Burckhardt, John Lewis

Burckhardt, John Lewis, an enterprising African traveler, is mentioned here because of the value of his travels to Biblical geography. The following account is taken from Chambers's Encyclopaedia. He was born at Lausanne, in Switzerland, Nov. 24,1784. In 1806 he came to London, and was introduced by Sir Joseph Banks to the African Association, which accepted his services to explore the route of Hornemann into the interior of Africa, and he embarked for Malta, Feb. 14, 1809. He had previously qualified himself for the undertaking by a study of Arabic, and also by inuring himself to hunger, thirst, and exposure. From Malta he proceeded, under the disguise of an Oriental dress and name, to Aleppo, where he studied about two years, at the end of which time he had become so proficient in the vulgar Arabic that he could safely travel in the disguise of an Oriental merchant. He visited Palmyra, Damascus, Lebanon, and other remarkable places, and then went to Cairo, his object being to proceed from thence to Fezzan, and then across the Sahara to Sudan. No opportunity offering itself at the time for that journey, he went into Nubia. No European traveler had before passed the Derr. In 1814 he traveled through the Nubian desert to the shore of the Red Sea and to Jeddah, whence he proceeded to Mecca, to study Islamism at its source. After staying four months in Mecca, he departed on a pilgrimage to Mount Arafat. So completely had he acquired the language and ideas of his fellow-pilgrims that, when some doubt arose respecting his Mohammedan orthodoxy, he was thoroughly examined in the Koran, and was not only accepted as a true believer, but also highly commended as a great Moslem scholar. In 1815 he returned to Cairo, and in the following year ascended Mount Sinai. The Fezzan caravan, for which he had waited so long, was at last about to depart, and Burckhardt had made all his preparations for accompanying it, when he was seized with dysentery at Cairo, which terminated his life in a few days, Oct. 15, 1817, at the early age of 33. As a holy sheik, he was interred with all funereal honors by the Turks in the Moslem burial-ground. His collection of Oriental MSS., in 350 volumes, was left to the University of Cambridge. His journals of travel, remarkable alike for their interest and evident truthfulness, were published by the African Association. Burckhardt was a man born to be a traveler and discoverer; his inherent love of adventure was accompanied by an observant power of the highest order. His personal character recommended him to all with whom he came in contact, and his loss was greatly deplored, not only in England, but in Europe. His works are: Travels in Nubia, 1819, — Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, 1822: — Travels in Arabia, 1829: — Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabis, 1830: — and Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, 1830.

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