Monday, April 6, 2015
Mini Exhibit: Cairo in Chicago
“Street in Cairo” was one of the most popular attractions on the Midway of the World’s Columbian Exposition, held just a block from the University of Chicago campus in 1893.
The Egyptian attraction at the exposition was composed of “Street in Cairo” that replicated examples of architecture from the heart of the medieval city, including a mosque and a mausoleum. Adjacent to the Street was a recreation of part of the Luxor Temple with two soaring obelisks, one of which was inscribed in hieroglyphs with the name of president Grover Cleveland. Inside the temple (which required an extra admission charge) were educational exhibits including wax copies of the royal mummies.
But it was the Street rather than the temple’s displays that proved to be so popular. Over two and a quarter million people flocked to the donkey and camel rides, drank mocha in the café, shopped for Egyptian handicrafts and trinkets in the many shops, and watched the exotic dancers in the Egyptian theater. The Street in Cairo was described as “the liveliest, jolliest place” on the Midway. Unfortunately, many of the attractions served only to reinforce stereotypes about the Middle East and its people.
This selection of ephemera and photos from the fair shows the public's fascination for Egypt that continues even today. “Cairo in Chicago” is presented in conjunction with the exhibit A Cosmopolitan City: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Old Cairo.
The exhibit is curated by Tasha Vorderstrasse, PhD, Research Associate at the Oriental Institute.