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Joseph Wolff's visit

It was here that in 1843, and with Bible in hand, another European entered the city: the Reverend Joseph Wolff. "These poor, darkened souls devoutly touched my book," he says. His object was to discover the fates of two fellow countrymen, Stoddart und Conolly, permitted by the Emir to enter Bokhara on a commercial mission.

They had been guilty of a certain untactfulness, and the court intrigues so poisoned their case that the issue at last proved fatal. Thus Wolff's visit was a somewhat risky one.

"His Majesty the Emir Nasir Ullah Bahadur" he writes, "was seated in the balcony of his palace looking down upon us: thousands of people in the distance. All eyes were bent on me to see if I would submit to the etiquette. When the Shekaul (the Minister for Foreign Affairs) took hold of my shoulders, I not only submitted to his doing so to me three times, but I bowed repeatedly and exclaimed unceasingly: 'Peace to the King, Salamat Padishah!' until His Majesty burst into a fit of laughter, and of course all the rest standing round us."

Wolff was dressed in red and black, for he wore his gown wherever he visited the Emir. The Emir asked him to explain the reason for the particular colours.

"The black indicates that I am in mourning for my dear friends, the red that I am ready to give my blood for my faith."

This Nasir Ullah was a terrible man: he had killed five of his brothers in order to mount on the throne. Nasir Ullah was like a starving dog for blood, because he had had a Kazak wet-nurse, and the Kazaks were called eaters-of-men, being accused of feeding on corpses.

The Emir also remarked wonderingly:

"I can kill as many Persians as I like, and no one bothers. But I have hardly laid a hand on two Englishmen, when a person arrives from remote London commissioned to look into the matter."

At this period the city numbered one hundred and eighty thousand inhabitants, and every house had its own Persian slave.

"Turkestan Solo" by Ella Maillart


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