Magnificent desolation: Iran’s Lut Desert

The Lut Desert in south eastern Iran is the hottest place on earth.

Where these photographs where taken, it was 55°C (131°F). It felt like my eyeballs were boiling in their sockets. Here the wind doesn’t cool you, it burns you like the air that escapes from an oven.

About 200km down the road from here, it reaches a mind-bending 70°C (158°F).

Parts of the desert, carved by the wind and blasted by the scorching heat for millennia, resemble another planet.

Staring out at the desert’s expanse, the words Buzz Aldrin used to describe the lunar surface – ‘magnificent desolation’ – came to mind.

Amazingly, a few people do live here. Life is possible due to an underground network of qanats (water channels) dug centuries ago that bring water from the far away mountains to the heart of the desert. They are maintained by a handful of desert dwellers.

Almost delirious with the heat, I asked one of them – my guide – why he lived in the desert.

“Everyone asks me that,” he said with a chuckle.

“It’s the qanats. They are like my children. I have to look after them, I have to keep the water flowing.”

The road we took into the desert
How I imagine Mars
It was approaching evening time when we arrived here
Another world
The wind has blasted the sand and rocks into these shapes over millennia
The car, or 4×4, has allowed people to reach much further into the desert
This is my favourite shot from my visit to the desert; where Mars meets the Wild West
Another one of this guy
This was my guide who lives in the Lut desert and who told me he could never leave it
The next day, in another, flatter, part of the desert
A half built and abandoned petrol station perhaps?
Desert freight
And old abandoned village
Another abandoned village slowly fading away