"People would come here for swimming and would use the mud for therapeutic purposes. They would stay here at least for a few days," said Ahad Ahmed, a journalist in the former port town of Sharafkhaneh as he showed CNN photos of people enjoying the lake in 1995.
Lake Urmia's demise has been fast. It has more than halved in size -- from 5,400 square kilometers (2,085 square miles) in the 1990s to just 2,500 square kilometers (965 square miles) today -- according to the Department of Environmental Protection of West Azerbaijan, one of the Iranian provinces where the lake is located. There are now concerns it will disappear entirely. Such problems are familiar in many parts of the Middle East -- where water is simply running out. The region has witnessed persistent drought and temperatures so high that they are barely fit for human life. Add climate change to water mismanagement and overuse, and projections for the future of water here are grim.