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Monday, 2 June 2014

Desert samples of Iran



I always thought of deserts as rather – not necessarily safe but – constant environments. Hot, dry, and sandy. Despite living without regrets, I would always sigh when thinking about Morocco and about how close I actually was to the desert during my trip to Marrakech back in 2008. However, as old wishes tend to come true if they’re real and from the heart, I did find my long-awaited desert in the arid south of Iran – in fact, several deserts, as the whole region seems made of sand (but not in the classical meaning, i.e. dunes), shrubs, and the spectacular mountainous backdrop that – surprisingly – accompanies you through the fascinating country.
There is desert between Isfahan and Shiraz, there is desert between Shiraz and Kerman, there is also desert between Kerman and Bam – and, of course, around Bam –. There were many desert storms that caught my eye in the area, followed by amazing sunsets. A very interesting ‘feature’ of the desert between Kerman and Yazd was finding out that it was home to the quite rare and elusive Asiatic cheetah [my favourite big cat]… I was so-so eager to get to see one.  
Sandstorm in the land of kalouts
However, the first place I’d ever set foot in the desert was actually the hottest place on Earth, signalled by the huuuuge panel welcoming us to the Kalouts and Lut Desert (our guide even told us that in summer, in the deeper areas of the desert, they unofficially registered 89ºC, which is unbelievable). You feel as if you’re actually stepping on the Moon: enormous formations carved by the action of the rough desert wind on the sand hills of the desert are welcoming you, sturdy and sci-fi. After a quite challenging climb (depending on the kalout), you will see your ice water turned into hot liquid, you will feel your idea of remoteness (probably) demolished, and you will understand why deserts are dangerous and why camping in one would be risky business. You could be taking pictures at one point and – within minutes – you could have sand everywhere. And more importantly, you could feel it whipping your eyes and face. At this point, walking to the car seems to take forever and it isn’t recommended to travel without a guide. If the wind catches you while descending the kalouts, try and focus on keeping your balance; it may be one of the hardest tasks. So would be running barefoot during a sandstorm, as magnificently unique as it is violent.
Fahraj Desert
We did get a sample of a smaller sandstorm in the Fahraj desert. I could – at last – satisfy the classical thirst for fine sand and dunes (sandboarding would have been nice after the sunset walk) and go through my first camel ride. And then smoke hookah and have tea with a group of very nice people, laughing and joking until nightfall.
I can still feel the call of the desert, of the remote, cozy, and stylish desert inns, or of the oasis-like towns and villages, bearing the dusty print of the hundreds (thousands, maybe) of years… and of course, the silence you find there is – apart from being intoxicating – unmatched.        

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