Once a ramshackle collection of buildings on dusty streets, Alice Springs—known colloquially as "the Alice" or just "Alice"—is today an incongruously suburban tourist center with a population of more than 30,000 (including about 2,000 Americans, many employed at Pine Gap, a joint Australian and U.S. satellite tracking station) in the middle of the desert. Alice derives most of its income from tourism, and more than
300,000 tourists visit annually. The town's ancient sites, a focus for the Arrernte Aboriginal people's ceremonial activities, lie cheek-by-jowl with air-conditioned shops and hotels. The MacDonnell Ranges dominate Alice Springs, changing color according to the time of day from brick red to purple.