THE CITY OF IRAM
At the beginning of 1990, press-releases in the well-known newspapers
of the world declared "Fabled Lost Arabian city found," "Arabian
city of Legend found" and "The Atlantis of the Sands, Ubar." What
rendered this archaeological find particularly intriguing was the
fact that this city is mentioned in the Qur'an. Many people had
previously suggested 'Ad was a legend or that the location in question
could never be found. Such people could not conceal their astonishment
at this phenomenal discovery.
It was Nicholas Clapp, a noted
documentary filmmaker and a lecturer on archaeology, who found this
legendary city mentioned in the Qur'an.225
Being an Arabophile and a winning documentary film maker, Clapp
had come across a very interesting book during his research on Arabian
history. This book was Arabia Felix, written by the English researcher
Bertram Thomas in 1932. Arabia Felix was the Roman designation for
the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula which today includes
Yemen and much of Oman. The Greeks called this area "Eudaimon Arabia"
and medieval Arab scholars called it "Al-Yaman as-Saeed."226
All of these names mean "Happy Yemen," because the people living
in that region used to serve as middlemen in the lucrative spice
trade between India and places north of the Arabian Peninsula. In
addition, the people living in this region produced and distributed
"frankincense," an aromatic resin from rare trees.
The English researcher Thomas described these
tribes at length and claimed that he found the traces of an ancient
city founded by one of these tribes.227
This was the city known as "Ubar" by the Bedouins. In one of the
trips he made to the region, the Bedouins living in the desert had
shown him well-worn tracks and stated that these tracks led toward
the ancient city of Ubar. Thomas, who showed great interest in the
subject, died before being able to complete his research.
societies have passed away before your time, so travel about
the earth and see the final fate of the deniers.
Clapp, who examined what the English researcher
Thomas wrote, was convinced of the existence of the lost city described
in the book. He quickly started his research, attempting to carry
on from where Thomas had left the project. Clapp took two different
approaches in his mission to prove the existence of Ubar. First,
he found the tracks which the Bedouins said existed and in order
to aid his work, he applied to NASA to provide the satellite images
of the area. After a long struggle, he succeeded in persuading the
authorities to take the pictures of the region he so craved.228
The above satellite photographs show a section of Oman in
the south of the Arabian Peninsula. In the photographs of
the city of Ubar, viewed from space by NASA in 1992, were
identified traces of ancient desert tracks. The people of
‘Ad, revealed 1,400 years ago in the Qur’an,
emerged as one of the miracles of the Qur’an through
Clapp went on to study the ancient manuscripts and maps in the
Huntington library in California. Here, he quickly found a map covering
the region he was studying so intensely. He found a map drawn by
the Greek-Egyptian geographer Ptolemy in 200, which showed the location
of an old city found in the region and the paths which actually
led up to this city.
Meanwhile, his research received a further boost when he received
the news that satellite photographs had been taken by members of
NASA. In the pictures, caravan trails, which were virtually invisible
to the naked eye, caught Clapp's attention. They could only be seen
as a whole from the sky. Comparing these pictures with the old map
he had in hand, Clapp immediately realised that the trails in the
old map corresponded with the trails in the pictures taken from
the satellite. The final destination of these trails was a broad
site understood to have once been a city.
Finally, thanks to the work of Clapp and Thomas before him-along
with a helping hand from NASA researchers-the location of this legendary
city, which had been subject of the stories told orally by the Bedouins,
was discovered. After a short while, excavations began and remains
of an old city were brought to light. This lost city was dubbed
"Ubar, the Atlantis of the Sands."
But let us ask: What was it that proved this to be the city of
the people of 'Ad mentioned in the Qur'an?
From the very beginning of the study of the site, it was understood
that this ruined city belonged to 'Ad. Researchers discovered Iram's
pillars, which were specifically mentioned in the Qur'an, in the
form of towers in the land of the people of 'Ad. Dr. Juris Zarins,
a member of the research team leading the excavation, said that
since the towers were alleged to be the distinctive feature of Ubar
and since Iram was mentioned as having towers or pillars, this then
was the strongest proof so far that the site they had unearthed
was Iram, the city of 'Ad described in the Qur'an:
Do you not see what your Lord did with 'Ad-Iram
of the Columns whose like was not created in any land? (Qur'an,
As seen, that the information provided by the Qur'an about the
events of the past is in total agreement with historical information
is another evidence of the fact that the Qur'an is the Word of Allah.
225. Thomas H. Maugh II, "Ubar,
Fabled Lost City, Found by LA Team," The Los Angeles Times,
5 February 1992.
226. Kamal Salibi, A History of Arabia (Caravan Books: 1980).
227. Bertram Thomas, Arabia Felix: Across the "Empty Quarter"
of Arabia, (New York: Schrieber's Sons: 1932), 161.
228. Charlene Crabb, "Frankincense", Discover, January