Cairo – An Egyptian model was arrested on Monday due to a photo session in the ancient Saqqara area in Giza. Salma El-Shimi, 26, took a group of photos in an ancient Egyptian dress. Officials at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities considered the dress “inappropriate”.
The ministry confirmed in a statement that the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mustafa Waziri, had referred the incident to the Public Prosecution Office for investigation. It quoted Waziri as warning that “anyone who neglects antiquities or our unique Egyptian civilization will be punished.”
Sabri Farag, director of the Saqqara Archeology Site, told CBS News that two ministry employees and four security personnel working at the site were also referred to the Public Prosecution Office for an administrative investigation. Faraj denied the reports of the six arrests.
Any person wishing to implement an image or video filming for commercial purposes in an archaeological site in Egypt must obtain a permit from the Ministry.
Al-Shimi’s photographer, Hussam Muhammad, 22, told a local newspaper that he and his subject reached an “agreement” with site workers to take pictures around Djoser’s pyramid for 15 minutes. The pyramid dates back to the 27th century BC.
Muhammad was also arrested later on Monday evening.
El-Shimi referred to herself as Queen “Malban Titi” to take the photo, a name that combines references to the Turkish delight “Malban” and the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.
The images went viral and revived a heated debate about the difference between breaking social norms and breaking the law.
A lawyer filed a lawsuit accusing Al-Shimi of “distorting civilization and insulting the great Pharaonic history.” A member of the Egyptian parliament called for the Shimi to face “the most severe sanctions.”
Under the Egyptian justice system, anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone for any reason, but it is up to the Public Prosecutor to decide if there is a valid case and then bring formal charges.
Far from exaggeration, the Public Prosecutor ordered the release of al-Shami and her photographer on Tuesday evening on bail of 500 pounds each (about $ 32), pending full investigation. They face official charges of filming without a permit, according to local news outlets, but there are no charges related to obscenity or anything else stemming from the allegations of wrongdoing.
Mohamed told the local press that he was surprised by the big reaction, insisting that he had done nothing wrong and that he was just trying to make a living. He said he got paid 1,000 pounds (about $ 65) for filming, and if he had known it would turn into such a scandal, he would have turned the job down.
He also said he believes that if the model in question had a different body type, none of this would happen.
Despite outrage from some angles, other Egyptians rallied to defend Al-Shimi’s right to wear whatever you want and criticized the Ministry of Tourism’s actions, indicating that the Public Prosecution will only lead to bad publicity for Egypt.
Just two weeks ago, Saqqara was in the news about the historical archaeological discovery of about 100 sealed coffins containing mummified bodies.
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