The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xl.

Returns to the City of Hormos Whereof We Spoke Formerly.

When you leave the City of Calatu, and go for 300 miles between north-west and north, you come to the city of Hormos; a great and noble city on the sea.1 It has a Melic, which is as much as to say a King, and he is under the Soldan of Kerman.

There are a good many cities and towns belonging to Hormos, and the people are Saracens. The heat is tremendous, and on that account their houses are built with ventilators to catch the wind. These ventilators are placed on the side from which the wind comes, and they bring the wind down into the house to cool it. But for this the heat would be utterly unbearable. 2

I shall say no more about these places, because I formerly told you in regular order all about this same city of Hormos, and about Kerman as well. But as we took one way to go, and another to come back, it was proper that we should bring you a second time to this point.

Now, however, we will quit this part of the world, and tell you about Great Turkey. First, however, there is a point that I have omitted; to wit, that when you leave the City of Calatu and go between west and north-west, a distance of 500 miles, you come to the city of Kis.3 Of that, however, we shall say no more now, but pass it with this brief mention, and return to the subject of Great Turkey, of which you shall now hear.

NOTE 1. — The distance is very correct; and the bearing fairly so for the first time since we left Aden. I have tried in my map of Polo’s Geography to realise what seems to have been his idea of the Arabian coast.

NOTE 2. — These ventilators are a kind of masonry windsail, known as Bád-gír, or “wind-catchers,” and in general use over Oman, Kerman, the province of Baghdad, Mekrán, and Sind. A large and elaborate example, from Hommaire de Hell’s work on Persia, is given in the cut above. Very particular accounts of these ventilators will be found in P. della Valle, and in the embassy of Don Garcias de Silva Figueroa. (Della Val. II. 333–335; Figueroa, Fr. Trans. 1667, p. 38; Ramus. I. 293 v.; Macd. Kinneir, p. 69.) A somewhat different arrangement for the same purpose is in use in Cairo, and gives a very peculiar character to the city when seen from a moderate height.

[“The structures [at Gombroon] are all plain atop, only Ventoso’s, or Funnels, for to let in the Air, the only thing requisite to living in this fiery Furnace with any comfort; wherefore no House is left without this contrivance; which shews gracefully at a distance on Board Ship, and makes the Town appear delightful enough to Beholders, giving at once a pleasing Spectacle to Strangers, and kind Refreshment to the Inhabitants; for they are not only elegantly Adorned without, but conveniently Adapted for every Apartment to receive the cool Wind within.” (John Fryer, Nine Years’ Travels, Lond., 1698, p. 222.)]

NOTE 3. — On Kish see Book I. ch. vi. note 2.

[Chao Ju-kua (transl. in German by Dr. F. Hirth, T’oung Pao, V. Supp. p. 40), a Chinese Official of the Sung Dynasty, says regarding Kish: “The land of Ki-shih (Kish) lies upon a rocky island in the sea, in sight of the coast of Ta-shih, at half-a-day’s journey. There are but four towns in its territories. When the King shows himself out of doors, he rides a horse under a black canopy, with an escort of 100 servants. The inhabitants are white and of a pure race and eight Chinese feet tall. They wear under a Turban their hair loose partly hanging on their neck. Their dress consists of a foreign jacket and a light silk or cotton overcoat, with red leather shoes. They use gold and silver coins. Their food consists of wheaten bread, mutton, fish and dates; they do not eat rice. The country produces pearls and horses of a superior quality.”— H.C.]

Illustration: A Persian Wind–Catcher.

The Turkish Admiral Sidi ‘Ali, who was sent in 1553 to command the Ottoman fleet in the Persian Gulf, and has written an interesting account of his disastrous command and travels back to Constantinople from India, calls the Island Kais, or “the old Hormuz.” This shows that the traditions of the origin of the island of Hormuz had grown dim. Kish had preceded Hormuz as the most prominent port of Indian trade, but old Hormuz, as we have seen (Bk. I. ch. xix.), was quite another place. (J. As. sér. i, tom. ix. 67.)

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24