Who is Johann Ludwig Burckhardt?
A Swiss Born Explorer!
Burchardt was a respected scholar, educator, and explorer. Born from a wealthy merchant family in Lausanne Switzerland. Hey! exploration must be genetic! He was well educated, and prepared for his travels ahead by attending Cambridge University to study Arabic and Islam. After eight years of exploring the middle east Burchardt got food poisoning and passed away in Cairo, Egypt at 33.
An Egyptian Ruler, Muhammad ‘Ali Basha said Burckhardt had the “travelling madness.” What do you think? He certainly hung out with some pretty prestigious people!
Traveling as an Outsider was Dangerous!
Many locals looked upon European explorers as treasure hunters. If their identity were to be questioned, it usually cost them their lives. As a result Burckhardt assumed the alias Sheikh Ibrahim Ibn Abdallah and immersed himself in middle eastern culture. He dressed as the locals, became muslim and studied their culture for over two years in Aleppo, Syria before even beginning his middle east explorations! His studies and documentations made him an expert of the area.
Burckhardt wasn’t the only one to completely assimilate to the culture. Other explorers like Ulrich Jasper Seetzen also took on the clothing, language, religion, he even slept on the streets (Just as Burckhard did) as a beggar to see if he could pass for an out of luck local. This took years to master and even still, Jasper was poisoned to death. Which was a valid warning to future explorers who sought out the area like Burckhard. Traveling as a European was dangerous business!
The discovery of Petra started from a conversation Burckhardt had remembered when he traveled in Malta in 1809. On route to Cairo rumors of ruins amongst the locals piqued his curiosity, he persuaded a guide to take him to the temple so he could sacrifice a goat. Once he reached the temple he realized he just came across the Nabataean city of Petra. The last record of Europeans to this area were during the Crusades, a few hundred years earlier.
Burckhardt also Discovered Abu Simbel!
Five years later in 1813 Burckhardt was led by a local boy to the famous Temples of Abu Simbel!
Talk to The Locals, they Know EVERYTHING!
If you ask locals questions, you’re on your way to becoming a great explorer! More often than not, locals can tell you where to go! From amazing restaurants to hole in the wall hang outs and activities. Put on your explorer's cap and say hello. You might be surprised that you will enjoy something that is not on the itinerary. Plus you might make a friend or two!