The Egyptian Lure: A Social History of Western Tourism at the Colonial Contact Zone in Egypt, 1905-21

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Wait, Elisabeth Shannon
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Scholarly discussion of tourism's role in modern Egypt is commonly reflected as a byproduct of orientalism and Egyptomania. While this is true, tourism's relationship with colonialism in the early twentieth century is underrepresented in scholarship. Modern tourism's origins in the elitist concept of the Grand Tour shaped nineteenth-century imperial travel in Egypt. Trade and expedition routes evolved into the modes of transportation for leisure that directly contributed to a new industry – mass-tourism. Using advertisements, guidebooks, and a society journal called The Sphinx, this thesis argues that the tourism industry in Egypt had a relationship with colonialism in two ways. First, health travel was a response to urbanization in European cities that drove tourists to visit Egypt. Cairo's crowded hotel industry pushed hoteliers to capitalize on the winter resorts in healthier areas such as Helwan. Climatology and the healing effects of Egypt's waters lured European tourists to Egypt in the early twentieth century. Second, there was a connection between tourism and international relations in Egypt. Cairo's tourism industry served as a colonial frontier and site of entanglement for soldiers, tourists, and Egyptians. Rooted in imperial travel, tourism infrastructure in Egypt served as the Allied Powers' defense during World War I. The British Empire converted cruise liners, sleeping cars, and hotels into hospitals in 1914 through the end of the war. Though mass-tourism ceased during the war, soldiers and diplomats occupied the hotels, bars, and restaurants. After the war, the British converted bomber airplanes into passenger saloons. Tourism's relationship with colonialism gives a new meaning to the politics of leisure in modern Egypt.