TENTS ii. Variety, Construction, and Use


TENTS in Iran

ii. Variety, Construction, and Use

Both of the basic tent types used by nomads elsewhere in the Middle East are present in Iran and Afghanistan: the black, goat-hair tent and the felt tent. However, whereas the black tent, typical of the Persian-speaking tribes, is also used by the Turkic tribes of Fars and Kerman, besides Arabic-speaking tribes, the felt tent is used in Iran almost exclusively by Turkic groups, and in Afghanistan largely so, as might be expected of peoples whose Central Asian origin is still evident. Apart from these, tents made from vegetable fiber are used extensively in Kerman and Baluchistan; here difficulties of definition arise, as the distinction from huts is not always clear. The term “tent” shall be used here when the covering can be moved from place to place.

The principles underlying the construction of these types are fundamentally different. The rectangular black tent (Pers. siāh-čādor/čādor-e siāh) has a woven roof, or velum, sewn together from long, relatively narrow widths (cloths), and supported under tension from guy ropes by a system of roughly vertical poles and shorter props with which it is interdependent, neither remaining in place without the other. The walls are generally separate and pinned onto the edges of the velum. Whereas the tensile stress can be withstood by the warp threads running along the cloths, its potential for tearing the velum apart across its width must be resisted, either by narrow girths sewn to the underside at right angles to the cloths, as in Arab tents, or by other means. Guy ropes are fastened to these or the velum ends by means of purchase loops of various kinds. Pegs, except in Kurdish tents, are small and driven into the ground upright. The woven parts can be made by the tribeswomen on a ground loom, usually as a warp-faced rep (Janata, 1992, p. 72), and the wooden parts by their men, without resort to outside help.

In the circular, domed felt tent (Pers. ḵargāh), by contrast, the felt covering, cut to shape from rectangular blanks and sewn to form appropriate shapes that overlap at the edges to exclude wind and rain, rests passively on a self-supporting wooden frame that is independent of it. It is the sophistication of this frame that requires that it be made by specialists; it has a relatively long life of up to fifty years. In addition, the stability of the frame depends upon the use of woven girths drawn tightly around its periphery from doorpost to doorpost, restraining the tendency to outward collapse under the imposed load of the covering. The size is designated in terms of the number of crossed heads on the top of the trellis wall. Both girths and felts are made by non-specialist tribeswomen from sheep’s wool, whereas the specialist frame-makers may be tribal or non-tribal.

A third type, the tunnel tent, appears from its wide distribution to be the oldest in the region: its designation varies, as might be expected. Like the felt tent, it has a frame that stands independently of its covering, consisting of a series of bentwood arches (benders) standing parallel to one another, and sometimes traversed by a second system of arches running at right angles to the first. In some examples of the latter, the two systems are equal and form a domed armature frame on a rounded plan, whereas in others the frame arches, while diminishing in series, form elongated structures with rounded ends. In all of these, the covering varies regionally and can be of felt, matting, or goat hair.

In all three types of tent additional wall-screens are made up as flexible mats from the halms of reeds or canes, set vertically and bound with goat-hair lines, often in a diagonal network; these exclude dust and draughts.

Persia. The distribution of the black tent in Persia extends from the west of Kerman Province in the south (various Turkic and Iranian tribes) through Fars (Qašqāʾi, Ḵamsa, Kuhgiluya, etc.), the Dašt-e Mišān in the southwest (ʿArab), Ḵuzestān (Baḵtiāri winter quarters), and northward up the summer pastures of the Zagros from Isfahan (Baḵtiāri summer quarters), to Azerbaijan (Lor, Lak, and Kurds). It continues eastward in summer pastures along the Alborz (Šāhsevan of Ḵamsa and Sāva, Ṭārom Turks, Lors, village pastoralists, ʿArab Qoti and Sangesari) to Sabzavār, among groups migrating from the south, as well as Gilaki north of Firuzkuh. In the east its northernmost appearance is among Baluch migrants near Gonbad-e Qābus; it then continues southward among the eastern Kurds of Bojnurd and Qučān, Brahui and Baluch from Sistān and Zāhedān, and Baluch from Sarāvān to the east of Kerman Province, completing the round in the south with the Turkish tribes of the ʿEqṭā-ye Afšār and Jiroft to the south of Kerman. Klaus Ferdinand (1964, p. 194 and fig. 3) also documented its use by Ḵorāsāni Mōmini Arabs in the desert south of Qom. It is thus present almost continuously around the habitable periphery of Persia, primarily as a dwelling for nomadic pastoralists, but in part as a summer shelter for villagers.

The goat-hair velum requires means to prevent it from being torn by the tension of the pole tops bearing against the cloth, and it is mainly the variation in these which differentiates the tents of Persia into eight principal types, as established by fieldwork in 1970 and 1974 (Andrews, 1997 and forthcoming).

A) In central and western Kerman, among the Lors, both Baḵtiāri and Lor-e Kuček, the Laks, and most of the Alborz tribes is a ridge tent (Baḵtiāri: bohon), with a central role of poles (estin) each supporting a ridge bar (tal) like a T, thus forming a ridge profile interrupted by dents between the bars (FIGURE 1). This can be regarded as the most widely distributed Iranian type. Further local peculiarities are the use of semi-open seams (darz) for ventilation in summer, the division of the central poles into two superimposed sections, and the absence of transverse girths. The lateral strain is taken by cord cringles, (kad-bohon) with tails worked into the weave of the cloths across the warp. Forked props, (piša and keldas) are used at the front and front corners. A Baḵtiāri tent with four main poles 2.25 m high measures 8.75 x 4.5 m. Among the Lor and the Lak, the velum is divided into two halves toggled together along the ridge for ease of transport on smaller animals (Feilberg, pp. 50-58; Digard, pp. 153-60; Tapper and Thompson, pp. 54-55, 98, 138, 141, 182, 185; Weston, figs. 10.1-2, pp. 264-65).

B) The tribes of Fars generally use long, box-like tents (Qašqāʾi: čādor), supported on two roles of poles (pāya) at front and rear edges, forming a flat roof, with vertical walls, (german) at rear and sides in an open weave for summer, and only a narrow sloping awning (qapoloḡ) shading the open front (FIGURE 2, FIGURE 3, FIGURE 4, and FIGURE 5). Again, there are no transverse girths, but the lateral strain is taken by wooden purchases attached to patches sewn on the edge of the velum. Cane screens (<em>alāčeḡ</em>) around the back and ends are overhung by the walls. In winter a row of poles is inserted down the central long axis to support separate ridge bars (<em>kemāje</em>), and both back and front are hung with a densely woven wall, so that the tent is now sealed along the long sides, has a pitched roof, and the entrance is at one end. The size of the summer tent varies from 3.4 x 2.0m and 2.0m high for a tent of 4 roof cloths and 4 poles in the length by 3 in the width, to 14.1 x 4.6m and 3.7m high for a khan’s tent of 7 roof cloths, and 17 poles n the length by 7 in the width. It can thus be seen that this form is closely related to the Iranian type (A), though modified in summer (Allgrove et al., pp. 25-33, pls. 14, 17-19; Tapper and Thompson, pp. 29, 202-06, 230). This same winter type is used by the Arab Ḵamsa even in summer, as a <em>bayt </em>about 6.0 x 4.0 m, on two flat ridge bars (<em>karaba</em>) 1.75 m long, set on main poles (ʿ<em>amud</em>), 2.75 m high, and a score of notched props around the periphery, but with flaring walls (<em>seter</em>) and an eaves valance. The Bāṣeri, however, use the flat-roofed summer type (Barth, pp. 11-12, facing p. 37; Tapper and Thompson, p. 28).</p> </div> <div style=">

The Arab Ḵamsa tent is related to: C) Tents of the Arabs in the Dašt-e Mišān and elsewhere in the Arab world (Ferdinand, 1964, pp. 192-93, figs. 2-4, 6), where transverse girths 7 cm wide sififa take the lateral strain through wooden purchases (yāzul), and the ridge bars are paired battens (ḵišb), 25 cm long, sewn into the velum on either side of the pleat that runs down the axis of the central cloth, to rest on the pole tops (FIGURE 6). A velum (bayt) of five cloths fili measures 3.55 x 7.00 m, the five poles (ʿamud) on the long axis are about 1.85 m high, and the eaves props 1.05 m.

D) Among the Kurds two or more rows of poles (Milān: šun) are spaced along the velum (kōne ard), their tops characteristically piercing it at the seams, though the details here differ regionally; the ends of the tent are usually supported at the seams by short guys (haben) fastened to stakes (sing) 1.0 m tall, well clear of the ground, and the whole has a multi-peaked appearance (FIGURE 7). In an average tent of 21 cloths, ca. 13.0 x 7.5 m, there are four poles in each row, the rear row inclining backwards, both 2.6 m high; the rear corners are 0.5 m above the ground, and the front somewhat higher. The velum is supported, in Azerbaijan, on plaited ropes (āris) running across underneath it from pegs at the front to each pole-top in turn, and thence to the rear pegs. The same type is used by the Ṭārom Turks and by the Kurds of Khorasan, where the velum includes a cloth-width of white wool over the dairy, to protect the milk-products from falling smuts (Tapper and Thompson, pp. 29, 146-47, 152, 160, 170).

E) The Sangesari tent appears quite idiosyncratic, with three rows of poles (ču) down the length of the tent (gut) diminishing from very tall ones (prunin gut ču) at the front end to low ones at the other, but with the cloths running from side to side, down to the ground, and the front end sealed by a cloth (dimband) with stepped edges (FIGURE 8). Here, too, the poles pierce the velum, relating it to the Kurdish type (Aʿżami; Tapper and Thompson, p. 31).

F) The Baluch, too, use three rows of poles (tir), one down the middle of the length of the cloths and a row of forked props (aččag) along the front and rear edges, forming a multi-peaked velum (gedan), but the pole tops remain within the tent, with a wooden cap (kavarga, takak) on the center pole, and rag pads (čiradžanuk) on those either side; the wall cloths (pečaval) characteristically slope over the guy ropes (rez,čundeg) at front and rear (Ferdinand, 1960, pp. 36-41, figs. 2-6; Gafferberg, pp. 135-37; Szabo and Barfield, p. 47; Tapper and Thompson, p. 298; FIGURE 9).

G) The Teymuri in the region of Torbat-e Jām use a comparable multi-packed tent with a tripartite wooden arch set across the long axis at mid-length (FIGURE 10). This is related to the type used by the Baluch and Brahui around Quetta in Pakistan, which has several arches.

H) A simple, but less widely-distributed type has a single ridge pole (tir) supported by a forked pole (käläk) at either end, front, and rear: the widths of goat hair velum (palās) or of matting (ḥaṣil) run over this at right angles from side to side. This is found in Kerman, especially in Jiroft, among the Gilaki in the north, and various Gypsy groups including Luli and Qarāči (Ferdinand, 1960, pp. 45-47, figs. 9-10; idem, 1964, pp. 192-93, fig. 5; Tapper and Thompson, p. 254).

The range of the felt tent is much more limited. In its full-developed form, the trellis-tent or so-called yurt (yurt and its cognates actually mean “territory” or at best “tent-site” in the Turkic languages), the top of a cylindrical trellis wall-frame (Turkman: tērim) about 5.60 m in diameter and 1.55 m high for a 62 head tent, supports radial, curved roof-struts (ūq), 2.75 cm long, inserted around the rim of an apical roof wheel (tüynük) of 2.00 m diameter, to support it 3.30 m above the ground. It is used by the Turkman as öy or (when ideally white) āq öy (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 58-82, II, type a 2; FIGURE 11 and FIGURE 12). These, however, also use a reduced form, or strut tent (götdikme) in which the trellis is absent, and the bases of the roof-struts rest directly upon the ground (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 215-21, II, type d 19). The Šahsevän use a comparable strut tent (alačiḵ), though this has a smaller roof wheel (čembärä or dünnüḵ) half the number of struts (čubuq) and roof felts cut in gores, all evidence of rationalization that may have been introduced when they formed a militia under the Safavids (FIGURE 13 and FIGURE 14). The same type is used by the neighboring Qarādaḡi and by tribesmen in few villages bordering the Ṭāleš region; its furthest extension southward is at Šāh-yurdi near Šāhin Dež (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 186-214, II, type d 17; Tapper and Thompson, pp. 260-69, 271, 273-75, 280-81). The Šahsevän also use a secondary, felt-covered tunnel tent (kümä) on a bender frame, primarily for those who cannot afford the strut tent (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 278-85, II, type f 29; Tapper and Thompson, pp. 270, 79).

Felt tents and black tents can be seen pitched within sight of each other in two areas: the southern shore of the Urmia Lake, where Qaradāḡi and Kurds camp nearby, and Marāva Tappa, where Turkman camp near Kurds.

Tunnel tents (gidam, gedam), covered with goat hair, are used by the Baluch in the Sarāvān region, together with others covered in palm matting, as are large armature frames (luk) of palm stems on a square plan, on Taftān Mountain (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 295-304, II, type f 33; Tapper and Thompson, p. 301). The Ṭāleš of the western Alborz use goat hair coverings both over rectangular armatures, (pārgā, pōru, pori) of bent withies (FIGURE 15 and FIGURE 16), and over very large, regularly-constructed tunnel structures (paru; Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 323-40, II, type g 38; Bazin; Tapper and Thompson, pp. 296-97). Those used throughout Jiroft (kutuk, kantuk) have frames of date-palm ribs, traversed by cane stringers, and covered with a thatch of canes; in others the top covering is of reed matting (Andrews, 1997, I pp 291-95, II, type f 32; Ferdinand, 1960, pp. 42-47, figs. 7-9; Peṭrusiān). In Persia it is thus only tunnel tents which are covered with vegetable matter, and most of those in Jiroft are huts under the present definition, even though the frames resemble those of the Baluch further east near Sarāvān, or of the Brahui of Chagai in Pakistan, the one covered in fine palm matting and the other with goat hair (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 295-304, II, photos 63-64). A further, poorly-documented group of tents with a vegetal covering occurs in Daštiāri near the border with the Pakistani Makrān (Andrews, 1997, I p. 424, II, type 1, p. 52; Pozdena, fig. 76) among Jat, Jadgal and Baluch; these include tunnel tents, ridge tents, and an undefined arch tent.

Afghanistan. In Afghanistan felt-covered trellis-tents are confined to the north, from Bādḡis and Ḡōr provinces to Badaḵšān, and Hazārajāt, and used by both Turkic- and Iranian-speaking peoples. These, too, are accompanied by strut tents, though these are not as developed as they are in Persia, and by tunnel-tents, as well as a range of armature tents. Generally, these lighter structures are used there when the summer pastures are far from the winter villages, as they are easier to transport, and in order to avoid using the three horses or two camels required to carry the trellis tent. They have now become commoner in the region than trellis tents. Their covering varies from plaited reed-mats to bundles of reeds or dry grass and brushwood to pieces of an old velum or felts; they may even become semi-permanent, acquiring a daub of mud plaster. They require neither specialist work for the frame nor a reliance on sheep-breeding for felts. They may be used to lodge seasonal laborers or as kitchens in the courtyards of houses. Unlike Persia, then, Afghanistan offers a wide variety of framed tents, particularly of the lighter kind.

Black goat hair tents prevail through most of the remaining area and spread beyond the southern border into Pakistani Baluchistan, and occasionally as far as Peshawar. Vegetable materials prevail among the Marri Baluch east of Kalāt, and among the Gawdār and Ṣayyād of the Hāmun of Sistān.

These black tents form two principle types. The first, corresponding to the Teymuri type in Persia (see G, above), is a multi-peaked tent with an optional arched support. This is characteristic of the western, Dorrāni Pashtun (Glatzer). It is also used by the Jamšidi of Ḵāleqdād, among whom the velum (palās) is sustained by five props (šangal) on the open side, and six on the closed. A center pole (timaq) with a concave cap (kulāgak) supports a curved bar (sari) crossing the velum, which can be extended by two end pieces (esqām) to form the arch. Guy ropes (murān) are rigged in a zigzag to cringles (sāmenak) worked into the eaves (Janata).

This western type (kəšdəi) is also used by the Moḡol and the Teymuri within Afghanistan. Among the southern Dorrāni, five arches (skām) traverse the long axis of the velum (tāgəi) parallel to one another, and supporting it, with their ends in the ground. Each one is made up of three curved pieces lashed together; the short ends of the velum are held up by forked props (šangəla) set under the guy ropes (morān) and fastened to purchase woods (ajak). In semi-sedentary tents, pairs of hoops may be connected by axial rods set on forked poles (ṭimaka) on the center line. Among full nomads (e.g., Esḥāqzi), only a single arch is used on the center line from front to rear in winter and for more permanent spring tents; for summer and sometimes spring use the outer arch pieces (pāya) may be omitted, leaving the central piece (sari) only, set on a forked center pole (ṭimak) with a prop to hold up the velum at either end of the axis, on a plan ca. 10.0 m x 9.0 m. Three other props are used to raise each end of the velum, and end cloths (pecawal) are pinned to drape over these. In winter plaited mats form walls under the eaves to protect the interior from the wind (Ferdinand, 1959, pp. 35-39, idem, 1990; Hallet and Samizay, pp. 28-33; Szabo and Barfield, pp. 33-37; terms recorded by Glatzer from the Nurzi of Šindand). The type is also characteristic of the Baluch and Brahui in the region of Quetta, Kalāt, and Surāb in Pakistan, where the velum is supported on only two or three parallel arches (Ferdinand, 1959, pp. 28-36; Szabo and Barfield, pp. 39-40; FIGURE 17).

A ninth type, H) in the sequence of black tent types given above for Iran, is used largely by Taymanis in southern Ḡōr, from Čaḡčarān/Čaḵčarān to Jām and Qalʿa-ye Ḡōr-e Tayvāra, as ḵāna-ye siā or ḵāna-ye palās. In this the roof ridge is formed by a single bar (čub-e bām, darāzi) extending the full length of the velum, supported by forked poles at either end (sutūn, stūn, mintīr), and the props (ču-ye ḵāna, ača) supporting the eaves are enclosed within the long wall cloths (palās-e döwri), giving the tent a box-like appearance, with a shallow pitch in the roof (palās-e bām, palās-e bālā-ḵaymä; Ferdinand, 1960 notes, cf. idem, 1964, pp. 189-92; Janata, 1969, notes). The guy ropes (band-e ḵaymä) are fastened to purchase woods (āza) and the periphery is surrounded by a cane screen (čeq). The tent measures about 5.0 m x 3.0 m, with walls 1.5-1.75 m, and the ridge 2.0 m high. It appears that this may represent the tent originally used by all the Čahār Aymāq (see AYMĀQ) tribes, before they took over their present trellis tents from the Tājiks (who still make the frames), and invented the čapari (Ferdinand, 1960, notes; Janata, 1969, notes). Peripatetic groups such as the Ḡorbati, Jat and Jugi now use adaptations of cotton bazaar tents, made in Pakistan, and often heavily patched (Rao, pp. 99-115; Szabo and Barfield, pp. 51, 53-54, 57-58).

The other, eastern type is related to the Kurdish type (see D, above); it, too, has the velum pierced to allow the pole-tops to protrude, and the cloth ends are similarly worked in macramé. As it is characteristic of the eastern Ḡelzi Pashtuns (see ḠILZI), and therefore far from even the Khorasan Kurds, the reasons for the similarity are far from clear. The velum (kigdey), about 5.0 m x 3.50 m, is pitched on a row of three or four poles (stana) on the center-line, 1.35-1.95 m high, and three props, (sang stana), each at front and rear; its peaks are supported on the pole-tops by loops (kaḵ) It is extended by guys (mranda), fitted to purchase loops (goag); there are four side cloths (pesawul; Ferdinand, 1990; Hallet and Samizay, pp. 18-27; Szabo and Barfield, pp. 43-45). The transition from the western to the eastern type occurs roughly on the longitude of Qandahār, where the two overlap but do not blend, and the latter extends up to the Āb-e Send (Indus). The former has been carried by the late-19th century expansion of the Pashtun into western and northern parts of Afghanistan as far as Badaḵšān, whereas the eastern type now reaches as far north as Čārikār and Malakand, and in the center into Hazārajāt.

Trellis tents in Afghanistan can be classed in three principal types: those with a trellis in one tier, those with a trellis in two tiers, and those with a two-tiered trellis and a pointed roof profile. The first is used by the Ersāri Turkman of the Āmu Daryā region between Andḵuy and Kᵛāja Emām Sāḥeb, as öy, mainly as an annex to fixed dwellings: the frame makers live in Āqča. It also occurs as üy among the Uzbek, as (ḵergāh) among the Tājik of Mazār-e Šarif, and as boz üy among the Qirghiz of the Vāḵān. In all three cases the form is characteristically Turkic, with a somewhat low dome profile. The terminologies differ, however. For Turkmen, the trellis is (as among the Yomut) tērim, the roof-struts ūq, and the roof-wheel tüynük (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 82-114, 480-81, II, types a 3- a 6; Hallet and Samizay, pp. 37-44). These are generally about 5.0 m in diameter and up to 3.50 m high; the Qirghiz tents are distinctly lower. The second type, characteristic of the majority of Uzbek from Qayṣār to Badaḵšān north of 36° latitude, has a comparable profile, but the trellis, (kerege) is assembled from a lower tier four interstices high and a upper of three; this is probably so as to allow the use of pack animals smaller than camels (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 119-30, 482, II, type b 7); the roof struts (ūq) are bowed outward to form a bulge above the trellis before running towards the roof wheel (tunuq; FIGURE 18 and FIGURE 23). The tent is about 4.80 m in diameter, and 3.20 m high, with a trellis at 1.50 m no higher than usual. The same type is used as ḵirgā by the Arab nomads from Maymana to Qondoz (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 130-36, 483, II, type b 8), and as uy by the Turks from Qaṭaḡān, the Qarloq of Rostāq, and Moḡol of Jorm, Eškašem and Tāleqān (Andrews, 1997, I. pp. 136-40, 484, II. type b 9). The Larḵābī Aymāq of Qaṭaḡan are unique in using this type (ḵirgāh) with a cover of diagonally-woven palm matting, buriā (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 140-43, II, type b 10).

The third type, ḵāna-ye ḵirgā, has a two-tiered trellis (qanāt) similar to these in principle, but a much smaller roof wheel (sar-e ḵāna) to which the roof struts, (ḵuk, yäk) rise from the convex shoulder above the trellis in a concave curve (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 144-78, 485-87, II, types c 11-13), thus generating a pointed profile (FIGURE 19, FIGURE 20, and FIGURE 21). It is about 4.5 m in diameter, 3.90 m high, with a trellis height of 1.65 m, and a roof wheel 80 cm in diameter (Firuzkuhi). It occurs only in Bādgis and Ḡōr among the Firuzkuhi, the Hazāra-ye Qalʿa-ye Naw, and northern Taymanī of the Čahār Aymaq; it was used by the Jamšidi till the end of the 19th century. The trellis is of flattened, rather than rounded, laths. The roof wheel, about 65-100 cm in diameter, is different in detail for each group; it is covered by a tight-fitting felt cap, which cannot be opened for a smoke hole, though its lower corners can be lifted to permit ventilation. The cane wall screen around the outside of the felts is painted with designs derived from felt motifs, and the felts may be sheathed with white cotton outside.

The Čahār Aymāq also use a further type of strut tent, the čapari. A set of tall wall-stakes, driven vertically into the ground in a circle, support straight radial roof-struts hinged together at the apex, either to a ring, to a short batten, or to cross-sticks; there may or may not be a center pole. The covering is usually of cane matting. This is used primarily as a kitchen, but also as a poorer dwelling (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 239-56, 492-93, II, types e 24-25, photos 54-56). A related čapar is used by the semi-nomadic Hazāra from Tabarḡān Qul, west of Bāmiān (Andrews, 1997, II, type e sp; Szabo and Barfield, p. 87-89); in this, the roof struts cross over a large fork at the top of a center pole, and the whole is covered with matting.

Domed bender tents (čapar) are also used by the Hazāra in the Gōrband-Šebar-Bāmiān valley, where the radial struts, stuck into the ground in a circle, are bent to meet in the fork of a center pole, though this is absent among other groups, including Yamči Uzbek and Tājik further north. The Hazāra generally cover the roof with felts, leaving a smoke hole at the apex, and surround the base with a cane screen. The Uzbek cover it with palm matting, and other Turkic groups use either this or thatch (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 221-38, 491, II, photos 16, 23-27, 50-53; Szabo and Barfield, pp. 83, 75-77). Round armature tents (kappa, lačeq), with systems of benders set at right angles to one another, are used in the north by Uzbek, Qarloq and Moḡol: their distribution continues down the Amū Daryā into Turkmenistan, and northeastward into Tajikistan (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 404-21, II, type k 51, FIGURE 22).

Tunnel tents are also represented. Among the simplest is a structure of parallel bender arches on an elongated oval plan and covered with matting, used by the Tājiks of Rostāq and the Moḡol of Šiva, Badaḵšān. Other Tājik in Faryāb, Jowzjān and Taḵār provinces use a frame with longitudinal withies tied along the upper part of these arches, with a felt covering; this is also used by the Baluch in the region. The Arab of Dašt-e lš and Dašt-e Šiva, Badaḵšān, use a structure, (kapa-ye ʿarabi, qodul) with only three bender arches, traversed at their tops by a single long arch tied down at either end to a wall stake on the long axis, while other stakes define the rectangular plan. It is covered with felt (Andrews, 1997, I, pp. 404-21, II, type k 49-50, photo 84).

All these tents require at least a minimum of infrastructure on a flat site (Tk. yurt), and a low stone platform for raising the baggage pile above the damp ground. The Šāhsevan, for example, return each year to the same summer and winter quarters, where leveled, round platforms a meter wider than the tent itself are confined by curbs of large stones to prevent their erosion. Among the Qašqāʾi, the sites for large tents are extended into terraces at one or two levels the full length of the tent-front, as much as 20.0 x 18.0m, with fireplaces at the women’s end; trees around the site provide shade, and water is led to convenient pools for washing clothes or pots and pans. The Baḵtiāri build low dry stone walls around their tents for winter, which absorb heat radiated from the hearth in the daytime, and re-radiate it at night. The most elaborate arrangements in the summer quarters are made by the Sangesari, who build a raised platform for the reception area in the front part of the tent, and walls to divide this from the middle section, and that in turn from the kitchen and store at the rear, with peripheral walls all around, all neatly leveled off, plastered, and whitewashed; pots of flowers are placed in the passageway from front to rear, and a water channel at the rear enters the kitchen. In the camps of some khans, as among the Darrašuri Qašqāʾi, walled kitchens with a row of enclosed hearths are covered by a tent for shade.

Central Asia. Principally, both Turkic and Mongolian nomads use trellis-tents, as described for the Turkman, although in most areas lesser types are used by the poor and by shepherds not requiring the full equipment. These may be strut tents (alāčıq, [Pers. alāčeq] and cognates), in which the frame consists of radial struts and the roof wheel alone, or in some cases conical tents in which the roof wheel is either absent or reduced to little more than a fulcrum, against which the struts can be fixed (e.g., the Qazaq jolımüy). Conical tents are also characteristic of the northern peoples, from the Bašqort in the Urals to the Turks of the Altay and Sayan mountains. The only instance in which an Iranian people now appear to use trellis tents in Central Asia is the occasional borrowing by Tājik or Vāḵī of the Qirghiz type.

Turkic trellis tents (öy, üy), differ from the Mongolian (ger) in having curved roof struts, with a clearly-defined shoulder to the dome, where Mongolian struts are invariably straight and taper downwards to the eaves; the lower ends of Turkic struts are fastened to the trellis-top with plaited ties wound around the heads, but in Mongolian tents they are provided with simple loops each placed over one head. In most Turkic tents the door frame can be dismantled into its components, but in Mongolian use the door frame is moved in an inseparable unit. The slope of the trellis laths in Turkman tents, including those in Anatolia, is from top left to bottom right, as in those of the Čahār Aymāq, whereas in Mongolian tents they invariably slope from bottom left to top right. In Qazaq and Qaraqalpaq tents, probably under Mongolian influence in Joči’s horde, they follow the latter, as they do in most, but not all, Qirghiz tents. Turkic trellises are supported by woven, and often elaborately-decorated woolen girths, which are replaced by hair ropes in Mongolian tents, of which pairs are sometimes sewn together to provide a broader band; in Turkic tents narrow wrapping girths are used to space the roof struts at the shoulder, but in Mongolian tents there are none. Qazaq, Qaraqalpaq, and Uzbek tents are distinguished by the sometimes elaborate networks formed of colored webbing felt-ties within the rear of the tent, and the Uzbek in particular by a corresponding set of white ties on the outside of the tent in front (Borozna, fig. 1; Shaniyazov, p. 93). The Qazaq and Qirghiz use screens (šiy, čiy) of steppe grass in which each halm is wrapped in colored, unspun wool to form an overall pattern. An early form, the trellised tent mounted intact on a cart (otaw or üy), which survived among the Noḡay of the Terek region in the Caucasus until the mid-20th century (Andrews, 1999, I, pp. 638-61).

Simpler, and probably older tent types survive amongst the earlier stratum of Turkic minorities of Tajikistan, such as the Turk, Qarloq, Barlas, and Moḡol. The Qarloq Uzbek of southern Tajikistan (e.g., Dangara) and Uzbekistan use an armature tent (lāčeq) on an elliptical plan (Karmysheva, 1956, pp. 15-20; idem, 1960, figs. 8-9), in which each crossing of the two arch systems (ālāčıg) is tied separately, and extra withies (bargazaq) are provided to close the lower walls. Wrapping girths are also used to restrain the periphery, and some forked poles (ustun) help to sustain the vault of the roof, which is covered with felts, five boḡurtaq for the walls, and a bastırma for the roof, with a tünlük over the living space. Domes of 80-90 pre-bent withies were used in the summer quarters, but larger ones, reputedly up to 15 m in diameter, in winter. Similar, though rather simpler, structures are used by their Iranian-speaking neighbors, such as Sujāni, Larḵābi, and Činaki, though not by the Tājik themselves. This bender structure is very close to one of the range of tents (däyä) formerly used in the Qazaḵ region of Soviet Azerbaijan (Kulieva). The Uzbek of Kāfernegān and Bābataḡ use several variants of the strut tent, where the benders are spaced by wrapping girths, and two types of tunnel tent, one with trellised walls (Borozna, fig. 2).


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(Peter Alford Andrews)

Originally Published: July 20, 2009

Last Updated: July 20, 2009