People, Travel

Rig-e Jenn, Desert of Spirits

Rig-e Jenn, Desert of Spirits
Rig-e Jenn, Desert of Spirits

To the south of Semnan lies Rig-e Jenn between the Great Desert and Kavir National Park. Due to high sand dunes, vast swamps, and scarcity of water, the desert challenges even the avid trekker with the most arduous hike. The desert is not a good place for beginners. Even seasoned trekkers must plan carefully before setting foot on the desert.

Caravans dared not travel along the Rig-e Jenn, believing it to be a place where evil spirits and “jinn” dwell. Even today in the neighboring towns and villages some still hold this belief. Sven Hedin, the famous Swedish desert explorer avoided the area during his 1900s travels to Iranian deserts and in the 1930s, Alfons Gabriel only managed to cross the southern ‘tail’ of the desert on his way from Ashin to Aroosan. The rough terrain and harsh conditions have limited successful passage to only a handful of individuals.

The desert consists of sand dunes, dry riverbeds, crystallized salt flowers, salt planes, rare vegetation here and there and a hard and often dried and cracked mud surface.

It has been by trials and much error to finally find a feasible path through Rig-e Jenn. A successful desert crossing was finally achieved in 2005 by Ali Parsa. Even in spite of using the latest modern equipment and aids, such as jeeps, maps, aerial photos, laptops and GPS devices, some not so modern modes of transportation such as camels had been utilized to avoid unpredictable conditions such as mud sinkholes, appearing in the middle of the uninhabited desert.

Rig’e Jenn received its name from the belief that the area was haunted by spirits and the devil. This belief was strengthened by, and probably originated from the fact that perhaps many had entered the desert and never returned. Sometimes the notorious winds of Rig-e Jenn howl ominously, sounding like a supernatural wail that triggers even the most rigid skeptics’ imagination.