This immense exposition recapitulates the entire world. . . . Dreamers of travels, those who are attached by the short chain of their jobs and who dream of excursions on the banks of the Nile or the Bosphorus . . . now have no reason to complain. If they cannot go to the Orient, the Orient has come to them.
L'Illustration, 20 July 1867
The second half of the nineteenth century was the time of universal expositions in the Western world. Beginning in 1851 in London, the exhibitions, held in many cities of Europe and North America, became, in the words of the historian Eric Hobsbawm, "great new rituals of self-congratulation," celebrating economic and industrial triumphs. These "new rituals" were directly linked to the dramatic transformation of the economic order. During the first half of the century, industrialization had developed more rapidly than the market for industrial products. With the advancement of modern communication systems, however, the capitalist economy grew to encompass the globe.
Imperialism and colonialism played crucial roles in this growth, redefining the global power structure and stimulating widespread interest in the non-Western world—now part of the universal economy. Aside from offering a market and rich sources of raw materials, the non-Western world also provided a supply of labor crucial to the new economic order. The advance of Western capitalism thus led to a much smaller world, one that was unified, if not equal. Simultaneously, the desire to maintain economic and political dominance called for better knowledge of subaltern peoples. While the Western world exported its industrial revolution to the rest of the globe, it also began to import information about other cultures.
Universal expositions represented this "single expanded world" in a microcosm, celebrating the products of industry and technological progress and displaying the entire human experience. Other cultures were brought piecemeal to European and American cities and exhibited as artifacts in pavilions that were themselves summaries of cultures. The experiential qualities of architecture—personal, intimate, and accessible to all—made it possible for exhibition buildings to offer a quick and seemingly realistic impression of the culture and society represented.
As early as the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, replicas of parts of well-
known buildings (such as the Alhambra) were displayed inside the main structure, the Crystal Palace; separate pavilions for different nations outside the main exhibition hall were first built for the Paris Universal Exposition of 1867. By gathering architectural pieces from all over the world, the fair grounds introduced the notion of an imaginary journey and created a new type of tourism, en place . Architectural displays became indispensable at every fair, setting the precedent for the "period room" and the "outdoor architectural museum."
The architectural representation of cultures at the world's fairs was double-sided, making a claim to scientific authority and accuracy while nourishing fantasy and illusion. The architectural critic Montgomery Schuyler argued on the occasion of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago that the buildings erected for the fairs belonged to a "festal" world and formed the "stage-setting for an unexampled spectacle." This was, he claimed, a world of dreams, and "in the world of dreams, illusion is all that we require."
In accord with the notion of the fair as a microcosm and an imaginary journey around the world, foreign and especially non-Western societies were often represented in phantasmagoric images, themselves determined by Western legacies. Even when the architecture purportedly demonstrated "scientific principles" (for example, the Ottoman pavilions in the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris), it was received as a dreamlike environment—the setting for fairy tales—because of preconceptions about other cultures that were well established by the nineteenth century. As Walter Benjamin remarked, "Tactile appropriation is accomplished not so much by attention as by habit. As regards architecture, habit determines to a large extent even optical reception."
This book examines the representation of Islamic cultures at the world's fairs of the nineteenth century, with a focus on architecture. The exposition buildings reflect sociopolitical and cultural trends crucial to an understanding of nineteenth-century transformations both in the West and in the world of Islam. For example, the placement of pavilions on the exhibition grounds revealed the world order as mapped by Western powers. The architectural styles of these pavilions embodied the colonizers' concept of Islamic culture as well as the struggle of certain Muslim nations to define a contemporary image, integrating historical heritage with modernization. How Westerners received these pavilions and how Western architects reinterpreted Islamic stylistic traditions, to-
gether with the impact such experiments made in urban centers like Istanbul and Cairo, shed light on the dominant attitudes in cross-cultural exchanges.
There are several reasons for choosing to study the representation of Islamic over that of other non-Western cultures. First, the world of Islam had been in contact and often in conflict with Europe over a period of thirteen centuries. Cultural and religious differences culminated in adversarial positions: Islam had come to mean the binary opposite of Europe. Looking at this adversarial relation in the world's fairs will enable a better understanding of an inherent contradiction: while claiming to be platforms for peaceful cultural communication, in reality the expositions displayed the entire nineteenth-century world according to a stratified power relationship. Furthermore, this choice allows for a more complex reading of the homogenized "Islamic" culture: because some Islamic nations were independent powers while others were colonies during this period, the architectural representation of Islam can be viewed from different perspectives.
Second, the issue of cultural self-definition for many Muslim societies during the nineteenth century is particularly interesting due to their struggle to balance modernization imported from the West with local values and forms. The struggle extends to the present day, and "modernity and change" are still debated fervently in all "Third World" countries. To analyze the controversy in its original terms, simplified and crystallized in the expositions, helps us to locate it historically.
Third, because the investigation of non-Western perspectives reveals "other ways" that issues were perceived and evaluated, it results in a more complex picture of a nineteenth-century world in which the West is not the only actor.
Fourth, and finally, examining the exchanges between Islam and the West acknowledges the existence of communication, discussion, and mutual recognition among these unequal partners, helping to refute the "silent" and "frozen" status given to Islam in Western discourse.
My goal is not to survey the nineteenth-century expositions but to focus on those where the architectural representation of Islam was significant. The expositions discussed at some length are the Expositions universelles held in Paris in 1867, 1878, 1889. and 1900; the 1873 Weltausstellung in Vienna, and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Each exhibition is associated
with specific architectural symbols, themselves often considered tours de force in nineteenth-century architectural history. The 1867 Universal Exposition is best remembered for its elliptical main hall, representing the globe, which was designed by Frédéric Le Play according to Saint-Simonian principles of universalism (see Fig. 18). The hybrid-style Trocadéro Palace, its central dome framed by two minaret-like towers, was the much-discussed hallmark of the 1878 exposition (see Fig. 34). Although this building was demolished in 1935, the new Trocadéro Palace erected on the site followed the outline of the original, engraving the mark of the 1878 fair on the Parisian topography. The centennial of the French Revolution, celebrated by the 1889 exposition, endowed Paris with its most renowned monument: the Eiffel Tower; the immense Galerie des Machines (demolished in 1910) boldly applied technological innovations to architecture. The 1900 exposition gave Paris two permanent monuments: the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. In Vienna, in 1873, the longitudinal exhibition hall, with its colossal central dome in iron, stood for the age of technology. Finally, the legendary White City of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition is considered the beginning of the City Beautiful movement. The discussion of two other expositions in this study, the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, relates Islamic influences to the work of two important architects, Owen Jones and Frank Furness.
At the outset, certain themes need clarification. Cross-cultural topics involve confronting the vocabulary of European scholarship that reaffirms false polaritIes. The positing of a dichotomy between non-Western (or Eastern, or Oriental) and Western (or Occidental) produces culturally meaningless entities like "Islamic civilization" or "Western civilization." I believe that introducing a cross-cultural dialogue disrupts this polar system and questions the validity of fixing cultural boundaries. Therefore, when I use these inevitable terms, my intention is to question their validity, not to divide the world into opposing and homogeneous compartments.
The world's fairs of the nineteenth century have been analyzed from various viewpoints that complement one another and reiterate the ideological import of the expositions. Contributions by scholars in the social sciences and humanities suggest both the vast potential of the topic and the usefulness of interdisciplinary research. Among recent publications, those of historians and
anthropologists stand out. Historians have focused on the materialism and consumerism of the fairs, have linked the fairs to the development of capitalism and imperialism (Greenhalgh, 1988; Rydell, 1984) as well as to political ideology and artistic expression (Silverman, 1977, 1989), and have discussed cultural representations as microcosmic spectacles (Mitchell, 1988). Art historians have looked at the role the exhibitions played in the art world (Mainardi, 1987; Gilmore-Holt, 1988). Anthropologists and ethnographers have analyzed the impact of their disciplines on the organization of the fairs (Benedict, 1983; Leprun, 1986) and have connected the notion of consumerism to the selling of ideas at the fairs (Benedict, 1983). Tying all these approaches together is the theme of the expositions as a neat ordering of the world according to classes, types, and hierarchies—a system inherited from the Enlightenment.
For architectural historians, the expositions provided laboratories for new architectural forms and compositions; indeed, no architectural account of the late nineteenth century would exclude the Eiffel Tower and the Galerie des Machines, embodiments of the new aesthetics of iron. To them the fairs also reflected changing trends in architecture. For example, the transition in stylistic expression from the Eiffel Tower and the Galerie des Machines to the neorococo Grand Palais and Petit Palais of the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition is often presented as key evidence of a return to classicism. In addition, the involvement of many prominent architects in these grand events helped to bring the expositions to the forefront of architectural history. Expositions, however, have rarely been studied in their entirety; instead, architectural historians have discussed the buildings in isolation or have looked at them in their immediate environments. The theme of the ordered world of the expositions, analyzed by historians and anthropologists, did not extend to the study of their architecture. Neither were the non-Western pavilions considered seriously until Sylviane Leprun's recent study, Le Théâtre des colonies (1986), which examines the displays of the French colonies in the expositions from 1855 to 1937.
The period covered in this study, 1867–1900, witnessed turbulent transformations in both the political and the cultural lives of the Islamic nations discussed here. Although confrontation with European powers underlay the changes
everywhere, the differences in historical conditions, political structures, economic resources, and geographical locations led to different results, which were also affected by the struggles between European nations themselves. The historical outline that follows is intended to remind readers of the key dates and events as well as the contextual differences.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire, once a major Mediterranean power that included the territories discussed here—Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia—was on the verge of disintegration, no longer able to defend itself against European military incursions. Among the crises the empire had faced were the Crimean War of 1854–56 and the revolt of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1876. In 1877, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania obtained their independence; in 1882, Britain occupied Egypt, an independent governance of the Ottoman Empire. As Ira Lapidus argues, only the rivalries between European powers delayed the partition of the empire during the last decades of the century. In effect, the Foreign Debt Administration, an organization formed in 1881 by the Western nations that had made huge loans to the Ottoman government, ruled the empire.
The Ottoman government, attempting to rejuvenate the Empire and to confront European advances on its own terms, had undertaken modernization programs as early as the last decade of the eighteenth century. Technical, administrative, legal, and educational reforms based on European models were pursued during the nineteenth century, culminating in the declaration of the Turkish republic in 1923. A crucial debate—as reflected in Young Ottoman thought in the 1860s—was how to balance European norms and forms and Ottoman traditions.
The sultans who guided the Ottoman participation in universal expositions were Abdülaziz (1861–76) and Abdülhamid II (1876–1909). Whereas Abdülaziz enthusiastically supported Westernizing reforms, Abdülhamid's reign was characterized by a return to Islamic ideals on the one hand and a continuation of change and reform on the other. Under Abdülaziz an industrial exhibition was organized in Istanbul in 1863, and major Ottoman displays were assembled in Paris in 1867 (Abdülaziz himself visited this exposition) and in Vienna in 1873. During the thirty-two-year-long reign of Abdülhamid II, the Ottoman Empire participated in the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris; ambitious plans to hold a
similar event in Istanbul in 1894 fell apart because of financial problems resulting from a major earthquake that heavily damaged the city.
Although under Ottoman suzerainty since 1517, Egypt acquired a semiautonomous status in 1805, when Muhammad 'Ali was appointed governor; this status lasted until 1882, the date of the British occupation. Muhammad 'Ali initiated a series of military, economic, and administrative reforms, relying on the expertise of French and Italian advisers. These reforms were followed by legal and educational transformations and the development of infrastructure (the construction of railroads, the Suez Canal, cities, etc.) under Isma'il Pasha (1863–79), paralleling the changes promoted by the Ottoman rulers in Istanbul. In 1867, the Ottoman sultan conferred on Isma'il Pasha the title of khedive, giving him a special position in the empire and allowing him to sign independent technical and economic agreements with foreign powers. Using this capacity, Isma'il Pasha appealed to European leaders for large loans to finance his projects, and like the Ottoman government, he soon lost control over finances. In 1875, a debt administration under British-French control was established, and in 1882 the British occupied Egypt in the name of the bondholders.
Egypt under Isma'il Pasha built an extensive compound for the Parisian exposition of 1867, which Isma'il Pasha, like Abdülaziz, visited. Egyptian pavilions appeared again in Vienna in 1873 and in Paris in 1878, but finances considerably restricted the lavishness of the displays. When the country was appended to the British Empire in 1882, private enterprise undertook the design and execution of the pavilions at the universal expositions.
Algeria, within the Ottoman imperial boundaries since 1529, had maintained its territorial identity and was ruled by a small group of Ottoman military officials until 1830, when the French occupied Algiers. From 1830 to 1890, the French gradually took control of the entire country, defeating a series of regional resistance movements. The first uprising, headed by 'Abd al-Qadir, lasted from 1832 to 1841 in western Algeria. Sporadic revolts followed, culminating in the massive but unsuccessful revolt in 1870–71, led by a tribal chief, al-Muqrani. Following the defeat of al-Muqrani, Algeria was incorporated into France and its administration was reorganized into three departments. Nevertheless, a civil governor-general maintained his authority over the entire country.
Conflicts between the Algerians and the French did not affect France's pre-
sentation of Algeria in the universal expositions as one of its most consolidated colonies. Algeria was always given a prominent location and an elaborate palace whose displays depicted a rich country, well integrated into the empire, whose culture enriched the dominating culture. The French presented the Algerian pavilions in Islamic styles even when in Algeria this heritage was being oppressed.
Tunisia, captured by the Ottomans in 1574 and made a province of the empire, maintained a semi-autonomous political structure like that of Egypt through most of the nineteenth century. Sharing the problems of the Ottoman Empire and Egypt in the face of the growing economic might of Europe, Tunisia similarly attempted a series of Westernizing reforms. Ahmad Bey (1837–55) and Khayr al-Din (1873–77) are particularly notable for their modernization efforts. Ahmad Bey, who was deeply influenced by Muhammad 'Ali of Egypt and whose ideal was Napoleon, began his reign by creating a new army, followed by an industrialization program to help equip the military. Khayr al-Din pursued the reforms begun under Ahmad Bey in administration, finance, education, and urbanism.
French involvement in Tunisian affairs increased as Tunisia modernized. This is perhaps best illustrated by the current bey Muhammad al-Sadiq's submission of the Tunisian constitution to Napoleon III for his approval in 1860. Using border disputes as a pretext, the French occupied Tunisia in 1881.
Tunisia's displays in the world's fairs were staged by the independent beys in 1867 and 1878 in Paris and by France in 1889 and 1900 after Tunisia became a colony. The dramatic shift in political structure did not, however, affect the pattern of architectural representation. The colonial officers chose to repeat the Islamic imagery of the earlier expositions; French architects designed the displays, reflecting the model set by the Algerian pavilions. In its historical references this architecture addressed the concern to preserve tradition.
Unlike other North African countries, Morocco never became part of the Ottoman Empire. As an independent state, its power was divided between the sultans in the urban areas and the tribal and Sufi leaders in the countryside. But Morocco did not escape the fate of other North African countries in the nineteenth century. As European trade increased, Moroccan industries could not compete with those of Europe, and the opening of the Suez Canal and the French expansion into West Africa made the main trade routes through Mo-
rocco obsolete. To remedy this situation, Sultan Hasan (1873–95) introduced military, administrative, and infrastructural reforms. These proved less successful than in other parts of the Islamic world largely because of the strong opposition of the religious and political elites, who believed the reforms infringed on religious law. The conflict between the sultan and the regional leaders and the resulting loss of central control facilitated French colonization between 1899 and 1912. Morocco's presence at the world's fairs reflected its unstable status: architectural scale and ambition were modest, and the pavilions mimicked those of other Muslim nations.
Iran's political status during the second half of the nineteenth century resembled that of the Ottoman Empire: both were sovereign, but each was also increasingly under European control. In the weak centralized regime of the Qajar dynasty that ruled Iran from 1779 to 1925 the religious establishment had a great degree of independent power. European incursions into Iran were military during the first half of the century, carried out by Russia in the north and the British Empire in the east; later, however, the same powers intervened economically. As elsewhere, exposure to Europe stimulated the modernization of the state apparatus as well as the military and the educational system. The reform movement was led by a new group of Westernized intellectuals who believed that only by modernizing could Iran resist foreign control.
In spite of these developments, Iran's cultural contacts with Europe were more restricted than those of other Muslim countries, which were geographically closer to Europe and had a history of continuous contact with the West. Accordingly, Iran's representation at the world's fairs did not reach the sumptuous scale of the Ottoman participation, for example. When Iran took part, its displays summarized the country's culture, albeit modestly, by architectural reference to its most glorious building era—the seventeenth century, under the Safavid dynasty.
Search for a Cultural Image
Many scholars, rejecting the definition of culture as the fixed attributes of a particular society, now focus instead on the dynamics through which cultures are "constructed" by those who define them. For example, in 1986 James
Clifford argued that cultures do not have a "scientific" objectivity; they are "produced historically." Several years earlier, Roy Wagner, analyzing the position of the anthropologist vis-à-vis his research topic, claimed that the anthropologist "invented" the culture he studied on the basis of his own culture: "enveloped in his own world of meanings," he made analogies or "translations" from one culture to the other. In the early 1970s, John Berger elaborated a similar point, applying the idea of studying "culture through culture" to the way we see things: "We never look at one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves."
Accepting Wagner's broad definition of culture as a term that "attempts to bring men's actions and meanings down to the most basic level of significance, to examine them in universal terms in an attempt to understand them," I will survey the dynamic reformulation of Islamic culture by discussing late nineteenth-century Muslim thought in relation to the representations at the world's fairs. Even as many Muslim nations accepted European supremacy and attempted to remodel their institutions according to Western precedents, they were also searching for cultural identity under the strong impact of European paradigms. Because Europe represented the technologically advanced, "scientific" world, its "record" of another culture carried authority. It is not surprising, therefore, that the European cultural image of Islam formed an important element, and often the foundation, of the new self-definition.
Europe's own norms and values had determined the image of an "Orient" in response to the European agenda, and the Orient had become the negative image of post-Enlightenment Europe. In European discourse Islam was repeatedly characterized according to the preoccupations of Europe (or of anywhere else, for that matter): power, sex, and religion, linked by violence and tyranny. European and Islamic cultural systems were juxtaposed and described as diametrically opposed to each other in these areas. Islamic countries in turn focused on the same attributes in their self-definitions: when invited to represent themselves through architecture in the universal expositions, they repeatedly depicted the mosque and the sultan or bey's residence as prototypical. The mosque was the setting for religious practices and the residence displayed the realm of the political ruler, his power, his lifestyle, and, perhaps most intriguingly, his subordination of women.
Yet European paradigms were not simplistically appropriated; they were often filtered through a corrective process, which reshaped them according to self-visions and aspirations. Another reference to architectural representations in the world's fairs may help to explain: the Ottoman pavilions in the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris highlighted the rationalist principles of composition in Ottoman monuments rather than their decorative programs—the obsessive focus of European interest. Aside from illustrating the continuous redefinition of cultures, such specific cases suggest that different Islamic societies need to be considered, "each within its particular agendas and pace of development, its own formations, its internal coherence and its system of external relations." At the same time, applying a "contrapuntal perspective" to such specific experiences yields a better understanding of their "overlapping and interconnected" histories.
World's fairs were idealized platforms where cultures could be encapsulated visually—through artifacts and arts but also, more prominently, through architecture. The debates on architectural imagery thus became closely intertwined with redefinitions of local cultures. I will look briefly at the dominant trends among the Muslim intelligentsia in the 1860s, when Islamic nations first participated on a large scale in the world's fairs, beginning with the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris. The colonial discourse associated with the cultural representation of the occupied territories is not included here, however, because its subject was the consolidation of foreign control and its arguments were embedded in the culture of the "mother country," in this case, France.
I will attempt to correlate nineteenth-century thought in the Middle East and North Africa with the architectural imagery of the universal expositions with reference to the writings of three leading intellectuals from three different regions: Ibrahim Sinasi (1826–1871) of Istanbul, Rifa 'a al-Tahtawi (1801–1873) of Cairo, and Khayr al-Din of Tunis (1820/30–1889). All had lived in Paris for extended periods, and each one had been exposed to French intellectual and political life, which became a key factor in the evolution of his thought.
The historian Albert Hourani argues that the Young Ottomans in the 1860s used Islamic ideas to explain and legitimize the modernization of Ottoman institutions along European models by emphasizing the high morality of Islam and by claiming that progress meant a "return to the true spirit of Islam."
Ibrahim Sinasi, the founder of this movement, was one of the champions of Westernization among the Ottoman intelligentsia. Reversing the Islamic concept of moving from faith to reason, he argued that the "soul . . . was chiefly guided by reason" and that religion was achieved through reason. But reason was not an end in itself for Sinasi; it was a means to civilization, which he described in religious terms. For example, he referred to Mustafa Resit Pasa, a leading reformer, as the "prophet of civilization" (medeniyet resulu ), his time as "the time of felicity" (asr-i saadet ), and his physical existence, his body, as a "miracle" (mucize ).
Civilization, the religion of the new age, also had its scripture—the book of laws in which its values, such as justice, rights, and ethics, were registered—and its promise of redemption: it would free mankind from oppression, slavery, and ignorance. Sinasi talked about a "new man," a man of the age of reason, characterized more by universal attributes than by national ones. Indeed, Sinasi's goal was a worldwide civilization whose nations would serve and enlighten humankind and therefore contribute to "progress." Ottoman society would form a bridge between Europe and Asia, where "Asia's wise (old) reason (Asya'nin akl-i piranesi ) would meet with "Europe's young ideas" (Avrupa'nin bikr-i fikri ).
The Ottoman intelligentsia derived their concept of a universal civilization centered in Europe (and, for many, in Paris) from the French social philosopher Saint-Simon and his followers. Many Ottoman displays in the world's fairs underlined the participation of Ottoman culture in world civilization: the universal qualities of Ottoman architecture were emphasized to show how these might be incorporated into the repertoire of a contemporary architecture; artistic and industrial products were often presented with a similar intent: to link the empire to the European community.
Al-Tahtawi, one of the most influential figures in the cultural reformation of Egypt under both Muhammad 'Ali and Isma'il Pasha (he was directly involved in educational reform and in the translation of major French texts into Arabic), focused at length on a cultural definition of Egypt within a broader framework of world civilizations and history. In an early work, Takhlis al-ibriz fi talkhis Bariz (The refinement of gold—summary of Paris), published in 1834 by order of Muhammad 'Ali, al-Tahtawi divided humanity hierarchically into savages, barbarians, and the civilized. Like Europeans, many Muslims belonged to the
third group, defined as "the people of morality, refinement, sedentary life, life in towns and great cities." If Europeans in this group were more advanced in science and technology, Muslims had the shari'a (divine law), the source of wisdom and social order; by studying European achievements, Muslims would overcome their inequality. Thus Egypt would become more civilized as a result of frequent contact with Europe—a notion that Muhammad 'Ali and Isma'il Pasha fully accepted. Al-Tahtawi's concept of civilization was broad based, ranging from infrastructure (roads, modern ports, canals, railroads, etc.) to administrative and political institutions to education. Isma'il Pasha, satisfied with the progress registered in these areas, declared during his visit to Paris in 1867: "For thirty years, the European influence has transformed Egypt; now . . . we are civilized."
This rapprochement with Europe did not mean a loss of cultural identity, however. On the contrary, the notion of watan (fatherland, patrie ), as opposed to the concept of umma (the large body of believers), appeared in political and intellectual discourse around this time, contributing to the Egyptian struggle for autonomy from the Ottoman Empire. Curiously enough, Egypt's new rulers were dusting off Napoleon's goal of returning Egypt to civilization and endowing it with its own cultural identity by dissociating it from the Ottoman system. For al-Tahtawi, watan was a place with a glorious history, a place he was proud to be associated with. In his concern to create a distinct national history, al-Tahtawi became the first Egyptian historian to embrace Egyptian antiquity as a glorious part of the country's past, when Egypt was the "mother" of civilization.
Al-Tahtawi's first volume on the history of Egypt, Anwar Tawfiq al-jalil fi akhbar Misr wa tawthiq bani Isma'il (The radiance of the sublime Tawfiq in the history of Egypt and the descendants of Isma'il), published in 1865, dealt with the period from the ancient kingdoms to the Arab conquest, reflecting the work of Egyptologists—among them Jean-François Champollion and Auguste Mariette, the first considered the father of Egyptology, the latter a main actor in determining Egyptian representations in the universal expositions in 1867 and 1878.
Al-Tahtawi analyzed both the great achievements and serious setbacks of Egypt after the Arab conquest. For example, although the first caliphs brought a renewal of civilization, the Mamluk beys impeded Egypt's development with
their "pagan furor," their "racial and clanish solidarity," and their disregard of "progress and civilization"; their defeat by Muhammad 'Ali finally opened the era of progress. Nevertheless, Arab culture played a great role in the history of "civilization," and Islam would continue to define nineteenth-century Egypt, which would be simultaneously Egyptian, Muslim, and modern (hence civilized according to European norms). As we will see in chapters 3 and 4, this tripartite definition informed the architectural representation of Egypt in the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris, where one pavilion was devoted to Egyptian antiquity, another to the Arab past, and a third to the modern era—clad in an Islamic image.
The Tunisian statesman Khayr al-Din's proposals for progress followed European models yet were justified and explained by Islam and exemplify the widespread struggle between modernity and tradition among Muslim intelligentsia in the late nineteenth century. Khayr al-Din's important book, Aqwam al-masalik li-ma'rifat ahwal al-mamalik (The surest path to knowledge concerning the conditions of countries) was published in Arabic in 1867; only one year later a French translation (done under the supervision of the author) appeared in Paris. The book thus addressed two major audiences: Muslim political and religious leaders who opposed changes according to European models and European statesmen who considered Islam an obstacle to progress. As a statement about the present condition of Muslim countries that explained their history and speculated on their potential, the French edition played a role similar to that of the exposition pavilions abroad.
In the introduction to his English translation of The Surest Path, the historian Carl Brown condensed Khayr al-Din's argument into three points: Europe's progress was not linked to Christianity, and hence Islam was not a hindrance to advancement; the reforms Khayr al-Din proposed were in accordance with Islam; and institutions and ideas similar to those in nineteenth-century Europe could be seen in Islamic countries in other periods. The book itself describes European technology and inventions at length, focusing on the knowledge that could be easily grasped and applied; it omits descriptions of wonders or accounts of daily life in Europe.
It is in this context that Khayr al-Din discussed universal expositions as platforms where "whoever invented[ed] something new or concern[ed] himself with any kind of beneficial work" got public attention; such exposure formed
"one of the reasons for [European] progress." The organization of the expositions into buildings designated for similar sorts of industries and merchandise, the prizes and decorations, and, ultimately, the attendance of kings and other "men of state" at these events promoted industrial and technological development. Khayr al-Din believed that by understanding and applying European mechanisms for rewarding individual initiative, the lands of Islam could achieve progress.
Khayr al-Din argued that Muslim nations could both accommodate modernization and maintain their cultural identity. Although he did not dwell on cultural issues, he based his plan for Islamic societies on historical continuity. Unlike al-Tahtawi, Khayr al-Din did not envision national cultures and civilizations, nor did he subscribe to the notion of watan . On the contrary, his propositions were never specific to a locale, and his emphasis was always on umma, most likely because of his concern for the integrity of the Ottoman Empire against European expansion.
The first three chapters of this book cover the Islamic displays at world's fairs in Europe and America. Chapter 1 discusses the presence of Muslims at the expositions in the ethnographic displays of indigenous peoples, in the official visits of Muslim rulers, and in the visits of individuals. Chapter 2 examines the site plans of the expositions as diagrams of the prevailing power relations and focuses on the grouping of Islamic pavilions. Chapter 3 surveys the main pavilions of Islamic nations, analyzing their stylistic qualities in the broader context of the nineteenth-century search for cultural self-definition.
Chapters 4 and 5 trace the impact of the architecture of these Islamic pavilions. Chapter 4 looks at two Ottoman expositions in Istanbul and at the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt, all influenced by Western expositions. Chapter 5 relates exposition architecture to Islamic architectural theory and practice and discusses the interpretations of Islamic architecture by leading Western architects. Finally, the Epilogue brings the themes of the book to the present day.