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High and dry.

Celebrated photographer George Steinmetz has spent the past 15 years flying his motorised paraglider over the world's deserts, compiling a comprehensive collection of images of these harsh but beautiful environments. To celebrate the release of his latest Desert Air, we've reproduced a selection of his stunning shots.


The ancient city of Ouadane was a prosperous centre in the North African salt trade until the 18th century, acting as a staging post for caravans transporting slabs of salt from the mines at Idjil. The city began to decline as trade was diverted to the coast, and today a small population ekes out a living from the adjacent palm grove


Waters stained brown with potassium sulphite cascade through evaporation ponds on their way to a potash plant The Dead Sea has ten times the salt density of the ocean, but with very different kinds of salt. The southern end of the sea is dominated by a huge network of precipitation basins that are used to harvest these salts for industrial and agricultural uses


The twin peaks of Tezouai in the Hoggar Mountains in the central Sahara are actually the cores of old volcanoes from which the surrounding rock has been stripped away Hidden in the nearby valleys are isolated oases that support rare Saharan species, including cypresses, gazelles and cheetahs


Chains of camels and donkeys complete the long trek from the Ethiopian highlands to Lake Assal also known as Lake Karum in the depths of the Afar Depression, 115 metres below sea level, to gather salt. Slabs of edible salt are prised out of the lake and then cut into seven kilogram chunks in the cool morning hours


In satellite imagery, this dormant volcano in southern Libya can be identified by the large black smear of dark basaltic tephra that extends 10-20 kilometres around the caldera. The inner crater is lined with a chain of small salt lakes guarded by swarms of mosquitoes (its name means 'mosquito hole' in Arabic)

Desert Air by George Steinmetz, published by Abrams (RRP 37.50 [pounds sterling]), is available to Geographical readers at the special price of 34 [pounds sterling] (including free p&p in the UK only). Call 01206255 777 and quote 50348. Offer ends 31 Janury 2013. For further details, visit

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Title Annotation:PHOTOSTORY: Desert Air
Article Type:Cover story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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