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The setting is a desert-like area, meaning there just enough water for one to drink and not to dry out.

How would someone care for hygiene, like wash themselves, when water is a precious rarity? Is there a "trick" or something that nomads, wanderers in deserts, use? Maybe hygiene is less important, but it surely cannot be overlooked...?

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    $\begingroup$ Desert creatures often use dust baths to absorb and abrade waste materials off their skin and fur. I imagine humans could do the same. $\endgroup$ – Logan R. Kearsley Jul 19 '20 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ @LoganR.Kearsley When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or in this case, chinchillas. So cute. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jul 19 '20 at 23:16
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Experience With Desert Cultures

I spent some time in the middle east, and I observed a few things. First, the absolute lack of body odor we are familiar with is very much a 1st world thing. People in Afghanistan or Iraq STANK. But after a while you come to realize, that's just what people naturally smell like. Our absolute odor neutrality is created by our deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes, colognes, shampoos, and body washes which we apply religiously utilizing water piped in from dozens, or even hundreds of miles away. After a month in the sandbox you quit noticing that everybody smells like feet and armpits, and upon returning to your comfy 1st world country with lots of water realize from the annoyed looks on everybody faces that you don't smell good. In the desert, body odor is something you get used to, and eventually stop noticing.

Something I saw a lot of was sand bathing. Afghans, especially the tribal, would use handfuls of sand as an abrasive to rub off filth. Another thing was, what you or I would consider stagnant and fetid water is a bath to them. Water is a scarce commodity in the desert, so if you find some you can't drink that means its bath time. I watched people, often times my native friends and acquaintances stripped naked squatting in puddles of brown, dirty water vigorously rubbing handfuls of wet sand under their armpits, their feet, and other... ahem... smelly areas. Initially my holier than thou 1st world sensibilities were offended, but then I realized it makes perfect sense. They haven't had a wet bath in a month or two, here is some water, and its not good for drinking so hey, why not have a bath?

Finally comes how you wipe your butt. Well, there's no toilet paper. There's no leaves. So what now? Well... At least in the middle east, the go to solution was your hand. Now, this sounds gross, but if you do some walking in their shoes it makes sense. You use your non-dominant hand, then you use fistfuls of sand to dry and abrade it off. In Islamic culture the left hand is seen as filthy, and no matter how clean you never EVER point, gesture, grab, shake hands or do otherwise with it. At least in the desert culture I was interacting with, that was your doo-doo hand, and you never did anything with it unless you wanted to absolutely flip the rudest of birds at somebody. Even just gesturing with it to somebody innocently was literally saying "You are feces. I use my feces hand to deal with you, because you are feces." I once accidentally offered my interpreter and long time companion a cigarette innocently and ignorantly using my left hand. The look of hurt and anger on his face was soul destroying. I apologized, crushed it under my boot, then offered him one with my correct hand. Who would think a lack of easily accessible water could have such subtle nuances on a people as to influence their body language in such a strong way?

Bottom line being, not having an abundance of water changes the game a lot, and can have some pretty far reaching cultural effects. I hope sharing a few I noticed can help you in some way.

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    $\begingroup$ What kind of sand did they use? Did they specifically have to out of their way to find "good enough" sand? Like the stereotypical loose sand of the Sahara sand dunes? or what? $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jul 20 '20 at 5:05
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I noticed you specifically said "you use your non-dominant hand", not your left hand. So what happens with a lefty interacting with friends? And with strangers? $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jul 20 '20 at 6:53
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Welcome to Worldbuilding!

Hygiene and Medicine of Saharian Nomadic Tribes: Tuareg and Tubu Compared Vanni Beltrami ...The medical system that these tribes developed before the colonial presence is a mixture of logic and effective practical conduct with superstitious and ineffective spells. The use of natural drugs and the treatment of traumatic events are similar, but the hygienic customs are totally different. https://www.medicinaneisecoli.it/index.php/MedSecoli/article/view/936

Health and sanitary status in 1970 of Tubu nomads dwelling in Northeastern Niger ...these results have not been previously published. The estimated age of death for fathers was approximately 56 years, and that for mothers was 60 years. The overall perinatal mortality rate was 232%, the overall infant mortality rate was 153%, and the overall child mortality rate was 99%. The physical examination found 6 cases of blindness (4.0%). Five subjects presented with an elevated blood pressure (3.3%), and 5 (3.3%) displayed an abnormal thoracic auscultation evocative of tuberculosis or of an acute lung infection. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4416314/

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