The Middle East and Africa from the air
This is part I of the pictures and write-up from a trip to Namibia and South Africa last October. A cliche but a true one: travelling is at least as much about the journey as the destination. In order to get cheaper flights we ended up flying via Dubai - this added quite a few hours to an already long travel-time, but it did mean that we got to fly over some stunning looking parts of the world that I'd never seen before.
Although relations with Iran have improved dramatically of late and there has been an influx of foreign visitors, to me it was still quite exciting to be flying over a country that was recently considered part of the 'axis of evil' by some, with the still-troubled Iraq just over the border to the West.
This part of Iran looks beautiful from the air, though extremely barren, with a vast expanse of rocky ridges and peaks.
After passing over Iran we arrived at our stop-off in Dubai, though there wasn't a great deal to see here.
Once we started to climb out of Dubai airport and cross the desert over Saudi Arabia things got a lot more interesting. Despite the relative lack of features there were some fascinating viewpoints with mineral deposits, dried-up riverbeds and small settlements/industrial developments occasionally interspersing the vast emptiness. If I had thought the rocky outcrops of Iran were big the desert seemed exponentially bigger - the scale of it was difficult to comprehend.
We then crossed the Gulf of Aden and over the eastern tip of Somalia - another country we hear very little about in the west apart from troubled news.
After a fascinating journey we touched down at our next stopping off point, Johannesburg. Apart from a few obvious shanty town areas it looked almost disappointingly familiar after the unremitting emptiness of the desert areas we had been crossing - although we were treated to some stunning 'god-rays' of light as we approached.
Unfortunately our flight arrived late and the already-tight transfer time for our flight to Windhoek in Namibia meant a panicked dash across the frustratingly large O.R Tambo airport, which ended in us seeing the bus to the plane pulling away, and the airport staff unwilling to let us board. A few hours of arguing with airline staff followed by a night in the airport hotel was not the ideal start to the trip - although our mood was brightened by meeting and listening to some lovely Zimbabwean musicians who were waiting and practising in the airport lounge.
We managed to get on the first plane to Windhoek the next morning where the scenery changed again, and after a mad rush to buy some clothes and supplies in Windhoek (our bags didn't make it onto the flight) we picked up our 'bakkie' and set off towards the desert of Sossusvlei. We had to make it there by nightfall as not driving after sunset is a golden rule in Namibia, for various reasons!
NEXT UP: the journey to the Namib desert: Sossusvlei and Deadvlei
(NB: all the of the above images taken with a Sony RX100 mk I compact)