Tasra my Peugeot Pars in the Dasht-e Lut desert, aka Empty desert.
This is Part 4 of our exploration of Iran in a Peugeot Pars. You can see Part 1: Tehran here, Part 2: Isfahan here and Part 3: Shiraz here. We are now headed east towards the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan to discover the Dasht-e Lut desert, home of the hottest temperature ever measured on earth and translating as Empty desert, an accurate description. We then backtrack north-west to Yazd, one of the oldest cities in the world…
Our itinerary to the Dasht-e Lut desert and Yazd, car landscape in Shahdad. Our Peugeot Pars in the Kaluts in the Dasht-e Lut desert.
There’s no escaping it: the Dasht-e Lut is the hottest desert in the world, but also the location of the hottest temperature ever measured on earth, by a NASA satellite in 2005 at an incredible 70.7°C (159.3°F). Yelp. I didn’t think earth temperatures could climb up that high either. Thankfully I visited in late October which is the middle of autumn so it wasn’t nearly as hot but even then, nights wouldn’t fall below 35°C so when faced with a non air-conditioned room as the only accommodation option in nearby village Shahdad, I politely declined. The main attraction here is the Kaluts, dramatic erodes mesas vaguely reminiscent of Monument Valley but not nearly as striking though. The oasis town of Shahdad is a fascinating find with a mud-walled caravanserai and mosque. Note it is not advised to venture more than a couple of kilometres into the desert as you could run into minefields designed to deter opium smugglers coming from Afghanistan, a mere 320km east through the desert…
Pakistani pilgrim bus on the Shiraz-Sirjan road
Driving to the Dasht-e Lut from Shiraz, I am now accustomed to the Iranian driving style, which borderline horrified me in Tehran but actually has a logic of its own. Every car is following a sort of natural flow and honking almost constantly to signal its presence to the nearby drivers. If someone is ostensibly hesitating and not sure where to go, all the cars around them will toot to let them know their position. One of my pet hates when driving is slower cars sticking to the fast lane (the left lane here) forcing me to overtake on the right which is illegal in most countries. Refreshingly, there is no such thing in Iran. Everyone obeys the “only overtake on the left” rule religiously and if a slower car, bus or truck find itself on the left lane when you want to pass it, a simple honk is enough to make them change lanes to let you pass the legal way. No one “resisted” a honk to do so during the entire time I travelled in Iran, which is the one of the most civilised behaviours I ever got to witness. Also very civilised are the police speed radars, inaccurately described as “Speed traps” on the Waze app, simply because here, the police is not out to trick you into paying a speeding fine. All radars are on very straight-forward 110kph sections of highway, and not in short, slower speed sections favoured by radars in France for example. The last fascinating observation on the Shiraz to Sirjan road is around 40 Pakistani busses, most of them going the other direction, which I figured were filled with Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca.
We are now in Yazd, population 1.1 million, described by Unesco as one of the oldest continuous human settlements on earth, with origins dating back to 5000 years ago. The city, meaning God, was a Zoroastrian centre and allowed to remain so by paying a levy after Arab conquest of Iran. Islam only gradually became the dominant religion in the city, with Zoroastrians accounting for 10% of the city’s population today. I found the atmosphere here unique in Iran: the large Old City is a maze of low-arcade alleyways between sun-dried mud brick houses with badgirs (wind towers) on almost every rooftop. Yazd is indeed nicknamed the “City of Windcatchers”, a Persian specialty which is the ancestor of air conditioning. Wind towers are is a traditional Iranian architectural element that create natural ventilation in buildings. They are seen everywhere in Yazd and I will indicate them further down on the car pictures. Behind the unassuming mud brick walls, a lot of Yazd houses also feature intricate entrances that surprisingly give onto majestic courtyards, such as the one pictured in the bottom photo above.
Not to be missed in Yazd is the traditional Zurkaneh, or “house of strength”. The ancestor to our gyms, this system of athletics was originally used to train local warriors. In it, javan mard (gentlemen) exercise using heavy (I checked and would say very heavy instead) wooden clubs to build muscle. Pretty standard I hear you say, but workouts are rhythmed by a live traditional musician and singer (top right of the video), giving them a pretty spectacular allure, all this being located inside a water reservoir built in 1580. It’s definitely worth checking out if you happen to be in Yazd.
The Peugeot 206 is ubiquitous in Yazd.
The main characteristic of the Yazd car landscape is the definite heightened levels of Peugeot 206 in town. The hatch variant is more frequent than the sedan which was never commercialised in Europe. Seeing a couple of brand new 206 in a Yazd dealership (pictured above) was a surreal sight, one that isn’t possible in Europe since 2012.
Peugeot Pars with a wind tower above. Peugeot 405 and 301 in Yazd.
And not just the 206, but I also spotted the only Peugeot 301 of this entire trip in Yazd. A car seemingly perfectly calibrated to the Iranian market, the 301 is still only imported/trickled into the country, with local production repeatedly delayed.
Saipa Pride in Yazd
Despite the Peugeot 206 strength, the most popular vehicle in Yazd is still the Saipa Pride, in accordance with the national sales charts of the past 15 years.
Saipa Tiba 2, Paykan, Iran Khodro Dena and Zamyad Z24 in Yazd.
Following a trend we have seen progressing ever since Tehran, the Paykan sedan is very common in Yazd streets still, notably as a taxi. The Zamyad Z24 remains the most popular pickup in town.
Ssangyong Tivoli, Renault Tondar 90 (with two wind towers) and Sandero in Yazd.
Among other foreign carmakers the Renault Tondar 90 aka Dacia Logan, Sandero and the imported Ssangyong Tivoli stand out.
JAC J3 and Chery A5 in Yazd.
And finally, in a town filled with Chinese tourists for the first time in this trip, Chinese carmakers are once again well established, with Lifan, JAC and Chery leading the locally-assembled charged.
This concludes the Yazd part of this Iranian series, stay tuned for the conclusion of this exploration in the Dasht-e Kavir desert, coming shortly.