THE ROAD TO UBAR by Nicholas Clapp


Finding the Atlantis of the Sands
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 The captivating story of documentry filmmaker Clapp's search for the lost, fabled city of Ubar. Wondrous and magical, the Arabian city appears and disappears in the stories of the Arabian Nights. It was thought to be set in splendid isolation on sun-blasted sands of the Empty Quarter, rich beyond measure, destroyed for its sins by the wrath of Allah. Bertram Thomas never found it, nor did Harry St. John Philby, T.E. Lawrence, or Wilfred Thesiger. By his own admission, Clapp became obsessed with finding Ubar, so he turned over every bit of information he could find on the city. His first break came when he discovered an error in Ptolemy's Atlas, relocating Omanum Emporium (Ubar?) to the east, to the land of the Ubarites, astride the major incense road. Clapp manages to get NASA to provide him with radar imagery of the target area, uncovers the road to Ubar that Thomas had mentioned, and strikes it rich during an excavation of the abandoned trading center of Shisur. Clapp is convinced it is the great, lost Ubar, and he provides plenty of evidence--pottery types and sequences, architectural plans, and the role of the incense trade--to back up his claim. Clapp knows when to keep to the facts and when to get fanciful (though never extravagant), as in his enchanting speculations on the history of Ubar, from Homo erectus's first moochings in the vicinity to the rise of the People of 'Ad to the morality play between pious Hud and arrogant Shaddad that betokened the city's doom (albeit more likely the city collapsed into a giant sinkhole--again speculation). A stupendous archaeological achievement, doubtless, but Clapp's ability to conjure the power of a mythological landscape drives this book.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1998
ISBN: 0-395-87596-X
Page count: 331pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1998