Shahdad: The world’s fourth natural attraction!

Shahdad is a part of Kerman County in Kerman province. This area is located 87 kilometers northeast of Kerman. Shahdad is connected to the mountainous and cold regions of Sirch from the southwest and to the vast desert and tourism areas such as Kalut from the northeast. Shahdad used to be the capital of the state of Arata. The oldest metal flag in the world, also known as the Shahdad flag, has been discovered in this ancient area. Shahdad’s flag which is the oldest one found in Iran is now being kept in the Iran National Museum. In Persian, Shahdad is used as a boy’s name and means the king’s gift.

The history of Shahdad:

The ancient city of Shahdad was discovered by the explorers of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization in 1969. The site was named: “Arata historic, an ancient and industrial site”. This area of Kerman was never considered as an important archaeological site by archaeologists as it was impossible to imagine any ancient civilization in the middle of  Lut Desert. The first excavation team, led by Dr. Ahmad Mostofi – of the Institute of Geography of the University of Tehran – came in to investigate the geographical location of the Lut Plain and its surroundings. During their discoveries, in the “Takab Hole” they encountered a number of potteries, some of which came out of the ground, indicating the existence of advanced ancient civilization in the area. A group of archaeologists considers Shahdad the key to understanding the social and cultural activities of the entire southeastern region of Iran in the third millennium BC. Some also considered it to be the lost Sumerian city of Arata. In the ancient Sumerian inscriptions, the name of Arata has been used extensively. According to Sumerian texts, Arata was a land east of Anshan. Hansmann the English author and historian believed that the land of Anshan was actually the Fars area in Iran, and he also believed the burnt city of Sistan and Baluchistan province was the lost city of Arata. Another theory considers Shahdad as the center of the state of Arata, one of the autonomous states of the Elamite Empire.

The former inhabitants of Shahdad were highly skilled in art and industry. They used to decorate the potteries with beautiful designs of animal and plant motifs. They were also highly skilled in working with metal, which at that time was unparalleled, and even some ancient furnaces for melting metals were discovered in the area which shows that Shahdad used to be a modern civilization in its time. Among the images seen on these metals is the image of the snake. This animal was undoubtedly respected by the residents of deserts. The ancient inhabitants of Shahdad believed in different gods. This amazing region is one of the major destinations for foreign tourists, especially European tourists. Shahdad’s Kaluts are the largest and most unique Kaluts of Iran that are rarely found anywhere else. Professor Parviz Kordvani, a desertologist, and professor at the University of Tehran has described the Shahdad Kaluts as the hottest spot on earth. NASA measured the temperature in the desert and Kalut of Shahdad at about 70 degrees Celsius in the year 2005. The Kaluts of Shahdad are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Shahdad Desert is 430 meters above sea level. It is about 30 km east of Lut Plain, overlooking a plain called Takab. Archaeologists from the area of Shahdad discovered some interesting antiques. One of the city’s most famous discoveries is the Shahdad ancient cemetery, where excavations have led to the discovery of 383 graves and 4000 burial objects. According to historical documents, the urbanization in the city of Shahdad dates back to the second half of the third millennium BC. The most important and unique features in the Shahdad desert area are the Kaluts. Kaluts have spread widely in hot regions of the world such as Iran, the US, Chad, Egypt, and Peru.

The spectacular desert of Shahdad with its huge Kaluts and sandy structures is one of the most fascinating places in the whole world. Few people can imagine that the dry and vast Lut Desert in Kerman province is a collection of wonders that every tourist wishes to see. The Kaluts of Shahdad in Kerman province are one of the most beautiful natural sites in the world, attracting many tourists every year.

The area, also known as the “Imaginary City of Kalut”, was chosen by National Geographic Magazine as the world’s fourth natural attraction a few years ago. These large and beautiful Kaluts are formed by water-wind erosion and small Kaluts were also formed by wind erosion. These strange and magical natural structures resemble the ancient and ruined cities of old times.

What is a Kalut and how is it created?

The mounds between the U-shaped grooves in the desert are called Kaluts. The scientific name of the Kalut is “Yardang”. The Kaluts are formed by an amazing mechanism, in collaboration with the two elements of water and wind, and by the erosion of the earth. Yardang is a sharp irregular ridge of sand lying in the direction of the prevailing wind in the exposed desert region. In fact, the main creators of these amazing Kaluts are the forces of nature. The Kaluts are considered as a sandy metropolis in the heart of the desert that reminds us of the magnificence of natural elements with their amazing images and sand sculptures. Of course, the phenomena we are talking about are the product of the erosion of more than 20 thousand years and their shape is constantly changing. The 120-day winds that move from Sistan to the Lut Desert are also considered to be one of the major causes of the formation of Kaluts. The windward sides of these Kaluts are steep and the other side has a low slope.

Off-roading and Safari recreation facilities are available in Shahdad’s Kaluts.  Kalut of Shahdad is also one of the most magical and spectacular places to see the sunrise and sunset.


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