Archaeological discoveries

Qidan, the legendary city of King Ad lost in the Arabian desert

Last updated:2022-07-25

What follows sounds like the plot of a classic adventure movie. but it is a real fact. A fact involved, in addition, in a controversy still to be fully clarified. But it has all the elements to be interesting :an exotic place, the discovery of a lost city, a war context, the controversy over the veracity of the matter...

In 1944, with World War II still unfinished, a cargo plane Lockheed Lodestar belonging to the RAF was flying over the Arabian Peninsula. He had departed from Salalah (southern Oman) and his destination was Muscat, but during the journey he lost some pieces and the pilot slightly changed his course initial East to try to reach the Sharjah air base, north of the current United Arab Emirates. Barely two hours had passed since takeoff, and yet that pilot found to his horror that only an endless ocean of sand lay beneath the plane. .

For a time he must have gone through the worst moments of his life, until finally, in the distance, he saw what looked like a small city . At least he wouldn't have to make an emergency landing in the middle of nowhere. He descended only a hundred and a half meters to find a place to perch... and then he realized that they were only ruins; many architectural structures but probably thousands of years old and, in any case, completely uninhabited. Interestingly, the strange city sat on top of a plateau which constituted by itself a splendid natural defense, on the very edge of the desert.

The plane had no choice but to continue its journey and, happily, managed to reach the base it was looking for. That flight, however, would bring a queue because, shortly after, an RAF officer who had met the pilot was seduced by his story and decided to launch in search of that mysterious city. His name was Raymond O'Shea and he already had a plan to occupy the time during his next imminent leave. Thus, in the company of a friend named Shultz, He prepared an expedition behind the back of his commander, got hold of a truck, hired some local guides, and set off on an adventure.

They passed through Sharjah, reached the oasis of Buraimi and, after leaving the vehicle, entered the burning desert camel back Trying to follow the route described by the pilot, they reached the oasis of Liwa and continued through huge dunes in a slow and difficult march. Finally, they spotted on the horizon what seemed to be an orographic elevation greater than those dunes and headed towards it. The last section was a colossal mountain of sand that they had to climb on foot, without the animals. But on the other side...

On the other side was his long-awaited target. In the center of the plateau was the city in question, semi-hidden because the top was not flat but somewhat concave by a depression in the ground. Quite a spectacle:buildings a hundred meters long, two large towers twelve meters high built with heavy stone blocks joined with mortar, streets and avenues half buried in sand... What an extraordinary city> was that?

O'Shea, who was obviously well versed in local history, assumed it was Qidan , the legendary lost city of King Ad, although he also thought of a settlement defensive of some nomadic tribe wishing to protect themselves from the warlike Bedouins of the region. In any case, after examining the place for a few hours, the two adventurers started back and, at the end of the war, O'Shea published a story entitled The Sand Kings of Oman in which he described his discovery, encouraging archaeologists to excavate the site.

Actually, the idea of ​​a forgotten city in the vastness of the desert was not new. There was a whole tradition of myths about it from a long time ago, gathered under the romantic name of Atlántida de las Arenas , as the famous Lawrence of Arabia baptized it and that it was believed lost due to having fallen into divine disgrace or due to some natural disaster. She was often identified with Ubar , a key location in the incense trade that, however, others consider a mere myth, although when it comes to remembering names, it is also necessary to resort to the Koran itself and its allusion to Iram de los Pilares.

Going back to Raymond O'Shea's adventure, practically nobody gave credit to his story. Many of the things he told did not coincide with what could be verified live:areas that he said were flat were nothing more than large dune systems, the distances traveled by camel seemed too short, the gallop towards the city when he said he had seen was impossible on the soft sand and even less on the crest of the dunes, the coordinates it provided were considered improbable regarding travel times and distances...

It only seemed to be good what was already known and, therefore, could not generate controversy:the starting point, the oases... Although O'Shea's location was quite exact (see the map he drew himself, in the previous image), twenty or thirty miles from Liwa and near what is now the Shaybah oil field, never found no trace of ruins or cities. Perhaps O'Shea made a mistake when calculating his position because, after all, the location instruments of that time were not as precise as they are now and the pilot himself admitted that he did not have a rigorous idea of ​​where he was.

Could current technology remedy these deficiencies and tell us where the mystery city is located? It is easier said than done, since finding some ruins - which would add up to just a few hundred meters and are probably buried in the sand - in the middle of a desert of half a million square kilometers is not without its difficulties, even with advanced satellites. Even so, you can see the glass half full:in 1992, after decades of unsuccessful attempts, scientific advances made it possible to discover the half-buried ruins of Shisr, which Nicholas Clapp, director of the archaeological mission, identified with the Ubar he mentioned earlier.

The truth is that, if its existence is true and not the result of the exhausted mind of a pilot and the imagination of an adventurer, Archeology has anotheraccount pending .