Cotton, wool and leather. Katoen Natie was formed to trade, ship, and handle these basic raw materials. Today, the Katoen Natie group provides port and logistics services for a range of other sectors; however, it has maintained its links with the original business through the permanent display of the fascinating and renowned collection of antique textiles and objets d’art from Egypt and Central Asia.
The exhibition “3500 Years of Textile Art” illustrates the history of Egypt through its textiles, clothes, and other archeological finds.
The first room, known as the Pharaohs’ room, contains not only textiles but also animal mummies, the cartonnage used to make funerary masks in Ancient Egypt, and fragments of the Book of the Dead written on linen.
After Cleopatra’s suicide in 30 BC, Egypt became a Roman province for nearly four centuries. The Roman room contains unique fabrics, artworks and practical artefacts from the Roman period. The designs of this period are characterised by geometric patterns.
The third room is the Coptic room, and contains more figurative designs. Colorful textiles, ceramics and other artefacts from Late Antiquity and the Early Byzantine Period are displayed here.
Room four is the Islamic room. It contains textiles from the 7th century and the Muslim conquest of Egypt. During this period, figurative art disappeared and Arabic calligraphy became more prevalent. The flourishing trade along the Silk Road also had an influence on Egyptian textile crafts. In order to give an insight into the development of this important trade route, this room contains not only Islamic textiles and objects, but also samples from Central Asia.
But the star attraction of the entire exhibition is Room five - the impressive Tunic Room. It houses one of the world’s largest collections of complete tunics.