26-year-old Salma El-Shimy was arrested on Monday following a photo shoot in Saqqara, a notable archeological site in Giza. Officials at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities deemed Salma’s clothing “inappropriate.”
Mostafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, referred the case to public prosecutors for investigation, and warned that "anyone who shows negligence when it comes to antiquities or our unique Egyptian civilization will be punished."
Sabry Farag, director of the Saqqara antiquities site, stated that two of the ministry's employees and four security personnel working at the location were also referred to prosecutors for administrative investigation. However, he later denied reports that the six individuals were arrested.
Anyone looking to shoot photos or videos at any of Egypt’s archeological sites for commercial purposes has to obtain a permit from the ministry.
Salma’s photographer, 22-year-old Hossam Muhammed, stated that he and Salma had come to an "agreement" with staff at the site to carry out the photo shoot around the Pyramid of Djoser for 15 minutes.
Muhammed was arrested on Monday evening.
Salma called herself Queen "Malban-titi" during the photo shoot, a name combining the Turkish delight, "Malban," and Egypt's Queen Nefertiti.
When Salma’s photos went viral, a heated debate about breaking social norms and breaking the law was sparked online.
A lawsuit by one lawyer accused Salma of "the distortion of civilization and insulting the great Pharaonic history," while a member of Egypt's parliament called for Salma to face "severest punishments."
Egypt's justice system allows an individual to file a lawsuit against anyone for any reason, but the public prosecutor ultimately gets to decide whether it’s a valid case and brings formal charges.
Salma and Muhammed, on orders of the public prosecutor, were released on Tuesday evening on 500LE each (about $32) bail pending a full investigation. The charges against them include photography without a permit, and according to local news outlets, there are no charges related to the claims of indecency or impropriety.
Muhammed maintained that he had done nothing wrong, and that he was only trying to earn a living. He stated that he received 1000LE (about $65) for the shoot, and that he would have declined the job if he knew it would spark the scandal.
He also maintained that there would be no scandal if the model had a different body type.
Despite the outrage, some Egyptians have defended Salma’s right to wear whatever she wants, and have slammed the ministry’s actions. Many suggest that prosecution would create bad publicity for the country.
Sources: America Now