Experts are confused by a series of spontaneous car engine explosions, apparently caused by tampered fuel supplies. Political tensions heighten, leading the world to the brink of war, and Captain Haddock is mobilised in anticipation of an outbreak of hostilities. Following different leads, Tintin and Thomson and Thompson set off for Khemed (a fictional country in the Middle East) on board a petrol tanker. Upon arrival, the three are framed and arrested by the authorities under various charges. The Thompsons are cleared and released, but Tintin is kidnapped by Arab insurgents (In the original version of the story he initially arrived in the port of Haifa in British Palestine and was first kidnapped by members of the Irgun, before being subsequently abducted by Arabs.
In the course of his adventures, Tintin re-encounters an old enemy, Dr. J.W. Müller whom he sees sabotaging an oil pipeline. He reunites with the Thompsons and eventually arrives in Wadesdah, the capital of Khemed, where he comes across his old friend, the Portuguese merchant Senhor Oliveira da Figueira. When the local Emir Ben Kalish Ezab’s young son, Prince Abdullah, is kidnapped, Tintin suspects that Müller, who is masquerading as an archaeologist under the name of Professor Smith is responsible. He pursues Müller in hopes of rescuing the prince and in the process discovers the doctor to be the agent of a foreign power responsible for the tampering of the fuel supplies.