Resplendent Indian saris adorn Egypt's Mahmoud Mukhtar Museum

Ati Metwaly, Thursday 10 Apr 2014

Running until 12 April, an exhibition of saris wraps the classical Indian garment around Egyptian viewers

Saris
Indian Saris exhibition (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

An exhibition of saris held between 9 and 12 April at the Mahmoud Mukhtar Museum's Isis Hall displays the garment worn by millions of women particularly in India and Bangladesh.

The exhibition is part of the India by the Nile Festival, which launched on 1 April and runs until 20 April, providing many facets of Indian culture to local audiences.

Derived from the Sanskrit word शाटी [śāṭī], meaning "strip of cloth," the sari wraps around a woman's waist to end by draping over her shoulder. The first representations of figures – mostly Indian goddesses – wearing saris reach back to the 28th century BC. The evolved garment continues to be widely worn in India, representing different religions, social and economic classes.

Saris
Indian Saris exhibition (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

In its cross-section through regions and traditions, the exhibition showcases saris from many of the country's regions: Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh (North India), Odisha (East India) and Maharashtra (West India) among others.

Of a standard length of 5.5-6 metres, a sari is woven in a multitude of fabrics, carrying different patterns and decorations depending on origin and designer.

Saris
Dolls presenting process of wrapping saris (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

A sari may be cotton or silk; handloom-woven or hand-spun on traditional spinning wheels; in solid colours or inlay-patterned; with flowers or diagonal shapes; or golden with silver borders, among a variety of other breathtaking fabrics and patterns. 

Naturally, the fabric is also chosen depending on the weather. In southern India, characterised by higher temperatures, many saris are made of silk. As we move towards the north-west, saris are usually cotton-based. Patterns and materials also vary depending on the occasion on which the garment is worn.

Saris
Indian Saris exhibition (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

Attracting significant attention, the exhibition is accompanied by small workshops teaching the skill of wrapping a sari. Young Egyptian ladies who join the workshop are wrapped by the beautiful material. In parallel, a special display of dolls explains the consecutive steps of sari wrapping in detail.

At the courtyard in front of the Isis exhibition hall, visitors are able to examine woodwork and handicrafts from India.

Isis hall
In front of Isis hall (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

Programme:
9-12 April 2014
Isis Gallery, Mahmoud Mukhtar Museum, 5, Tahrir St, next to Cairo Sporting Club

Check India by the Nile Festival full programme here

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