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Africa » Egypt » Lower Egypt » Cairo
March 7th 2007
Published: March 7th 2007
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We arrived in Cairo from Sao Paulo via Madrid. We were lucky and upgraded to business class for the transatlantic section. I guess it helps being nice to the gate agent, actually I think only a few people on the flight were mileage members. During our layover in Madrid we walked around a shopping mall to kill a few hours.
Upon waking up late the next day, exhausted from our previous day of travel, we had a leisurely lunch. We organized a trip to Giza and the Egyptian Museum for the afternoon. We headed to the museum first. The drive took about an hour, definitely cutting into our viewing time. The museum is not huge but packed with it seems millions of Egyptian artifacts. The King Tut exhibit was the most impressive to me. We only had a little over an hour at the museum and definitely felt pressed for time. We decided that we would try and come back at the end of the week.
Our next stop was the Pyramids of Giza, or at least we thought that was where we were heading, and it was in a round about fashion. The taxi dropped us in front of a camel ride shop. We entered and were given the sales pitch about the camel rides and what we would view of the pyramids. The tour price started at 1.5 hours and $140USD a piece. I was appalled and let the guy know there was no way I was paying that price for an hour and half ride. Meanwhile Scott is giving me the "Sam please be reasonable...I really want to ride" face. After about 20 minutes of wasting precious daylight we came to an agreement of $100USD for both of us. We climbed aboard the camels and were led off towards the pyramids. They first take you out past the pyramids to a hill overlooking them. Here we got off the camels and took a few photos. As we were getting back on the camels, my camel got up and pulled Scott's camel up before he was ready. As I turned around Scott was barely hanging on. He had one leg over the saddle while his arm was around the camel’s neck. Scott will emphatically tell you he did not fall off the camel, since he was hanging on when he finally let himself down. All I can say is that it was funny. As our ride continued down towards the pyramids and tombs of the workers the sun was setting. The pyramids were still amazing. By the time we got close to the Sphinx it was dark and the guards were ushering us out of the park. This was a great experience and I would recommend everyone doing it. Be prepared for a sore butt for a couple of days after the ride. Negotiate hard for a good price. Our guide in Luxor laughed when we told him how much we paid for our ride as you can buy a camel at the market for approximately $400.
We haven't quite figured out tipping in Egypt, most guide books tell you 10-15% and to only tip when the service warrants it. Yet we have found that everyone expects it for the "rich" tourists even if all they do is point to where you are already going. A few times when we have tipped we have been told that they expect or need more. Those times that it happened I was stunned, for after spending years as a waitress/bartender I consider myself to be a fair tipper. Things that most people worldwide consider common curtsy, such as giving directions, Egyptians expected tipped for. Another example is when Scott was already in the bathroom and a guy pointed to the urinal and then wanted money. Or another guy following us to our hotel in Luxor and would point to where we needed to after we where already turned that way. For blocks I kept telling him to leave and that I was not giving a tip, yet he continued until our hotel where he asked for one which was not given.

After spending a few days in Luxor and Aswan we arrived back in Cairo for a day. We decided to go back to Giza as I really wanted to see the Sphinx in the daytime and also to get close to the pyramids. We negotiated a cab ride from a taxi on the street, which are half the cost of one called at your hotel. This driver did not take us straight to Giza instead stopping by one his friend’s camel riding establishments. We let him know that no we only wanted to walk around the site and to take us to the gate immediately. He dropped us by the ticket office and we arranged for him to pick us up in a couple of hours. Being on foot this close to the pyramids is awesome. As cool as the Sphinx is, it seems small and trivial in comparison to the pyramids. It is a myth that the nose of the Sphinx was blown off by Napoleon’s troops taking shots at it for fun. There are drawings done and published in the 18th century that have the nose missing. Writings from the 15th century attribute the missing nose to Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr, who was mad that the peasants were worshipping the Sphinx. The pyramids were built over 4500 years ago. There are nine pyramids total, the three large ones are Pyramid of Khufu, Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. Khufu is the largest even though Khafre seems larger due to being built on a slight hill and having some of the outer layer of limestone still at its apex. The limestone was removed over the years to build other places. The six smaller pyramids were known as “queens” pyramids. An interesting fact is that workers were killed after the pyramid was built. They knew the secrets and the king did not want them to tell others, so they took them to the grave. It makes me wonder if they knew that it would happen and volunteered for the jobs, knew it would happen and had no choice or didn’t know it would happen until the end. They are buried in basic tombs near the pyramids with the architect having a rather nice tomb.


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