"The Desert of Death", "The Desert Into which He who Enters Will Not Return", "The Abandoned Place". The Taklamakan Desert (extending more than 1400 kilometers east to west and as much as 560 kilometers north to south, covering 320,000 square kilometers, is the second largest desert on the planet) does not attract by reputation; it is an infamous expanse whose name seems to have as many translations as the number of ancient cities over whom its sands have long since formed a shroud.Taklamakan photos
One of the largest 'shifting' deserts in the world, it once formed the greatest obstacle to be found along the Silk Road and fearful Caravaneers of old would skirt its edges, to the north or to the south, as they transported their wares from oasis to oasis and on to Khotan, Kashgar or Chang-an. Even then it was not unusual for entire Caravans to disappear into the dust storms that would oft-times blow up and from which mysterious music was said to lure travellers away to their deaths. Despite its reputation however the rarely-visited interior of the desert and particularly the area covered by our expedition is considered to be one of the most mesmerizingly beautiful sights in the East and surreal with an unearthly intensity beyond the city-dweller's imagination. As well as towering sand dunes and lost cities there are found occasionally the remains of ancient forests and post-fluvial riverbeds hiding amidst the hauntingly attractive desert vistas.
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