Iram of the Pillars

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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 reference to a lost city, a country or an area mentioned in the Quran.[1]


The Quran (1,400 years ago) mentions Iram in connection with pillars [Qur'an: The Dawn 89:7]:[2]

The Quran, chapter 89 (Al-Fajr), verse 6 to 14:

6: Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with 'Aad -

7: [With] Iram – who had lofty pillars, 8: The likes of whom had never been created in the lands 9: And [with] Thamud, who carved out the rocks in the valley? 10: And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes? – 11: [All of] whom oppressed within the lands 12: And increased therein the corruption. 13: So your Lord poured upon them a scourge of punishment.

14: Indeed, your Lord is in observation.
— translated by

There are several explanations for the reference to "Iram – who had lofty pillars". Some see this as a geographic location, either a city or an area, others as the name of a tribe. Those identifying it as a city have made various suggestions as to where or what city it was, ranging from Alexandria or Damascus to a city which actually moved or a city called Ubar.[3] As an area it has been identified with the biblical Aram, son of Shem and the biblical region known as Aram.[4] It has also been identified as a tribe, possibly the tribe of ʿĀd, with the pillars referring to tent pillars.[5]

"The identification of Wadi Rum with Iram and the tribe of ‘Ad, mentioned in the Qu’ran, has been proposed by scholars who have translated Thamudic and Nabataean inscriptions referring to both the place Iram and the tribes of ‘Ad and Thamud by name."[6]

According to some Islamic beliefs,[citation needed] 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

Radar imagery uncovered a city buried under sand in Oman.

In the early 1990s a team led 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.[7] Initially, NASA satellite photographs guided the team to a well known, and previously identified water hole at Shisr in Dhofar province.[8] However, excavations of the site uncovered a large octagonal fort with 10 foot high walls and 8 tall towers on the corners. A large portion of the fortress was destroyed when it collapsed into a sinkhole, thus germinating a legend amongst the superstitious tribes of the area.[9]

In fiction

The ruins of the Ubarite oasis and its collapsed well-spring


  • In Weaveworld (1987), by Clive Barker, one of the antagonists visits the Empty Quarter and finds what is presumably the magically restored ruins of Iram.
  • 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 of Omar Khayyam to describe the brevity of human endeavors.
  • H. P. Lovecraft places it somewhere near The Nameless City in his stories.[10] In "The Call of Cthulhu" (1926) it is the supposed base of the Cthulhu Cult.
  • Sean McMullen's story "The Measure of Eternity" (published in Interzone 205) is set in Ubar, describing it as the wealthiest city on earth.
  • In Tim Powers' supernatural novel Declare (2001), Wabar was a city inhabited by djinni and their half-human progeny, and was destroyed by a meteor strike.
  • James Rollins' novel Sandstorm (2004) 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.
  • "Iram" is the lost city where the Muslim hero Thalaba was kept safe in Robert Southey's Thalaba the Destroyer (1801)
  • "Wabar" appears in Josephine Tey's mystery novel The Singing Sands (1952), 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.

Video games

  • 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 video game Sunless Sea, a creation of Failbetter Games, Iram (here spelled "Irem") was somehow brought into the vast cavern beneath the earth where the game is set, and can be visited and explored by the protagonist. Its characteristic pillars are present in great quantity, and it maintains the warmth of its original environment even far from the sun.
  • In the video game Fallout 4, Ubar is mentioned in the journal of Lorenzo Cabot. He describes his journey to what he believes to be Ubar.

Tabletop role-playing games

  • 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.[citation needed]
  • In the Classic World of Darkness game line, specifically Vampire: The Masquerade, Ubar is believed by some to be the First City, Enoch, where the first vampire, Caine, became king over the mortals residing in the city. It is also here where he made his first progeny, the Second Generation, and where they created their progeny, the Antediluvians.


See also


  1. Glassé, Cyril; Huston Smith (2003). The New Encyclopedia of Islam (Revised ed.). AltaMira Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7591-0190-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Surat Al-Fajr [89:6–14] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 2013-08-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Noegel, Scott B (2010). The A to Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism. Scarecrow Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-8108-7603-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Al-Tabari (1999). Charles Edmund Bosworth, ed. The History of Al-Tabari: The Sassanids, the Lakhmids, and Yemen. State University of New York Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-7914-4356-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Glassé, Cyril; Huston Smith (2003). The New Encyclopedia of Islam (Revised ed.). AltaMira Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7591-0190-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Wadi Rum (Jordan)." International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Evaluation Report. May 2011. 11.
  7. Wilford, J.N., "On the Trail From the Sky: Roads Point to a Lost City", New York Times, 5 February 1992.[1]
  10. "The Nameless City". Mythos Tomes. Retrieved 2013-08-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links