939: The Road to Ubar by Nicholas Clapp

by Gerard


939.49: Clapp, Nicholas. The Road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands. Boston: Mariner, 1999. 274 pp. ISBN 0-395-95786-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 930: History of the ancient world
  • 939: History of other parts of the ancient world
  • 939.4: History of the Middle East to 640 CE
  • 939.49: History of the Arabian Peninsula to 622 CE

The ancient city of Ubar is clouded in myth. It controlled the frankincense trade for the Arabian Peninsula and became quite a wealthy oasis. Then, as told in the Koran, it was smote from the Earth for favoring wealth over worship. The city of Ubar was gone forever. Nicholas Clapp’s The Road to Ubar weaves together history, archaeology, technology, and even a little luck to rediscover the history of the Arabian Peninsula. With the help of an archaeologist, a geologist, and a real-life adventurer, he travels through the vast Arabian Desert to take back what the desert hid for so long.

Clapp’s methodology here is quite fun. Many historical figures had traveled through this area of the Arabian Peninsula searching for archaeological insight, and Clapp uses both their insights and new technology to pinpoint the location of a buried city in the sands at Shisr in Oman. Unfortunately, a sinkhole has swallowed a fair chunk of the ruins, but much of the wall remained intact and his team dutifully catalogs the whole experience. After its discovery, he places the city in as much historical and mythical context as he can provide. Clapp’s team’s journey is fairly interesting and also provides a good deal of history on the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula. A very fun read.