Sunday, November 27, 2005

An Obelisk for Central Park

A fascinating article written by Edmund S. Whitman on the Travellers in Egypt website, telling the full story of the Egyptian obelisk that stands in New York's Central Park: "Shortly after the Suez Canal Inaugural of 1869, the Khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, had a conversation with William Henry Hurlbert, editor of the New York World. Hurlbert was an ardent advocate of closer Egyptian-American relations and he knew that the Khedive was keen to move Egyptian cotton onto the markets of the West. With cotton production in the Southern States still paralyzed following the Civil War, this might be an auspicious moment for the Khedive’s vessels to start moving cotton in New York harbor.

'A great way to open the harbor and the hearts of New York would be for Your Highness to present America with an Egyptian obelisk. After all, both London and Paris have been so honored.'
'There is no insurmountable obstacle to preclude such a gift. Have you a particular obelisk in mind?'
'Forgive the pun, Your Highness – but any old obelisk will do. There’s one hanging over the seawall in Alexandria for instance. It could readily be moved.'
'Ah yes. The so-called Cleopatra’s Needle. Yes — I think it might be arranged.'

So began a project that would spark a minor rebellion in Alexandria, cost philanthropist William Vanderbilt $102,576 and, in less than 100 years, do more damage to the misnamed obelisk than 35 centuries of wear and tear in Egypt."

See the full article on the above URL for more.

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