Christine Amour-Levar was one of 12 women who crossed Iran’s inhospitable Lut Desert on foot in November last year as part of a team from Women On A Mission. Here, she documents the incredible trip.
“Our crossing of the Lut Desert was nothing short of surreal: it was breath-taking, challenging and, ultimately, transformative. Under the banner of Women On A Mission (WOAM), a non-profit organisation that supports and empowers women survivors of war around the world, we became the first all-female team in history to cross the Lut on foot. In Persian, lut means “emptiness”, and temperatures in this immense expanse of sand are the hottest recorded on Earth. In 1271, the legendary Marco Polo journeyed through the Lut, as did British explorer Wilfred Thesiger in 1964 – but they both used camels.
Our team covered more than 200 kilometres in seven days, across a magnificent landscape that boasts wildly contrasting temperatures and climates. From the sweltering heat of the mega-dunes to icy cold nights in the valley of the Kaluts (sandcastle-like rock formations), from salt plains cracked by the fierce sun, to sand storms blasting through the meteorite craters, the desert kept us captivated by its raw beauty and versatility. We were up every day at 4.30am and on the road by 6am. Majestic and imposing, the dunes led us up their sinewy paths, charming us at every turn with promises of vistas more awe-inspiring than the last. On most days, we hiked until sunset, averaging a distance of 30 kilometres a day, then made our camp, ate a simple dinner and settled down to sleep, in splendid isolation, cut off from all communication from the outside world.
During our travels, we found the people to be incredibly kind, spontaneous and generous, with hearts of pure gold. We felt incredibly safe and warmly welcomed in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its proud civilisation and rich cultural heritage are remarkable. Walking around the sublime, turquoise-tiled domes and minarets of the cities, the atmospheric teahouses, bustling bazaars, and, of course, witnessing the sheer force and beauty of the Lut, contributed to weaving for us a rich tapestry of colours and experiences of magnificent proportions.
Hiking for a cause
Women On A Mission’s Iran expedition raised over HK$550,000 for Women for Women International (WfWI) UK, an independent humanitarian organisation that provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. Now in its fourth year of operation, WOAM has raised HK$3.85 million in support of organisations that advance the position of women and girls around the world. Past expeditions have included Everest Base Camp, the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan, the Tsum Valley in Nepal and the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia.
This article appeared in the Apr/May edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!
Like this? Read about Volunteering in Hong Kong