Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Giraffe

In 1827, Sultan Muhammad Ali of Egypt gifted Charles X of France with a pair of giraffes. The male giraffe died early, but the female - named Zarafa, meaning "lovely one", and source of the word "giraffe" - was shipped from Africa to Marseilles, and then walked up to Paris. As she attracted massive crowds in every town she passed, it was determined that she would cause too much of a riot if she was marched through the capital city during daylight. Sleepy Parisians were therefore surprised in the middle of the night by the sight of Zarafa's head, lazily drifting by their second-story windows in the dead of night, her long purple tongue casually eating the leaves off of Parisian trees.

Links and Sources:
Zarafa, A Giraffe's True Story, From Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris, by Michael Allin, Walker Publishing, 1998.
Painting by Jacques Raymond Brascassat, from the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Beaune, Burgundy, France, collection of J.C. Couval.

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