Travels in Syria, John Burckhardt

John Burckhardt, the Swiss explorer, stumbled upon Petra by chance in 1812. Until then, the city had been lost for centuries. Burckhardt lived and traveled in the Middle East for many years and was on a journey from Damascus to Cairo when he heard about Petra from local Bedouin. Known among the Arabs as Ibrahim ibn Abdallah, Burckhardt assumed the role of a Moslem in order to move about unexplored areas without arousing suspicion. Five years after the explorer’s untimely death in 1817, Burckhardt’s account of his Petra discovery was published in his book, Travels in Syria. Burckhardt is buried in the Moslem cemetery of Cairo; his tombstone is engraved, as he requested, with his Arabic name.