THE NAKED TRUTH: Why model Marisa Papen was arrested in Egypt

Model Marisa Papen poses with the pyramids in the background
Updated 11 September 2017
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THE NAKED TRUTH: Why model Marisa Papen was arrested in Egypt

DUBAI: A female model was arrested in Egypt after posing completely naked for a photo shoot near the pyramids.

The Belgian model, Marisa Papen, has been posing nude for a series of photos in 50 countries over the last two years, but by her own admission Egypt was the first place where she found herself in a sticky situation.

Having posed naked, with the pyramids in the background, she was later arrested for not first getting permission from the authorities.

But her arrest only came after the photo shoot, which had taken place despite the presence of a security guard, who Papen claims was “happy to look the other way” once he was given a bribe.

It was when two young men arrived and asked what she was doing, that she explained things started to get risky.

“We tried to explain to them that we were making art with the highest respect for Egyptian culture,” she explained on her website. “But they could not see a connection between nudity and art. In their eyes it was porn or something like that.”

She said she and the photographer bribed the two men $20 and carried on. But when they went to Luxor, where they planned to shoot by the temple complex at Karnak things got really tricky, as there were so many security guards.

However, undeterred, they decided to hide until the temple was closed and started the photo shoot.

But this time they were not so lucky. Papen said: “You can guess what happened next. Busted, once again. And yes, this time we were in some serious trouble.”

“Without being able to share words, I made it clear to Jesse that he had to delete the images if he saw the tiniest opportunity.”

She said the police did believe their story that they had taken no images and were simply “testing the light.”

Instead the photographer was told to strip down as the police searched for a second SD card, but did not find anything.

Papen said they went to a number of places and were put into jail cells filled with other men.

“I knew that a prison in Egypt looks slightly different then in Belgium or any Westernized country but I had no idea what to expect before actually going in,” she said.

“The first cell we encountered was packed with at least 20 men, some were passed out on the floor, some were squeezing their hands through the rails, some were bleeding and yelling. I had never seen something like this before in real life. Jesse kept telling me, ‘Marisa don’t look’ but there was no way not to look.”

After a few hours behind bars they were brought before a judge, where she said they tried to play the part of “stupid tourists.”

“Our judge was browsing with his big thumbs through these books that looked as old as the pyramids did. Eventually, he gave us a warning and told us never to do something so foolishly shameful ever again. We nodded simultaneously.”

Despite the close call, they retrieved the photographs using special software and after leaving the country, published them on her website.


Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

Updated 23 May 2018
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Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

  • Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish
  • Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy

KABUL: One of the only Qur’ans ever made from silk fabric has been completed in Afghanistan — a feat its creators hope will help preserve the country’s centuries-old tradition of calligraphy.
Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish.
Bound in goat leather and weighing 8.6 kilograms, the Qur’an was produced by Afghan artisans, many of them trained at British foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul.
“Our intention was to ensure that calligraphy does not die out in this country — writing is part of our culture,” Khwaja Qamaruddin Chishti, a 66-year-old master calligrapher, said in a cramped office inside Turquoise Mountain’s labyrinthine mud-brick and wood-paneled complex.
With the Qur’an considered a sacred text, calligraphy is highly venerated in Islam and Islamic art.
“When it comes to art we cannot put a price on it. God has entrusted us with this work (the Qur’an) ... and this means more to us than the financial aspect,” Chishti continued.
Using a bamboo or reed ink pen, Chishti and his fellow calligraphers spent up to two days carefully copying Qur’anic verses onto a single page — sometimes longer if they made a mistake and had to start again.
They used the Naskh script, a calligraphic style developed in early Islam to replace Kufic because it was easier to read and write.
The decoration around the script, known as illumination, was more time-consuming, each page taking more than a week to complete.
A team of artists used paint made from natural materials, including ground lapis, gold and bronze, to recreate the delicate patterns popular during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries in the western city of Herat.
“All the colors we have used are from nature,” Mohammad Tamim Sahibzada, a master miniature artist who was responsible for creating the vibrant colors used in the Qur’an, said.
Sahibzada said working on silk fabric for the first time was challenging. The locally sourced material — all 305 meters (1,000 feet) of it — was treated in a solution made from the dried seeds of ispaghula, or psyllium, to stop the ink from spreading.
Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy.
It hopes the silk Qur’an will generate demand for more handmade Islamic religious texts that could create employment for its artisans and help finance the institute.
“We will show it to other Islamic countries to see if it is possible to create job opportunities for graduates to work on another Qur’an,” said Abdul Waheed Khalili, the organization’s Afghan director.
For now, it will be kept in a specially made hand-carved walnut wooden box to protect its delicate pages from the elements at Turquoise Mountain’s offices, which are in the restored Murad Khani, a historic commercial and residential area in Kabul’s oldest district.
There Turquoise Mountain has trained thousands of artisans with the support of Britain’s Prince Charles, the British Council, and USAID.
“The copying of the Qur’an onto silk is very rare,” country director Nathan Stroupe said.
He said the project has been “an amazing way to train our students at an incredibly high level in a very traditional type of work.”
“If a book collector in London... was interested in it, we would be thinking in the $100,000 to $200,000 (price) range,” he added.