Giovanni Battista Belzoni ranks as one of the most unexpected and fascinating of European travelers. With little formal experience and education, he managed not only to explore and document various parts of the Arab world, but also to carry out engineering and logistical feats that would have daunted even the trained professionals of his era. This fearless Italian was born in Padua in 1788. He was but one of fourteen children, and the son of a barber; finding few career prospects in his native city, he set out for Rome at the age of sixteen with the intention of pursuing a monastic career. The Church at least could offer him food, drink, and a roof over his head; and for a poor youth, these inducements were considerably attractive.