What were shoes like in Ancient Egypt?
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Egyptian Shoes and Sandals

Egyptian sandals
Straw flip-flops
(now in the Vatican Museum, Rome)

Many people in ancient Egypt went barefoot their whole lives. It was warm there even in the winter, and people thought shoes were an unnecessary expense. Kids, especially, didn't usually have any shoes, or they had their parents' old worn-out shoes.

Egyptian childrens' shoes
Children's sandals from New Kingdom
Thebes (Vatican Museum, Rome)

But we know some children did have shoes, because we find straw sandals in baby sizes, as you can see in this picture.

Most people who did have shoes wore shoes made out of straw or reeds. Shoemakers took the straw or reeds and wove it into flip-flops that you could buy at the shoe store. (The ones in the pictures are missing the top cords, which have broken or gotten lost).


A Japanese man weaving straw sandals

The earliest known version of the Cinderella story involves an Egyptian slave girl who loses her straw slipper and ends up with the Pharaoh.

Richer people had sandals made out of leather, which were stronger and lasted longer.

Learn by doing: Dress like an Egyptian
More about Egyptian clothing

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Egyptian clothing:

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Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. Easy reading.

Ancient Egyptian Fashions, by Tom Tierney (1999). Easy reading.

Ancient Egyptian Costumes Paper Dolls, by Tom Tierney (1997).

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber (1995). Not for kids, but an interested high schooler could read it. Fascinating ideas about the way people made cloth in ancient times, and why it was that way.

More about Egyptian clothing
More about ancient Egypt
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?