CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have launched an investigation into images said to show a naked couple who scaled the Great Pyramid that has sparked outrage in the conservative Muslim country, an official said yesterday. In a video titled “Climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza”, Danish photographer Andreas Hvid appears to scale the 4,500-year-old tomb on the outskirts of Cairo at night with an unidentified woman who is later seen taking off her top. Hvid says the video was taken in late November but it was published on YouTube on Dec 8.
A photograph released by Hvid appears to show the couple completely naked on top of each other while looking in the direction of a nearby pyramid with the horizon illuminated. “The public prosecution is investigating the incident of the Danish photographer and the authenticity of the photos and video of him climbing the pyramid,” Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme antiquities council, told AFP. If the video was actually filmed at the top of the pyramid, that would make it a “very serious crime”, Waziri said.
The nearly three-minute video has taken social media by storm and has been the subject of late night talk shows. It has notched up almost three million views on YouTube alone. “A 7,000-year-old civilization has turned into a bed sheet,” a Twitter user in Egypt lamented. Another protested that “they want to soil the dignity and pride of Egyptians because the pyramid reflects the glory and grandeur of the Egyptian people”.
The authenticity of the images has been disputed with some arguing the photograph showing the pair naked appears to be very bright whereas the video showed them scaling the pyramid at night. Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany told government newspaper Al-Ahram that the video has stirred “anger and outrage among Egyptians”, and that officials in charge of guarding the pyramids would be punished if found to have been negligent.
Hvid, 23, explained back home to the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that he had “dreamed for many years of climbing the Great Pyramid” as well as of taking a naked photograph. “I’m sad that so many people have got angry but I’ve also received a lot of positive responses from many Egyptians,” he said in an interview. The young Norwegian, who runs his own YouTube channel, said he had absolutely no interest in stirring up a crisis such as that triggered by cartoons in Western newspapers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). As for the girl in the video, she was not his girlfriend. “It was just a pose. We did not have sexual relations,” Hvid said.
The Great Pyramid, also known as the Khufu pyramid, is the largest in Giza, standing at 146 m tall, and the only surviving structure of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Climbing pyramids is forbidden in Egypt. In 2016, a German tourist was barred from entering the country for life after he posted online footage of climbing one of the ancient structures.
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities have unofficially restricted the sale of “yellow vest”, traders in Cairo told AFP yesterday, signaling fears of possible protests inspired by those in France. The move comes ahead of the eighth anniversary of the uprising that toppled Egypt’s longtime president Hosni Mubarak in Feb 2011 and left the country in political and economic turmoil. “We received instructions from the police around a week ago to sell yellow vests to companies only, and not to individuals,” one importer said. He said two yellow vest shipments were currently en route to Egypt and that no instructions had been issued to halt such imports.
However, a rights lawyer, Mohamed Ramadan, was yesterday remanded in custody for two weeks over charges including the distribution and possession of leaflets and yellow vests. He was arrested on Monday in the northern city of Alexandria, his lawyer Abdelrahman Al-Gohary said. Launched in early November, weekly “yellow vest” protests in France against planned increases in fuel tax price have spiralled into violence in Paris and other cities, taking a heavy financial toll.
In a downtown Cairo street, several yellow vest sellers told AFP that their sale was being “prohibited” under instructions from police. “National security officials came by and asked us not to sell them to individuals because they fear protests in France could reach us here,” one trader said. The interior ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Egypt imposed heavy restrictions on demonstrations under a 2013 law, passed after the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his rule. General-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has repeatedly criticized the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, pointing to their repercussions on neighboring countries like Syria, Yemen and Libya. His government has overseen harsh austerity measures including the removal of subsidies and introduced steep price hikes aiming to revive Egypt’s economy. – AFP