Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Books We Buy in Oman Reviewed: The Road to Ubar

"The Road to Ubar" by documentary film-maker and amataeur archeologist Nicholas Clapp was the first book I ever read featuring the Sultanate of Oman as its setting/subject matter.

I believe I read it when I was fourteen? It was gifted to me by the smartest boy in my school when he found out my family had home in Oman and I'd be going there for the Christmas holiday.

For those who love tales of buried treasure and lost civilizations, this archeological drama is for you, a thoroughly modern adventure including marauding Beduoin and the whole she-bang. And it is 100% true. Even better.

Ubar was a fabled city of the ancient world, featuring in tales of "1001 Nights". It is also the city of the people of 'Ad from the Holy Qu'ran, whose wealth and great pillared city led them to scoff at God Himself, thus resulting in a curse of their civilization being burried under the desert sands.

While what Clapp and adventurer Ranulph Fiennes did find buried in the sands of Shisr at the edge of the Rub al Khali desert just an overnight journey out of Salalah these days may not be the city belonging to the people of 'Ad, but it was a many-pillared city made rich off of the frankicense routes that litterally sunk into the sands. The book documents the discovery, and other attempts made by legendary adventurers at finding it.

Clapps' travel-adventure spans 12 years of investigation easily, from scouring through ancient texts and maps in famous old libraries, to using sattelite images from NASA, to a caravan with Beduoin guides to the edges of the Rub al Khali desert during Oman's insurgent communist days.

I think I found it slow at fourteen, but would consider it well written now.

10 chapters long, with an appendix almost as big as the main text, I find it well worth the read for any historical buff, or the lover of a true-life adventure story.

Did I like it? Yes. I am a huge fan of anything to do with ancient history.

Did I love it? Not at fourteen, but I think it is well and enough time for a little re-read.

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