The Egyptian Wonders Of Salma al-Shimi Vs The Morally Outraged

Bitter jealousy and sexual repression result in fury at an innocent photo shoot.

It’s always worth remembering that, as we moan about the rise of the new puritans in Europe and America, things could be worse. We could, for instance, be in Egypt, where apparently bare shoulders are the height of pornography.

This week, photographer Houssam Mohammad and dancer/Instagram model Salma al-Shimi were arrested after he photographed her posing at the necropolis site of Saqqara, 30km south of Cairo. The official accusation was of ‘taking photos without authorisation in the Saqqara archaeological site’, though few had any doubts about what had actually caused such dramatic action. The release of the photographs, in which Shimi wears traditional ancient Egyptian garb and a dress that – steady yourself – revealed her bare shoulders and knees, was greeted with outrage on social media by the sort of people who you imagine are not big on women’s rights to bare anything. “We do not need to be naked to show the beauty of our antiquities, or to attract tourists,” said one Tweeter who clearly has a very interesting definition of ‘naked’. Interestingly – or not, you might think – Shimi’s critics were mostly female. In the aftermath of the arrests, other Egyptians have expressed their outrage at the heavy-handed treatment of Shimi, the wider issue of women’s rights in Egypt and the hypocrisy of the authorities, who have ignored Western models doing similar shoots. Photographer Mohammad commented that “if a thin girl was in Salma’s place, the issue would be very normal”, and certainly, Shimi’s voluptuous figure certainly makes her poses seem more striking and engaging – but the simple fact is that any sexual provocation in these images simply reveals the desires (and, in the case of her female critics, we suspect a certain jealousy) of the observer. Her clothes might be figure-hugging but they are not revealing, and it’s hardly her fault for being sexy or if guys get hard and girls get bitter looking at the photos.

The pair are out on bail, pending investigations. Let’s hope some common sense is shown and the authorities don’t bow to the moralising lunatic fringe.

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