The Incense Road Header


Documentary Film based on Gibson's book: Qur'anic Geography


The Sacred City from Glasshouse Media on Vimeo.


Stops on the
Incense Road
Wadi Fiqreh
Wadi Arabah
Rekem, (Petra)
Wadi Rumm
Al Uyaynah
Northern Desert Trek
Meda'in Saleh
Southern Desert Trek
Marib (Saba)
Timna (Qatraban)
Further Information
The Incense Sea Route


The legendary city of Ubar was once a center of trade and wealth. According to legends and accounts by early historians, this city was fabulously wealthy as it was located on the overland incense trail.

One day, however, (as ledgend tells us) a prophet arrived on the scene and approached the last king of Ubar. This prophet foretold that the city and the entire civilization of Ubar would be destroyed by God, as punishment for their wicked living. The king ignored him and a short while later the city disappeared from historical record and was buried under the sands of the Empty Quarter of Arabia.

For centrueis, travelers in Arabia have looked for the lost city. Then, in February 1992 an article by John Noble was splashed across the front page of the New York Times, declaring that the lost city of Ubar had been discovered. This article was then relayed all around the world and excitment grew. "Guided by ancient maps and sharp-eyed surveys from space" the article claimed "archaeologists and explorers have discovered a lost city deep in the sand of Arabia."

The article claimed that a geologist and specialist in space remote-sensing technology from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California by the name of Dr. Ronald G. Blom, compared maps made by Ptolemy, the Roman historian, with photographs from Landsat space satellites. He hoped that he could identify sites that archeologists could later investigate on the ground. From the Landsat pictures, however, he discovered that there were no ruins of any ancient cities visible. However, because so little changes in the deserts of Oman and Yemen, he could see ancient paths and tracks in the desert. These tracks had persisted for a very long period, and after careful computer processing, the scientists were able to make them out on the Landsat pictures. The ancient tracks acted like a road map. The scientists assumed that where many tracks merged, an ancient city must exist. When the archeologists arrived at the spot that Dr. Blom had pointed out, they indeed discovered the ruins of a very ancient city in the deserts of Arabia. It is assumed that these ruins are the remains of ancient Ubar.

 Dr. Juris Zarins who was part of the expedition later commented: "The truth is, it was found by hard work, and excavation. The satellite imagery allowed us to eliminate sites so we could concentrate on the most probable areas." Ranulph Fiennes later published his account "Atlantis of the Sands" Bloomsberry 1992 (right) as an effort to correct this misrepresentation. The LandSat photos were helpful, but the camel caravan routes through the desert had been noted many years before. When they started digging at Shisr, near a Turkish fort, they began to uncover a large ancient structure. No one was sure what it was, until the article appeared the the New York times. Suddenly the world was convinced tht Shisr was Ubar. But is the academic world convinced? Todate, no one has published any proof that links the structure at Shisr with Ubar.

.To learn more about Shisr, click on the link below. Shisr