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Throughout the long nineteenth century, nations that tried to expand their consular apparatus in Egypt relied on numerous autochthonous members of the Egyptian elite.Since Luxor was situated next to the site of ancient Thebes, the hordes of travelers visiting Upper Egypt in the course of the nineteenth century relied in particular on the services of consular agents. By means of a multidimensional analysis of the two diplomatic clans that served Belgium’s interests from the mid-1870s up until the abolition of the capitulation system in 1937, the Ayads and the Bicharas, this article provides a better insight in the integration of local elites into foreign diplomatic corps.By incorporating the fragmented and dispersed accounts of the services these consular agents provided into a general assessment of diplomatic culture, this contribution explores new grounds at the intersections of the history of tourism, archaeology, and diplomacy.

Full Access
In: Diplomatica


As a young, but ambitious state that aspired to acquire a respected position in the nineteenth-century European concert, one of the institutions Belgium relied on was its diplomatic corps. Whereas the capitals of Europe quickly became the new home of career diplomats, Belgium gradually developed a consular apparatus that was staffed by locally recruited agents in more faraway areas. In the Eastern Mediterranean, the position of dragoman, who served as translator to the diplomatic representatives, was especially relevant in a setting where language barriers hindered the expansion of Belgium’s diplomatic and commercial interests. This essay unravels the history of the Belgian dragomanate in Egypt and focusses on one dragoman in particular: Jean Eïd. Addressing his term in Belgian service from the perspective of subalternity, I will demonstrate how the social, professional and legal status of these actors who roamed the increasingly entangled Levantine sphere in this period, is particularly challenging to grasp, while also recognizing the potential his position had for the next generations that succeeded him.

Open Access
In: International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity