The Statue of Liberty is Egyptian
Updated: Apr 10
Everyone knows of New York's Statue of Liberty, but few know that Lady Liberty was originally supposed to be a robed Egyptian peasant woman and be placed in Egypt's Port Said.
In the 1860s, French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi approached Egypt's Ismail Pasha before the completion of the Suez Canal and proposed the idea. It was a grand and ambitious idea. The proposed statue was to be called Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia and would stand at 100-foot tall in Port Said, depicting an Egyptian peasant woman holding a torch above her head to act as the city's lighthouse. Taking inspiration from the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the proposed statue would too be of colossal proportions and of great symbolic value. However, the proposed statue was turned down in favour of a much less impressive statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the Frenchman in charge of the construction of the Suez Canal, with his right hand welcoming ships into the Suez Canal and his left hand holding a map of the canal.
The rather unimpressive 33-foot statue of Lesseps by sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet, embodying colonial power and foreign ownership of the canal, stood from November 17, 1899, until December 23, 1956, when Egyptian resistance members led by Yahia al-Shaer toppled the statue with dynamite to protest the ongoing Suez Crisis and colonial aggressions.
Lesseps' statue was de-plinthed as Egypt asserted its independence from foreign powers and embarked upon a reclaiming of the national identity and the nation's achievements. The statue itself now rests hidden away in a shipyard across the canal in Port Fouad, symbolic of Egypt's new reality.
Along the boardwalk and Sharia Palestine besides the Suez canal, you can now find the small statueless plinth. The same plinth, originally set to host the Statue of Liberty and that hosted the statue of Lesseps until its downfall, is now a place where families and young lovers come to watch the sunset, leave love locks, hang out at night and grab a bite to eat from the various street food carts dotted along this part of the corniche. While it may not be as impressive as it stood in the past, let alone what it could have been if Bartholdi's plan for Egypt Carrying the Light into Asia was actually built, this otherwise simple empty plinth hides an incredible and surprising history, and has become a place fully reclaimed for the public.