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South of the famous cities of Shiraz and Isfahan, the geography begins to change. The landscape pales, unfolding from the roadside in yellowing sheets which merge with the sky along a mirage-fringed horizon. Moving against these desiccated expanses, one feels like a survivor, adrift without bearings. Then strange mountains rise in the distance. No grassy slopes or gentle foothills introduce their ascent. They drive upwards from the flatness with the suddenness of switchblades, climbing at frenzied angles in profiles that resemble the temperature-charts of the delirious. Their flanks are wreathed in a purplish haze, which lightens as it rises, bearing the evaporated traces of rose-pink and lilac-purple and merging with bands of half-formed cloud that patrol the uppermost slopes. Above these, the mountains erupt in clusters of shimmering rock like the spires and battlements of weightless metropoli. These resolve illogically as one approaches into unexpected shapes, split apart by ragged valleys or extended by new ranges like convoys of airborne shark’s fins which stretch for miles. Around them the colours regroup in bleeding spectrums of bleached celestial inks that seem borrowed from some cruelly arid planet. Then, without warning, they falter, as if responding en masse to some cosmic warning signal and, moments later, sink and collapse downwards into plains barer than the sea.