Day 2 in Cairo. We awoke late in the morning – usually a definitely no, no while traveling, but when in Cairo…and we certainly needed the extra sleep from the previous night’s adventure.
We called up a recommended tour guide, Khaled, who was able to pick up and take us at the pyramids within a few hours. Upon arrival, I found that I had made another rookie mistake – I left my camera battery in the charger at the hotel. Thankfully, the Mena House Hotel is very close, and while my husband went to retrieve the battery, I waited in the nice weather among the other tourists. A group of girls asked to take a picture with me, and we snapped one with the cell phone – they were shocked to hear me say “shukran” [thank you], but you have to know at least that word over here!!
After I was camera ready, we went for a look inside the Cheops pyramid – the Grand Pyramid. The inside of the pyramid is restricted to tourists during certain times of the year as the humidity can climb extremely high inside. Although for the first 150 feet or so you will be walking upright, for the majority of the climb you find yourself squatting and hunched over. Speculation is that this tight design made it more difficult for thieves to carry out the loads of gold hidden within the pyramids. After a climb, you will find yourself in the middle of the pyramid – literally, the design is such that the chambers where the king was buried are perfectly aligned in the middle of the pyramid. They say that there is a feeling of peace once inside the chambers, perhaps, but it may have been more relief to be able to stand upright again and catch our breath. The way down was the exact same way we went up, so yes, you do have to crouch down again and weave in and out of the line of people coming up the pyramid.
Recovering from the climb, we stopped in amazement to really look at the size of the stones used in the pyramids. The base stones were almost as tall as an average person and could weight a ton. To think of these stones traveling down the Nile around 2500 BC to build the pyramid…it’s a fascinating engineering feat to think about. And not only did this happen with just a few rocks, this process was repeated with over 2 million stones over two decades.
The vision and commitment these kings must have had was truly something of a different time. It is hard to think of anything that has a twenty year build time these days. Even the Burj Khalifa in Dubai only took six years to build.
The additional pyramids of Giza include three smaller pyramids for the the King Cheops’ wives, a pyramid for his son, Khafre, which appears to be larger only for the fact that it is on higher ground, and a final large pyramid built by Menkaura, the son of Khafre. The best way to see these all these pyramids is to take a camel ride around for pictures. From the Grand Pyramid, you would drive to the back of the pyramids to find several vendors with various camels and horses. Once there, be sure to set prices early and emphasize that you do not want anything extra. If you stay for a longer ride, they may try to persuade you that you need to pay more. If you have an Egyptian tour guide, certainly seek his or her advice and direction on what to pay. Remember tourism is way down in Cairo right now – the tour operators there are anxious to may some money and do need a good reputation to carry on.
Above are some photos from our camel ride, it was well worth it for the pictures. The idea to stand up on the camel definitely did not come from me – our camel guide, Hussain, had to repeatedly assure me that the camel would move. (To be on the safe side, I identify a soft landing space just in case.)
Next, we hooped back in the car and headed to the Sphinx. Much less is known about the Great Sphinx. It is assumed to be partially carved from the bedrock of the area during King Cheops’ reign, although the purpose of the structure is not certain. Next to the Sphinx is a area in which the priests used to do the mummification process. Earlier, there used to be statues of the Egyptian gods in the empty spaces, but these pieces have since been moved to the Egyptian museum. After seeing the pyramids, the size of Sphinx seemed much less grand than that of the pyramids. But still, come on, it’s the Sphinx!
The pyramids of Giza are without a doubt one of the greatest Seven Wonders of the World. It is amazing to think that this seven thousand year history is preserved in the heart of the growing city of Cairo, and discoveries of this ancient culture continue to be made.
Next time, we will have to make it to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. For this trip, there was still more to explore in Cairo…