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Melania Trump standing in front of the pyramids of Giza (all images are public domain and available via The White House’s Flickrstream)

This past weekend, Melania Trump once again drew attention to herself for her controversial choice of outfit as she posed in front of Egypt’s pyramids and Great Sphinx. She wore a cream-colored suit, white button-up shirt, black tie, and a matching cream fedora, later remarking, “I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear.”

Melania Trump standing in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza

The Internet was quick to lambaste the First Lady for her sartorial blunder, comparing her to Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” to Hannibal Lecter in leisurewear, to the characters in Out of Africa, and most notably, to the villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who was hired by Hitler to steal the Ark of the Covenant.

Melania Trump in front of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx

Frankly, it’s difficult to focus on what Melania does, rather than what she wears. For starters, I’m not exactly sure what it is that she does in the first place. But more importantly, fashion is political. When she tours Africa in a white pith helmet, for instance, ignorant to the history of violence and colonization behind the headgear, people notice. When she visits children who have been torn away from their families in a jacket that says, “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” people, understandably, take notice. And when she shows up in stiletto heels to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, choosing an unarguably impractical style of footwear for community service, people notice. One faux pas of these sorts, sure, could be deemed an accident or an oversight, but at a certain point, we have to hold her to account. And so, the photos in Egypt should come as no surprise. Melania Trump stands before the great pyramids like a colonizer in front of her conquests.

The First Lady of the United States standing in front of the Great Sphinx

Melania Trump inside the pyramid

One photo shows her in front of the Sphinx in an area that is closed off to the public. It’s noteworthy that the people of Egypt are forbidden from standing where Melania stands in that photo, in her white suit, a symbol of her colonial power.

In one striking image, Melania stands inside the pyramid, the photo framed so that it appears she is standing on a balcony. She waves at the people — her subjects — out of view, down below.

Melania Trump posing in front of the pyramids

The First Lady in front of the Great Sphinx

In another photo, Melania stands in front of the pyramids, one hand in her pocket, her blazer draped over her shoulders, her fedora slightly tilted, as she pouts for the camera, with the pyramids blurred in the background. The image appears straight out of a Vogue photo shoot — one that centers on imperialism. The history of Egypt is a mere backdrop to her fashion spread.

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Deena ElGenaidi

Deena ElGenaidi is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University-Camden in 2016, and her work has appeared in Longreads, Electric Literature,...

23 replies on “Melania Trump’s Colonial Romp Through Egypt”

  1. As someone who, like many or most, thinks Trump is wrong at least 100% of the time, this article strikes me as silly monitoring.

    1. It really isn’t though. As a First Lady who isn’t nearly as visible as some of her predecessors, and as one who is widely perceived as being a more or less unwilling victim of her husband’s antics, the way she chooses to present herself in public does matter. Because it’s all there is to judge her on. You’re in an extremely public role side by side with a highly controversial figure, best you know that what you wear is what story you choose to tell about yourself. Items of clothing can be strong symbols and she would be silly do discard that.

      1. I can’t stand Trump, but I see sincerity in Melania. I understand your point, however, this is a woman who loves high fashion and she cannot be compared to most other women in that sense. She knows how to carry herself and looks like perfection in everything she wears (IMO) I think people are way too critical of her choices. When I first saw her outfit at the pyramids, I gasped!! The outfit was everything!!!! If I could afford anything I wanted, THAT is exactly what I would have chosen to wear. I find Melania’s choices are always well thought out and give a nod to whatever event or location she attends. People are way too touchy these days. She LOVES high fashion. She is on another level when it comes to clothing. I don’t think there’s more to it than that and I don’t believe anyone (in the countries she visited) took offense.

        1. If a woman in her position wears items that have a clear link to colonialism, she isn’t being advised properly. Her appearance is not merely about style, it’s about substance.

          1. I 100% agree with you about improper “advice”. Yet, I feel like most people wouldn’t be crying foul right now because most people wouldn’t even recognize the fashion link without the press telling us so. As far as I know, the citizens of the countries she visited were not offended and I seriously do not believe Melania intended to offend anyone. Perhaps a bit of ignorance was involved but Insensitivity or malicious intent is out of the question. Frankly, I take issue with people who jump on any bandwagon to take up for issues that don’t involve them. As if anyone here cares about colonialism. Yes, she represents the US, but again, did she offend those who matter??? IDK.

          2. With all due respect but that all seems to be besides the point. The press is supposed to inform us and scrutinise those in power. You’re acting like she is a naive woman who may have made a silly choice unintentionally. On her level, nothing should be unintentional. She represents a country in a very public role so she must be aware at all times that her actions will be put under a microscope. First Lady fashion is a subject people talk about, as fashion is image and that image is how she chooses to present herself as the First Lady of the US. Wearing high heels to a flooded area or, the best one yet, the “I really don’t care”-jacket. Those are all statements, be they intentional or not… if they are intentional, they are no less than unprofessional and condescending, if the are unintentional, then that’s just plain dumb. She can be as private and recluse as she wants to be but if she doesn’t realise that she is the focal point of a lot of attention when stepping out as First Lady, maybe she isn’t fit for the job. Some of her fashion choices are highly questionable, it’s as simple as that. If people do or do not care about colonialism is beside the point, because she should care.

  2. She’s the perfect wife for him. And I’m not sure why anyone would expect her to act differently (I agree with Joy’s post below). After all, Eva Braun was married to Adolf Hitler and there have always been women in the KKK. It’s not as if women are inherently better than men, and we shouldn’t be expecting things of women like her or Susan Collins.

  3. This woman is meaningless… she’s never answered the “lies”… She hopes they will all go away without comment!

  4. These monuments were built by slaves and yet the author is commenting on the pants suit on the woman standing in front of them.

    1. Absolutely historically incorrect. False. Below you mentioned labor union, well kind of, they did. Brush up on facts of Egyptian history.

      1. You were three days late on the righteous rebuttal to my comment. You need to be first to be “that guy” correcting randos on the furious indignation.

      2. I see you have 3,822 comments on Disqus. Are they all three days late to the conversation and restating corrections that have already been made? I would think the euphoria of a troll’s fury would need more work to generate than that.

  5. If Mrs. Obama had done the same thing, oops she rump through Africa, you would be fawning at her toes.

  6. I’m one liberal who’s tired of the Melania bashing. If it had been Jackie Kennedy posing in front of the pyramids, the press would be gushing about the beauty of the woman and her outfit and how she was a great traveling ambassador for America.

    1. I’m with you. Melania is not her husband. She seems genuine and people need to understand that she is on another level fashion wise. I find nothing to criticize. I enjoy seeing how beautiful she looks and I appreciate her love of high fashion.

  7. If Melania is a intelligent as they claim, then she knows what she’s doing and she’s the one making the choices. Obviously, she isn’t so smart in that department, though, as she made the choice to marry DJT. I hold her absolutely accountable. She doesn’t care….as her apparel stated recently. Fashion is her game, and the most important one to her, above all else.

  8. On point. She could make some sensible choices in how she presents herself. She knows she is being watched. Being “insensible” seems contagious in her family, however. She didn’t make any efforts to be the first lady in the first place. All she aspired to be was being on the cover of “Vogue.” So she made it. Kudos to her.

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