Photographer admits nude pyramid video ‘the dumbest idea’

Climbing pyramids is illegal in Egypt, though that hasn’t stopped people before (File/AFP)
Updated 09 December 2018

Photographer admits nude pyramid video ‘the dumbest idea’

  • Photographer says he did not mean to be disrespectful
  • Egyptian Minister of Antiquities dubs it a "violation of public morality"

DUBAI: A video that shows a Danish couple climbing the Pyramid of Khufu before posing naked at the top has gone viral, sparking outrage from both the Egyptian government and the general public.

The video, posted on YouTube last Wednesday, was shot by Danish photographer Andreas Hvid, who is known on social media for posting pictures from various high vantage points around the world. Known as “rooftopping,” the process involves climbing cranes, chimneys or high-rise buildings unsecured and usually illegally. Hvid has been doing it for years and has more than 11,000 followers on Instagram.

Speaking to Ekstra Bladet, a Danish tabloid, Hvid said he had wanted to do a pyramid shoot for some time. This was Hvid’s second attempt to climb the pyramid following a failed attempt, when he and a friend were caught by guards and taken to the local police station. They were released with a warning.

After sneaking on to the plateau just before closing, he and his model friend hid in a temple and waited for the level of activity on the plateau to fall. “We lay and froze for about an hour-and-a-half while we could hear cars driving around,” he said.

The actual climb took about 25 minutes. “A euphoric feeling struck us both when we reached the top,” Hvid said. “It was the culmination of a lot of work and many chances taken.”

As for the subject matter of the video, he said he did not mean for it to come across as disrespectful, but rather as a critique on the behavior of privileged Western youths. “It was the dumbest idea I could think of. Western, privileged youth at its worst. But I don’t make fun of religious symbols, which the pyramids haven’t been in 4,500 years.”

Speaking to Al-Ahram, Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Anany called it a violation of public morality and said he had filed a memo with the prosecutor-general on Friday. Al-Anany promised that the incident and the video would be investigated by the attorney-general, although it is unclear what sort of action could be taken against the couple.

Climbing pyramids is illegal in Egypt, though that hasn’t stopped people before. In 2016, German teen Andrej Ciesielski also climbed the Pyramid of Khufu, causing Egypt to send an official notice to the German embassy banning him from the country for life.

As for Hvid, he has since moved to an unspecified location in Asia. “I will stay out of Egypt in the future, as I probably risk being sentenced if I go back,” he told Ekstra Bladet. “It was the desire to climb the pyramid that brought me here, so I feel I've gotten what I wanted.”


High-end rebrand makes life sweet for Japan’s ‘ice farmers’

Updated 18 August 2019

High-end rebrand makes life sweet for Japan’s ‘ice farmers’

  • Reinventing natural-made ice as a high-end artisanal product has helped revive the ice-farming trade
  • The blocks are sold to some of Tokyo’s high-end shaved ice shops as well as department stores

NIKKO, Japan: In a mountainous area north of Tokyo, a priest blows a conch shell as Yuichiro Yamamoto bows and thanks the nature gods for this year’s “good harvest”: natural ice.
Yamamoto is one of Japan’s few remaining “ice farmers,” eschewing the ease of refrigeration for open-air pools to create a product that is sold to high-end shaved ice shops in trendy Tokyo districts.
His trade had all but disappeared in recent decades, and the shaved ice or kakigori that is popular throughout Japan in summer had been produced with cheap machine-made ice.
But reinventing natural-made ice as a high-end artisanal product has helped revive the sector and save his firm.
“When I started making natural ice, I wondered how I should market it. I thought I needed to transform kakigori,” Yamamoto says at his ice-making field in the town of Nikko, north of Tokyo.
Yamamoto took over a traditional ice-making business 13 years ago in Nikko, where he also runs a leisure park.
At the time, shaved ice cost just ¥200 ($2) in the local area and Yamamoto, who was fascinated by traditional ice-making, knew he couldn’t make ends meet.
“My predecessor used to sell ice at the same price as the fridge-made one, which can be manufactured easily anytime throughout the year,” the 68-year-old says.
The situation made it “impossible” to compete he explains, as producing natural ice is labor intensive.
Instead he decided to transform cheap kakigori into a luxury dessert, made with his natural ice and high-grade fruit puree rather than artificially flavored syrup.
After months of research, he began producing his own small batches of artisanal kakigori.
“I put the price tag at ¥800 for a bowl of kakigori. I also priced the ice at ¥9,000 per case, which is six times more than my predecessor,” he says.
At first, there were days he threw away tons of ice because he could not find clients.
But one day buyers from the prestigious Mitsukoshi department store discovered his product, and began stocking it, turning around his fortunes.
Kakigori dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185) when aristocratic court culture flourished in the then-capital of Kyoto.
It was a rare delicacy reserved for the rich, with the ice naturally made and stored in mountainside holes covered with silver sheets.
It was only after 1883, when the first ice-making factory was built in Tokyo, that ordinary people could taste the dessert.
With the development of ice-making machines, the number of traditional ice makers dropped to fewer than 10 nationwide.
The story is one familiar to many traditional Japanese crafts and foodstuffs — with expensive and labor-intensive products losing ground as cheaper, machine-driven versions become available.
And making ice naturally is a grueling task.
The season begins in the autumn when workers prepare a swimming-pool-like pit by cultivating the soil and pouring in spring water.
Thin frozen initial layers are scraped away along with dirt and fallen leaves.
The ice-making begins in earnest in the winter, when water is poured in to freeze solid, but it must be carefully protected. Producers regularly scrape off snow that can slow the freezing process.
“I once spent 16 hours non-stop removing snow,” Yamamoto recalls.
And rain too can ruin the product, causing cracks that mean the whole batch has to be discarded.
“I check the weather forecast 10 times a day,” Yamamoto laughs.
Once the ice is 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) thick, which takes at least two weeks, workers begin cutting out rectangular blocks.
Each block, which weighs about 40 kilograms (88 pounds), is glided into an ice room filled with sawdust on a long bamboo slide.
The blocks are sold to some of Tokyo’s high-end shaved ice shops as well as department stores.
In the Yanaka district, more than 1,000 people queue up every day for a taste of kakigori made with natural ice produced by another ice-maker from Nikko.
Owner Koji Morinishi says the naturally made ice has a texture that is different from machine-made products.
“It feels very different when you shave it. It’s harder because it’s frozen over a long period of time,” explains Morinishi.
“It’s easier to shave really thin if the ice is hard. If not hard, it dissolves too quickly.”
Morinishi himself struggled when he first opened the kakigori shop, but has gradually built a cult following for his desserts topped with purees of mango, watermelon, peach or other fruit.
And Yamamoto’s firm has seen demand soar — he now harvests 160 tons a year and knows two new producers who have entered the market.
He says: “This business has become attractive and the ice makers are all busy.”