“In connection with world’s fairs, it was also hoped that the coming together of so many people from so many different nations and creeds would promote mutual respect and understanding.”
—Excerpt from Cairo in Chicago, by István Ormos
This book presents a detailed account of the Cairo Street exhibition in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Ormos, a professor of Semitic philology and Arabic, analyzes Cairo Street with a neutral lens, while previous academics solely viewed the exhibit as a reinforcement of imperialist, colonial and racist attitudes toward the East. Ormos paints a full picture of the exhibit with detailed explanations, from building construction and presentations of common activities in medieval Cairo to the belly dancers who were of North African origins. Even though Ormos highlights the positive cultural exchanges and learning opportunities Cairo Street offered, the often negative perceptions expressed in the contemporaneous letters, articles and photographs the author references make for a complex breakdown of an underrated cultural encounter.