Under a blue sky lies a rugged mountain landscape of light-colored stone. Three men are posing in the middle ground, a fourth is photographing them.

Tourists are taking photographs in the Martian (Merrikhi) Mountains in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan. Iran has been suffering from water shortages for years. In some regions, local authorities are trying to develop economic sectors that are less water-intensive, such as tourism


Living in the desert

Beyond nations and cities, the desert sparks our imagination, taking us to distant places far from the everyday bustle. 

Today, “desert” is a term that can trigger dark associations. For example, the issue of “desertification” is explained by the Romanian meteorologist Roxana Bojariu. She argues that desert-like areas are expanding in Europe and North America. The Nigerian migration researcher Ahmet Tchilouta Rhoumour calls the Ténéré desert in the southern Sahara a “graveyard”, explaining that at least 1,300 people have died there since 2014 while fleeing to Europe.

But this dossier also shines a spotlight on the desert as a space for inspiration and creativity. Many desert travellers view them as the source of life itself. The Moroccan photographer M’hammed Kilito says the deserts and oases of southern Morocco are “the last places of poetry”.

And it is no coincidence that Israeli psychologist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen describes the Negev desert as a place of “total liberation from everyday life”. Why does the barrenness of the desert have such a fascinating effect on us?, asks the Libyan writer Ibrahim al-Koni. This dossier offers a range of answers to his question.

(January 2024)

“Perhaps the gods promise their believers a paradise in heaven so that they can have the desert to themselves”
Saïd Khatibi

Discover the printed issue

In addition to our focus on deserts, our I/2024 issue included more reports, interviews and news items from around the world: 

Tired country: In China, an entire generation is turning away from the grinding world of piecework and retreating into the private sphere

Complex languages and artificial intelligence: Many modern language programs fail when it comes to processing indigenous languages

The urge to dance: In Uganda, the label Hakuna Kulala is stirring up the music scene

Read selected articles in English  Order German copy