Egyptian model arrested over photo shoot at ancient pyramid

Ahmed Shawkat

Thu, December 3, 2020, 6:11 PM GMT+6

Cairo — Egyptian model Salma El-Shimy was arrested on Monday over a photo session in Saqqara, a prominent archaeological site in the city of Giza. El-Shimy, 26, posed for a collection of photos in a dress modeled on ancient Egyptian clothing. The outfit was deemed “inappropriate” by officials at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, referred the incident to public prosecutors for investigation, the ministry confirmed in a statement. It quoted Waziri as warning that, “anyone who shows negligence when it comes to antiquities or our unique Egyptian civilization will be punished.”


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Model Salma El-Shimy poses at the archaeological site of Saqqara, in Giza, Egypt, during a shoot with photographer Hossam Muhameed. Both were arrested and have been charged with photography without a permit for the shoot, which sparked a huge backlash in Egypt. / Credit: Salma El-Shimy/Facebook/Hossam Muhameed

Two of the ministry’s employees and four security personnel who work at the location were also referred to prosecutors for administrative investigation, Sabry Farag, director of the Saqqara antiquities site, told CBS News. Farag denied reports that those six individuals were also arrested.

Anyone who wants to carry out a photo or video shoot for commercial purposes at one of Egypt’s archaeological sites must obtain a permit from the ministry.

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

Muhammed was also arrested later Monday evening.

El-Shimy referred to herself as Queen “Malban-titi” for the photo shoot, a name combing references to the sweet treat Turkish delight, “Malban,” and ancient Egypt’s Queen Nefertiti.

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

One lawyer filed suit, accusing El-Shimy of “the distortion of civilization and insulting the great Pharaonic history.” A member of Egypt’s parliament called for El-Shimy to face the “severest punishments.”

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