Place du Caire
Atget – 1903
We arrive Place du Caire, where we can immediately notice the three giant heads representing the goddess Hathor which decorate the building giving access to the passage du Caire (2, place du Caire).
Place and rue du Caire, named to celebrate Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, were built in 1798 where previously an old convent was located between rue Saint-Denis and the small rue des Forges. Other neighboring streets: rues d'Aboukir, d'Alexandrie,
du Nil and Damiette remind as well the military and scientific Egyptian expedition.
These streets were built where was before the biggest slum in Paris. This den of thieves and beggars has been well described by Victor Hugo
in his book the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Because they were using a secret language, the Argot (slang), this group of thieves was named the Argotiers. Beggars in the day, they were using tricks to counterfeit the crippled, the blind, the epilectic
(for this they were putting soap in their mouth to play hypersalivation), the leper … in the evening, back at their slum, they were removing their fake signs of disabilities, in an other word accomplishing a daily miracle, hence the name given to their
district, the Court of Miracles.
On Atget's photo, we can see several signs of printing companies above the passage. In his time, press and typography were an important activity and the printers were sharing the passage
with the straw hat makers.