Yep, they're pretty big (the Pyramids)
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
Show trip route
Aust $ = 4.5 Egyptian Pounds
US $ = 5.7 EP
1 Euro = 7 EP
After a taster at the Egyptian Museum, it was time to get out and see more of the real thing but out in the wild. The Pyramids of Giza were beckoning, only 12km from downtown Cairo and oh so accessible by bus, metro or taxi. I was however going to wait for a nice sunny day which would do the photographs justice, but from the looks of the weather and the smog, that wasn't going to happen any time soon. Just that time of year I suppose.
Enter Naser Ali from stage left. I was sussing out a new hotel the evening of the museum visit and he beckoned me over to share a sheesha pipe when I exited said hotel. I'm usually a bit wary if approached on the street (and particularly so in a dark alley), but Aly wisely showed his credentials immediately, including passport with Australian visa (he's visiting his married brother in Sydney soon) plus some references for his guide services from worldwide visitors. Soon we were getting on like a house on fire. A great price for a full day tour was soon negotiated and he even found me a better, cheaper hotel. Nice.
So off we went next morning, including another traveller from the Netherlands called Arjan. After stopping to get an International Student Card (my legitimate one from the Uni of New South Wales isn't good enough) we quickly found ourselves on the Giza plateau and coming face to face with the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World - Sphinx and all.
Build around 3,000BC (i.e. 5,000 years ago) these are awesome structures that nothing can really prepare you for. They are so large and geometrically accurate that nothing built since has matched their perfection. Naturally they're showing signs of advanced age but still it is hard to imagine anything being constructed in the forseeable future that will match their grandeur and flawlessness.
The Great Pyramid of Cheops is the largest, measuring in at 147 metres in height, but I found the equally impressive the more complete Pyramid of Chephren which is almost the same dimensions and still has its original limestone peak. This has eroded from the top of Cheops and hence makes it look a little incomplete from a distance.
During our time there over the day, Anjan and I wandered around Cheops for some close-ups (including a kerfuffle with some of the camel drivers which ended up being a $4 photo opportunity) and then out to some of the surrounding sand dunes for longer range shots. It's quite easy to do this by yourself but if you're too lazy there's always a horse or camel driver to offer a lift.
To get a different angle, we also paid an additional 50 Egyptian Pound entrance fee (usually 100, those ISIC cards were paid for already) to climb inside the Great Pyramid (over and above the 20 EP general admittance). Again, cameras were not permitted but I smuggled mine in anyway, and up we went.
Honestly there's not a lot to see inside but the climb and actually being there is quite an experience. It's a long, cramped affair, particularly during the first stage where you have to crouch to make your way up. To add to the difficulty, there's only one entrance and exit so people are streaming down as you struggle up. The second phase is more manageable, with a proper stairway through a high cutting in the structure. Finally you make your way through another low and narrow but short horizontal tunnel to the King's chamber, the highest of the three chambers found inside the Pyramid (the other two are the lower Queen's room and the burial chamber at bottom).
The King's Chamber is basically a dimly lit room with a broken base of a sarcophagus at one end. Maybe measures 10 x 5 metres and is two stories high. Nothing much to see and the shot I took inside amounted to little. However it's the experience of being inside something so old and amazing that counts, not the actual sights. Just don't try it if you're claustrophobic - it would be a nightmare!
Anyway, time enough inside so we continued our wanderings outside. Despite the hordes of tourists and the size of the site, the scenes and passing parade were hard to ignore (or not take photos of!). We didn't end up going inside the two smaller pyramids, but I think I'll be back sometime in the next month, especially if I'm in town on a sunny day, to upgrade the overcast sky pics and to see the internals of Chefren and Menkaure.
Naturally the Sphinx also rates a worthy mention, although he is looking a little more tattered than I recall from my wild childhood imagination. Carved entirely out of one stone left over from the building of the Great Pyramid, he is as deserving of his name in Arabic - the Father of Terror. Roowww! The crowds going in and out of the Sphinx Museum (basically a viewing platform) make it difficult to sit and quietly appreciate him but as the hordes thinned out after the 4.30 closing time we were able to see him in more peaceful surrounds.
But the day wasn't over there - we had a pit-stop at a perfumery where I picked up a nice gift of Lotus flower essence and then Aly (with Arjun as worthy co-driver) took us to Sakkara for a village dinner. It was a little pricey but there was food for enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner and included some great arabic music and dancing horses. What more could you want? Hot arabic bread coming straight out of the over is what, so I took about eight small loaves in a doggy bag with me, and I'm eating them right now as I write this piece. Sweet!
Final stop on the agenda was Aly's mate's place across the road from the Sphinx entrance to see the sound and light show that happens daily after sundown. This was a little disappointing with weak lighting and not nearly enough zapping lasers or disco balls. Still, it was great to see another angle and dimension to the pyramids, especially when we didn't have to pay the 66 EP entrance fee (no student discount).
So thanks Aly for a great day all round. Excellent value, informative and very entertaining so if you are coming to see the pyramids, check out Aly's website at www.pyramidtours.net and he'll sort out the rest.
Next entry -> around Cairo town
Old Rossian Proverb
A pebble in your boot is better than a chip on your shoulder.