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Sudan - Expo Paris 1889

Sudan at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889

Like the Arab house, the Sudanese house, which is next door, has no external windows, not even those grilled windows called moucharabiés: the door and then that's all.

It would seem that the Oriental governments were even more rapacious than the others in charging a tax on air and light, under the pretext of doors and windows, if we did not know that the peoples of the Muslim religion do not like, as we do, to live in glass houses, for the reasons that they run less after advertising, that they are very jealous of their wives and that they avoid as much as possible giving them opportunities to deceive them, by suppressing all communications with the outside.

With this system, houses can be made to resemble prisons; but a prison can be pretty, even for those who live in it, provided that the interior has all the amenities, all the comforts compatible with their morals, their customs and their state of fortune.

This is most probably the case for the houses in Sudan, but we need only deal with the one on the Champ de Mars from the outside, since we have not yet seen it otherwise.

Externally it is quite original in appearance, although its architecture is reminiscent of the Egyptian style, which is quite natural, moreover, given the proximity of the two countries; it differs, however, by the deliberate inclination of all the lines, of all the edges; it would seem that the architects of the Sudan abhorred the perpendicular line.

It does not hurt, however, and one gets used to this aspect so quickly that one ends up persuading oneself that it would be less pleasant otherwise.

The house, built by M. Garnier, of stone and wood, forms a somewhat pyramidal mass finished with a flat terraced roof, bordered by high pointed battlements which would look like sugar loaves if they were not each crowned with a small stone ball.

The main façade is divided into three parts by two plain pilasters projecting from the wall, obliquely of course, and even doubly obliquely to form a bulge towards the middle of the pilasters.

These pilasters, which have no bases, also have no capitals; together with the corner pilasters, they support a wide band that runs around the house and serves as both a frieze and an entablature.

The central part, in the middle of which the door opens under a false transom, is surmounted by a half-storey terrace, bordered, like the side terraces, by sugar loaf battlements.

Although this decoration is meagre and very rudimentary, the side façades are even less ornate: there are only a few small openings which could not pass for windows, but which are intentionally made that way and have their reason for being, in countries where boiled eggs can be cooked just by exposing them to the sun, because they let the day pass and intercept the heat.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition - C. L. Huard