Cairo in Chicago: Cairo Street at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 (Hardcover)
Built as a temporary structure and made of ephemeral materials, Cairo Street had a dual nature. On the one hand it was a purely scientific installation, a piece of anthropology. On the other, it became the most popular entertainment venue at the World's Columbian Exposition of Chicago (1893), a place where people went wild with excitement. Far from being a copy of any actual street, it was an assemblage of authentic architectural elements put together in such a way as to conjure up the atmosphere of the Arab-Islamic metropolis, the city of the Thousand and One Nights. Its impact was greatly enhanced by the presence of local Cairo inhabitants, who plied their trade, some of them with their camels, donkeys, monkeys, and even snakes. The belly dancing on Cairo Street caused an enormous stir: many claimed that it was immoral and called for its immediate suspension; others regarded it as a performance of important scientific and ethnological value. It was never suspended-and people flocked to see it. An immense amount has been written about world's fairs. This monograph represents a novel approach in that it subjects a single project, the Cairo Street, to detailed analysis, placing particular emphasis on interpreting it within the context of the Fair as a whole. What was the great uproar about the belly dancing? What motivated it? In order to answer these questions, this monograph attempts to offer a complex, multi-faceted, interpretation within the context of the society of the time. Cairo Street was the sensation of the World's Columbian Exposition, a fair which many sold their stoves, mortgaged their houses, spent their life savings or their funeral money to see. This monograph is enhanced with a ground plan and 168 illustrations.