Model and photographer arrested over 'sexy' photo shoot. (Courtesy)

A model and a photographer have been arrested after a "sexy" photoshoot at a pyramid in Egypt. Snaps of Salma al-Shimi posing in a pharoah-like outfit were branded "provocative and offensive" when they were shared on social media last week. But authorities faced a backlash after the arrests, purportedly for taking photos next to the Step Pyramid of Djoser - which dates back 4,700 years - without permission.

Photographer Houssam Mohammad and al-Shimi are accused of "taking photos without authorisation in the Saqqara archaeological site", Middle East Eye reports. They were released on bail on Tuesday after widespread criticism of the arrests. Al-Shimi, who has thousands of followers on Instagram, was taken into custody after the images were widely shared.

They have since been taken down.

Salma al-Shimi. (Courtesy)

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A police source last week said, according to The Guardian: "A photographer has been arrested after a private shoot with dancer Salma al-Shimi in the archaeological zone."

Outraged officials reportedly branded the photos disrespectful. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told the Al-Watan news site that anyone who “disrespects” Egyptian civilization would face punishment.

Salma al-Shimi. (Courtesy)

Speaking in front of a prosecutor, the model said her intention had been to promote tourism rather than cause offence. And puzzled Egyptians hit out at the excuse for the arrest.

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One posted on social media: “Is there really a ban on taking photographs in archaeological zones, even pictures that are not indecent but completely normal?”

Another wrote: "There is no law that criminalises her behaviour, but the people who are meant to guard the public are using any pretext to annoy people and spread malice."