A Dweller in Mesopotamia by Donald Maxwell
By Donald Maxwell
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THE VENICE OF THE EAST Before the war, when Mesopotamia was a more distant land than it is to-day, Basra was often referred to as the Venice of the East. Few travellers were in a position to test the accuracy of the comparison, and so it aroused little comment. No Venetians had returned from Basra burning with indignation and filled with a desire to get even with the writer who first thought of the parallel, probably because no Venetian had ever been there. A few simple souls, who had delighted in the mediæval splendours of Venice, dreamed of a Venice still more romantic—a Venice with all her glories of art tinged with the glamour and witchery of the Arabian Nights, a Venice whose blue waterways reflected stately palms and golden minarets.
The result remains to-day—a vast tract of swampy land, barren and almost useless, except to a few wandering tribes of Arabs. And now the land which sent its Wise Men to the West is looking towards the West again for aid. If its ancient prosperity is to be restored, if Chaldea is again to be a granary to the world, it is to the West that it must turn. Science and machinery shall again make the waste places to be inhabited and the desert blossom as the rose. Thus shall the wise men return to them—the Wise Men of the West.
THE WISE MEN FROM THE WEST The story of Mesopotamia is a story of irrigation. " The civilizations of Babylon and Assyria owed their very life to the science of watering the land, and even in the later times of Haroun Alraschid their great systems had been well maintained. d. Yet Mesopotamia is to-day a desert except for the regions in the immediate vicinity of the rivers. You can go westwards from Baghdad to the Euphrates, and every mile or so you will have to cross earthworks, not unlike irregular railway embankments, showing a vast system of irrigation channels both great and small.