The Road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands

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9780395875964: The Road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands

The most fabled city in ancient Arabia was Ubar, described in the Koran as "the many-columned city whose like has not been built in the entire land." But like Sodom and Gomorrah, Ubar was destroyed by God for the sins of its people. Buried in the desert without a trace, it became known as "the Atlantis of the Sands." Over the centuries, many searched for it unsuccessfully, including Lawrence of Arabia, and skepticism grew that there had ever been a real place called Ubar. Then in the 1980s Nicholas Clapp stumbled on the legend. Poring over ancient manuscripts, he discovered that a slip of the pen in a.d. 1460 had misled generations of explorers. In satellite images he found evidence of ancient caravan routes that were invisible from the ground. Finally he organized two expeditions to Arabia with a team of archaeologists, geologists, space scientists, and adventurers. After many false starts, dead ends, and weeks of digging, they uncovered a remarkable walled city with eight towers, thi

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Review:

What is it about the inhospitable corners of the world that so attracts the imagination? Scott in the Antarctic, Hillary on top of Everest, and a multitude of wanderers--from Wilfred Thesiger and T. E. Lawrence to Gertrude Bell--wandering through the vast, empty sands of "the empty quarter" in what is now Saudi Arabia; each of these explorers has been drawn to places most of us would never think of going and found there an unexpected window onto their own souls. In The Road to Ubar, filmmaker Nicholas Clapp follows in the footsteps of earlier visitors to the Arabian peninsula as he seeks the legendary city of Ubar. Going back at least two millennia, stories about a vast city filled with gold that disappeared almost in an instant haunt the literature and lore of Arabia. And for almost as long as the stories have been around, so have the rogues and dreamers who have tried to find it. His interest sparked by the accounts of earlier travelers in the region such as Thesiger and Bertram Thomas, Clapp decided to put together his own team in hopes of finding and filming the lost city.

Using both modern tools (photographs taken from space, courtesy of NASA) as well as old ones (maps, descriptions, and written accounts), Clapp and his team slowly pieced together the clues until they arrived, at last, at the site where they would spend the next four years digging. How they got to the end of The Road to Ubar and what they found there is at the heart of this unusual travel memoir.

About the Author:

Nicholas Clapp, a noted documentary filmmaker, has lectured on Ubar at Brown University, the University of California at Los Angeles, California Institute of Technology, the National Georgraphic Society, and the Goddard Space Center. Clapp currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

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