A series by Gisela Graichen
On the trail of explorer Alexander von Humboldt one discovers the secrets of a sacred mountain, searches for the origin of a deadly virus or the ruins of a lost civilization.
Atlantis der Wüste
As the saying goes: when God divided the world into earth and sea, he left the Arabian Peninsula as Rub ‘Al-Khali, as an empty centre – uninhabitable and impenetrable. The Sultanate of Oman is situated in the extreme southeast of the Arabian peninsula at the edge of the Empty Quarter. Large parts of the country consist of desert and barren mountains. Life there is only possible in oases. Neither the extreme differences in temperature – 50 degrees in the shade during the day and minus 10 degrees at night – nor the barely measurable precipitation could drive out the inhabitants of the oases. On the contrary, the oases of Oman developed into thriving cities. The Tübingen-based Islamic scholar Professor Heinz Gaube and architectural historian Professor Michael Jansen from the Technical University of Aachen are searching for the secret of the oases of Rub’Al-Khali. How could such a rich and powerful culture emerge there under such hostile conditions? One of the most famous oases was already mentioned in the Quran, the city of Ubar, which Lawrence of Arabia called “the Atlantis of the desert” and medieval authors compared with paradise. Satellite images reveal ancient caravan routes which met at a certain point. Under the sand they found the remains of a large settlement. Were these the remains of the famous Ubar, which was destroyed in 300 AD? A chance discovery brought Gaube on the right track: in a dilapidated ghost town, he found more than 8,000 letters from the early 19th century, the complete correspondence of the Sheikh Murzin al Abri, then the sheikh of the oasis.