Gobi means "waterless place." It is a desert in Asia that is approximately 500,000 square miles, shaped like a crescent, and surrounded by mountains. It is covered with fossils, steppes (dry grasslands), mountains, and a shallow layer of gravel that overlays granite, slate, and other rocks. Only 5% of the Gobi is sand dunes. The desert is broken by the hills of the Altai Mountains, whose peaks exceed 12,000 feet. There are some blackish lakes that appear after violent, late-summer thunderstorms, but the only reliable source of water comes from wells and springs. It gets very hot and cold. Temperatures vary from an average of -40oF in the winter, to 113oF in the summer. Winter is the driest season with 2.7 inches of precipitation. Summer has only eight inches of rain. There are strong winds year round.
The mongols built the largest land empire in history during the 1200's under Ghengis Khan. Mongols are herders, either as nomads, or on farms with small towns in the center. Most people speak a dialect of Mongolian.


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