The 1896 Berliner Gewerbeausstellung was a transformative moment for city and nation alike. The exhibition announced Berlin's pre-eminence as a scientific and industrial city and bolstered an emergent German national identity. Including displays of Egypt and Germany's formal colonies also revealed Germany's competence as a colonial power. By illustrating its skill in both aggressive conquest and subtle intervention, city and nation thought themselves capable of competing with European rivals at home and abroad. However, the two visions of colonialism, cloaked in the guise of mass entertainment, have rarely been brought into conversation with one another. This article seeks to discuss this colonial–Oriental dichotomy by focusing on tensions between education and entertainment in display techniques, particularities of racial difference in ethnographic display, the use of advertising, and the insertion of new technologies. Contributing to a deeper understanding of race, empire, and modernity in the German context, the Gewerbeausstellung offers a jumping off point for further comparison to other local, regional, and international exhibitions and an avenue to explore how notions of modernity factored into formal and informal imperial arrangements. Ultimately, it sheds light on how an exhibition helped to fashion a global, imperial city at the turn of the twentieth century.