Egypt has an important place in texts already in the earliest period of printed travel accounts. Several subjects related to the area enriched travellers' chronicles with illustrations. First, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land meant that ships from Western Europe set anchor in both of Egypt's main ports on the mouth of the Nile.
The pilgrimage to the Sinai peninsula, with its important monastery, also meant crossing the country and staying in Egypt for a length of time. Monasteries, pilgrim sites, holy places and locations connected to the Bible began to be represented in engravings, besides being described in the texts.
In addition, Egypt's rare and hitherto unknown fauna and, to a lesser extent, flora, are depicted in plates from the 16th century onwards. The diverse ethnicities and their dress as well as scenes from everyday life occupy a place in the interests of authors and reading public.
However, in the late 17th century the European public became more and more interested in Egyptian antiquities. This interest was fuelled in the mid-18th century thanks to splendid editions with a plethora of pictures from Egypt, and finally reached a peak at the end of that centrury, due to political and military conflict between European and Ottoman powers.
In the 18th but mainly the 19th century archaeological expedition reached almost to the sources of the Nile. Everything Egyptian, from the monumental Pyramids to the tiniest archaeological finding had a place in travel Albums.
Alexandria, in the first place, as a port, commercial nexus and splendid hellenistic and Roman city, and gradually exotic Cairo, with its unique world, mysterious and strange to Europeans, provided a wealth of special and singular illustrations.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou