Cleopatra had “white skin and Hellenistic characteristics,” the Egyptian antiquities ministry claimed on Thursday, in response to a Netflix drama-documentary that depicted the renowned ancient queen as black.
Adele James and Jada Pinkett Smith's “Queen Cleopatra” is scheduled to debut on the streaming service on May 10.
According to the Netflix website, which is marketing the forthcoming production, “As Egypt's last pharaoh, Cleopatra fights to protect her throne, family, and legacy in this docudrama featuring reenactments and expert interviews.”
But even before it was released, “Queen Cleopatra” sparked a firestorm of debate in the country of North Africa.
Over 40,000 people have signed an online petition accusing the production of distorting history.
Additionally, MP Saboura al-Sayed has once again requested parliament to outlaw Netflix in a nation where requests for its outlawry have been made due to material that is considered objectionable to Egypt or “its family values.”
The antiquities ministry entered the debate on Thursday by issuing a long statement that featured quotes from specialists who, according to the government, unanimously concur that Cleopatra had “white skin and Hellenistic characteristics”.
“Bas reliefs and statues of Queen Cleopatra are the best proof,” the declaration claimed, illuminating its words with images of Cleopatra sporting European characteristics.
The Supreme Antiquities Council's president, Mostafa Waziri, believes that portraying the well-known queen as black amounts to “a falsification of Egyptian history.”
He maintains that this viewpoint, which is driven by “defending the history of Queen Cleopatra, an important part of the history of Egypt in antiquity,” is not racist in any way.
Egyptian commentators often criticize initiatives by largely African-American organizations that claim Egyptian civilization has its roots there.
One of Alexander the Great's generals, Ptolemy, established the Ptolemaic dynasty on the banks of the Nile, while Cleopatra belonged to the Macedonian Lagides dynasty.
Although mythology praises the queen who was born in approximately 69 BC as having exceptional beauty, there is still debate over her appearance and the color of her skin.
The argument that Cleopatra had African ancestry was made in a BBC program in 2009, and it was accepted without controversy.