Today’s Egyptians wear heavy clothes to protect themselves from the cold weather that includes snow in some parts of the country. When people see their Egyptian ancestors, whether on the walls of temples or tombs, they appear in the scenes wearing bright summer clothes. Did they witness winter time?
“What was found on the walls of the temples and tombs, does not necessarily reflect the reality on the ground,” Magdy Shaker, the chief archaeologist at the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told Majalla.
“Ancient Egyptians used to draw themselves beautiful, slim, young, and with harmonious bodies. This doesn’t mean that they were all in good health and graceful, but there were obese and, of course, there were old and sick people. But they loved to paint a picture of the perfection that they wished for in the other world.”
The ancient Egyptians believed in life after death and resurrection. They believed that the soul recognized them later through their name and titles that were etched in the walls, their mummies, statues and the engravings of their bodies on the walls of the tombs. That’s why they drew themselves in a perfect way, and the summer clothes help the body look more beautiful than the heavy clothes of winter.
“In today’s wedding ceremonies in winter, you will not find brides wearing wedding dresses made of wool or leather. They do like their ancestors, wearing summer clothes which show the body more beautifully than the heavy clothes.”
Shaker said, however, there are some scenes that show Pharaohs in winter clothes.
“In general, both men and women used to wear clothes made of linen. One layer on hot days and two or three layers on cold days. The plant fiber comes from flax plants that grow abundantly along the banks of the Nile.”
He pointed out that the weather in ancient Egypt was warmer than today. The year was divided into three seasons with each one divided into four months.
“The year started in June. The first season was ‘Akhet,’ the season of the flood, then the second season ‘Peret,’ was the season of agriculture. The third season was ‘Shemu,’ the season of the harvest,” Shaker added.
What added more warmth for the ancient Egyptians was that their homes were made of mud bricks. Some of these houses had two or three floors. The streets were narrow and the houses were close by, and these factors helped them to feel warm in cold weather.
“The ancient Egyptians did not go out at night much in the ancient era,” he said. “They also used to make bread in ovens inside their homes, which made their homes warmer,” he added.
CLOTHING INDUSTRY IN ANCIENT EGYPT
Clothing is one of the oldest industries practiced by the ancient Egyptians and they excelled in its various phases of manufacturing, starting with collecting the flax for linen, which was the most popular fabric. Then came spinning and leaving it in the sun to dry, cleaning, combining it and extracting the good long fibers from it by spinning to prepare the threads.
“Ancient Egyptian men used to wear a short garment, known as the ‘kilt,’ which covered the lower part of the body. It was suitable for their work outside home in the fields, in battles, or in temples,” Hussein Abdel Basir, Egyptologist and Director of the Museum of Antiquities of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, told Majalla.
“On the contrary, we find that women, especially women of the upper class and nobles, used to wear long dresses. Their clothes had short or long sleeves.”
“The kings of ancient Egypt had their distinctive costumes, which had many royal insignia indicating their lofty position in ancient Egyptian society as representatives of the gods on Earth,” he added.
He added that the clothes of Egyptian queens were characterized by length, beauty, dignity, splendor of fabrics, ingenuity of design, and subtlety of decoration. Their clothes were characterized by multiple layers of dress, if the dress was transparent.
“Some scenes show the uniforms of maids and the modest classes were outfits that tended to be indelicate, transparent, and sometimes short, showing more than they concealed, especially in scenes of banquets, parties and other scenes that related to the other world. The working women also wore simple and practical clothes,” Abdel Basir said.
He added that regarding their winter attire, they used linen, especially in white as a traditional attire for men, while women's clothes were colorful dresses with two straps, and a shawl over it. They forbade themselves some fabrics, such as wool, which were taken from living creatures and believed they were “impure.”
“In Tutankhamun’s tomb of the 18th Dynasty (ruled between 1332 and 1323 BC), many pieces of linen-made winter clothes with many layers were found,” Abdel Basir said.
“Egyptian queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses II, is depicted in some scenes wearing a long white robe over her dress,” he added.
Abdel Basir said that the warm climate of ancient Egypt facilitated the formation of a civilization by the Egyptians.
“On the contrary in Europe, their civilization appeared later than ours because of their cold weather. The warm weather allowed people to go, work, build, enjoy life and encouraged them to form a civilization,” he said.
“Thanks to the Mediterranean Sea, which helped curb the cold weather of Europe from delving deep into our country and Africa,” he said.