A Trip to Mesr: The Island in the Sea of Sands

 Dr Ali Sabaghian * – What do you recall when you hear “Mesr”? The Arabic name of Egypt, a country in north Africa? Nile river, Pyramids, Sphinx and Pharaohs? You are right. But you would be surprised to know, there’s another Mesr too, but thousands of kilometers away from current Egypt, and tens of kilometers away from any crowded city. A small island in the sand, somewhere in the heart of Iran’s central desert, Mesr is name of an Iranian village  in Khur and Biabanak county, close to city of Naein which is famous for agricultural production in the area. ¹

desert

The Central desert of Iran

Reaching Mesr is easy, around 250 kilometers drive onto the Naein-Tabas road from west to east. After passing Farokhi and Nasrabad villages, there is a sign showing off-road direction: ” Toward Mesr.”

Upon 43 kilometers drive from the sign across the sand hills, 3 green spots will appear from far, similar to three emeralds next to each other. Few moments later, while the absolute silence of desert is your only company, you will find yourself in the first emerald land, Amirabad. The road is totally flat which is considered as one of the wonders of Iran’s central desert and surprises every Eco Tourist. The sand hills around the village are known as thrones since the strong wind has shaped  the surface, forming strange and attractive figures.

Welcome sign of Masr

Welcome sign of Mesr

Amirabad is a vast and prosperous farm with a deep well. Mesr’s residents are owners of Amirabad. Where even a drop of water is as precious as gold, the well provides drinking and agricultural water for Mesr. By exploring Amirabad, for a moment you completely forget that you are in the center of pure desert. As if you are walking in a village in northern Iran: The weather is  pleasant and cool and the wheat and barley farms are green, specially in the spring.

The wheat farms in Masr

The wheat farms in Mesr / Photo: Hesam Amiri

In Amirabad the road is split and the left road goes across the golden sand hills to Jandagh, a city on the Naein-Tabas-Damghan main road. The right path directly goes to the second emerald, the center of Mesr.

Mesr surprises you at first glimpse by structure of the streets. Unlike many other Iranian villages, Mesr’s roads and streets are neither tight nor old. Instead, they are wide and clean, decorated on two sides by traditional houses, wind-catchers and palm trees while the water of Qanat runs in between.

Water system for agriculture

Water system for agriculture / Photo: Hesam Amiri

The 3rd and last emerald is called Farahzad and only four families reside in there. Farahzad is the end of the road. There is no other road to take you to the center of the desert which is only 15 kilometers away.

The empty desert is not as greedy as it may look. Beside the beautiful scenery of the village which is result of hard working residents, the sky is what attracts many Eco tourists to Mesr. At night when the sun is down, billions of stars glow in the desert sky. People in Mesr passionately talk about the foreign tourists who come to witness these wonders of Iran’s central desert.

The carpet weaver

The carpet weaver

I’ve visited Africa’s Mesr, the Pyramids, the Sphinx and Nile river, but the Iranian Egypt is still dear to my heart. Mesr village is only a small part of my mysterious and colorful homeland. The Africa’s Mesr may have always been alive in the memory of Egyptians and the world for the rich history and recent riots and revolution. But the events in Iranian Mesr village are also extraordinary: A hundred years struggle between human and the mother nature, a constant battle against the sandy desert where animal herders live like they did centuries ago.

Blossom in the sand

Blossom in the sand

For Iranians who are interested to visit Egypt in Africa, but they are not able to, due to visa restrictions and financial issues, Iranian Egypt welcomes them dearly. Of course, they will not find the Pyramids and the Sphinx, but they can still enjoy the three exotic emerald villages in the sea of sands under the blue spotless sky. Thus eventually float through the sea of stars which are brightening the nights of the desert.

The sky in Masr and the Eco tourists

The sky in Mesr and the Eco tourists / Photo: Zanjan University

* This is an inexact translation of  Dr Ali Sabaghian’s article on Mesr desert. You can find a version of this article on IranDeserts.

¹ The founder of Mesr village, Yusuf (Joseph) was a wealthy shepherd and helped to dig a deep well in the area for farming. Later on people moved in and called the village Deep Well village. Yusuf did not like the name and requested to change it. The locals respected Yusuf, so referring to the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) and the fact that he had brought Children of Israel to Egypt (Mesr) , they renamed the village to “Mesr”. 

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