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December 19 2012

Saudi Arabia Stakes a Claim on the Nile

After draining four-fifths of its massive underground aquifer for unsustainable agriculture, the Saudi Kingdom turns to verdant Ethiopia.

The cows appear on the horizon like a mirage. Drive about a hundred miles (160 kilometers) through the Arabian Desert southeast from Riyadh, and you will come across one of the world's largest herds of dairy cattle. Some 40,000 Friesian cows survive in one of the driest places on the planet, with temperatures regularly reaching 110°F (43°C).

The cows live in six giant air-conditioned sheds, shrouded in a mist that keeps them cool. They churn out 53 million gallons (200 million liters) of milk a year, which heads off down the highway in a constant stream of tankers.

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