Egypt and Historical Accuracy: The Time for Settling Is Over

The past couple of days (and weeks actually) have been big, busy weeks for the pharaohs. Sure, they’ve been dead for some time but this year is truly the busiest they’ve been in a while. If they weren’t preparing for the Golden Mummy Parade, they were slowly recoiling in their tombs because of that King Ahmose TV show.

And this is where the problem is actually. Historical accuracy when it comes to Egypt is, well, in shambles.

You don’t even have to think about it. All you have to do is think back on Saraya Abdeen when it first came out and how the show suddenly killed off the kid who would go on to be King Fouad (who was, you know, alive for a long time) because it miswrote his birth year.

But all of the historical inaccuracies in Saraya Abdeen, which was honestly just an Egyptianized version of Hareem El-Sultan (let’s just be frank at this point), could not hold a candle to all the historical inaccuracies found in the less-than-three-minutes trailer for El-Malek. It was honestly too much.

The statues of kings who weren’t remotely around that period? The beards, which were not a part of the culture? Trying to defend the beards by saying that King Ahmose, royal-lineage and all, was a commoner?

It was only a matter of time that the show got suspended because nothing about it made sense and it wasn’t going to slide like Saraya Abdeen did because, if nothing else, we take our Pharaonic roots and histories very seriously.

Yes, so seriously that even in this screenshot below we got Ahmed Abdelaziz to shave his moustache. It’s that serious and, all in all, these photos are more accurate because we paid attention to detail.

And speaking of detail, here’s another reason why El-Malek got suspended — the Mummy Parade happened.

Yeah, so here’s the thing. A lot of people would have gladly watched El-Malek, just for the laughs. They would’ve assumed that there was some lazing-around behind the scenes but, sadly, that wouldn’t have been unusual.

But with the Mummy Parade and all the amazing attention to detail we’ve seen live on air, from singing hymns from the Book of the Dead to costuming to the dancing, our expectations were simply raised. And watching El-Malek a week later would have literally stolen all that joy and pride.

See, we’re not finding it in ourselves to pretend like keeping things historically accurate is hard for us. Not just because of the Parade but because of the legacy of the one and only Shady Abdelsalam.

After the controversy and the memes, Egyptian twitter sparked the discussion about the late artist and, for good reason. In the late 60’s, only a couple of years after 3aroos El-Nile premiered with its own historical inaccuracies, The Mummy was released and anyone who was interested in culture, Egypt, cinema or all three was in awe.

The Mummy’s Japanese poster

The fact that The Mummy was a critical success as well as a classic wasn’t a coincidence. At the time, Shady Abdelsalam was an accomplished set designer and his meticulous attention to detail as well as his love for his culture showed all over his work. The sets as well as the costumes, the story-boards, the scripts and more were a testament to what could happen when you treat history like it deserves to be treated.

And Shady Abdelsalam’s vision wasn’t just seen in The Mummy. We’ve also seen it in his short movie, a story from the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, Shakawi El-Fala7 El-Fasee7, the stills and behind-the-scene stories in the never-finished Akhenaten and in the Polish movie Pharaoh, where he was an art director.

Despite all of these achievements and the fact that Shady Abdelsalam has an entire exhibit in the Library of Alexandria dedicated to his work, the mainstream public has only remembered him in full-force because the lack of any accuracy in El-Malek made us all turn to the man who spun accuracy in all he did.

He didn’t just stick to history, he brought it out of everyone he worked with. Even going as far as saying “they (the actors) won’t be actors; they’ll be heirs,” in an interview with El-Kawakeb in 1985.

The fact that everyone is remembering Shady Abdelsalam’s work and legacy now, in a time where production takes the easy way out is important because it’s telling. We won’t put up with the easy and the bare-minimum. And if it’s a historical production, we won’t take anything less than accurate since it’s clear we do have what it takes to make it out there.

And this isn’t the public ganging up on producers everywhere (how could we? They’re the ones making the show), it’s simply just us showing that, well, we deserve more. Especially if it’s cultural.

Food for thought.

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