The Arab fantasia calls us to the Esplanade des Invalides, in that picturesque Algeria to which the Nouba and the camps of the Kabyle families have already attracted us.
There, in the space that stretches behind the palaces of Tunisia, rises an Arab village: vast tents with wide stripes shelter entire families, whose children, dressed in simple floating shirts, cling to visitors to snatch a small penny. Under an even more rudimentary shelter, the horses are lined up, tied by their feet to a long rope that does not allow them any movement. It is there, under an avenue of trees kept free, that the fantasia takes place almost every day.
A rider comes forward, standing on his high saddle, decorated with brass and embroidery; his long coat floats behind him, a brightly coloured scarf covers the hindquarters of his horse, and the race begins through the trees; the riders are of rare skill, the horses of remarkable lightness and intelligence. Then two musicians, walking backwards, intone that interminable and monotonous melody which is oriental music; the horse follows the measure, marking the pace, swinging its pretty fine head, and no doubt finding the short space in which its daily gallop is imprisoned quite restricted.
But really one could not demand that a piece of the desert be transported to the Esplanade des Invalides, and one has to be content with this fantasia, very picturesque, but which lacks the warm sun of Africa and infinite spaces.
© L'exposition de Paris - 1889