Iram of the Pillars (Arabic: إرَم ذَات ٱلْعِمَاد, romanizedIram dhāt al-ʿimād; an alternative translation is Iram of the tentpoles), also called "Irum", "Irem", "Erum", or the "City of the pillars", is considered a lost city, region or tribe mentioned in the Quran.[1][2]

Iram in the Quran

The Quran mentions Iram in connection with ʿimād (pillars): Surah al-Fajr (6-14)[2]

89:6 Did you not see how your Lord dealt with ʿĀd
89:7 ˹the people˺ of Iram—with ˹their˺ great stature,
89:8 unmatched in any other land;
89:9 and Thamûd who carved ˹their homes into˺ the rocks in the ˹Stone˺ Valley;
89:10 and the Pharaoh of mighty structures?
89:11 They all transgressed throughout the land,
89:12 spreading much corruption there.
89:13 So your Lord unleashed on them a scourge of punishment.
89:14 ˹For˺ your Lord is truly vigilant.

There are several explanations for the reference to "Iram – who had lofty pillars". Some see this as a geographic location, either a city or an area, others as the name of a tribe.

Those identifying it as a city have made various suggestions as to where or what city it was, ranging from Alexandria or Damascus to a city which actually moved or a city called Ubar.[3][4][5] Ubar, according to ancient and medieval authors, was a land instead of a city.[6]

As an area, it has been identified with the biblical region known as Aram.[7] A more plausible candidate for Iram is Wadi Ramm in Jordan, as the Temple of al-Lat at the foot of Jabal Ramm has some ancient inscriptions mentioning Iram and possibly the tribe of ʿĀd.[8][9]

It has also been identified as a tribe, possibly the tribe of ʿĀd, with the pillars referring to tent pillars. The mystic ad-Dabbagh has suggested that these verses refer to ʿĀd's tents with pillars, both of which are gold-plated. He claims that coins made of this gold remain buried and that Iram is the name of a tribe of ʿĀd and not a location.[10] The Nabataeans were one of the many nomadic Bedouin tribes who roamed the Arabian Desert and took their herds to where they could find grassland and water. They became familiar with their area as the seasons passed, and they struggled to survive during bad years when seasonal rainfall decreased. Although the Nabataeans were initially embedded in the Aramean culture, theories that they have Aramean roots are rejected by modern scholars. Instead, archaeological, religious and linguistic evidence confirms that they are a North Arabian tribe.[1]

Iram in Western writings

Iram became widely known to Western literature with the translation of the story "The City of Many-Columned Iram and Abdullah Son of Abi Kilabah" in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.[11]

In 1998, the amateur archaeologist Nicholas Clapp proposes that Iram is the same as another legendary place Ubar, and he identifies Ubar as the archaeological site of Shisr in Oman.[12] His hypothesis is not generally accepted by scholars.[6][8] The identification of Ubar as Shisr is also problematic, and even Clapp himself denies it later.[13] Nevertheless, Clapp's theory is very influential in popular culture, and Ubar is vastly believed to be a synonym of Iram.

In fiction



See also


  1. ^ a b Glassé, Cyril; Smith, Huston (2003). "ʿĀd". The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman Altamira. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7591-0190-6.
  2. ^ a b Quran 89:6-14
  3. ^ Noegel, Scott B.; Wheeler, Brannon M. (2010). "Iram". The A to Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism. Scarecrow Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-8108-7603-3.
  4. ^ Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din. Al-Dur Al-Manthur (in Arabic) (2nd ed.). p. 347.
  5. ^ Ibn Asakir (1163). History of Damascus (Tarikh Dimashq) (in Arabic) (1st ed.). p. 218.
  6. ^ a b Edgell, H. Stewart (2004). "The myth of the "lost city of the Arabian Sands"". Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. 34: 105–120. ISSN 0308-8421.
  7. ^ Bosworth, C. E., ed. (1999). The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume V: The Sāsānids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen. SUNY Series in Near Eastern Studies. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-7914-4355-2.
  8. ^ a b Webb, Peter (1 June 2019), "Iram", Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Brill, retrieved 20 January 2024
  9. ^ Elmaz, Orhan (1 January 2017), "A Paradise in the Desert: Iram at the Intersection of One Thousand and One Nights, Quranic Exegesis, and Arabian History", To the Madbar and Back Again, Brill, pp. 522–550, ISBN 978-90-04-35761-7, retrieved 20 January 2024
  10. ^ Sijilmāsī, Aḥmad ibn al-Mubārak (2007). Pure gold from the words of Sayyidī ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz al-Dabbāgh = al-Dhabab al-Ibrīz min kalām Sayyidī ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz al-Dabbāgh. John O'Kane, Bernd Radtke. Leiden, the Netherlands. ISBN 978-90-474-3248-7. OCLC 310402464.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  11. ^ Burton, Richard Francis (1885). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. p. 135  – via Wikisource.
  12. ^ Clapp, Nicholas (1998). The Road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 278–279. ISBN 978-0-395-87596-4.
  13. ^ Blom, Ronald G.; Crippen, Robert; Elachi, Charles; Clapp, Nicholas; Hedges, George R.; Zarins, Juris (2007), Wiseman, James; El-Baz, Farouk (eds.), "Southern Arabian Desert Trade Routes, Frankincense, Myrrh, and the Ubar Legend", Remote Sensing in Archaeology, Interdisciplinary Contributions To Archaeology, New York, NY: Springer, pp. 71–87, doi:10.1007/0-387-44455-6_3, ISBN 978-0-387-44455-0, retrieved 20 January 2024
  14. ^ "The Atlantis of the Sands: the real myth behind Uncharted 3". PlayStation Universe. 26 October 2011.
  16. ^ "The Nameless City". Mythos Tomes. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  17. ^ Lovecraft, H.P. (2018). H.P. Lovecraft Selected Stories. London: William Collins. p. 117. ISBN 9780008284954.
  18. ^ Taylor, Bayard. "The garden of Irem". Poetry nook.
  19. ^ "ROUNDERHOUSE's Gold Proposal". The SCP Foundation.

Further reading