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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Sietch  
  A cave warren designed to protect a tribal community, with a population of thousands, with its own water supply in an endless desert.  

The Fremen lived under various forms of tyranny for much of their history. When relocated to the planet Dune, they adapted to the harsh, almost waterless world by retreating underground in the desert in huge cave warren communities.

Water - or moisture - was drawn from the atmosphere using windtraps, clever devices that used temperature differences to precipitate water from the air itself.

A sietch contained workshops, factories, classrooms, public and private spaces for everyone.

Although sietch were always underground, they typically had gathering spaces large enough to hold all of the adult residents.

Phosportubes in the faraway upper reaches of the cavern cast a dim light onto the thronged interior, hinting at the great size of this rock-enclosed space... larger, Jessica saw, than even the Gathering Hall of her Bene Gesserit school. She estimated that there were more than five thousand people gathered out there beneath the ledge where she stood with Stilgar.

And more were coming...

Men came with rolled carpets, grunting under the weight of them, stirring up dust as the loads were dropped onto the ledge... [Jessica] watched the me unroll the carpets, covering the ledge, looked out at the crowd. There were at least ten thousand people on the rock floor below...

"Tonight we must leave this sietch that has sheltered us for so long and go south into the desert," Stilgar said. His voice boomed out across the uplifted faces, reverberating with the force given it by the acoustical horn behind the ridge.

From Dune, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Putnam in 1965
Additional resources -

Herbert himself defines "sietch" this way in his glossary to Dune:

Fremen: "Place of assembly in time of danger." Because the Fremen lived so long in peril, the term came by general usage to designate any cave warren inhabited by one of their tribal communities.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Dune
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Herbert
  Tech news articles related to Dune
  Tech news articles related to works by Frank Herbert

Sietch-related news articles:
  - Sietch Nevada Dune-Inspired Underground Communities

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