The Statue of Liberty has long served as one of the strongest symbols that the United States is historically a country of immigrants. Many people have used this point when discussing the controversial issue of immigration today. However, few people know that the statue is actually depicting a Muslim immigrant who is a peasant from Egypt.
Indeed, most Americans are more familiar with the French roots of the statue rather than its Arabic origins. The structure of the statue was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the same man who designed the Eiffel Tower. The statue was given to the United States by France as a way of celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the alliance that the two countries formed during the French Revolution.
However, while Eiffel designed the structure of the Statue of Liberty, the lead designer was a Frenchman named Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. In 1855, Bartholdi was inspired by the Nubian monuments at Abu Simbel in Egypt. Bartholdi became fascinated by the ancient architecture. He envisioned a major monument that would feature a peasant woman wearing a robe to stand at Port Said, which is the city at the northern end of the canal in Egypt. The woman in the statue would represent all of Egypt.
The statue itself was going to 86 feet high, with its pedestal reaching a height of 48 feet. An early idea for the name was “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia”. However, over time the concept evolved from an “Arabian peasant” into more of a “colossal goddess”. This plan was further changed when Egyptian leaders became less than enthused about Bartholdi’s plan. Ultimately, they rejected the plan, saying that it was too costly. Instead, a 180 foot tall lighthouse was placed at Port Said.
Still, Batholdi was not discouraged. He redeveloped his Muslim immigrant concept into “Liberty Enlightening the World”, which is the official name of the statue to this very day. Eventually, the statue made its way to America, and it has been overlooking the New York Harbor since 1886.
Needless to say, history can make one look at things very differently.