Iram of the Pillars

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Iram of the Pillars (Arabic: إرَم ذات العماد, Iram ḏāt al-`imād), also called Aram, Iram, Irum, Irem, Erum, or the City of the tent poles is a lost city (or perhaps tribe) mentioned in the Quran.[1]


The Quran (1,400 years ago) mentions a city by the name of Iram (a city of pillars) [Qur'an: The Dawn 89:7]:[2]

According to Islamic beliefs, King Shaddad defied the warnings of the prophet Hud and God smote the city, driving it into the sands, never to be seen again. The ruins of the city lie buried somewhere in the sands of the Rub' al-Khali. Iram became known to Western literature with the translation of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.

Suggested identification with Ubar[edit]

Radar imagery uncovered a city buried under sand in Oman.

In the early 1990s a team lead by amateur archaeologist and film maker Nicholas Clapp and adventurer Ranulph Fiennes, archaeologist Juris Zarins and lawyer George Hedges announced that they had found Ubar.[3] The conclusion they reached, based on site excavations at the site of a Bedouin well at Shisr in Dhofar province, Oman, and an inspection of NASA satellite photographs, was that this was the site of Ubar, or Iram of the Pillars, the name for an ancient city destroyed by a natural disaster.[4]

When interviewed by PBS for their Nova in 1996 Zarins said they had found the lost city of Ubar. Later Zarins concluded that Shisr did not represent a city called Ubar[5] and in a 2000 publication he suggested that modern Habarut may be the site of Ubar.[6]

In 2002 geology professor H Stewart Edgell reported that the NASA data used by the team was misleading and that the site was simply an isolated waterhole, and that the alleged fortress was a small building used by a few families at most.[7]

In fiction[edit]

The ruins of the Ubarite oasis and its collapsed well-spring
  • "Iram" is the lost city where the Muslim hero Thalaba was kept safe in Robert Southey's Thalaba the Destroyer (1801)
  • H. P. Lovecraft places it somewhere near The Nameless City in his stories.[8] In "The Call of Cthulhu" it is the supposed base of the Cthulhu Cult.
  • James Rollins's 2004 novel Sandstorm depicts Ubar as an underground city in a glass bubble with a lake of antimatter at the middle. The city, which was created as the result of a meteorite impact 20,000 years ago, is destroyed and becomes a massive lake known as Lake Eden.
  • Sean McMullen's story "The Measure of Eternity" (published in Interzone 205) is set in Ubar, describing it as the wealthiest city on earth.
  • "Wabar" appears in Josephine Tey's 1952 mystery novel The Singing Sands in which detective Alan Grant seeks to unravel the meaning of a strange poem found on the body of a young man. Wabar is one possible subject of the poem.
  • In Weaveworld, by Clive Barker, one of the antagonists visits the Empty Quarter and finds what is presumably the magically restored ruins of Iram.
  • In Tim Powers' novel Declare, Wabar was a city inhabited by djinni and their half-human progeny and was destroyed by a meteor strike.
  • In the video game Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, it is postulated that Sir Francis Drake made a detour here during his circumnavigation of the world and covered up all evidence of his voyage and the accursed lost city of Ubar, until hero Nathan Drake and an evil, shadowy secret society rediscover the city 500 years later.
  • In the New World of Darkness limited game line, Mummy: the Curse, published by White Wolf Game Studios-Onyx Path, Irem is the Stone Age city where the game's protagonists, the Arisen, were created.
  • Iram is the theme of Daniel Easterman's novel "The Seventh Sanctuary".
  • Ubar is mentioned in Chapter 7 of Neil Gaiman's American Gods (2001). It is mentioned by a cab-driver/ifrit as the perished ancient city and by Selim, a recent arrival to the US from Oman, as the Lost City of Towers that was allegedly found in a recent archaeological excavation.
  • Iram is used in quatrain 5 of the Rubaiyat to describe the brevity of human endeavors.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Glassé, Cyril; Huston Smith (Revised edition 2003). The New Encyclopedia of Islam. AltaMira Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0759101906. 
  2. ^ "Surat Al-Fajr [89:6-14] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  3. ^ Wilford, J.N., "On the Trail From the Sky: Roads Point to a Lost City", New York Times, 5 February 1992.[1]
  4. ^ Clapp, N., The Road to Ubar, (1998); Zarins, Juris, “Atlantis of the Sands”, Archaeology, May–June 1997.
  5. ^ Jurins, Z., "Atlantis of the Sands" in Archaeology (1997): 51—53
  6. ^ "Environmental Disruption and Human Response," in Environmental Disaster and the Archaeology of Human Response, Anthropological Papers, ed. Garth Bawden and Richard M. Reycraft (Albuquerque: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, 2000), 7:35—49.
  7. ^ Leake, Jonathan (20 October 2002). "Lost ‘Atlantis of the desert’ runs into sands of doubt". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Nameless City". Mythos Tomes. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]