Iram of the Pillars (Arabic: إرَم ذَات ٱلْعِمَاد, Iram dhāt al-ʿimād), also called "Irum", "Irem", "Erum", "Ubar", or the "City of the pillars," is a lost city, region or tribe mentioned in the Qur'an.
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. As an area it has been identified with the biblical Aram, son of Shem and the biblical region known as Aram. It has also been identified as a tribe, possibly the tribe of ʿĀd, with the pillars referring to tent pillars.
"The identification of Wadi Rum with Iram and the tribe of ‘Ad, mentioned in the Qur’an, has been proposed by scholars who have translated Thamudic and Nabataean inscriptions referring to both the place Iram and the tribes of ‘Ad and Thamud by name."
According to some Islamic beliefs, King Shaddad defied the warnings of the prophet Hud and Allah smote the city, driving it into the sands, never to be seen again. The ruins of the city are thought to lie buried somewhere in the sands of Al-Rub' al Khali (The Empty Quarter). Iram became 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.
In 1992 Ranulph Fiennes wrote a book called Atlantis of the Sands about a legendary lost city in the southern Arabian sands, claimed to have been destroyed by a natural disaster or as a punishment by God. Various names have been given to it including Iram.
Archaeologist Juris Zarins discussed Ubar in a 1996 interview saying “There's a lot of confusion about that word. If you look at the classical texts and the Arab historical sources, Ubar refers to a region and a group of people, not to a specific town. People always overlook that. It's very clear on Ptolemy’s second century map of the area. It says in big letters "Iobaritae". And in his text that accompanied the maps, he's very clear about that. It was only the late medieval version of One Thousand and One Nights, in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, that romanticised Ubar and turned it into a city, rather than a region or a people."
By 2007, following further research and excavation, a study authored in part by Zarins could be summarised as follows:
There are many Hadiths about Iram, with one being the story of 'Abdullah bin Qalabah, who lost his camel and found Iram of the Pillars while searching for his camel. The story has been rejected by some Islamic scholars who said that the story is an Isra'iliyyat Hadith and that is because Ka’b al-Ahbar was Jewish before he converted to Islam and he was accused by some scholars of narrating Isra'iliyyat stories.