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Published: January 17th 2013
At last! We could see the Pyramids of Giza from the pool area of our hotel as we crossed from the section of the hotel where our room is located to the restaurant for breakfast. Our first glimpse of the pyramids was very exciting. There was an extensive array of food available from the breakfast buffet, but we were too scared to eat about half of it!! We're not sure about eating fruit that isn't peeled, dairy products and anything uncooked.
We met Ammar in the lobby at 8.15am and he introduced us to our Egyptologist, Shereen, who will be taking us to the sites in and around Cairo over the next couple of days. We were taken first to the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, 20 km south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile. To get there, we drove alongside a canal that was flanked by piles of rubbish. It seems that they dredge the litter out of the canal periodically, but all they do is pull it to the side and pile it on the bank rather than remove it? In a couple of places it appeared that some effort was being made to burn
In the open air museum we saw the colossus of Rameses II and the alabaster sphinx. I hate to admit that we were conned by the locals who wanted us to take their photograph. How much? I asked. No, no, no for free they said. Hmmn, not entirely believing them I took a photograph forgetting that the smallest money we had on us was 20 Egyptian pound notes. Of course, as soon as you've hit the shutter button they have their hand out to be paid. I felt a bit pissed off about it, but then you realise that you are getting upset over three Australian dollars!! Still, having taken one photo of a group of Egyptian men we will be doing our very best to decline all other offers.
From here were were taken to Saqqara (Sakkara or Saccara in English) a vast, ancient burial ground that served as the necropolis for the capital, Memphis. Covering an area roughly 7 km by 1.5 km, Saqqara features numerous pyramids, the most famous being the Step pyramid of Djoser and a number of mastabas (from the Arabic word meaning 'bench'😉 that predate the earliest attempts to build
Shereen took us into one of the mastabas and explained the incredibly well-preserved hieroglyphics to us. We also went into one of the pyramids because Shereen told us that it was included in the price of our ticket and the interior quite well-preserved. She suggested that we should take the opportunity to view the inside of this pyramid rather than pay extra at Giza to see nothing much.
We all hunched our backs and ventured down into a burial chamber that was richly decorated with hieroglyphics and hundreds of stars on the ceiling. Amazing! We managed to resist all attempts to sell us postcards, trinkets, guide books, etc. BUT, we had to tip the man who guided us into the pyramid and back out again. Fortunately he agreed that the 20 Egyptian pound note that Bernie handed over would cover all four of us.
We declined Shereen's offer to take us to a carpet factory and went instead straight to an early lunch. After lunch it was the main event for the day as we were driven up onto the Giza Plateau to see the Great Pyramids up close. Our first stop was at Cheops, the
largest of the pyramids, where Shereen gave us a brief talk about the pyramid's vital statistics. We had to dodge dozens of the touts wanting us to photograph (or ride) their pony/horse/camel to reach the base of Cheops. After taking our photos posing on the steps of Cheops we rejoined Shereen at the bus to drive past Khefem (the middle pyramid) and Mankura (the smallest pyramid) to a viewpoint where we could overlook all three pyramids.
It was really, really cheesy, but Bernie and I took a camel ride from the viewpoint down to Mankura. Mohammed led us down the slope on our 'camel train' consisting of me aboard Micki and Bernie aboard Casanova. It cost us 100 Egyptian pounds each (up front to the owner of the camels) and then we had to tip Mohammed another 20 Egyptian pounds at the end. I took my pen out to make a note of his name and the camels' names so Mohammed asked if maybe he could have the pen. I wonder if Egypt is the furthest destination that a pen promoting the Drouin Mens' Shed has reached? Mohammed wanted to know what the writing was about. I got as
far as explaining that Drouin is a town near Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. I decided that telling him that the Mens' Shed part is an initiative to address depressive illnesses for men might be stretching things too far.
Our next stop was the Sphinx which was bigger than Alex expected and smaller than Bernie thought that it would be. Regardless of size it was very exciting seeing the Sphinx with the Great Pyramids arrayed behind it. We are certainly encountering more tourists here in Egypt than we did in Turkey but, even though it is high season in Egypt, it is very quiet. Tourist numbers here remain very low despite it being nearly two years since the uprising on 25 January 2011.
From the Sphinx we were driven back to the hotel where we had some free time before being collected again at 6.15pm to return to the Giza Plateau for the Pyramids Sound and Light Show. There are three optional sound and light shows during our tour and we decided that we would have to do one of them. I think one will be enough though.
Interestingly it is Bernie who is being hassled most by
the touts. They are fascinated with his grey beard - to the point where he has had it stroked a couple of times!! I expected that Meredith, Alex and I would be having more trouble, but there you go - Bernie is proving to be a useful diversion.
Steps for the day: 14,692 (10.10km)
Tot: 3.414s; Tpl: 0.051s; cc: 32; qc: 128; dbt: 0.083s; 3; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.7mb