Flying from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Paris, it’s as though I’m hovering over a giant Google Map of Iran.
I can’t zoom in, but it doesn’t matter because the image is flawless. Not a single cloud blocks my view.
Plains and low mountain ranges appear red and dusty, reminiscent of recent images sent to Earth from the Mars Rover Curiosity.
The Geological Survey of Iran tells me I’m looking at the Zagros mountain range, comprising a classical series of parallel ridges and valleys which runs down the Western side of the country. These result from folding of a sequence of Precambrian (before 600 million years ago) to Pliocene (5.3 to 2.6 million years ago) shelf sediments about 8-10 km thick. In the distant East peaks are higher, covered in a spattering of snow.
From the plane I can also see rivers dividing into smaller and smaller tributaries, and plots of farming land on the plains. I can’t imagine what life must be like as a farmer in Iran, but surely it wouldn’t be easy.