Eiffel Tower’s African model
Referring to Chris Moerdyk’s column on the Eiffel Tower (November 11-17), your readers may find it interesting to learn that the famous tower has close connection with Africa in that it was modelled by Gustave Eiffel on this unique animal of the Bushveld, the giraffe.
In 1827, the Egyptian pasha Mehmet Ali presented King Charles X of France with a young giraffe (he also presented giraffes to the monarchs of England and Austria). The animal duly arrived in Marseilles. There was no motorised or rail transport in those days, so the most practical way of getting the animal to Paris to present it to the king was to walk it all the way, and so it was done.
Very few French people had seen a live giraffe, and no giraffe had been seen in Europe since the late 1400s, so one can understand that the animal created a sensation, all the more so since the newspapers carried a day-by-day report on the progress of the giraffe to the capital while crowds assembled all the way to view the animal.
France thus got to know the habits of the giraffe, including its peculiar way of spreading its legs when it wishes to drink, which it does with perfect balance and infinite grace for such a large animal. It’s no wonder that likewise we admire the Eiffel Tower for its perfect balance and its elegant proportions.
Bertie Lincoln, Johannesburg