Egyptian model arrested for photoshoot at ancient pyramid

Cairo – Egyptian model Salma El-Shimy was arrested Monday during a photoshoot at Saqqara, an important archaeological site in the city of Giza. El-Shimy, 26, posed for a collection of photos in a dress inspired by ancient Egyptian clothing. The outfit was deemed “inappropriate” by officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The secretary general of the Supreme Antiquities Council, Mostafa Waziri, referred the incident to prosecutors for investigation, the ministry confirmed in a statement. He quoted Waziri as a warning that “anyone who is negligent in matters of antiquities or our unique Egyptian civilization will be punished”.

Model Salma El-Shimy poses at the Saqqara archaeological site in Giza, Egypt, during a photoshoot with photographer Hossam Muhameed. Both were arrested and charged with photographing without a permit for the shoot, which sparked a huge backlash in Egypt.

Salma El-Shimy / / Hossam Muhameed

Two of the ministry’s employees and four security personnel working at the scene were also referred to prosecutors for administrative investigation, Sabry Farag, director of the Saqqara antiques site, told CBS News. Farag has denied reports that the six people were also arrested.

Anyone wishing to take a photo or video shoot for commercial purposes at one of the Egyptian archaeological sites must obtain a permit from the ministry.

El-Shimy photographer Hossam Muhammed, 22, told a local newspaper that he and his subject had reached an “agreement” with site staff to take photos around the Pyramid of Djoser for around 15 minutes. The pyramid dates from the 27th century BC.

Muhammed was also arrested later Monday evening.

El-Shimy called herself Queen “Malban-titi” for the photoshoot, a name referring to the sweet Turkish delight, “Malban,” and Queen Nefertiti of ancient Egypt.

The photos went viral and reignited a heated debate about the difference between breaking social norms and breaking the law.

A lawyer filed a lawsuit, accusing El-Shimy of “distorting civilization and insulting the great Pharaonic history”. A member of the Egyptian parliament called on El-Shimy to face “the most severe punishments”.

In the Egyptian justice system, any individual can take legal action against anyone for any reason, but it is up to the public prosecutor to decide if there is a valid case and to lay formal charges. .

Hyperbole aside, the public prosecutor ordered the release of El-Shimy and his photographer Tuesday night on bail of LE 500 each (about $ 32), pending a full investigation. They face formal charges of photography without a license, according to local media, but no charges related to indecency or anything else stemming from the irregularity allegations.

Mohamed told the local press he was surprised by the huge reaction, insisted he hadn’t done anything wrong and was just trying to make a living. He said he was paid 1000LE (around $ 65) for the shoot, and if he had known it would turn into such a scandal, he would have turned down the job.

He also said he believed that if the model involved had a different body type, none of this would have happened.

Despite outrage from some corners, other Egyptians have rallied to defend El-Shimy’s right to wear whatever she wants and have criticized the actions of the Tourism Ministry, suggesting that the prosecution will only bring bad publicity for Egypt.

Just two weeks ago, Saqqara was in the news for the historic archaeological discovery of around 100 sealed coffins containing mummified bodies.

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