The original version of the song was most likely written by Sol Bloom, the entertainment director of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. It included an attraction called A Street in Cairo which featured snake charmers, camel rides, and a controversial dancer known as “Little Egypt.” Songwriter James Thornton composed words to his own version of Bloom’s melody and published it as Streets Of Cairo. The oldest known recording of the song is from 1895, performed by Dan Quinn.
The first five notes of the song are similar to the beginning of a French song named Colin prend sa hotte (1719), which in turn resembles an Algerian song titled Kradoutja.
The melody is often heard in animated cartoons and computer games when something that is connected with deserts, Arabia, Persia, Egypt, belly dancing, or snake charming is being displayed.
The piece is a popular children’s song with very many alternate lyrics. One alternate lyric starts, “There’s a place in France.”
This arrangement also includes the lesser-known chorus, which begins “She never saw the streets of Cairo …”
Key: A minor
Mood: adventurous, flirtatious
Pedagogy: 16th notes, phrasing, staccato, fingering, first and second endings