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British Explorer To Search For Lost City In Arabia

July 16, 1990

MUSCAT, Oman (AP) _ A 10-man team of British and American explorers has begun a search for the lost city of Ubar, which is believed to have been swallowed by shifting Arabian sands 2,000 years ago.

The team, headed by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, arrived Sunday and will explore the southern reaches of the vast Rub al-Khali, or Empty Quarter, desert.

Ubar is described in the Koran, Islam’s holy book, as ″a many-columned city ... whose like has never been built in the whole land.″

The city is also mentioned in the ″Arabian Nights″ as famous for its lavish royal court, lush palm groves and fine camels and horses.

Other references in ancient texts place it close to the frankincense groves of southern Arabia and describe it as a great caravan trade center.

It is believed to have disappeared during a severe sandstorm in 30 B.C.

The six-day reconnaissance for the ancient city was to begin today.

Fiennes said he first reconnoitered the desert 22 years ago when he was a British Army captain attached to the Omani Army.

Researchers have pinpointed eight likely locations for the lost city. These are based on space technology data supplied by NASA, as well as on medieval Arabic texts and travelers’ tales from the early 20th century.

Remote sensing by sand-penetrating radar aboard the U.S. space shuttle Challenger in 1984 indicated the existence of a buried roadway stretching for 60 miles in the desert north of Oman’s westernmost Dhofar province.

Geologists at the U.S. Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., also observed features they believe may be caused by a buried site.

Guided by light aircraft, Fiennes’ exploration team will use desert vehicles to traverse the Rub al-Khali dunes, which rise more than 600 feet.

The ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, has ordered his desert-trained police to assist and if the lost city is located, it will be excavated under the auspices of Oman’s antiquities department.

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