Egypt arrests model over 'sexy Cleopatra' shoot outside Saqqara necropolis

Egypt arrests model over 'sexy Cleopatra' shoot outside Saqqara necropolis
2 min read
01 December, 2020
A model donning provocative Pharaonic-styled clothing in a Saqqara photoshoot was arrested, sparking a debate about the Islamisation of ancient Egyptian civilisations.
Salma Elshimy wore a tight white Pharaonic-style dress in a recent shoot [Facebook/Salma Elshimy]
An Egyptian model was arrested after being photographed wearing a skimpy pharaonic-themed costume in front of the ancient Saqqara necropolis.

Photos posted by model Salma Elshimy on her Facebook and Instagram pages sparked fury on Egyptian social media, with many accusing both Elshimy and her photographer of violating local tourism regulations.

Elshimy, dubbed 'Saqqara Girl' by Egyptian media was later arrested on Monday, according to local media reports, along with her photographer.

The photoshoot – inspired by Cleopatra, female ruler of the ancient Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt – took place without the prior approval of tourism police, the reports said.

While one report claimed Elshimy entered the site as a visitor, wearing a black abaya which she allegedly took it off inside the archaeological site, sporting what critics called "an obscene Pharaonic dress".

However, sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Egypt's tourism police will also take legal measures against employees if they're found to have been complacent or "negligent".

Many conservative Egyptians were angered by the photos, which they called "obscene". 

The backlash prompted the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mustafa Waziri, to release a statement claiming he is "keen on preserving archaeological sites and history of the ancient Egyptian civilization".

Read also: How TikTok became Egypt's latest battleground against women

Waziri also reportedly warned visitors wanting to have photoshoots to get prior approval after agreeing on the "exact location" and "outfit" to be used for the shoot.

The controversy sparked further debate after local newspaper ElDostor News posted a photo of a hijabi girl wearing the same headpiece worn by the model with a more conservative dress. 

Read also: Egypt jails belly dancer over 'debauchery' charges amid social media crackdown

The caption "spot the difference" seemed to many to suggest the outlet was policing its readers on what it deems to be the appropriate way to don an ancient Egyptian costume.

Many took to the comments to slam the newspaper, saying the way the model dressed was closer to what historic records show about the ancient culture's style of dress, which does not include a headscarf.

"The only thing left for you to do is declare civilization to be 'forbidden' and cover statues," one person said.

"Was Queen Cleopatra veiled? You can't tie history to your current ideas of respect and modesty, as the Pharaohs used to wear tight and somewhat short dresses fit for kings and queens. Only on official occasions did they wear longer pieces," another person wrote.

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