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Scandal at the Pyramids
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 13 - 12 - 2018

It seems that nude photography at ancient Egyptian archaeological sites has become a fashion, with every now and then there being news of a nude model or nude couple pictured on top of the Great Pyramid or at the Karnak or Luxor Temples and stirring up controversy.
The latest incident came early this week when Danish photographer Andreas Hvid uploaded a three-minute video recorded at night on social media apparently showing him and a woman climbing what appeared to be the Great Pyramid and upon his arrival at the top the woman taking off her shirt with a still image at the end depicting the pair in a naked embrace.
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany ordered the video to be sent to the prosecutor-general for investigation.
Ashraf Mohi, director of the Giza Plateau, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the video might be fake, since there is an 18km fence around the Pyramids along with tight security all day and night from the time the area closes at 5pm. He said the area around the Pyramids was too brightly lit in the video, and that this area was immersed in darkness during the night.
“The Pyramids are the most important historical landmarks in the world,” Mohi said, adding that “people have different ambitions when it comes to expressing their love for them.”
He said that if the video was genuine the couple had breached Egyptian law in climbing on the Pyramid and appearing naked on its top. Penalties vary depending on the investigation and any damage done.
Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the ministry, said the video was an attack on Egypt and its tourism industry. “It is an insult to these symbols of humanity,” he said.
The video has sparked outrage among many, with opinions swinging between doubters and believers in the genuineness of the video. However, all described the action as disrespectful if true and a way of disregarding the country's culture and one of the world's most important heritage sites.
“I can't believe Pyramid fans would do this. This Danish couple violated the rules and disrespected a holy place like the Pyramids,” French pyramid lover Arnold Montie wrote on Facebook.
“They do the same acts in many landscapes all over the world, and they have their own fan page,” he asserted. Hvid has posted images on his page on social media of different sites around the world, sometimes also depicting nudity.
“We should suspend travel for this couple until we see what we can do with them,” Cairo resident Gohar Tawfik tweeted.
“Does anyone have confirmation of an arrest? I believe it's a fake. How can you take a picture so high in the air when you are just the two of you? You would need a tripod. Could they have climbed up with a tripod? I don't think so. Would they have climbed dressed so uncomfortably? I don't think so either,” said one Danish commentator.
“It will be bad if this is allowed as many others will follow,” said an Indian tourist who requested anonymity.
“For those wondering why it is a big deal, ask yourself this, how would you feel if a couple had sex on the grave of your great grandfather,” wondered Suzane Shewig from Holland.
Tourist Yott Bott tweeted that the Pyramids are buildings of regeneration and rebirth. “This was a holy sexual act. What is your knowledge about the Pyramids? What is wrong is the free access to the top, because if everyone did the same the building would crumble, physically and morally.”
“For many years, I have dreamed of climbing the Great Pyramid,” Hvid told Ekstra Bladet, a Danish newspaper. “The idea of making a nude shoot up there also existed for some time.”
“I am sad that so many people have become so angry. But I have also received a positive response from a lot of Egyptians, something I think is worth remembering,” he said.
Hvid told the newspaper that he had tried to climb the Pyramid with a Norwegian friend, but they were caught and interviewed at a local police station. He said they were released without further consequences. Obsessed with getting the project to succeed, Hvid then contacted another friend.
He did not reveal what had happened on the Pyramid. “It is a shoot. It's only the second time I have been naked in one of my pictures,” he asserted.
“I will stay out of Egypt in the future, as I probably risk being sentenced if I go back. It was the project to get up on the Pyramid that made me come down so I feel I have seen what I would like in Egypt,” Hvid said.
Hvid is not the first to climb the Great Pyramid. Last year, foreign nationals Marisa Papen and Jesse Walker came to Egypt to capture ancient Egypt by photographing Papen naked at several ancient Egyptian sites.
Papen said that when the Karnak Temple in Luxor was empty, she stripped and started dancing to be photographed. A few minutes later, four security guards arrested the couple, though the photographs were deleted.
The police threw the pair into jail, but they were later released with a warning.
In 2016, Egypt sent an official notice to the German embassy banning a young German tourist from visiting Egypt after he had illegally scaled a pyramid in Giza.
“The world has an obsession with the Pyramids, as they are most famous place in the world,” said Hassan Nahla, head of the Tour Guides Syndicate. He said that photographs at the Giza Plateau got maximum likes on social media, and this led some visitors to use photoshop to change them.


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