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By Donald Maxwell

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It is to be supposed that the type of ship that has survived in the East to the present day, like the mahaila and the goufa, is very much unchanged like everything else, and tells us faithfully what sort of ships there were in these waters some two thousand years ago or more. If this surmise be a correct one, then we can trace the poop tower of the Great Harry and the square windows and super-imposed galleries of the Victory's stern to this common ancestor. I wish I had been able to get an elevation of the details of one of these more ornate sterns.

Another thing which makes the contrast between Venice and Basra rather a painful one is the complete and noticeable absence of anything of the slightest architectural interest in this Eastern (alleged) counterpart of the Bride of the Adriatic. Whereas in Venice the antiquarian can revel in examples of many centuries of diverse domestic architecture from ducal palace to humble fisherman's dwelling on an obscure "back street" canal, in Basra there abounds a great deal of rickety rubbish that never had any interest in itself and which depends for its effect on the flattering gilding of the sun and the intangible glamour of Eastern twilight.

The banks of this channel here take almost a mountainous character for so flat a country. This piling up of mounds has been caused by clearing the silt from the entrance to the intake of the canal. From the vantage point of this high ground we could see a goodly prospect, and on the one side the river, here called the Hindeyeh canal, with its green shore and on the other a belt of date palms and beyond the illimitable desert. Some five or six miles away there appeared a mound surmounted by a tower, a curious object alone in the great expanse of flat land.

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A Dweller in Mesopotamia by Donald Maxwell

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