A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
How to experience all things Egyptian in the Big Apple
New York City, which traces its roots to 1624, is about 4,700 years younger than and more than 5,500 miles from Egypt. Yet fascination with Egypt has been part of life in America, and New York, since the late 18th century. European traders, pilgrims, and scholars traveled to Egypt, but Napoleon's campaign in Egypt (1798-1801) and the resulting publication of the Description de l'Egypte (1809) and Vivant Denon's Voyage dans la Basse et la Hautes Egypt (1802) ignited the Western world's interest in it. In the early 19th century, Europeans and Americans began to flock to Egypt and its rich and ancient sites as tourists, collectors, scholars, and artists, braving the journey across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean. Many brought back artifacts; some published their accounts and drawings, further increasing the excitement about Egypt. Invention of the steamship meant that by the 1840s New Yorkers leaving from Southampton were able to reach Egypt in just 15 days, and by the 1870s tour organizer Thomas Cook provided Egyptian tours that even middle-class Americans could afford. The 20th century saw faster ships and eventually the airplane reducing the trip from days to hours, with an ever-growing number of tours and packages available to guide one through Egypt's sites. Yet even in the 21st century, time and means make traveling to Egypt easier said than done. Although the best way to experience ancient Egypt is to visit, NYC offers enough Egyptian artifacts, pharonic-themed activities, and Egyptian-style architecture to give the biggest enthusiast some satisfaction, even if the nearby river is the Hudson, and not the Nile.
Morgan Moroney is a student of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Special thanks to the staff at the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.