Maarten Schäfer

In 1812 the Swiss traveller and orientalist Jean Louis Burckhardt was making his way from Damascus to Cairo dressed as a Muslim sheikh from India. In the area of Wadi Musa, in what is now Jordan, he overheard locals talking about an ancient city locked away behind an impenetrable mountain. He was dying to see it, but had to avoid looking suspicious: a true Muslim would consider such ruins to be the work of infidels and therefore uninteresting.

He told his guide he wanted to sacrifice a goat on Jebel Haroun, the biblical Mt. Hor where Moses’s brother Aaron was buried during the exodus from Egypt. His guide was suspicious but agreed to take him, leading him down a narrow gorge, the Siq, only to emerge at the foot of an ornate façade carved out of the sandstone cliff – the Treasury.

Burckhardt could hardly contain his excitement. He was…

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