Modesty Concerns Prompt Qatar to Return Ancient Greek Statues of Nudes

Qatari officials were worried that the statues would upset female visitors.

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DEA / G. NIMATALLAH / De Agostini/Getty Images

Greek statue depicting nude wrestlers

Qatar has returned two ancient Greek statues of male nudes to Athens after authorities attempted to veil them due to modesty concerns, the Associated Press reports.

In what The Guardian has dubbed the “classic clash of cultures,” Qatari officials were worried that the male nudity would “scandalize” female visitors. However, Greek Deputy Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras, who visited the exhibition last month, insisted that the works should be displayed in their full glory or be shipped back to Athens.

(MORE: Behind Greece’s Courting of Foreign Investment)

So Qatari authorities pulled the antiquities from the exhibition Olympic Games: Past and Present, which opened March 28, and returned them on April 19. The statues, dating between the 6th and the 2nd century B.C., were to be the centerpieces at the ancient section that features 600 original pieces from Greece and international museums. The Qatar Museums Authority says the exhibition is the “first of its kind” and is designed to “take visitors on a journey through the history of ancient Olympia.”

According to Doha News, the decision was not censorship. It was made to be “sensitive to community needs and standards.” An anonymous Greek official told The Guardian that it was all very “friendly” when Doha declined to remove the clothes. The official said Greece didn’t want the incident to “overshadow” the exhibition, which is widely seen as a way for the debt-ridden country to win over more investments from Qatar.

According to a 2012 poll, six out of 10 Arabs believed that state-affiliated regulatory bodies are necessary because art could be “inappropriate” and offend religious beliefs, Doha News reported.

Greece may have found a partner in Qatar, as the Gulf state promised in January to pour $1.3 billion into a joint investment fund to help Greece bounce back from its debt crisis. Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani also recently purchased six Greek isles in the Ionian sea to build palaces for his three wives and 24 children.

(MORE: What Will It Take to Save Greece?)