Tamr Hena Museum – Alexandria, Egypt - Atlas Obscura
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Alexandria, Egypt

Tamr Hena Museum

Part shoe store, part sociopolitical art gallery, part zoo. 

Alexandria, Egypt, has a rich history that has been influenced across thousands of years by the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman Empires; the early Christian church; the expansion of Islam; and most recently by the democratic revolutions of the Arab Spring. There is plenty of historical evidence of all of this for the regular sightseeing visitor. But once you’ve worn out your shoes walking around all the ruins and monuments, you’ll want to visit Nasser ElSherbini’s Shoe Store, recently converted into the Tamr Hena Museum.

At first this eclectic museum seems like a random if entertaining collection. But after a cup of tea with the owner, visitors will learn how it all ties together to represent the peoples’ struggle and the unfortunate survival of corruption throughout the various ages and regimes.

A former athlete and hunter, ElSherbini operated his small shoe store for many years before an itch to do something different led him to begin sculpting clay and paper-mâché figures and monsters to entertain the children who came in for new shoes. Soon, his artwork began to take on a sociopolitical meaning, when the Egyptian economy suffered extreme setbacks after the political revolutions of January 2011 and June 2013. 

Immediately upon entering, you are faced with a scaly Hydra descending from the ceiling, with its many serpentine heads representing racism, ignorance, and other social woes. A melancholy statue sits by the door, selling jars of lies and betrayal. The caged monkeys and free-roaming snakes are a unique Orwellian-Egyptian metaphor, as well as a fun photo opportunity. Without directly insulting any powerful figures, ElSherbini has transformed his shop into a fascinating little world for creative criticism.

Know Before You Go

To get to the museum, take the cable car/tram to the Ibrahimeya Station and walk west about 60 meters down Omar Lotfy Street.

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