Day 3, The Original Pyramid Scheme: Giza and The Great Pyramid
Day 3 found Sara feeling refreshed and we were motivated to see the ultimate tourist destination: the Great Pyramid. There is graffiti there from Ancient Greek tourists, so this tells you that these pyramids have inspired wonder for millennia. In fact, they were already 2500 years old (or older if you believe the alien thing) at that point.
We hailed a cab for the forty-five minute ride from our hotel (downtown Cairo) to the Giza Plateau. Somehow we managed to find the only cab driver who had never been to the pyramids, and as we got closer it was obvious that he did not know where he was going. Of course, he knew no English, and unfortunately the only place I knew how to get to was Midan Falaki. Not to worry, though, because we were saved by another scam artist. About a mile from the entrance, some guy just hopped in the cab with us when we were stopped at a stoplight. He was fluent in English and very friendly. In fact, his family owned a camel stable and today they were offering a special price for camel rentals.
We blew past the main entrance to the pyramids and ended up coincidentally right near his family’s stables. We had planned to get tickets to go inside the Great Pyramid, of which only 150 were offered and which went on sale at 7:30 am. It was already past 8 and we entered the plateau at the opposite end from the ticket booth. Both of us were a bit pissed at our ‘friend’, but we thought we would make the best of it and hurry over to the main entrance.
On our walk, past the Sphinx, we actually met a nice local, who only wanted to talk to us because he liked Obama so much. He was the only one we met that day that didn’t want money from us.
Next we were approached by a guy on a camel. The next minute or two are kind of a blur, but I’ll recall it as best I can. He said something like, “Hey, take my picture.” Sara got her camera ready, but then he pointed to me and said, “Hey, come over here and get a picture next to me.” I obliged, but then he sat the camel down and said, “Here, why don’t you put on this turban.” OK, so now I looked the part, but then he said, “How about getting on the camel.” OK, so now I was on a sitting camel. Then, “Pretty lady, why don’t you come over and get on it and I’ll take the picture.” Now Sara and I are both on a sitting camel, I have on a turban and some random guy has our camera. Of course, you know what is coming next…up goes the camel. Now, I have a pretty decent fear of heights that includes small ladders. I won’t ride a horse, and all of a sudden I am up on a camel, which, by the way is really high up. Sara screams, “Get me down from here right now.” She kept yelling different choice things and by now our new friend had been joined by his own friend. It was obvious that they panicked a bit at the rage and vehemence spewing from such a little ‘pretty lady’. They got us down quickly. We were mad, but not as mad as they got when they realized that they were not going to get a baksheesh (Arabic for tip – everybody wants a baksheesh…everybody). I gave them two pounds and walked off.
Still reeling from our camel experience, we were next approached by another guy who wanted to be our friend. He handed me a plastic bag with a white towel in it (it turned out to be a tourist turban). “Keep it, this is a gift from my country to you.” I explained that I really didn’t want it, and he got really, really offended that I would not take his gift. So offended, in fact that he gave me more things: some post cards, some toy pyramids for the kids and another bag with a towel in it for Sara. He was very insistent, even taking pictures for us and with us. Then, when it was time to go, it was time for baksheesh. I offered him five pounds (about $1) and then he really got offended. “I paid $5 for all that stuff.” I gave most of it back and let him keep the five pounds.
Finally we made it to the ticket booth and wouldn’t you know it, they were sold out. We would have to wait until the afternoon tickets went on sale. Oh well. We wandered around the plateau for five hours or so. We went inside the Second Pyramid and the Solar Boat Museum. The Solar Boat was found buried next to the Great Pyramid. It is a huge boat that was supposed to carry the pharaoh, Khufu, to the afterlife. It was pretty impressive, but more importantly, the museum had air conditioning. We had a Coke and then wandered out into town to find lunch: another Felfela Take Out! Ah, nothing like meat on a bun. What kind of meat? Never did find out.
Back to Giza and the Great Pyramid. We got our tickets and made our way to the entrance. Cameras and video equipment were strictly forbidden inside the pyramid, so, of course, they let us take one of each in for a small baksheesh. I was running the video camera while climbing up to the King’s Chamber inside and suddenly I was tapped on the shoulder. One of the guards I had not seen before was right behind me and took the camera from me. My immediate thoughts were of Egyptian prisons. He made Sara and I stand before him and…started filming us. Whew, what a relief. Unfortunately, he thought it was a still camera, so it is a very, very short video, but it is the thought that counts. He then followed us up into the King’s Chamber and took several pictures of us. Baksheesh was flowing now.
On the way down, we were able to get some decent video of the inside of the Grand Gallery and the tunnel leading down. On a side note, both Sara and I came to the conclusion that there was no way that this thing was build by the ancient Egyptians. Sorry, not a chance. I have since started reading Graham Hancock’s The Message of the Sphinx. It is a pretty interesting read and one that I wish I had completed before the trip. I would have been much more prepared to look for certain things while I was there. There are too many unanswered questions that are just glossed over by Egyptologists to believe the current theories of the origin of the pyramids. But, you also have to realize that I don’t believe we landed on the moon either, so come to your own conclusions.
All in all, we really enjoyed the Giza Plateau and especially going inside the Great Pyramid. If you go to Egypt, I would spend the extra money to go inside. However, it is a very personal experience, as, Maya, our friend whom we met later on the trip, thought going inside the Great Pyramid was a complete waste of money. Just from my point of view, though, it was my favorite thing that we did on the entire trip, until our last day at Petra, which far surpassed it.
We got back to the hotel, had a nice dinner (Sara had stuffed pigeon…I couldn’t do it, but I had a bite and it actually was good) and settled in to prepare for our next day’s trip to Alexandria. What do you do when you lose both passports, your driver’s licenses, credit cards and most of your money? Find out next post…