Inside Egypt: The Harem, the Hovel, and the Western Construction of an Egyptian National Landscape

Lisa Pollard

in Nurturing the Nation

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780520240223
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520937536 | DOI:
Inside Egypt: The Harem, the Hovel, and the Western Construction of an Egyptian National Landscape

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Egyptian modernization and centralization produced certain characteristics as follows: (1) being monogamous; (2) bourgeois couples; and (3) single-family dwellings. Egypt's upper classes assumed marital and domestic relationships that separated them culturally from previous generations of Egyptian elites. But the European explorers kept on highlighting the polygamy of Egyptians, their practice of having extended families, their timeless domestic practices, and their strange sexual habits. This chapter considers the role of travel literature in the construction of Western visions of Egypt in the nineteenth century and its role in shaping the British administration's subsequent understanding of “the Egypt question.” While Europeans in art and travel literature from the nineteenth century depicted the region called Palestine as lacking in peoples and institutions, they reduced Egypt to stereotypes and generalizations. Images of Egypt as a country defined by the domestic habits and the sexual politics of the upper-class harem and the squalor of the peasants' hovel were instrumental to the British understanding of the territory they occupied in 1882, to their plans for Egypt's reform, and to their articulation of the terms of their ultimate withdrawal.

Keywords: European; Egypt; modernization; upper-class harem; reform

Chapter.  10799 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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