“The entire Orient is before you: don’t look for machines here, or for the practical inventions of the human mind: you are in the domain of contemplative life: the agreeable precedes the utilitarian, and poetry is intricately mixed into the smallest detail of existence.” (Hippolyte Gautier)
The “Moresque” or “Moorish Town” created for the Paris Exhibitions of 1867 at the Champs de Mars and again in 1878 at the Trocadéro, hosted the pavilions for Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. At later exhibitions other facets of daily life and trade in the Arab World were suggested by the combination of these different pavilions. In keeping with the idea of the “Moorish Town”, but with a view to achieving greater historical authenticity, Delort de Gleon and M. Gillet created the first “Cairo Street” for the Paris exhibition of 1889 by reconstructing architectural features largely salvaged from demolished buildings. Mosques and minarets and houses with screened mashrabiyya
windows were reproduced accurately down to the tiniest decorative details. Apart from some inevitable issues with proportions, the “realer than real” “Cairo Street” was a huge success with the public. Although it existed within the abstract dimension of a set design, this did not prevent the street from becoming a must-see attraction and a spectacle for visitors at successive International Exhibitions.