Belgian expansionism and the making of Egyptology, 1830-1952

Quinet visiting the Cairo Zoo. Seeing tortoises as tourtoys.

Dr. Quinet, enjoying a ride on one of the tortoises of Cairo Zoo in 1902.

During their visits of Egypt, Belgian tourists were not only amazed by the architectural grandness of the pyramids and temple complexes, exotic fauna and flora also grasped their attention. Despite being indigeneous to the Seychelles instead of Egypt, Dr. A. Quinet his orientalist and exoticist fascination was surely fuelled when he saw a tortoise living in Cairo Zoo. In the account on the Egyptian adventures Chasses en Egypte of this Belgian ornithologist, naturalist and hunter one can for example read:

"And this is an Aldabra giant tortoise. She is believed to be 200 years old! She eats withered leaves and walks at ease carrying a person on her back. The small tour she made with me in her residence during which Dr. Arbel could take a photograph of us proves this."

Although it certainly looks like fun, the Pyramids and Progress team has one advice: do not try this at home.

31 Jan 2019 (10:39)