The Persian Palace
Ve travelled all da vay from Isfahan wit rugs.. and people came for da hot "belly dancing" girls (Zan) from Paris!
Upon researching one thing or another, I came across the Chicago World Fair, and the Middle Eastern world that was constructed within its boundaries. One of the most visible monuments was the Persian Palace. The following synapses taken from the Paul V. Gavin Library provides a interesting perspective, particularly of the disappointment of the Persian contingent, and the focus on belly dancers from Paris. My take was that they had hoped to attract crowds as they do today with cute girls staging an event, but surprisingly enough in the 19th contrary a women showing more than a wrist was probably all the gentlemen could process." It was expected that the people of America would take a deep interest in the customs, manners, handicraft, and people of Persia. In token of this expectation a company of twenty-two Persians arrived in Chicago, April 9, 1893. They had traveled from Shiraz and Teheran overland to Constantinople, and thence by Austrian Lloyd steamer to New York. A few weeks later a second contingent arrived safely from Isfahan by the sea route - down the Persian Gulf, through the ocean to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, New York and Chicago, being sixty days on the way - one of the longest journeys taken by anybody to reach the World's Fair. These people hoped to attract Americans by setting up their shops, where the weaving of carpets, rugs and shawls, the engraving of metals, the labor of lapidaries, and the manufacture of Persian candies might be seen. But the genius of Midway Plaisance was pleasure and not instruction. The working people of Persia soon became the scarcely seen on-lookers in Midway, beholding "the greatest Oriental star, Belle Baya, the prize beauty of the Paris Exposition of 1889," and other dancing girls, who were nothing more nor less than young women of Paris."
However, there are others who see this event as the first time Belly dancing made its presence known on such a scale in America, and therefore the sensationalism attributed to the event is not necessary negative. More on this to follow.