Solo Trip to the Central Desert

Solo Trip to the Central Desert

I created this travelogue to show a glimpse of what I experienced when I decided to travel and stay in the city of Khur, in the Central Desert of Iran, for a total of 17 days.

I underwent this pilgrimage alone seeking to get away from everything that bound me to a certain lifestyle. I took a better look at my life and what I had accepted as my beliefs and contemplated the deeper questions that had plagued me for a lengthily time.

It helped me clear my mind and realise much about life and how it should be lived for it to be worthy. I am now closer to letting go of life at the moment of death, knowing that I have fulfilled another part of my dreams and felt the flow of life throughout my entire existence. Hopefully the knowledge I gained from this time will stay with me in all my moments and I will also be able to pass it on to others to improve their lives, the way mine was bettered.

Sunrise in Kooreh Gaz

Discovering Khur

I came across the small city of Khur and the Kavir Guesthouse quite serendipitously. AIESEC was in need of a suitable venue for a conference and my old friend, Roozbeh, was in charge. He had come across some guy in the desert in his searches and he wanted to check it out. I was reluctant to go on such a long trip, but luckily Roozbeh eventually persuaded me. We didn’t get to see anything special on our half-day stay in Khur, except for the peace and tranquillity. That was enough to make me think. I needed a break from normal life and the desert seemed like the perfect spot for a retreat. I packed my stuff and headed to Rohab Moghimi’s Kavir Guesthouse in Khur. I spent a total of 17 days there; 21 if I count the 4 days we went to visit Naein & Isfahan in between. I visited…

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Photographer: Amir Naderi

Run Til Yer Done

Maybe that was what this whole trip was about! I was tired of struggling with everyday life and yet I didn’t feel the strength in me to overpower it. So I took some time off from everything. I switched off my cellphone, stayed away from my e-mail and Facebook accounts and kept my distance from anyone I knew before the trip. I retreated to the desert to gather the courage and determination by thinking about anything that came to my mind, usually the thought being something that was bothering me for some time. I knew running away was a temporary answer and I’d have to go back and fight my fight, otherwise my problems would catch up with me and get me while my guard was down. It’s easy to get so caught up in routines, habits and standards that you’ll forget you’re doing all of these to feel happiness…

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Photographer: Me

Rooftop of the Kavir Guesthouse

I spent a lot of the time I had in the Guesthouse here, especially when alone. I witnessed a night of shooting stars sleeping here. I saw the sun rise and shed light on all the beauty that lay in the land. I enjoyed a very deep and strange conversation with Abed and Rohab one special night. I spent some time chatting and discussing matters with friends. I was lucky enough to be present when a local came around for a nighttime gathering with Rohab and his family and came to love his passionate recitation of his own poems, the delightful memories he recalled and his special “57” cigarettes. Usually this was were I went to sleep under the stars and moonlight and rose to the warmth of the sunlight. But most importantly, it was where I went to duel my mind and contemplate the questions present in my life.…

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Life and Liveliness in the Desert

I didn’t know what was in store for me when I decided to go to the desert. I imagined it would be a still place where I could find the peace to converse with myself. When I got there, I realised there was more than met the eye. The desert is full of life and while you have the chance to be alone in peace, you are also presented with all forms of liveliness. I had some of the most craziest moments of my life there, among people I had just recently met. It was for me whatever I wanted it to be. In any situation, it was the perfect match for my spiritual mood. Related

Wearing Down What I Was Wearing

What became of my trousers and boots after spending some time in the “real” nature … yep, it can get as harsh as you want it to be! I lost the trousers to an unexpected dive in the canal. The boots have a more interesting story: Me and Rohab went to the village of Dadkin, where Rohab stayed to rest and I walked off to do some trekking. I climbed a steep rocky mountain alone using all the strength in my hands, feet and lungs! When I reached the top, I realized my boots were all ripped up. But I was already so high up and the sight was amazing, so I kept going on toe! I reached a place where I sat in solitude and bare and enjoyed the wind, sunset and scenery. When I wanted to go back down, it was pitch black and I had to slide…

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Fruitful Remains

The city of Khur and its surrounding villages were once full of palm trees of all sorts, making them look like dense jungles instead of the dry desert. But in 2007 (I think), the desert was covered with snow! The palms weren’t fit for that kind of cold climate, so they withered and became lifeless. Or so it seemed! Even though most of them, especially the tall ones, were broken in half from the cold, they were still alive. After the snow melted away, they started coming back to life in the form of green buds. Unfortunately, the officials were blind towards these new signs of life and ordered the lifeless bulldozers to unearth the trees and take them to the outskirts of the town to be burned! The people tried to fight them off but eventually, the machine prevailed. If you go to the borders of the city, you…

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Kalateh-e Talkh, Coming Soon …

Kalateh Talkh, which is the equivalent of “sour (water) oasis”, is located on the outskirts of Khur. It’s basically a farm with rooms, water storage chamber and plants in the field. The name is derived from the taste of the water there. It was quite amusing to see there were small fish in the water who would come to whenever you stuck your hand or foot it; as if they were fearlessly coming to kiss it! It also has some awesome mountains close by that will give you a unique view of the land and Khur itself. Due to some reasons, the farm has been left unattended. I hope we’ll soon see it in all its glory. Related

Gathering the herd at sunset in Sowoor

At the foot of the mountains, lies a small residence the shepherds use. They take the goats out into the desert to feed and bring them back by sunset to keep them safe from the jackals and wolves. They use a centrifuge-like (!) device to separate the different dairy products from the goat milk and process them to get what they want. They were Related

Aroosan Village

A village with only 3 residing families! The wonder of seeing fruitful trees, luscious greens and delightful hardworking elderly people in the middle of all that featureless yellow land! As my dad always says, I think it’s the scarcity of the water that makes these people so hardworking as opposed to the people of the North who’ve always had abundant supplies of it. Water is the essence of life and when there isn’t too much of it around, you’ll just have to work harder to find it and optimize its use. And yet with all the trouble these people have to go through to get by, they will always show you their truly hospitable side by inviting you to something of theirs; whether it’s eating of their food and fruits, drinking their water or milk, or simply relaxing in the shade of the shelters they’ve established. Related

The Colorful Salt Canals

This is definitely one of my favorite spots around Khur. You drive for more than half an hour towards Tabas from Khur and suddenly pull over; the only sign that you’re there is a small room. You leave the car by the road and walk through the clumps of dry mud away from the car and suddenly, you’re met with this amazing sight! The water is a breathtaking blue, enabling you to see everything in it with clarity. It has so much salt in it that the salt banks progress towards each other from both sides. Even when you’re in the water, crystals will start forming on your skin and you can imagine what will become of you if you come out and don’t pour some normal water on yourself. But the reason I love this place: You’re always floating! Because of the special composition of the water, the water…

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Floating Free

The beauty of the salt canals and the joyous peace they offer in one shot. No effort on my side! Related

Witnessing the sunset from atop a mountain near the Kalateh-e Talkh

The climb took a petty amount of time but the reward of seeing such colorful beauty was overwhelming. It was these moments that its great to be in shape and capable of accessing the hardest of spots, for those are where the rarest and most adorable scenes are lie. I hope that piece of knowledge will stay with me! Related

Sunrise in Kooreh Gaz

Kooreh Gaz is a small place within an hour’s drive (or a bit more depending on the car) of Khur. It has some pieces of land filled with fruit trees and flowers, a couple of buildings and facilities (not electricity, gas or anything fancy), but is usually vacant of humans. Only at night do some camel handlers come and stay until the light hits. Why? The village has a small stream of water running with the help of a pump. In the dark of the night, camels come from the desert to drink water from the canal in the pen and leave after they’ve quenched their thirst. They live out in the desert and only come to drink every couple of nights. Sometimes the handlers keep them in the pen to do a count and mark any newly born camels. Related

The beating heart of all desert off-road adventures

This Blazer is the highlight of any form of mechanical transport you may experience in the desert. Forget its nostalgic appearance and its barely-working brakes! It’ll give you the ride of your life, especially if you’re brave enough to sit on the window ledge or better yet, the roof! Even though I didn’t attempt to do any of its crazy leaps or rough terrain coursing, I still lost a tire simply trying to follow in its steps … or tire marks! Related

Golden Meadow

We’re surrounded by colors, textures, and shapes of all sorts. Yet we allow our senses to get used to them and we gradually grow numb to things that could give us heartwarming sensations in the glance of an eye. Open up and absorb all the beauty encompassing you! Related

The Life of a Pomegranate

Strangely enough, I saw more fruits on trees there in the desert then I did in the rest of my trip. Pomegranates, tomatoes, figs, pumpkins, pears, sunflowers, and dates were the ones I saw and haven’t forgotten to mention! Related

Capturing the Moment

The interesting thing is that as much as I hate repeating some things, I can never get enough of others. I’m sure I could never get tired of a magnificent sunset or a majestic sunrise. I’ll always be amused by the playful shapes puffy clouds make. Or forever have the desire to get on the road and see all the amazing sights passing me by. Life can be as beautiful as we want it to be. It’s simply a matter of conscious wanting and letting the flow of life pass through you instead of by you. Related

Salt Lake Central

The salt lake is one of the largest (if not the largest) seasonal lakes. That means when it rains it turns into a gigantic flat mirror and later on, when the rainwater sinks down into the ground, the surface is covered in cracks creating a formation of thousands of similar shapes. I wasn’t too keen on taking photos of myself, but it was natural when friends tagged along and did it for me! The fact that I have a camera in this picture does not mean I am a photographer, as I have no claim of the sort. In the presence of masters, I am merely playing around and amusing my visual urges. But I must say that I am deeply grateful to my friend, Mohammad Mohaghegh, who gave me a crash course on photography before I set off. It was quick and brief, but it gave me the power to…

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King of the Desert, Rohab the Great

If it wasn’t for the way he treated me and my friends the first time I was there, I would have smiled at the thought of spending some serious time in the desert and moved on. But his understanding of what people need at some specific period of time and his kindness and willingness to provide it, sets him apart from any guesthouse manager/owner you’ve ever met. My time in the Kavir Guesthouse and everything good that happened because of it would not have been possible without Rohab and the hospitality and help of his fabulous family. More than a generous manager, a skilled planner, and a capable tour leader, he acted as a big brother to me. With his help I came closer to finding happiness in my life and I hope lots of it in return for him and his entire family. Related

Bayyazeh Castle with the Crazy Crew

I don’t care much for history but this place is old, seriously! I’d tell you more but I could barely make out anything the old mulla/guide said! It’s quite strange how you can grow to like some people in such a short time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I knew I would leave the desert eventually and my time with my newly found friends was tangibly limited. I think it allowed me to enjoy their presence more and try to have the best time I could, neglecting anything that might upset me. The result was missing the people and moments as soon as I left and a desire to go back as soon as possible. I remember the first time Naghme, Piero, Somayeh & Ebrahim saw me, I was in a very crazy state and I hadn’t the slightest acquaintance with them. If they thought…

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Rooftop Dinner with Lantern Lights

Pedro and Josep, from Portugal and Spain respectively, came to the Guesthouse when everyone else had left. They were at first disappointed to see it was a small city instead of the isolated village they were expecting. But after making the right decision to stay, they saw the beauties the city and its surroundings had to offer and left with some good memories. Related

Desert Indian

Craziness never comes to a stop in the desert, especially when you have proactive people such as myself and Abed! I took up the appearance of a stereotypical Indian just for some laughs. No offense to our “real” Indian friends … peace be upon us all! Related

A Brother, High as the Roof

Abed seemed the wackiest of them all when I first saw him and I came to realize later on that I wasn’t too mistaken! In the time I spent there and the one night I was his guest in Isfahan, he showed me and everyone else a great time with his crazy deeds, interesting memories of traveling and his “equipment”! He felt like a brother who would be mywing-man when it came to madness and help me push my limits. I remember one night when we were all feeling quite good, he sat on a small glass table to continue what he was saying. In a blink of an eye, I heard a breaking noise and turned to see his hand and legs sticking out of the wooden frame while his torso was jammed in. I will never forget the amazement in his eyes when he glanced at all of…

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Tarzan of the Desert

When it comes to being one with nature, Amir is the real life example. One of the most fearless people when it comes to animals, whether it’s a snake, owl, dog, scorpion, lizard or anything else. He is a master in the wild, a trustworthy guide and a protector of animals and nature. You’ll also enjoy his calm and relaxed manner, mixed with his constant spontaneity for fun and laughter. One of the first people I befriended when I arrived in the Guesthouse as a stranger to all and a dear friend he shall remain for a lifetime. Related

Embodiment of Energy and Excitement

Josep was the first person chronologically that influenced me. A 63 year old Spanish Mechanical Engineer who had decided to retire 5 years earlier to travel the world. When I asked him of his plans for future trips, he talked of eventually going from Argentina to the South Pole! Not to mention that he had quit being a chain smoker by taking a look at his 3 cigarettes one random day and simply deciding they would be his last. This man was the personification of the saying “you are as young as you feel”. The passion he showed when talking and his gentle nature made me respect him greatly. I’m sure I’m not the only one wishing to grow up to become such an energetic lively human and knowing that this lifestyle was true success, not being confined to a job and place. Related

Queen of the Court, Mi’Lady Marziyeh

Truthfully I was scared of her the most. Knowing she was Amir Naderi’s fiance and seeing her tired and grumpy after a long drive, first impressions weren’t going too well. Later on when she started a movement of “Clean ’em all” and forced everyone to participate in making the Guesthouse spotless, I was worried if we were ever going to get along. It definitely took some time but after she was done with the dusting, polishing, redecorating, washing and sanitising the place and got a chance to relax, I saw her other side. Don’t let looks deceive you, Mi’Lady is just as funny and game as the rest of the gang when the time arises. I grew very fond of her and enjoyed seeing her laugh, as it was a sign of high quality humour; hence, a jester-queen relationship formed between us! Related

An amazing human walks the Earth

Alex the Irishman was definitely one of the people whose lifestyle taught me a big lesson about mine. Even though he was visually less able than most of us, he traveled around the globe to experience the wonders of the world. I dare say by what I learned of him through our conversations and his manner that his spirit took in so much more beauty than normal humans were capable of. He taught me that no matter what your disadvantages are in life, you can still enjoy what the world has to offer you if you dare live consciously. Thanks to him, I got in touch with my five senses more than ever before. Related

Swimming Upstream

Without any doubt, one of the best couples I’ve crossed paths with! I met Andrew and Caroline in the very last days I was there but I liked them there and then on the spot. It was nice to hear the mixture of English with the Australian accent from Andrew and the very genuine “English English” from Caroline! I think Andrew was the person I talked to most while I was there and I’m glad I did. Otherwise I might have never known the warrior he is, living life the way he thinks is right and bravely taking his steps on and up. In the timely sense, he was the third person who gave me a good lesson on how pain can show you that you’re going in the right direction. I didn’t get to talk with Caroline too much because (frankly) I would offend her because of my constantly…

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Cherishing Newly Found Friends

The first time I saw Anton, I thought he was a cocky arrogant American! But he turned out to be a spontaneous Dutch Medicine student who read surgery books in his meantime! And I loved that “Man Bites Dog” concept and T-shirt  😀 Thomas was a fun French friend who I had long talks with. I liked the way he thought outside the box and challenged “the norms”, especially when it came down to politics and independence. Even though I started out by acting as a translator between him and Marzieh, I ditched the job and continued with a different course of conversation that I must say, enjoyed immensely! There’s nothing else worth mentioning here, except that I saved the other guys life from suffocating & choking with a simple Heimlich maneuver! I never would have thought I’d be the real-time lifesaver when I was learning that one … or…

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JC, Model of the Desert

As crappy as my camera might be, I have a good eye to make up for it. I think I owe it to my Mashhad descent which have given me mastery over “visual pervertism”! But I’m using my superpowers for the sake of good this time  🙂 Related

Healing the Artist’s Soul

It was our mutual love for the night that kept us both awake and sparked a conversation between us whilst the others were asleep. The night allows you to take off your masks and talk from your heart without fear and that’s what made us come close within a matter of days. Hasti opened new doors of art for me and I don’t just mean her magnificent paintings; the delicate way she went about life while being incredibly strong was her biggest talent. I hope she finds her true strength beneath all the layers of problems she has. I was channeling my positive energy with an Indian accent from one side of the headphone to the other. I think it helped heal her wounded soul! The head tilting couldn’t be captured on a picture, so just add it in with your own imagination. Related

Friendship Prevails

When I first arrived in the desert, I had only met Rohab once and was a outsider in a group of close friends. I was initially worried about how I was going to fit in or simply be accepted. But I knew I was there to be with myself more than anyone else and I stuck to my goal and decided to be whoever I want to be. I soon found myself among the others, even though I was being a much more free and careless version of myself. Be yourself and anyone who likes what they see will befriend you; but to change yourself to become someone everyone will like will leave you a popular hollow personality! I also saw people come and go and came to understand that friendship overcomes all barriers of language, culture and age. Reach out a hand of friendliness and you’ll see you can…

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Men’s Synchronized Swimming

What man doesn’t need a break from the Moulin Rouge and dancing can-can all day long? So, what better way to put one’s feet up than do it literally?! Related

Singing on the Salt Lake

Fun times, yelling out Mohsen Namjoo’s “Toranj” til the point where our foreign friends grew to like the song and I gave it to them later on! گفتا من آن ترنجم کاندر جهان نگنجم گفتم به از ترنجی لیکن به دست نایی Related

Slaughter in the Sand

Everyone who came to the dunes that day will know what’s going on here! It all started when Naghme decided to play a little prank on Abed and pour some sand into his trousers. That was the spark we needed to decide to “sandbomb” everyone present! Basically, independent of gender and nationality, we’d pour sand into all the openings of the clothes! And just to top it off, we’d add a little dressing of sand to the underwear. Not everyone was as accepting as Andrew to just sit down and go threw with it, but that was the fun part. No matter how fast or strong they were, we’d get them eventually and the resistance just made it all the more fun! 😀 Related

Soaring Silhouettes

It may be a typical picture, but we went to great lengths to capture a decent one after the sun set. Even if we hadn’t, we’d still have had tons of fun and monkey business! Related

Chilling on the Dunes

Spending some time there really helps you remember that it doesn’t take much to have a fun time. We did it with lots of sand and some cool people! P. S. Rolling down these slopes gives you dizziness worthy of astronauts but that’s all the more reason not to pass on it! Related

Exposed to Nature

OK, I’m going to be very truthful on this matter. I had the chance to enjoy the salt canals, mountains and desert bare as the day I was born!(just these three cases, not counting the shower!) Even though there was no one even remotely visible around, I was nervous to do it at first because I had never been without clothes anywhere in the open. I shyly undressed and stood in the heart of nature just as my ancestors would. I’ll admit that it felt exhilarating! To see nothing of man-made structures, hear nothing but the wind and your own heartbeat, and to have nothing separating you from Mother Nature. I sensed much more unity with the Earth, as if it had embraced me after I had shed what was creating a barrier between us. I think if more of us felt this way more often, we’d be more respectful…

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Rolling Down the Dunes

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” Robin Williams What is a life without adventure, excitement and madness? Not worth living in my view! Besides they always likened time to the sand, slipping through our hands, so why not make something of this sand while we still have the chance? But I tell you, it seemed like an eternity going down that slope and I had lost all understanding of direction and stability when I finally stopped. If the harsh wind blowing sand wasn’t enough, taking in some while rolling definitely gave me a good mouthful of its taste!  😀 Related

The Much-disputed, Shiloh

Amir brought this puppy from Tehran to Esfahan with him and I drove her, along with the rest of my friends, back to Khur. She is going to be the star of the Guesthouse animals one day and she’s off to a good start! Even though she was only 50 days old, she had caught the attention and affection of everyone there. There was much debate about what she was to be named. But in the end, “Sahra” lost to “Shiloh” (read Shaay-lo), meaning “peaceful one”. She was far from it! One night she snuck into one of the rooms by squeezing herself through from under the door. She decided to go and make herself comfortable between one of the couples staying there. When our friend woke up to a big pair of eyes and a black face in the dark of the night, he jumped from bed screaming. That…

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The Rebellious Owl, JuJu

The only remaining chick from among 6 siblings. The local farmers shot the other five, believing that they were “bad luck”! This young one was the sole survivor who got away and was taken in by the Kavir Guesthouse. Even though it is caged part of the time and is given food by its new family, it retains its wild nature. She/he will not tolerate any kind of petting and will only sit on your hand so long as it can find a reachable ledge that it can fly to. Moving your finger back and forth in front of it will allow you to see its remarkable pupil dilation and contraction. But you have to keep your distance because it harmlessly pecks at anything that gets too close; given its poor sight at close ranges, it probably mistakes it for food. To kill living creatures, babies to be more accurate,…

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Clash of the Baby Titans

Both of them were just kids and they knew nothing of each other. So instead of a vicious fight, their interactions seemed mostly based on curiosity and wonder. They went nose to beak and yet the only aggression was to set boundaries. Shiloh attempted a ballerina pose for this picture, while JuJu chose to take the higher ground to compensate for his shortness! Related

The Magnificent Praying Mantis

I’ve always hated bugs since some asshole threw a dead dragonfly down my shirt when I was 12. So you can imagine how freaked out I was when I felt a tingling on my back when I was sitting in my shorts at night time in Kooreh Gaz. I looked down to see the frightfully large eyes of this fella while he was making his way up my back. I jumped to brush him off and after I did, I realized this was the “thing” that was mysteriously large and had crawled across my foot when I wasn’t capable of seeing it in the dark. I figured I had been exposed to him enough, so I reached out a hand of friendship and let him hurry along my hands. I put him in a bag later on to take him back home with me and later on, found another of…

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Crazy Gecko

Now this little dude, I had no problem with but I wasn’t sure my friend who was sleeping beside me had the same feelings. So I did him a favor and grabbed the gecko off of his blanket without waking him up. I’m not sure if it was the joy of taking a picture with me or if he seriously had to go, but he pretty much jumped out of my hand onto the floor and scurried away. Related

The sun sets upon my journey

I went on my trip and lived it, loved it and ended it just like I spent it. I left one late night after all signs of randomness pointed me out (tossing coins, counting numbers, drawing odds, etc.). I left and took with me a suitcase of memories and friendships. I know a part of me was left behind in the desert but I probably did it on purpose, so I would have an excuse to go back and look for it. And you know how hard it is finding something in the desert, I’d have to keep going and coming …  😉 Related


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