The Middle East

A wide variety of shoes are worn throughout the Middle East, which vary according to culture and climate. Because the Muslim faith requires that shoes be removed before entry into mosques for prayer, the backs of many Middle Eastern shoes are folded down for easy removal. This loose style also allows ventilation in the hot, dry climate, and helps protect the foot on the largely barren desert terrain.

The qabqab is a traditional women's shoe of the Ottoman Empire. An intricately inlaid wooden clog designed to be worn to and from the bath house, the kabkab can be over six inches in height, and keeps the wearer's feet clean and away from the heated floors.

Afghanistan's cooler climate and the popular use of the horse often necessitate the wearing of boots, which are colourfully embroidered and sometimes embellished with goat or yak fur.

For conservation reasons, and in order to show more variety over time, only a selection of footwear from the permanent collection is displayed in our exhibitions at any one time. This means there's always something new to see.

image of Middle Eastern footwear