[[quoteright:350:[[VideoGame/KingsQuestVAbsenceMakesTheHeartGoYonder http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/a75e34ce8adfdeb03f2eb2d8f2826782.jpg]]]]

->'''Sherif Ali:''' There is the railway. And that is the desert. From here until we reach the other side, no water but what we carry with us. For the camels, no water at all. If the camels die, we die. And in twenty days they will start to die.\\
'''T.E. Lawrence:''' There's no time to waste, then, is there?
-->-- ''Film/LawrenceOfArabia''

CueTheSun but not in a good way. You're in the desert, a [[SceneryGorn parched barren wasteland]] stretching for miles in every direction, with the occasional HollywoodMirage gleaming in the distance to provide a false sense of hope. If the maddening heat doesn't drive you into a MushroomSamba or just kill you, the lack of water or one of the desert's [[GiantSpider many]] [[ScaryScorpions hostile]] [[SandWorm inhabitants]] probably will. Expect CirclingVultures lurking ominously overhead. Although the sky can be as barren as the land, with not a single cloud in sight. The sun appears to fill the sky on its own and the camera will point at it just to make sure you know. A shot of the characters marching (or crawling) forward moaning "Water, water..." is a common element, especially in more humorous takes.

Analogously, this trope is to ShiftingSandLand as HungryJungle is to JungleJapes or LovecraftCountry is to HollywoodNewEngland - a nastier, more serious portrayal of the same region. DesertWarfare involves fighting a war in one of these, and all the problems that apply here are now compounded by the presence of enemy soldiers. See also CrossingTheDesert.


[[folder: Anime and Manga]]

* In ''Manga/{{Yaiba}}'', the group at one point has to cross the "Tottori Sand Dune", Japan's only desert, while on their way to Ganryuujima. Both them and Onimaru's three Oni suffer from the terrible thirst, to the point that when they encounter a Djinn, Gerozaemon and Yaiba waste the first two wishes on fresh water.
* The Sand Garden from ''Manga/{{Toriko}}'' is the biggest desert in the Human World, about four times the size of the Sahara Desert. Not only it's gigantic and scorching hot, but is also populated by poisonous cacti and dangerous sand-dwelling beasts (though some of them can be consumed for their meat or blood). This being Toriko, a few areas of the desert are composed of unusual materials as gold dust, diamond, sugar and caviar.
* The Alabasta arc in ''Manga/OnePiece'' has the Strawhats venturing in Alabasta, on Sandy Island. A treck made difficult by the heat, fauna and the lack of water, which is a plot point as [[ArcVillain Sir Crocodile]] is using a device to keep rainclouds away from the island (both to fuel the ongoing rebellion and to keep people to exploit his weakness to water).
* Invoked with the powers of Chotenkun from ''Manga/SoulHunter'': his spatial Paopei "Kosajin" (Crinsom Sands Formation) brings the opponent into a ThirstyDesert where he can manipulate the sand and his position, and everything but him slowly dries and crumbles to dust. [[spoiler: Yozen only manages to save himself by using his half-demon form to transform into the sand itself and expand untill the Paopei's limits are broken.]]
* The main setting for ''Anime/DesertPunk'', as the name implies, is the "Great Desert of Kanto", set in a distant future after an apocalyptic event. Since water is scarce and [[PracticalCurrency precious]], thirst and heat are a danger, though desperate bandits and outlaws substitute the fantastic fauna mentioned in the description.
* Again a futuristic example, the setting of ''Manga/{{Trigun}}'' is a gigantic, desertic planet, dangerous to cross both because the scarcity of water, daily heat and occasional dangers as bandits and colossal worms.
* ''Manga/MagiLabyrinthOfMagic'', being based on ''Arabian Nights'', has massive deserts to cross early on, usually though they're travelled by caravans. Still, [[TheHero Aladdin]] makes his debut in a desertic ruin infested with bandits, half-dead for the heat and thirst. Other than bandits, the series has sand-dwelling monsters, usually carnivorous plants, venomous birds and tigers and even gigantic spiders.


[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* ''Franchise/{{Tintin}}: The Crab With the Golden Claws'': As befitting Captain Haddock's first appearance as an alcoholic washout, he and Tintin wander through the Sahara. On learning where they are, the captain gets stuck on "the desert of thirst! the desert of thirst!" for a while.
* ''ComicBook/DungeonTwilight'': The Always Day area is a desert where, as the name suggest, it's always day. The [[BigBad Great Khan]] punishes failure by dropping disgraced soldiers there to die of exhaustion, and they are crippled beforehand.
* Lady Mechanika and Winifred find themselves stranded in the middle of the Sahara Desert after their zepplin crashes in ''ComicBook/LadyMechanika: The Tablet of Destinies''.
* The Dayside of the planet Taldain in ''ComicBook/WhiteSand'' is a single continent, most of which is a giant desert. When Khriss and her company attempt to cross it, their guide bails on them with most of their water, leaving them stranded and with little to drink until they find a native, Kenton, who reveals to them that water is actually easy to come by on Dayside - splashing even a little bit of it on the sand brings out water vines, which store a lot of the precious liquid.


[[folder: Comedy ]]

* The setting of Literature/TheLongestJokeInTheWorld.


[[folder: Film ]]

* The former TropeNamer is the Mojave Desert as portrayed in ''Film/FearAndLoathingInLasVegas''.
* Played with in ''Film/RoadToMorocco''.
* The Arabian and Sinai deserts in ''Film/LawrenceOfArabia''.
** In particular, the desert known as Al-Nefud, which T.E. Lawrence's forces must cross to reach Aqaba in the first half of the film. The dialogue between Sherif Ali and Lawrence about this desert provides the page quote.
* A thirsty Micky Dolenz beats up an empty Coke machine in the middle of the desert during a memorable scene from Music/TheMonkees' movie ''Film/{{Head}}''.
* ''Film/{{Spaceballs}}'':
-->'''Lone Starr''': Water! Water!\\
'''[[RobotBuddy Dot Matrix]]''': Oil! Oil!\\
'''[[RichInDollarsPoorInSense Princess Vespa]]''': Room service! Room service!
* ''Film/ThreeAmigos'' was filmed in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona and contains a thirsty desert crossing scene where each Amigo stops to drink from his canteen. Lucky turns over his canteen to one remaining drop of water. Ned's canteen fills his mouth full on with sand. Dusty drinks from his canteen, splashes some water on his face, and throws the rest aside, while the others watch delirious. Dusty offers them lip balm.
* In ''Film/TheWayBack'', the MainCharacters are crossing the Gobi desert. [[spoiler:Two of them die of heat stroke and dehydration.]]
* Death Valley serves as this in the silent classic ''Film/{{Greed}}''.
* ''Film/LustInTheDust''. Rosie's canteen falls and spills out its contents, causing her to exclaim, "My ''gin''!"
* ''Film/{{Hidalgo}}'''s plot revolves around a race across the desert. At least a few of the racers are forced to put down their horses, and Hopkins and Hildalgo themselves must live off of locusts from time to time.
* In ''Film/{{Walkabout}}'' a teenaged girl and her little brother are stranded in the Australian outback. They are on the verge of death by dehydration when an Aborigine boy saves them.
* In the Australian horror film ''Film/{{Razorback}}'' (1984) the protagonist suffers hallucinations while staggering through the desert.
* {{Exploited}} by [[Creator/ClintEastwood Blondie]] in ''Film/TheGoodTheBadAndTheUgly'' when he abandoned Tuco in the desert. He managed to survive the ordeal and then found Blondie to give him ATasteOfTheirOwnMedicine.
* In the Creator/ClintEastwood movie ''The Eiger Sanction'', his character gets revenge on an old enemy by driving him out into the desert and abandoning him to die of thirst.
-->"Jonathan, you're not going to leave me out here? Oh, Jonathan, for chrissakes, [[FateWorseThanDeath kill me but don't leave me here!]]"
* Crossed by Moses in ''Film/TheTenCommandments'' after being exiled from Egypt. He's given a little bag of food and a little bag of water. He's half-dead by the time he reaches a well, but fortunately not too far gone to fight off a band of marauders.
* Due to its use of {{single biome planet}}s, ''Franchise/StarWars'' has at least two entire planets that fit the bill: Tatooine and Jakku.
* Most of the plot of 1929 silent film ''Film/DesertNights''. Steve and Diana, a pair of jewel thieves, rob a diamond mine, kidnap Hugh the mine foreman, and escape into the desert. But it's a thirsty desert and the thieves run out of water and start getting desperate, with Diana in particular offering to give Hugh all the diamonds if he'll lead them to water, then offering herself up as a SexSlave if only he'll lead them to water.
* ''Film/ThreeGodfathers'': The three godfathers flee into the desert after they rob a bank. Their ordeal starts bad when their water flask is shot through, gets worse when their first watering hole is staked out by the sheriff's men, and gets a lot worse when their second watering hole turns out to have been accidentally destroyed. Then they have to cross a wide salt flat to get to New Jerusalem. (Unlike most Creator/JohnFord films, which were shot in Monument Valley, he filmed this one in Death Valley.)


[[folder: Literature ]]

* Arrakis of the ''Franchise/{{Dune}}'' universe is one of the driest deserts in fiction and is home to {{Sand Worm}}s that can eat large vehicles in one bite.
** Liet being left to die there without a stillsuit (protective sweat-recycling gear) was particularly brutal.
* Claims the life of [[spoiler:Arvid]] in ''Literature/TheEmigrants'' tetralogy.
* The MainCharacters end up stuck in the middle of one in ''Literature/FiveWeeksInABalloon''. They end up borderline insane or catatonic and nearly dying, until they're saved at the last minute by a sandstorm which allows them to fly their balloon to greener pastures.
* The children's novel ''Literature/{{Holes}}'' is set in one. Camp [[{{Irony}} Greenlake]], a juvenile detention center located in the middle of the Texas desert, boasts minimal security because anyone setting out from camp on foot would die of thirst long before reaching civilization. Naturally, the main characters are forced to run away, and they nearly die in the desert before finding [[ItMakesSenseInContext an overturned rowboat full of jars of canned peaches.]]
* ''Literature/InDesertAndWilderness'' has one as the final obstacle for the MainCharacters to [[CrossingTheDesert overcome]].
* Crops up from time to time in the works of Creator/KarlMay. The most iconic 'Western' example here is probably the (really existing) Llano Estacado, described as this in the stories and usually coming complete with at least some miscreants planning to lead travelers astray explicitly so they can die of thirst and never be heard from again.
* In ''[[Literature/PresterJohnSaga The Desert of Death]]'', you have to venture forth into the Desert of Gobi, looking for three ancient evils and recover their keyes to the city of Agartha. You ''must'' get ahold of a camel and a reserve of water before you start, which you slowly deplete in certain paragraphs. If you fail to find all the demons in three days, the sun, endless wasteland and hopelessness drive you mad into a NonStandardGameOver.
* In Creator/RobertEHoward's "The Slithering Sands", Literature/ConanTheBarbarian knows that the desert will kill him within a day, and strongly considers a MercyKill for the girl with him.
* Literature/StarWarsLegends:
** The heroes visit Tatooine twice in ''Literature/GalaxyOfFear''... though both times the major danger is less in the desert, more in the cooler, damper respite from the suns where they spend their time: the palace of Jabba the Hutt.
** Han and Leia visit Tatooine in ''Literature/TatooineGhost''. Han gets lost twice and has to have IV fluids so he doesn't die of dehydration after. The Tusken Raiders are a constant menace, as are the imperials who are still fighting the rebels.
* The mesas of New Mexico in ''Literature/TyrannosaurCanyon'' fit this quite nicely. The environment challenges several characters who hike through it with potential dehydration and heatstroke.
* The Aiel Wastes in Robert Jordan's ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'' series is one of the most hostile environments on the main continent. The only ones that are worse have been heavily tainted by the [[BigBad Dark One]].


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''Series/GameOfThrones'': Dorne's otherwise inhospitable geography played a key role in its maintaining a measure of autonomy.
* ''Series/TheTwilightZone'' TOS:
** The Libyan desert in episode "King Nine Will Not Return".
** An (unnamed) American desert in "The Rip Van Winkle Caper".
* Despite having started by marooning an expedition on a desert planet, the ''Stargate'' franchise manages to avoid this trope all the way to its third live-action series, ''Series/StargateUniverse'', in the episode "Air, Part 3."
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' episode "Final Mission."
* ''Series/ThePrisoner2009'' had the desert surrounding the Village, filmed in Namibia.
* In ''Series/TheAquabatsSuperShow'' episode "Cowboy Android!" the Aquabats trudge through one after the Battletram runs out of gas.
* ''The Return of Sherlock Holmes'', a made-for-TV movie in 1987, features a cryogenically frozen Holmes who reawakens in the modern day. While driving through the Arizona desert on a case, his car breaks down, so he is forced to cross the desert on foot. Believing himself to be hallucinating or dead, he comes across London Bridge with a British telephone booth and calls his assistant. "No, that's not heaven," she tells him. "That's Lake Havasu."
* On ''Series/{{The 100}}'', the desert area where [[AfterTheEnd parts of New England used to be]] is bad enough about this that it's actually called "The Dead Zone".
* One appears in ''Series/OnceUponATime,'' that two slaves, newly escaped and desperate for water, are crossing. One grabs the Holy Grail, drinks from it, and dies. The second asks permission from the gods, and reverently takes a few small sips. Instead of dying, he is blessed with magic (and {{Immortality}}, though he doesn't yet realize), enough to make the wasteland into beautiful green countryside. His name? [[spoiler: Merlin]].

[[folder: Music ]]
* ''Cool Water'', the song written by Bob Nolan, and covered by Creator/HankWilliams and a host of others.
-->''All day I've faced / a barren waste / Without the taste / of water''
-->''Cool water''
-->''Old Dan and I / with throats burned dry / And souls that cry / for water''
-->''Cool, clear, water''
* Music/EddieMoney: "Give Me Some Water", about an outlaw fleeing through presumably desert country (either the US Southwest or Northern Mexico) after shooting a man on the Mexican border.
--> Smack that horse in the ass; with my last dying gasp my brother could hear me say
--> Give me some water 'cause I shot a man on the Mexican border
--> Cool, cool water
--> Give me some water

[[folder: Newspaper Comics ]]

* Numerous ''ComicStrip/TheFarSide'' strips use this setting for gags. A typical example has a guy crawling through the desert and coming across an enormous billboard advertising a brand of canteen: "Lost in the desert? Dying of thirst? Next time bring along a Jones Bros canteen!"


[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* Attempts to employ this trope in ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' are difficult, since the healing-oriented classes tend to get a ''create water'' spell at 1st level and employ it whenever there seems to be a hazard of thirst.
** However, the Desert of Desolation series (I3-I5) focused on this trope.
* The interior of Vrita, the Titan of Drought, is this in ''TabletopGame/{{Scion}}'' taken to the extent it's basically an entire world comprised of this. And there genuinely is no water of any sort to be found. Indeed, it's so thirsty that those unfortunate enough to enter it have the very real feeling that ''their blood is being sucked out through their skin''. Which is probably because ''it is''.
* The desert world of Tallarn in ''TabletopGame/Warhammer40000''. Strangely enough, it ''isn't'' a DeathWorld: its entire surface is desert but there are great underground cities, with their armies all Film/LawrenceOfArabia clones.
* In ''TabletopGame/WerewolfTheApocalypse'', the Malfean abode of the Nameless Angel of Despair is a barren desert with a huge black sun overhead.


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* Appears in ''VideoGame/KingsQuestIII'' and ''VideoGame/KingsQuestV''. In the first game, it's essentially a barrier to prevent you from going too far the wrong way. It's an [[GuideDangIt insidious maze]] in the latter.
* Lamakan Desert in ''VideoGame/GoldenSun''. It's so hot there's a thermometer that appears during the entire trip with the [=PCs=] complaining about the heat at regular intervals, and letting it max out causes damage to everyone. Fortunately, there are oases hidden by mirages that reset the thermometer to zero, unfortunately most of them contain an AntlionMonster. Strangely enough, it's located in Weyard's equivalent of Asia (and thus the equivalent of the Taklamakan Desert), while the Suhalla desert in Weyard-Africa (Sahara) has no such issues.
* Very much a part of ''VideoGame/QuestForGloryII'', where the player will literally die of thirst if you don't have enough water, and multiple foes ranging from [[{{Outlaw}} vicious brigands]] to [[ScaryScorpions giant scorpions]] to [[TyrannosaurusRex rampaging mini T. rexes]] to [[DemBones ghouls]] will try to kill you.
* ''VideoGame/BreathOfFireIII'' features a trackless desert towards the end of the game. Travel is only feasible at night, as you're navigating by the stars, but you can travel during the day if you don't mind expending more water and getting disoriented (i.e. don't travel during the day). You start with enough water to just barely reach your destination, but you can escape back to the entrance without any problems, even if you've been traveling for days.
* The Mojave Desert becomes this with the Survival mode active in ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas''. The fact that the water you need to survive also irradiates you is just insult to injury.
* The Arid Extra-Dry Desert in ''VideoGame/KingdomOfLoathing'' inflicts severe penalties on any player who tries to adventure there without getting the 'Ultrahydrated' effect from the oasis.
* The first ''VideoGame/{{Space Quest|I The Sarien Encounter}}'' game (and its VGA Remake) has this when you crashland on Kerona after escaping the Arcada. Fortunately, you have an infinite supply of "dehydrated" water (don't ask) and the game gives you ample warning when you need to take a drink of it.
* In ''VideoGame/RuneScape'', the desert south of Al Kharid will drain your health if you don't stay hydrated (using waterskins, an enchanted water tiara, etc). The rate at which you go through water/health depends on your equipment - melee armour makes you thirsty more often, whereas desert robes (and similar things) let you stay hydrated more easily.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia'' has a desert area where you have to find cacti that contain water for your party to fill their canteens with. When they run out of water, they start to take damage.
* The ''Franchise/JakAndDaxter'' games have the Wasteland. In ''VideoGame/Jak3Wastelander'' Jak, Daxter and Pecker nearly die of thirst and heat when they are banished there.
* ''VideoGame/SpecOpsTheLine'' reminds us that Dubai, despite being a paradise of opulence, is set in a desert. A massive sandstorm causes the total collapse of infrastructure, water distribution more than anything, and it only goes FromBadToWorse from there.
* The Gerudo Desert in ''VideoGame/HyruleWarriors'', when the heroes play through it towards the end of the main campaign. The overheating can be combated by entering special keeps marked as an Oasis. The villains earlier, had no ill effects from the desert heat.
* The Forbidden Oasis and the Western Approach in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'' are two desert regions available to visit and rather notably are located within FantasyCounterpartCulture France. The latter in particular is currently this way because its the site where the Second Blight erupted and it was infested with darkspawn for 90 years. It has been centuries since that event happened and the area is still an inhospitable and hostile hell-hole that hasn't recovered yet.

* In ''Webcomic/ChampionsOfFaraus'', a good part of the country of Gar'el is this.

[[folder: Web Original ]]

* In ''Roleplay/TheGamersAlliance'', the Tronin Desert in Southern Libaterra which also doubles as TheSavageSouth. It's the home of the [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy Sarquil]] and the [[LizardFolk Sirithai]], and recently the [[TheLegionsOfHell Northern Horde]] has conquered it.
* [[Wiki/SCPFoundation SCP-622]] can create these.
* Roy and Valerie ride a camel across a cartoon desert at one point in ''[[WebVideo/TheCartoonMan Journey of the Cartoon Man]]''.


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse has fun with this trope in "Steven's Lion". Steven crawls along pitifully as the Crystal Gems travel a desert, despite them not being there that long, explaining to the other Gems "This is how you're supposed to act in the desert."
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Wakfu}}:
** In Season 1, after losing control of Rubilax [[spoiler: and breaking Eva's bow]], Sadlygrove wanders into the desert, suffering from the heat and thirst, ending up perpetually tanned for the rest of the show. Also, Yuugo has to cross a scorching rocky desert in order to find Grougal's Dofus.
** In Season 2, one episode starts with the Brotherhood of Tofu crossing a scalding desert (we see a scorpion being fries alive just for walking into a sunlit zone), desperate for water.


[[folder: Real Life ]]

* Generally averted in RealLife, since desert biomes are often teeming with life despite the harsh climate.
** [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Valley Death Valley]] has its name for a reason, though. It is officially one of the hottest places on Earth, with summer highs of up to 134 F/57 C, and next to no rainfall.
* Hundreds of bodies of people who died from thirst or "exposure" are found every year in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. Most are from Mexico traveling illegally to the United States. Many are from other parts of South and Central America, notably Guatemala and El Salvador.
* Parts of the Atacama Desert in South America haven't received rainfall in hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. Some areas receive moisture from coastal fog, other areas are as dead and barren as UsefulNotes/{{Mars}}.
** In its most desolate regions the Atacama is allegedly ''sterile'', as not even bacteria can survive there. When the ''Series/TopGear'' boys crossed the Atacama on a road trip, Jeremy Clarkson mentioned this - primarily to illustrate that co-host Richard Hammond was currently the smallest organism within a hundred miles.
* The Rub' Al Khali[[note]]''The Empty Quarter''[[/note]] desert on the southern Arabian peninsula is one of the largest sand deserts in the world, taking up about 250,000 square miles of area. While it's not completely inhospitable (there is some life), it's close: water sources are extremely few and far between. On the flip side, though, it's geologically ''rich'', with mineral and oil deposits estimated to be worth billions[[note]]So much so that some geologists call it the Rub' Al '''G'''hali, meaning the '''Valuable''' Quarter, according to Wiki/TheOtherWiki[[/note]].
* The Taklamakan Desert in Central Asia is often considered the world's worst desert to attempt to cross. Antarctica is actually far bleaker to cross, but it's not a Thirsty Desert (after all, lack of water is definitely not a problem in Antarctica).