List of Arabia Explorers

Jean Louis Burckhardt and Sir Richard Burton are well known as explorers of Arabia, but there are a handful of less known ones as well.  This list comes from the out-of-print Explorers of Arabia by Zahra Freeth and Victor Winstone:

Lodovico Varthema – c. 1470-1517, an Italian traveler and writer, the first European non-Muslim known to have entered Mecca as a pilgrim.

Joseph Pitts – a cabin boy captured by pirates, visited Mecca as a slave in the 1680s, then escaped to write a book: True and Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mohametans (1704).

Carsten Niebuhr – a German mathematician, cartographer, and explorer who joined the expedition which was being sent out by Frederick V of Denmark for the scientific exploration of Egypt, Arabia and Syria in 1761.

Jean Louis Burckhardt – (1784 – 1817) Among other things, rediscovered Petra.

Sir Richard F. Burton – (1821 – 1890) Traveled to Mecca in disguise.

William Gifford Palgrave (1826–1888) An Arabic scholar. [image: wikipedia]

Carlo Guarmani – born in Italy in 1828 and left for the East in 1850 where he worked for the Imperial French Postal Service and traveled extensively among the Bedouin tribes.  Wrote Al Kamsa: The Purebred Arabian Horse; a Study of Sixteen Years in Syria, Palestine, Egypt and The Arabian Deserts; Journey From Jerusalem to Northern Najd .

Charles Doughty – “He is best known for his 1888 travel book Travels in Arabia Deserta, a work in two volumes which, though it had little immediate influence upon its publication, slowly became a kind of touchstone of ambitious travel writing, one valued as much for its language as for its content. T. E. Lawrence rediscovered the book and caused it to be republished in the 1920s, contributing an admiring introduction of his own.”

The Blunts – Wilfrid and Lady Anne (1837 – 1917) – Arabian horses.

[image; wikipedia.  Lady Anne Blunt, in Bedouin attire, with her favourite riding mare, Kasida.]

2 Responses to “List of Arabia Explorers”

  1. Canehan Says:

    I have the two-volume Doughty. It’s an acquired taste. His writing is, to some, overly stylised Romantik, though what he went through was certainly not.

    I would submit another, more modern adventurer, the remarkable Norah Rowan-Hamilton. In 1928, in London, she decided to go to Petra. Although she had no qualifiations, she convinced the International Archeological Congress, then meeting there, to include her on their expedition to Petra, which had to go under armed guard because of the “restlessness” in the region.

    She then toured Syria alone on horseback, to see Palmyra, Baalbek, etc. She wrote “Both Sides of the Jordan” published in 1928, of which I found a copy some years ago.

  2. Nijma Says:

    I was just handling the two volume Doughty again yesterday at Powell’s Books by the U of C, but sighed and put it back on the shelf. I see google Books has the full view of Volume 2.

    and volume 1 in preview.

    Gertrude Bell (wiki)has always fascinated me.
    She reminds me of Kipling’s Mrs. Hawsbee, also of someone I used to know in Jordan. Maybe not a comfortable person to be around (although she was apparently well loved by the Bedouins) but definitely interesting to watch.

    …and of course I would love to be the one to write the sequel to all of those books…


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