The Road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands

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It reminded them of the snakes mentioned by Diodorus and Strabo, who claimed that the frankincense fields were guarded by very poisonous snakes. Rather than finding a lost city in the sand, Clapp's expedition discovered a well known watering spot, as the photo on the right illustrates Bertram Thomas writes of visiting Shisr, as does Thesiger The site was visited in by Wendell Phillips, The photo on the right was taken in from the air. When the team of explorers showed up the local people housed them in three new buildings.

So much for lost cities under the sands. The ruins at Shisr were not very big, the size of many smaller villages or towns in Nabataea.

Thus the team did not at first believe it was Ubar. But once they started digging they began to change their minds. It had what Ubar was supposed to have, towers and a well and ruins! However, most of the center of the fortification had been destroyed by a large sink-hole, apparently formed when an underground cave collapsed.

As I said, while the article in the New York Times seemed to indicate that this was a sensational discovery, the Shisr Fort site was explored much earlier by Bertram Thomas in the s and Thesiger in the 's. British officers photographed the area in the s. It was not secluded and unknown. However, the size and the extent of the ruins were not understood until the excavations which began in Because of the size of the sink-hole, much of the interior of Shisr fort was destroyed. The drawing on the right is based on a drawing made by Dr.

Juris Zarins, and demonstrates how the sink-hole destroyed much of the center of the fortification. Is this the ancient city of Ubar? The ancient city of Ubar is the stuff of legends. When Philby was searching for the lost city of Ubar in the sands of Arabia one of his Bedouin guides sang an old ballad of the lost city that went something like this:. The lost city of Ubar has long been associated with the lost people o f 'Ad.

Today it is an untrodden desert, owing to the drying up of its water. There are to be found in it great buildings which the wind has smothered in sand. Nashwan bin Said Himyari, eleventh century. Unfortunately, the Islamic historians did not know where this lost land was, as is illustrated by the quotes below:. Irem dhat al hmad Irem of the towers is in the wilderness of Abyan Al Handani. When the fortification at Shisr was uncovered and proclaimed by John Noble to be the lost city of Ubar, joyful Muslims proclaimed that it was just as the Quran described it. But is it? A few fortified walls seem to fall very short of the description in the Quran where it tells us: Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with Ad, Aram, possessors of lofty buildings, pillars The like of which were not created in the other cities.

Al Fajir Is this an accurate description on the ancient Shisr Fort? The above illustration was taken from Clapps book, page As you can see, Shisr was a small place, with a few huts, some defensive towers, and a well in the center. If this was Ubar, then the legends certainly made it much greater than it actually was. Then consider how the people of 'Ad and their city of Ubar was destroyed. The Quran clearly states:. And the 'Ad, they were destroyed by a furious Wind,exceedingly violent; He made it rage against them seven nights and eight days in succession: so that thou couldst see the whole people lying prostrate in its path , as they had been roots of hollow palm-trees tumbled down!

Then seest thou any of them left surviving? Surat al-Haaqqa: But Shisr fort was destroyed differently. First of all, Shisr Fort was not a full-sized city, but rather a large fortified area. Second, it was destroyed by a sink-hole when the land caved downward due to a collapsing underground cave that was hollowed out by water action. Islamic writings tell us that the people of 'Ad 'Ud were destroyed by a great wind. According to this evidence, I do find it hard to believe that Shisr is Ubar.

Ron Blom. Although it would be another 10 years before Ubar was found, that first nervous phone call in , was to prove a pivotal moment. Ubar' with the promise I'd read it soon. That was today. I read it in one sitting, with several telephone interruptions I resented. It was the reward read I'd hoped! View 1 comment. Fascinated with Arabia and the Rub' al-Khali when filming the return of Arabian oryxes to the wilderness of Oman, Nicholas Clapp was looking for a reason to return. It was a book recommended by a friendly used book seller that gave him the opening and a near-obsession with the lost city of Ubar.

If nothing else, this book goes into detail about pre-expedition work - finding sources confirming the site literary references to satellite imagery ; convincing professionals to take a chance on the exp Fascinated with Arabia and the Rub' al-Khali when filming the return of Arabian oryxes to the wilderness of Oman, Nicholas Clapp was looking for a reason to return. If nothing else, this book goes into detail about pre-expedition work - finding sources confirming the site literary references to satellite imagery ; convincing professionals to take a chance on the expedition; funding sources; government officials and the numerous permits.

Working with locals especially when dealing with possible religious or restricted sites. The difficulties in weeding tradition and hearsay from facts especially when dealing with a site thousands of years old. In the end, Clapp's enthusiasm and dedication led to a site that many agree could be the former city of Ubar, destroyed by the wrath of God which took the form of a massive sinkhole collapse around the well that provided for the outpost and caravans that moved along the frankincense trade route.

The archaeologist associated with the expedition - Dr. Juris Zarins - provided a time table for the area which was once lush savanna with open streams and lakes inhabited for nearly , years, from the time of Homo Erectus through Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, Parthia, Greece and Rome. There is also 'reflections on the prophet Hud' whose tales provided clues to the possible location of Ubar or the Shisr fortress just within the borders of Oman from Yemen.

It is actually interesting to read Clapp's acknowledgements of his financial and material backers - most of which are part of the Omani government and businesses. Interested in ancient history outside of the everyday or the mysteries of lost cities and civilizations? This book hits both topics.

Mar 12, Brooks rated it liked it. The author was a documentary filmmaker who did the research on his own and finally persuaded the Jet Perpulsion Labortory, an archelogist, and an expedition leader to help him find this place. JPL added the area to a ground search radar mission on the space shuttle. Ran Fiennes convinces the Sultan of Oman to allow them to search through his country. They finally find it under a current settlement of shisur.

The best part of the book is the description and diagrams of the archelogical work. There is a series of drawings which map the progression week by week as they uncover the ancient settlement.

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It really gives an excellent description on how archelogical digs work well incredibly successful ones. Ubar was mentioned in the Koran and had a long oral tradition in Arabia as a city destroyed by God for its riches. Hud was a prophet who preached to the unbelievers in Ubar. The site did show a catastrophic sinkhole that may have been the cause of its sudden calapse.

The book also showed the ex-patriot volunteers from various government projects in Oman who helped. It showed how the ex-patriot community works and how people in long term assignments gain knowledge of the area that the locals never do and showed some of the same insular personalities as Egypt has. I detest the "no crap, there I was" genre, in which someone with no qualifications goes someplace, behaves poorly and generally accomplishes nothing besides making Americans look like idiots - all under the heading of doing something vaguely archaeological like finding King Solomon's Mines.

It isn't a powerfully moving story, but it is satisfying and interesting. Also, the story moves and is written in a fairly linear fashion, so it isn't hard to follow. Mar 18, Brad Erickson rated it liked it. Some fascinating aspects in this book. Got a little slow in the first hundred pages with his endless research of myths and documents, and then again in the ending when he recreates the history of Ubar.

Jan 15, Rita rated it liked it Shelves: nonfiction , middle-east-or-muslim. FUn to read there, as it starts right off mentioning flying into and over Oman. Rhonda traveled to Dhofar and visited not Ubar but Job's tomb, which is not far away. After experiencing Wahiba Sands here [for one day] it is all the more interesting to read about saw ancient cities and caravan routes into and through the great sand deserts of Arabia.

Also, we stopped at a large sinkhole on the coast north of Sur that perhaps shows a little how a ci Rhonda had this book when I visited her in Oman. Also, we stopped at a large sinkhole on the coast north of Sur that perhaps shows a little how a city like Ubar could have just fallen into the earth [due to pumping up of too much underground water]. Very interesting that the man preaching at the people of Ubar was called Hud [in the oral and written legends] which means Jew, so Clapp concludes that Ubar had a Jewish king at one time.

Clapp mentions the dispersion of Jews after the Babylonian captivity [6c BC] to all parts of Arabia and elsewhere, and also Christians were scattered around the Peninsula [before the time of Islam].

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Ubar – Ubar, Oman - Atlas Obscura

I had always wondered about that. Nov 18, Elizabeth Smith rated it really liked it. Answers questions raised by Bertram Thomas's excellent Arabia Felix This is a non-scholarly quasi-scholarly? Clapp has no pretensions to being a scholar -- he is a documentary filmmaker -- but his research is thorough and borders on the scholarly account of the s excavations at Shisur in Oman, and what was found there.

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A fully convincing answer to the questions of "Did Ubar exist? Scholarly and specialist accounts have been published by Juris Zarins and others, Answers questions raised by Bertram Thomas's excellent Arabia Felix Scholarly and specialist accounts have been published by Juris Zarins and others, so this book fills a nice niche for the general reader. If prehistoric and ancient Southern Arabia interests you, this is a good book. I found Clapp's voice and sometimes-folksy tone to be a bit grating at times, but he is a thorough-going adventurer and his work instigated the satellite mapping and the eventual expeditions that discovered this important and very interesting ancient site, so his personal writing style can be excused.

Jun 05, Diane rated it really liked it. Next on my nerdy agenda: I joined a new book club because I needed more literary oxygen and book talk. Wow—what a smart group of well-read, articulate folks. We just finished reading and discussing a book I probably would never have read on my own: The Road to Ubar by Nicholas Clapp. This book shows the power of intel Next on my nerdy agenda: I joined a new book club because I needed more literary oxygen and book talk. This book shows the power of intellectual curiosity and the rewards of the inquiry method in practice.

Clapp, a documentary film producer, has a fire in his belly to learn all he can about this ancient community. It encouraged me to push beyond the text and check out other resources. More reviews at my blog: www. Apr 24, Kevin Pedersen rated it really liked it Shelves: world-tour. An account of an archaeological hunt through Oman for a fabled lost city of ancient Arabia "Arabia Felix", a term I know now!

So there's a narratively satisfying conclusion. This book made me want to go and read more things about the ancient world, which has to be seen as a benchmark way of saying that something was good. Also no An account of an archaeological hunt through Oman for a fabled lost city of ancient Arabia "Arabia Felix", a term I know now!

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Also now I want to replay "Uncharted". I know that's something an idiot would say. And yet, here we are. Aug 20, Sean rated it it was amazing. If you like archaeology, anthropology, socialogy, and adventure, read this book. The author, a filmaker and amature archaeologist, sets out to find a fabled lost city of the Arabian desert.

I won't spoil the ending, but the book is exciting, well annotated and features a helpful bibliography. Next s If you like archaeology, anthropology, socialogy, and adventure, read this book.


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Next stop.. View all 4 comments. Jan 17, Albert Barlow added it. I find ancient history to be intoxicating. This true tale of adventure and discovery begins in a bookstore - always an auspicious start to anything. The author was looking for one book, but, by the suggestion of the book clerk, gets another instead. This unwanted book mentions the fabled Ubar, a middle eastern city of old. Ubar was reputed to have been a city of wealth, but that the inhabitants displeased God and the city sunk into the sands.

As time goes on, Mr. Clapp collects more info on Ubar, and thus starts the journey Sep 29, Ken rated it really liked it. Having spent a lot of time in Oman, this was a really fascinating book about the ancient city of Ubar orignally thought to be mythical. What an archetypical find! I would love to take a trip doen during one of my next trips to Oman. Sep 06, Jeffrey rated it really liked it Shelves: travel.

Fun read on the search for the lost city of Ubar in the deserts of Oman. Really fun, thrilling, and well-researched. I appreciately the detailed footnotes and understated tone. I was worried by the first person narrative, but the author is humble and very focused on presenting facts, and clearly states what is merely conjecture.

Im amazed this happened as recently as the s. Mar 12, Scott Joseph added it. I had this book on my bookshelf for about 12 years until I got to it, it was worth the wait! Clapp's enthusiasm for finding Ubar is infectious, he performed exhaustive research and convinced unlikely persons to help him in the quest and they were able to share in the joy of the find as well will the reader. Aug 06, PDXReader rated it really liked it. This was quite the archeological mystery story! I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.


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  • It was well-written and entertaining. The end drifted off into speculation a bit too much for me, and I think it actually lessened the overall high-quality of the book, but overall it was worth my time. A nonfiction book that displays the author's feelings as well as his actions. This book is on the list of books that have changed the way I look at the world and my own life.

    Jun 01, Kobe Bryant rated it liked it. OK story about looking for some stupid place. Being an archeologist is so cool though, you get to go to a foreign country, be outside a lot, befriend the locals and fall in love with a beautiful native girl. Aug 13, Tom rated it it was amazing. I found this book incredibly entertaining as it blended the humor and narrative style of a travelogue with the facts and citations of a history book which results in a very entertaining and quick read that is not dense but also not too light.

    Also you'll never look at a salad bar the same again. Oct 03, Wendy Williams rated it really liked it. I found this book by reading James Rollins "Sandstorm". He always references supporting books to his stories. This was one. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was a very interesting telling of a real place in the desert.

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    The path they follow and how he relates it was superb. Very glad I read this. Feb 12, Tim Painter rated it it was ok Shelves: history. This book is about the search for an ancient city that was abandoned in time.