WHERE IS THE HOTTEST PLACE ON THE PLANET?
Iran’s Dasht-e Lut desert boasts dunes as high as the Eiffel Tower and is (quite literally) a hotbed of smuggling action
The Kerman province in central south-eastern Iran is home to the country’s brutally arid Dasht-e Lut desert. Its translated name – ‘Desert of Emptiness’ – is an apt moniker: not a lot lives or grows here thanks to the punishing heat. Surface temperatures of more than 70°C have been measured, the highest anywhere in the world.
At 480km long and 320km wide, the Lut is a major smuggling route for heroin traffic moving from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Turkey. MERSAD, the military branch of the Iranian police charged with stopping drug trafficking, faces an uphill task. Not only do they have the heat to contend with, but Dasht-e Lut’s hills – known by geologists as yardangs – play an unwitting part, too. These giant sandcastle-like formations, which can reach 75 metres in height, look like solid rock, but are simply highly compacted sand. In areas, they are so densely packed that they provide concealed, criss-crossing pathways for the smugglers to use.
Other parts of the desert are more benign. In contrast to the punishing daytime heat, winter nights in the southern area sees the mercury dropping below zero. Here, large sweeping sand seas with dunes up to 300 metres high dominate the landscape (left).