Ancient Egypt footwear exhibition to open Sunday at Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 10 Oct 2015

An exhibition displaying the different styles and shapes of footwear in ancient Egypt is to open under the auspices of the Ministry of Antiquities tomorrow evening at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir

sandals on display

An exhibition on ancient Egyptian footwear is to open Sunday evening at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir under the title "Stepping Through Time: Footwear in Ancient Egypt".

Although much is known about ancient Egypt, especially with regards to royalty, religion and death, details of the daily life of the Egyptians are less well-known.

What was a day in the life of an ancient Egyptian like? What did they eat? Where did they sleep? What did they wear?

The exhibition aims to answer a small but significant aspect of daily life in ancient Egypt; footwear.

Mamdouh Eldamaty, minister of antiquities, told Ahram Online that the exhibition is the result of ten years of research led by André J. Veldmeijer, a visiting research scholar at the American University in Cairo, in conjunction with the curators of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir.

The exhibition showcases objects that have been recently excavated or are in museum collections, as well as texts and images.

Through 47 objects, Eldamaty explains, the exhibition presents footwear through the different ages, from pre-dynastic times (3000 BC) to the Ottoman Empire.

It also covers the development of different shoe and sandal types, the raw materials and technology used to make them, the symbolism associated with them and the status that each one represented.

The exhibition also touches upon the organisation and production of footwear from all levels of society; from kings to farmers, from soldiers to priests.

"Of course, footwear offered protection for the feet, but its importance extended beyond it," Veldmeijer said, adding that as in our lives today, status, style and symbolism played an important role in the choices of which shoes and sandals were worn and what they looked like.

He also pointed out that the study of footwear is interesting not only for what it reveals about the symbolic, economic and cultural aspects of the ancient Egyptians, but also about ancient technology and the role of sandal makers and leather workers in ancient Egyptian society.

Furthermore, studying footwear can also provide an insight into how individuals walked, whether they limped or favoured a particular leg.

Colourful and lavishly illustrated information panels (both in Arabic and English) are complemented by numerous authentic examples from the marvellous collection of the Egyptian Museum, including shoes and sandals from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Additionally, reconstructions have been brought in to illustrate the original appearance of some shoes and sandals.

Sabah Abdel-Razek, director of the temporary exhibition at the museum, told Ahram Online that among the most important objects on display are the statue of King Tutankhamun wearing golden sandals and the statue of an Old Kingdom servant holding his sandals in his hands.

The exhibition will last until the end of December 2015 in Room 44.

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