In the Western imagination the word “desert” most often evokes a landscape of endless
gigantic sand dunes, dazzling white under a cloudless hot-blue sky and a blazing sun.
This landscape of the imagination is likely to be empty—deserted—except, perhaps, for a
caravan of nomads and camels that inches slowly across the horizon, or a lone man
stumbling, sun-blackened and sun-parched, through the heat haze. Or there may even be
an emerald-green oasis, where tents are set out in the shade of a palm grove—though this,