Netflix: Egyptians launch social media campaign over Cleopatra portrayal

Egyptian have continued to take to social media to debate the latest Netflix drama documentary Queen Cleopatra, which portrays the legendary monarch as black and, among other things, juxtaposes images of herself next to busts of ancient Egyptians.

Users shared multiple hashtags, including #EgyptForEgyptians, alongside images of both AI-generated imagery and older depictions of the queen — and various other ancient Egyptian figures — alongside modern-day citizens.

Images of Egyptian artifacts and modern day celebrities were juxtaposed in one tweet, saying, “Same faces and facial features through millennia.”

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Even before its May 10 release, the docudrama, in which actress Adele James plays the famous Egyptian ruler, had sparked debate among some Egyptians about perceived historical revisionism and Afrocentric readings of ancient Egyptian history.

The country’s antiquities ministry also joined the heated debate, repeating that Cleopatra had “white skin and Hellenistic features.” Shortly thereafter, an Egyptian TV station announced that it would be producing a big-budget historically correct as possible“.

In a tweet that went viral, Egyptian opera singer Amira Selim used an animated video in which her face morphs into an ancient Egyptian figure against a backdrop of pyramids, with the caption: “You CANNOT take our history, our heritage, our identity stealing by spreading lies.” , using a skin color and through pseudo-history and propaganda (sic)”.

While many agreed with the singer’s views, others argued that ancient Egypt was diverse.

One user questioned the idea “genetic heritage” defended by Selim, while another user said there was “no ‘pure’ Egyptian”.

Black Egyptian citizens were mentioned and pointed out in several replies “Anti-Black Racism” within North Africa as a whole.

On Tiktok, several users went to museums to demonstrate their perceived resemblance to ancient Egyptian figures in videos dubbed “responses” to Afrocentrists.

On one, a user stands next to the bust of Pharaoh Akhenaten.

In another clip, a user stands in front of multiple renderings of leaders from the ancient empire and lip syncs: “These are all my relatives and my loved ones. This is our home.”


The Cleopatra documentary isn’t the first time a supposedly inaccurate portrayal of Egyptians has sparked a backlash.

US comedian Kevin Hart had his debut show in February cancelled in the country after anger erupted in the country over his alleged support of “Afrocentrism” and claims that the ancient Egyptians were black.

Hart’s critics accused him of distorting history and depriving the Arabs of their claim to the country’s ancient past. He claimed that black Africans were once the kings of Egypt.

But the quote attributed to Hart has never been verified as true, and it remains unclear where and when he made the comments.

Proponents of the Afrocentrism movement examine the story from a perspective that focuses on the role of black Africans. Some supporters say modern Egyptians have no claim to the country’s ancient history because they are the descendants of Arab invaders.

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