Published: July 14th 2007July 14th 2007
Well I arrived back in Cairo, after a somewhat less comfortable reclined overnight journey, and then decided I would head into the heart of downtown Cairo for a hostel, after a short snooze I headed out to Saqqara, around forty minutes outside the city limits.
Saqqara is the huge cemetery of ancient Memphis, and was one of the royal burial grounds for moirÃ© than 3500 years, and consists of eleven lesser known old kingdom pyramids. I spent half the day at Saqqara, other visitors were few and far between, as a result there on the edge of the desert I found a peaceful serenity rarely created at the other ancient sites. The main monument in this area is the step pyramid
Which is the earliest form of pyramid; it encases a descending passage from the north which leads to the burial chamber. Underground galleries surround the pyramid on all but the south sides, but all of this I will have to trust to lonely planet as it was closed for restoration, meaning I was unable to venture inside.
Later that afternoon I moved through an area known as Coptic Cairo, this area is the oldest part of
Cairo, and predates what is now modern Cairo. It is believed that there was a settlement here as early as the 6th century BC. Later, the Romans built a fortress here which we know today as "Babylon". Some of these Roman walls still exist today.
After the spread of Christianity throughout Egypt, it became a Christian stronghold, with as many as twenty churches built within an area of just one square mile. Now only five remain, along with the earliest mosque ever built in Egypt. This was a really amazing place, which many suggest mirrors Jerusalem's old city, after wandering thought the afternoon I stopped at a traditional Egyptian cafÃ© to sip Arabic coffee as thick as mud, and smoke Shissha from a Hooka, or double apple flavoured tobacco through an ancient water pipe. That evening I took it easy with a nice Australian couple all having Sharworma and beers in hand.
The Next morning I headed back to the Giza plateau, wanting to cast my eyes one more time, upon these magical testaments to ancient architecture and religion. After drifting through the compound for the best part of the day, I headed back to the great pyramid of
Cheops, climbed the incredibly narrow shaft to the sepulcher and some how managed to sit alone in deathly silence for what seemed like hours! Contemplating all that is ancient Egyptian. This was incredibly special something I feel privileged to have experienced.
This time after having been in Egypt for a little while, I understood how things worked, so I slipped the guard a small bill, drew my camera and managed to capture the original entry shaft and the initial chamber before other tourists arrived, where the guard dove into a fairly convincing impression of an official doing his job with utmost efficiency yelling "no photo no photo" this was for the benefit of the new tourists, but unfortunately I was ushered back outside before I could make it to back to the burial chamber with my camera.
So after more Sharworma I headed back downtown to orgainse my gear as tomorrow I have a 6 hour bus ride to St Katherine at the foot of Mt Sinai.