The Gabra People: Background information when reading The Names of Things

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The Names of Things

by John Colman Wood

The Names of Things
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    Apr 2012, 276 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Beyond the Book:
The Gabra People

The Names of Things is set in the Chalbi, a desert in northern Kenya near the border with Ethiopia (marked "A" on the map below).

mapThe Chalbi, which means "bare and salty" in the local language, was once part of Lake Turkana, the largest permanent desert lake in the world. It is an immense flat expanse of clay and white salt stretching approximately 62,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometers), surrounded by volcanoes and ancient lava flows.

Kenya's only true desert, the Chalbi is one of the hottest and most arid regions in the world. The area receives less than five inches of rain in a standard year, but even that is sporadic; some years only a trace of rainfall reaches the desert floor. Whatever little rain falls arrives during one of two "rainy seasons" -- a longer period in March and April and a shorter one in November. During these periods, large shallow lakes form across the former lakebed. February is the warmest month with an average temperature of 98 °F, but ...

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