I travelled back to Kashan for one last visit before heading to Tehran to catch my flight out of Iran. One of the reasons for stopping in Kashan was to visit the mountain village of Abyaneh. The other was to make a day trip out to the Maranjab desert.
Our first stop, just before reaching the desert, was to stop by a particularly friendly group of camels.
At first this guy was quite stand-offish.
But he came around eventually and was happy to receive a bit of scratch on the nose.
My friend Ellen was also quite adept at making friends with the camels. I asked them to turn to face the camera and they obliged.
Of course the reality is that the these camels only came up to us because they thought that we would give them food. We gave them a few pieces of bread which they seemed very happy with.
We let the camels be and moved on towards Namak Salt Lake. A trip out to this salt lake is always included in the day trips from Kashan out to the Maranjab desert.
I think that the salt lake changes its appearance a lot over the course of the year. In summer when the sun is baking hot, any moisture that makes its way to the surface quickly evaporates leaving the salt crust behind. But during winter, the moisture tends to stick around for longer and the salt flats are a little muddy.
The lake is a remnant of the Paratethys sea, which started to dry from the Pleistocene period, leaving the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea and other bodies of water. The lake has a surface area of about 1,800 square kilometres or 690 square miles, but most of this is dry. Water only covers 1 square kilometre. The lake only reaches a depth between 45 cm to 1 metre.
The Paratethys sea was a large shallow sea that stretched from the region north of the Alps over Central Europe to the Aral Sea in Central Asia. The water entering the lake now comes from the Qom River. The inflow is very low with the Qom river some times having a flow rate as low as 4 m³/s.
We left the salt lake and continued driving east to reach the edge of the desert and its rolling sand dunes. We drove for a further 15mins around the lake before the sand dunes appeared on the right side of the road.
It was the first time in my life that I had ever seen a desert with endless rolling sand dunes like this. I have worked in some very hot regions of Australia, but they have always been close enough to the coast so that there is still some rainfall from tropical storms. Iran is definitely the driest part of Earth that I have visited.
The temperatures in Iran can reach up to 50°C during the summer months and there is very little rain and snow.
The desert soil is covered with sand and pebbles and heavy wind-storms frequently occur. These storms can quickly alter the landscape and create sand dunes reaching up to 40 m in height.
While walking up one of the sand dunes I found this little plant desperately trying to establish himself in the sand dune. It must be so tough for any plant to establish itself here. Little rainfall, sandy soils and heavy winds always trying to cover you up with a layer of fresh sand.
I spent about an hour walking up and down the dunes, taking photos and enjoying the sunshine. The weather on this day was perfect, probably close to 20°C. Visiting this desert in summer would be unbearably hot and I think not at all enjoyable. Definitely another reason to visit Iran in the spring.