Meanwhile, the road for Mark has been south east towards Qom. At this point it is probably worth 'revisiting' the geography of the whole of Iran. The population distribution is markedly uneven as the following map shows ...
Even without detail in the key, the north and west is clearly much more densely populated than the south and east of the country. There are good 'geographical' reasons for this and principal amongst them will be terrain, climate and natural resources. It is not easy to get a good on-line relief map of Iran but this one does give some impression of the terrain in the north of the country...Surprisingly, it would seem that most of Iran's population live in the mountainous areas of the north and west. The reason is that to the east is a huge salt desert plateau called Dasht e Kavir. If I am honest, I'm not sure that I know what a salt desert is but I've found a few people who do! If you click the link above you can read what Wikipedia has to say on the subject. This NASA photo is stunning and this is their explanation ..."The Dasht-e Kevir, or Great Salt Desert, is the largest desert in Iran. It is primarily uninhabited wasteland, composed of mud and salt marshes covered with crusts of salt that protect the meagre moisture from completely evaporating. " If you still can't get a picture of what this desert is like, try this lovely set of photos on Flickr or this interesting photo and accompanying note.
Mark is now skirting the Great Salt Desert on its western edge and has today passed the city of Qom .
Today, half a world away, I've been doing fieldwork with Advanced Higher Geography pupils. We were working in Strathardle, between Pitlochry and Blairgowrie and by a curious coincidence, this is where Mark grew up and went to primary school. I bet it didn't rain all weekend in Qom though!!