“This is the new ship of the desert,” exclaims the Omani driver, giving the door panel of his 4.0-litre V6 Land Cruiser 70 Series a solid thump. “We no longer have to rely on camels like we did 30 years ago,” he insists in perfect English, waving toward the load bed of the Cruiser, where a very contented camel is in repose, resting on cushions and surrounded by mounds of green feed.

A cheery ma’a salama, another slap on the door, and he is off around a corner of the dune, having given our line-up of indigo, blue, red and dusty silver Amaroks a keen once-over. This was the third day of our adventure cruise in this fascinating Middle Eastern country, which is sandwiched between Yemen in the south, the UAE in the north, and isolated by the infamously harsh Empty Quarter (the Rub al Khali) of Saudi Arabia to the west. Iran is just 56km across the strategic trade route of the Strait of Hormuz, and a staggering variety of landforms and complex rock layers have caused it to be dubbed “The Open Book of Geology”.

As our encounter with the camel and Cruiser shows, it is also a country that keeps one foot in a feudal past led by ancient customs, dress and simple agriculture, while the other dabbles

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