Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Travel Tuesday : The Pyramids of Giza

Got up early and had a quick breakfast before going out to meet Alaa, our driver. Again, having the driver was fantastic: he took us to buy water ("it's very hot -- and water inside is very expensive") and then drove us to the ticket counter, waited until we went through the controls, and then drove us to the Great Pyramid.

We went IN the great pyramid -- strange -- you go in and then up a very steep, small ramp, and then up a steeper but tall ramp, and then squeeze through a low doorway into the chamber... which was full of what I must assume were so-Cal hippies chanting. Awesome. The best part was that they had seated themselves right in front of the door -- so you had to squeeze past them into the room. Oh, and they shushed you when you made noise. Great.

It was at that point that I realized that the pyramids are just amazing manmade structures, very old. Not spiritual beacons. Just buildings. Amazing buildings, but just buildings.

At some point they stopped and all you could hear was breathing. Then, after a few minutes they started again. That (and the fact that I was dripping with sweat in the heat) was my cue to squeeze back out past the hippies, telling the people trapped outside that there was plenty of room inside if they could just squeeze in.

Then down down down the ramps, scary scary, and back out into the fresh air. I was amazed at how big all the blocks were.

Alaa was waiting, and took us around to the smaller tombs. He told us to give the guard $1 or 5 pounds each, AFTER looking, and no more. So he convinced the guard to unlock the doors and let us in. There was some back and forth, but we did get in. Smaller tombs but more inside them -- lovely carvings, some still with paint. Really happy we got to see them.

Then back to the car and Alaa drove us to a panorama point and took silly pictures of us making pyramid shapes. I loved seeing police on camels. Alaa's presence kept other would-be guides and touts away, making the money completely worthwhile.

A few more stops for photos -- by the small pyramid, by the sphinx, and then we were dropped at a papyrus museum. Bless. But it wasn't a hard sell, and they showed us how they make papyrus. Pretty interesting. Of course, we didn't buy anything. Then back to the hotel, where we hung out for a few hours before catching our train to Luxor.

Pyramids: so big! Still surprising to spot them out of the corners of our eyes.

Sphinx: Alan Bennet was right -- it is like meeting a famous person and being surprised by how small they are in real life.

Alaa: marvellous. He bought me a falafel to try and then laughed when we told him we eat it at home. At one point he and I chatted while Wil was in the loo and he told me he has a family here in Cairo but another wife in South Africa. Wow! I took his picture and he said "You can e-mail it to me." Really nice man -- he kept the hassle away from us completely.

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