The Rock of Gibraltar, once a stalwart of British power, the gate to the Mediterranean, now is a fortress for the Eurasian Alliance. It's fair teeming with neo-Soviets and submarines.
The desert is a curse from the Water God upon the wicked people who live in the South.
Said people offended the Water God in some way, and so the Water God placed water-trappers, bizarre, water-sucking beings, in the soil, and within years, the wilderness became a desert.
Thus, the desert folk shamans have special powers that allow them to find water-trappers so that they can be dug up and their water harvested.