As a member of the Royal Danish Expedition to Arabia, Carsten Niebuhr is justly celebrated for his contribution to an understanding of the Arab world. But the most concentrated period of time he and the expedition spent together was not in Arabia at all. It was in Egypt. The sojourn in that country was an unexpected boon, Egypt not even appearing on the expedition's original itinerary. But what an opportunity it presented to an undertaking with an avowedly biblical purpose. When Niebuhr and his companions were detained for a year in Egypt in 1761-62, it was, after all, in a place that some have called the cradle of the Jewish people. Although Egypt had existed for millennia, with or without the Jews, the notion that its history served as little more than stage setting for the drama of mankind as played out in the Hebrew Scriptures was pervasive in eighteenth-century Europe. But freed for the year from the painstaking instructions of Professor Johann David Michaelis, the foremost biblical philologist of the eighteenth century and the expedition's prime mover, Niebuhr was able to approach the country with an open mind and in so doing made an early contribution to the nascent discipline of Egyptology.