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Al Djazair and Tunis album, 1881

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Al Djazair and Tunis

Scope and Content of Collection

The album contains photographs of the Maghreb region of North Africa. The first half features views of Algeria and Tunisia. There are images of mosques, tombs, and palaces, as well as local neighborhoods and streets. Natural sites, such as gorges, oases and desert areas are also depicted, as are views of Roman ruins. The second half is devoted to portraits of a variety of North African peoples. These are mainly studio portraits of prostitutes and dancers from various ethnic groups, although some male types, and dignitaries such as the Agha and Califa of Ouargla, are included. Many of the sitters are identified by name. A few scenes of daily life showing coffee houses, shops, markets, and street life are interspersed among the portraits.

The album was compiled from an Arab perspective. Only a few images containing portions of French buildings allude to a western presence. This fact, along with the album's elaborate box and covers, suggests that it may have been compiled for a high ranking official or wealthy Arab. The photographs are unsigned.

The covers of the album are made of carved wood and tooled and painted leather set into brass backings and closed with brass hinges; decorations are in a North African artisanal style comprising calligraphic and geometric elements. On the front cover a tugra (i.e. in the style of an Ottoman ruler's signature) written in a combination of colloquial and classical Arabic reads: Algiers/Tunis. Do not look at the beauty of appearances, look at your deeds. Appearance is not as important as the inner self.

The inscription on the brass inner cover reads in the center: I start with the name of God; and in the border: In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful [first sura of the Qur'an].

The title page reads: Author: Abdu Rabbih al-Wahhāb - Fernand tunisi baldati min Kusa [?] (called Gabriel the Christian, in the year 1881).

The album is housed in a carved wooden box. Carved on the box cover, as a tugra, are the names of two brothers, Kheireddine and Arrouj, famous 16th-century corsairs.

Titles are translations of the captions written on the mounts in either Arabic or Judeo Arabic (noted); a few images are uncaptioned and titles were devised. The Arabic captions were translated by Karim Boughida. The Judeo-Arabaic captions were translated by Jona Sabir. Cataloger's notes are in brackets.


In original order.

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