From Icebergs to Kaluts
Photographing the hottest land surface on Earth
There are many photographers travelling to Iran wishing to capture the beauty of our country. But it’s not often that we get to welcome a couple of professional photographers from the Arctic, who spend most of their time among icebergs and snowy landscapes. Imagine our surprise when a couple like this, Karim and Maria Sahai, came to us asking to organise a custom trip to the hottest place on Earth – Dasht-e Lut desert.
Below is the story of Karim and Maria, two photographers travelling to Iran wishing to capture the beauty of Lut Desert, the hottest place on Earth.
We just finished leading a photography tour in Greenland and wanted a complete change of scenery. What can be more different from seeing Ice calving from a glacier? Photographing Kaluts – unique soil formations in the hottest desert on the planet! Main challenge for us was timing. We were travelling to Iran in August, the hottest month of the year. We were so happy to hear the Surfiran guides were brave enough to drive through Dasht-e Lut when the temperatures are as high as 60 C (140F).
We started our journey from Meymand, where we stayed overnight. It’s an incredible ancient village with 350 “apartments” hand-dug in a rock, some of which have been inhabited for as long as 3,000 years.
Early morning, stocked up on fresh figs and peaches, we embarked on a several hour journey from Meymand to Dasht-e Lut. Early on we started feeling the heat, it was 8 am and the temperatures were already above 40 C (104 F). Seeing our sweaty faces, the guide promised, that before arriving to the hottest place on Earth we will have a little break from the Sun. And he kept his promise. Our next stop was an old Qanat – an underground channel used for water distribution. Much of the population of Iran and other countries in Asia and North Africa historically depended upon the water from qanats. Luckily, this particular qanat that we went in was not used by the locals anymore, we could relax for a few minutes in its caves, hidden from the rays of burning Sun.
But as a poet said “Nothing good lasts forever”. After all, we came to Dasht-e Lut for the unique soil formations – Kaluts – that the desert is famous for. They are formed by wind erosion and create surreal otherworldly landscapes.
We parked our car away from the main highway, but our guide warned us – we can’t stay long parked on the sand, the tires may not survive the temperatures. After looking at the soles of my sneakers and feeling how the rubber started melting, I didn’t ask any further questions. Also, a few minutes into photographing the sandy giants, our cameras started giving us “High Temperature Warning”. The thermometer showed 54 C (129 F).
Below is the result of our short but memorable adventure in Lut desert, UNESCO's World Heritage Site with the hottest land surface on Earth (measured 70.7 °C (159.3 °F) by NASA in 2003-2010).