Two posts back I wrote on searching for Egypt in Paris this summer. The picture above is what I would have found had I done the same 118 years ago.
In 1900 Paris hosted the Exposition Universelle, a world’s fair, and its fifth such jamboree since 1855. It was intended to celebrate the coming of a new century. It introduced the world to art nouveau, and gifted the city the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, which stand beside the Seine until today. (The Eiffel Tower was the legacy of the previous 1889 Exposition). Among its other popular features were the foreign pavilions, each intended to celebrate their home nations. The Egyptian Palace was designed by French architect Marcel-Lazare Dourgnon, who, just a few years later, would win the commission for Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. It was a curious complex with a domed Mamluk madrassa in the centre flanked by two pharaonic temple facades. It was, apparently, very popular with visitors. Behind one of the pharaonic facades was a theatre with a show that featured a supposed 200 dancers. The theatre or cinema with an ancient Egyptian façade became something of a craze in the 1920s and ’30s, and I wonder if this is the protoype?
The Grand Palais, incidentally, also references Egypt in the gorgeous mosaic friezes that run under its colonnades.