Desert Treasure

Atlantis of Sands


Possible remains of ancient desert city of Iram

          All of us have heard of Atlantis, the fabled lost city.  Was it just a city or perhaps a civilization, even a continent?  I enjoy watching documentaries on Atlantis.  However, have you ever heard of Atlantis of the Sands?

         I’m not sure when or how I first came across the term.  Just as we in the West often hear about Atlantis,  the nomadic peoples of the Arabian Desert for centuries have spoken of a long ago city of wealth that was has been lost to the desert.  A city whose people turned to pleasure and worldly desires, and in time became so evil that God had to punish them.  The legendary city was said to have been destroyed by some great disaster such as an earthquake.  This story has been passed on from generation to generation for hundreds of years in the Middle East.  The Koran mentions the city as Iram, Ubar, and Eruma.  In many ways the story sounds like Sodom and Gomorrah.       

          When I was about ten years old I watched the movie Lawrence of Arabia at the theater.  It has since become a classic.  It seemed a bit long and I did not quite understand what was going on but the music and the vast desert scenes intrigued me.  As the years went by I saw the movie a few more times and began to piece together that Lawrence was a British officer who encouraged the nomadic peoples of the Middle East to fight the Ottoman Turks during World War I.  The Ottoman Empire with its capital in Turkey had ruled the Middle East for many centuries but was on the decline.  Many of the Arabian peoples wanted their independence from the Ottoman Turks so the British used this strive to incite rebellion and fight against the Turks.  The Ottoman Empire was allied with Germany during World War I and the British were trying to weaken the Turks as well as the Germans in the sands of Southwest Asia.  Oil was beginning to play a major role in world politics and at the end of the war Britian would want a stronger strategic position in the Middle East.  It also wanted to prevent more Germany and Russian influence in the region. 

Lawrence of Arabia

            William Lawrence befriended the desert nomads to fight against the Turks.  He live like them, traveled extensively with them, tried to think like them, and also dressed like them wearing the long desert tunics and head gear as protection form the desert sun.  He seems to have been well recieved by the Arabian people.  He was also successful in helping the Arabians fight the Ottoman Turks.  After Germany lost the war, the Ottoman Empire collapsed.  Out of the Ottoman Empire many new countries were established such as Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Kuwait.  The British presence was also domonant in the region until the end of World War II when the British Empire began to shrink.  That is when America began to have more influence in the area, in large measure to keep the Russians out.   Lawrence of Arabia’s actions and success have obviously had lasting effects to this day.

            When Lawrence first hear the story about a lost city of the desert the people he was with called it Ubar.  He called it, “Atlantis of the Sands.”  That term will probably stick in Western cultures.  It was an interesting story but obviously revieced with much skepticism.  That is until about 80 years.later.  At the end of the 20th century NASA imaging radar helped locate a city in the southern Arabian Peninsula that had been swallowed by a desert earthquake almost 15 centuries ago.  Many believe this to be the fabled city of riches destroyed long ago.  Tales of legendary cities often have some basis in truth. 

Nasa imaging radar of Venus

          My mind does not do science as wellas I have aged.  The internet discusses Nasa imaging radar much better than I could ever explain so I yield to their expertise in explaining that topic better than I can.   The Arabian Desert still has a fascination to me.  I have done some desert hiking in the open spaces of West Texas.  Some were quite challenging but any of them would be minor compared to the vastness of the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula.  I have always wanted to do a camel trek but probably will never get around to doing one.

           I included Atlantis of the Sands in the board game Treasure Trove because it sounds intriguing, an element of adventure as you journey the world seeking lost fabled treasure.  Please visit our website at  


  On a footnote I occasionally will see a list surface in an editorial ranking the best movies of all time.  The movie Lawrence of Arabia is often in the top five.