Deshth-e Kavir, the Great Salt Desert

Known as the Great Salt Desert, Dashout-e Kavir is a large desert located in the center of the Iranian plateau, 300 km east-southeast of Tehran. The desert is about 800 km long and 320 km wide, and is composed of mud and salt water (caviar). Millions of years ago, this area was a salt ocean around a small continent in what is now central Iran. When the ocean dries up, a layer of salt 6 to 7 km thick remains

Over time, the salt layer stays under the thick mud, but the salt concentration decreases – from the bottom of the salt layer to the silt and rocks. Thus it began to push upwards through the debris, and eventually, within millions of years, salt caves formed. The salt domes of the Dash-e Caviar are perhaps some of the best examples of this geographical phenomenon.

Although it looks like a rough surface, the salt crust is a few inches thick, beneath which lies a soft grease-like mud called “Charbe” by the Iranians, and it is very difficult to get out of it if one gets stuck. Due to this, the journey in Dasht-e Kavir is extremely dangerous. The soil is sterile and not suitable for cultivation. The desert is mostly uninhabited and partially explored. Human habitation is limited to scattered oases where wind-proof housing builds up to withstand severe weather. Some live in the hills and surrounding mountains. Wild sheep, camels, sheep, and Persian leopards also inhabit the mountains.


The flora of dash-e caviar is found and used for dry climates as well as for rooted saltwater. Common vegetation, such as shrubs and grasses, is found only in certain valleys and mountain tops. The most widespread plant is Magwort.

In some parts of this desert plateau, birds of prey, including howbara bastards and larks, live.

Persian ghazals inhabit the steppe and desert parts of the central plateau. Wild boars (Owis loners, sheep, and Persian leopards are also common in the mountains, and at night hunter-gatherer wild cats, wolves, foxes, and other carnivores are found in the desert.

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