Blog post

Marseille, 2013 European Capital of Culture

The story of the first giraffe in Marseille

by
Beth Daley (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

In 2013, Marseille celebrates its status as a European Capital of Culture (along with Košice in Slovakia).

The idea behind the European Capital of Culture is to choose two cities each year, highlighting the richness and diversity of European cultures and celebrate the cultural ties that link Europeans together, bring people from different European countries into contact with each other's culture and promote mutual understanding, and to foster a feeling of European citizenship.

To celebrate, we've searched Europeana for content relating to Marseille - including the great story of Marseille's first giraffe!

[Port marchand. Marseille : [affiche] / F. Hugo d'Alési, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Public Domain image]

'Port marchand. Marseille : [affiche] / F. Hugo d'Alési', Bibliothèque Nationale de France

'Marseille, ancienne et forte ville maritime de France, en Provence...' Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Public Domain Image

'Marseille, ancienne et forte ville maritime de France, en Provence...' Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Public Domain Image

'Le Prado de Longchamp à Marseille pendant les fêtes du Mistral : [photographie de presse] / Agence Mondial', Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Public Domain Image

'Le Prado de Longchamp à Marseille pendant les fêtes du Mistral : [photographie de presse] / Agence Mondial', Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Public Domain Image

['Vue de l'Hôtel de Ville de Marseille du côté du Port. N° 18 : [estampe]', Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Public Domain Image)](http://www.europeana.eu/portal/record/9200103/77C35ADAFBF5821501C3DCBA9B4F9D11BDEFB405.html)

'Vue de l'Hôtel de Ville de Marseille du côté du Port. N° 18 : [estampe]', Bibliothèque Nationale de France

And so, to the giraffe...

In 1826, Muhammad Ali of Egypt gave a giraffe as a gift to Charles X of France. On its way to Paris, the giraffe wintered in Marseille. In 1827, she walked the distance from Marseille to Paris.

'Trois fables sur la giraffe' is a booklet of three curious poems. It celebrates the joy and pride that the people of Marseille felt at hosting their first ever giraffe and marks the occasion of her leaving to go to Paris.

In the introduction, the author, Louis-François Jauffret, recounts that another gift of an Egyptian giraffe had been given to Florence in 1487. There, the giraffe took daily walks and ate apples from the hands of ladies who presented them from their balconies. Jauffret hopes that Paris will now enjoy the same experience as Florence and Marseille.

The first fable 'La giraffe' speaks of the author's astonishment at the arrival of the elegant giraffe and great respect for her onward journey to Paris.

In the second, 'La giraffe et l'antilope', the giraffe discusses the fashions of Paris with an antelope - will she fit in or be laughed at? Is her long neck something to ridicule? What will the weather be like - will it be much colder than Marseille? Reassured that she will be adored, the giraffe looks forward to making her entrance.

In the final poem, 'La giraffe et sa nourrice', the giraffe is compared by an academic to an ostrich. The giraffe takes offence and hopes that the ostrich is flattered.

Read the poems here, and find out more about the giraffe's true story here.

France history European Capitals of Culture