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ShareThe desert can never be imitated in a photograph, or summed up in a souvenir. Every aspect of its complexity defies capture. In a universe of yellows, the smallest contrasting bright shades stand out. Details appear magnified, more intense – the beige of camels brighter against the duck-egg blue of the sky, the black of a fly deeper against the mauve of a stone.

From out of the sun’s glare, the figure of an insect takes shape, a sand beetle perhaps, a solitary player in the vast spotlight. All of us are players in this drama of desolation.

Sounds, too, are made more audible by their rarity, piercing the silence like torn silk. Sometimes the silence faintly hums like the press of a pause button and then a fresh sound blooms like a flower. A tin can clatters across the dust as if someone playing percussion in an orchestra has suddenly rattled the castanets.

Here, where nothing rusts and there is no mould to rot the seat leather, there are distant reminders, scattered vestiges of another way of life. Half-buried old cars lie blackened by the sun, just sand and wind blasting at the paintwork and reducing it to a dull metallic sheen. Every make, type and nationality of motor vehicle has fallen victim, from Minis and Citroëns to Ladas and Mercedes. Some have acquired moisture, and from those cacti sprout. In others, small animals have made their homes.

Time ticks at its own pace. A sundial would be more useful than a watch. At noon the sun is merciless, the sky’s glare a white fire that melts rhythm and space. A haze covers the earth, which gives the impression of travelling through light itself, as if wading through quicksilver.

In the late afternoon the sun’s glare begins to wane, trickling upon the land like liquid caramel. There is an ethereal quality about this hour. An eerie silence descends, a betwixt and between-ness, as in a lull before battle.

At that hour we begin on again across the plateau, swaying galleons on a desert sea, buoyed up by forced optimism and emerging blisters.

Heads alert, our five dromedaries seem to understand everything. They are experiencing their own solidarity and seem to be enjoying what Suleyman politely describes as our lively exchanges.

Walking across the smooth streams of sand feels more like treading water. Sometimes the piste eats its way through three-metre-high drifts of sand. At other points the plain lies open to view, strewn with rock clusters.

Mountain ranges break the skyline in all directions: the Immidir and Tedefest to the east, and Ahmet to the west, measuring their existence in millennia.