Introducing The Makran
The region bordering the Arabian Sea is known as the Makran, a harsh desert landscape bound by the coast on one side and low mountains on the other. Its name is thought to be a corruption of the Persian mah khoran (fish eaters), for its original inhabitants.
The Makran has always been a wild and untamed place. Alexander the Great came seriously unstuck here on his return from India, when his army became lost in the desert with the loss of thousands of men to hunger and dehydration. The Arabs and Persians made brief coastal contacts with the Makran soon after converting to Islam, but the area was otherwise ignored by outsiders. In the mid-18th century it fell under the control of the Khans of Kalat, who administered it through a representative known as the nazim. The British exerted very little direct control over it.
Communications with the interior have always been tenuous. The massive distances and poor road conditions – and recent political sensitivities – make it difficult to get here.
The coast is great for fishing, especially for shellfish. Traditionally, Makranis have migrated for work, especially to Oman and the rest of Arabia, and traded by sea with the ports of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The development of the new port at Gwadar is currently driving the local economy.
Much of the region is mountainous. There are three main ranges: the Makran Coast Range (up to about 1500m), Central Makran Range (2000m to 3000m) and Siahan Range (1000m to 2000m). The cultivated areas of the Makran lie sheltered between these barren ranges. The coast is consistently hot; the Kech Valley around Turbat is dry and temperate in winter but oppressively hot in summer; and the Panjgur region is bitterly cold in winter and moderately hot in summer.
There are no permanent rivers of any consequence, so agriculture relies on springs and underground watercourses. Dates, coconuts and bananas are important cash crops, along with grains and pulses for local consumption.