Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (1784-1817) was born in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1806 he first travelled to Africa with an expedition that aimed to explore the continent’s inland. Three years later, he was in North Africa where he travelled widely disguised as an Arab. He became so fluent in Arabic dialects and customs that he was able to pass as an Arab merchant, gaining him access to Mecca in 1814, a city forbidden to non-Muslims.
Arabic Proverbs was originally compiled by Sheref Addin Ibn Asad in Cairo at the beginning of the 18th century. Burckhardt translation was first published in 1830 as he believed these sayings may ‘interest and gratify the Orientalist’. The work provides an intriguing insight into the mannerisms and customs of Egyptian people two-hundred years ago.