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Published: December 31st 2008
Pyramid of Giza
Haley and I had to end our Christmas celebrations with my family in Stanton VA a little early so that we could begin our long trek to Egypt. After a 3 hour drive, a 5 hour bus ride, and a 10 hour flight we arrive in Cairo. A trip that only took us a day or so, but when we stepped out of the airport we both felt a world away. I am continually amazed that I can get into a plane in New York City and step out of it 12 or so hours later in Ancient Egypt, or China, or South Africa. A completely different culture connected by just a flight. I love it.
Egypt is some place special to me. I actually came here a long time ago (when I was 14 or 15), on my own, to visit my friend Chad. It was my first international experience, and I definitely think that trip played a large factor in my passion for traveling. Chad and I created a lot of memories on that trip, and as I walked through the streets of Cairo, the smell of sheesha, and garbage really brought a lot of those memories back.
Shot from the top of our hotel at 5am
I was excited to visit this place again as a "seasoned" traveler.
Due to the short amount of time that we had and the amount of places that we wanted to visit, this trip was pretty well planned out. We had made all the hotel arrangements and transport to and from the airports. So actually getting to our hotel that first day was easy. We were both exhausted from the overnight flight, but determined to do something, so we walked to the famous Egyptian Museum (where they have everything from King Tuts tomb). As soon as you step into this place you are reminded of two things (1) You are surrounded by history that goes back 1,000's of years. I mean most of the stuff that we looked at was dated in BC. And (2) just how amazing the Egyptian civilization was. We were continuously reminded of these two things throughout this trip. This was actually something that i struggled with. Egypt has been so cartoon-arized, from "The Mummy" to "Aladdin", I have had a hard time realizing the the tombs that I am looking at, or the ancient temples are actually real, and not some Hollywood creation. Anyways,
back to the trip; Haley and I constantly questioned how the Egyptians did this or that. I could write an entire blog about this museum but i just have way to much to talk about. After the museum we went right to bed and slept for about 14 hours.
The next day we hired a driver who took us to three separate pyramid sights.
*Pyramid: Saqqara (bent pyramid) - this pyramid was one of our favorites because it was really remote. There was only a couple other tourists at this site, and we could walk right up to the pyramid, and all around it. We actually went side down to the tomb as well. It was a long step descent (hot and smelly) The passage way that you had to climb down was very low and both Haley and I had sore legs for the next few days (I am still sore).
*Pyramid: Dahshur (oldest in the world, and step pyramids)
*Pyramid: Giza (largest in the world) - These are the ones that you have seen pictures of. They are absolutely massive! We hired camels (paid way too much) and rode all around the pyramids. We saw the
Haley at the Pyramid
Haley at the Pyramid
sphinx and took tons of photos. We had a really young and fun guide (who was constantly getting harassed by the police - I think they were trying to get some money from him.
It is really impossible to describe the experience of seeing the pyramids, words and photos do not do it justice. As we flew into Cairo, Haley and I eagerly looked out the window of the airplane hoping to see Giza. I couldn't really see anything (Cairo has a TON of smog) but then i heard a gasp from Haley and we both got a quick glimpse of three enormous structures towering over Cairo. I happened so quickly that Haley wasn't really convinced of what she saw. But I knew that this was our first glimpse of the great pyramid of Giza.
After our day at the pyramids we were both exhausted (again) so we had a pretty chill night. The food here is very taste and we have been eating our far share.
Cairo is a lot different then what I remember. Though I had am amazing time here when I was visiting chad, I had envisioned things being a little dirtier, more
Walk like an Egyptian
hassles, more trash, just more intense in general. And I had been preparing Haley for it. When in actuality, for the most part the Egyptians have been very nice/kind. Even when you are waking the markets, a quick "No Thanks" will take care of most shop keepers. I guess this all makes sense though, since I had never experienced anything like this last time I was here. While there is definitely trash and odd smells here, places like Beijing and Varanasi are much worse, over all traveling around here has been pretty easy. Though I will admit, Haley and I have been taking it easy and not always trying to get the absolute lowest price. We have also allowed our hotel owner to help us arrange thing. Haley has given him the suitable name of the Tourist Godfather. He seems to know everyone and can arrange anything for you. Ever time I have ever gotten a cab ride or anything, I am bound to see the driver having coffee with the hotel owner the next morning. I'm sure he is getting a kick back, but it really has been amusing to see this guy work. Sometimes paying $20 instead of
$17 makes things so much easier.
After Cairo, we took a 10 hour night train down to Luxor. Luxor sits along a nice (kind of) stretch of the Nile and is know for a number of different temples, specifically "The Valley of the Kings". After our overnight train ride both Haley and I where once again exhausted, but we had some time before we could check in and the city of Luxor looked like a lot of fun. The first day in Luxor we went to two Temples. The first was the temple of Luxor, and it was right in the middle of the city. Large and a great intro to Egyptian Temples. The second was incredible.....Karnak: The temple of Karnak is famous for its 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows in the Hypostyle Hall. 122 of these columns are 10 meters tall, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall with a diameter of over three meters. The architraves on top of these columns weigh an estimated 70 tons. These architraves may have been lifted to these heights using levers. This would be an extremely time-consuming process and would also require great balance to get to
Camel at the Step Pyramid
such great heights. There is a double row of sphinxes leading to the temple of Luxor. There are several colossal statues including the figure of Panejem which is 10.5 meters tall. The sandstone for this temple, including all the columns, was transported from Gebel Silsila 100 miles south on the Nile river. It also has one of the largest obelisks weighing 328 tonnes and standing 29 meters tall. (from wiki)
The most incredible thing about Karnak was the make hall that had these HUGE columns - 134 of them. All perfectly shaped and geometrically configured. This was definitely a place that Haley and I asked ourselves how in the hell did the Egyptians do this without our modern machinery. We spent at least an hour in the specific section of the temple. Nothing that i have seen in Egypt besides that Pyramids has been as exciting as this room.
After the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple Haley and I had an early meal walked the markets a bit. I really enjoy walking the markets, there is always some action going on. This particular night Haley and I found a nice little cafe - well not
4 of the 9 pyramids of Giza
even a cafe, more like a few chairs that are organized by some young 21 year old Egyptians. They were VERY excited to have some customers and promptly brought us tea and Shesha. It was very funny because both Haley and I could tell that they wanted to use us as bait to get other tourists to come to their shop. They turn the music on, they rearranged the chairs about 35 times to find the perfect form that would attract other people. It was quite entertaining.
I have a lot more to cover (shady cab drivers, all the tricks people use to sucker you into giving them money, the amazing food, more details about some of the history that we have witnessed, and something that I am not even allowed to write about until after i get some (says haley) but I think I am going to hit up a beach side cafe (I'm in Dahab now), smoke some shesha, drink a Stella and just relax on all the lounge pillows that strewn all over the place here.
Also - check out Haley's account of the same trip: Haley's Travel Blog
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