with its government offices, bar racks, consulates, prisons, etc. Here, too, is the great government factory, where uniforms, blankets, turbans, and other soldiers' supplies are made. Beyond, as far as the eye can reach in. every direction, stretches the vast, flat, treeless, empty plain of Mesopotamia a region once more populous than Bel gium. THE GOOF'AH AND THE KELEK I was paddled ashore from the steamer in a "goofah," a queer, coracle-like craft in use here since Jonah's day. A goofah is woven from willows about 6 feet in diameter, is perfectly circular and bas ket-shaped, and is coated outside with bitumen. Some say Moses was cut adrift in one of these goofahs (see page 549). Another strange craft at Bagdad is the "kelek," a Kurdish invention. The kelek is a raft made of inflated goatskins, held together by poles and covered with a platform of straw mats. These keleks come down to Bagdad in hundreds from Mosul, bringing wool, pottery, grain, and skins (see page 548).