Egypt, Day 5: The Great Pyramids

The Pyramids are what everyone thinks of when you talk about Egypt. I’ve come to learn that there’s so much more. I always thought I would check them out if I happened to come here, but it was never a destination that I sought out.

So today, we will go to the iconic wonders of the ancient world and see them for ourselves, up close. 

Breakfast is good, but it’s getting a little bit rote. I do enjoy the hibiscus juice. That, coffee, tomato salad and fresh cheese are not a bad way to start the day. A fruit-filled pastry also helps.

It seems everyone is running a little slower today. I notice that Victor, Trent, and I are one of only a handful of our group in the dining room. Someone made the executive decision to leave a little later. I could’ve used a little more sleep, but I’m not going to miss anything.

When we get rolling a little after 8, we head towards Giza, which is not far from the hotel. It’s incredible to see the giant facades of the pyramids rise and fill up the gaps between the buildings of the city. It makes all of the modern infrastructure seem temporary.

At the Great Pyramids, there are a lot of people. Groups from all over the world peer through their phones at the gigantic stone obelisks. I can’t imagine what the pharaohs or the slave builders would think of the selfie stick. Large groups of pushy Chinese men and women pose to take pictures themselves in cliche stances. We file with all of the others over the giant stones and stand on the precipices overlooking Cairo.

We only spend a short time directly at the foot of the largest pyramid. It is swarming with tourists and salesmen. Both are pushy. 

After climbing around and getting some pictures, we take a short bus ride around the back of the pyramids where a caravan of camels waits. There are almost 50 of us, so we double up. 

We make a wide arc around the pyramids. The sun is out and the morning chill lifts. I’ve  been surprised by the mild weather in Egypt since I arrived. Today it’s warmer, but still comfortable in jeans. The sky is deep blue and the sun warm on my skin.

When you get into a camel, they are lying down on the ground. The saddle is much roomier than a horse, and it’s easier to get onto a camel. But you have to hold tight. Once on, they pitch forward to lift their hind legs and you have to lean way back so you don’t topple over. All at once, they’re on their feet and you’re siting high. They lumber with sure feet over the sand and the ride is comfortable. 

We ride towards the Sphinx, which sits below the pyramids. It sits reclining with the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh. It’s smaller than it looked to me in pictures, but I suppose it’s relative. In comparison to the behemoths up the way, everything is small. 

At the entrance, you walk through a temple where bodies were prepared for mummification. Our tour guide tells us about the process and the belief systems of the ancient Egyptians. The tours are good because they give us a chance to peruse the sights by ourselves after some explanation. I feel reverence under the pillars and the striking shadows that they cast along the stone floors. 

Beyond the temple is a walkway that parallels the Sphinx. It runs about shoulder height with the seated figure, so you can look down to its base and up to its head. Several workers are busy on restorations to its base. 

We meet some young men, perhaps in their early 20s. They are very handsome, with dark hair and eyes, and olive skin. They smile easily. One sings for us and they seem to be real fans of the US. I was initially reticent about how we would be received, but the people are magnificent. The guys pose for pictures with us and want us to be in theirs. The people we talk to all want to come to the states.

We stop at a shop that sells Egyptian cotton. There are clothes and tapestries, sheets and pashminas. Cody, the guest of honor, has a birthday celebration this evening and he wants us to wear white. I get some long-cut shorts, a nice polo and a colorful pashmina for a gift. My buddies get the long traditionally Muslim garments.

We are scheduled to visit pyramids at Memphis as well as several others. Time is short, but we get to visit Mereruka Tomb and Titi Pyramid. The tombs are mind boggling works of accuracy and artisanship. At Mereruka, we walk down a steeply pitched shaft into the a tomb. The walls are covered with etched heiroglyphics, the ceiling with stars. Some of our group lays in the sarcophagus where a mummy laid.

Titi Pyramid is the oldest one. Unlike the steep even slopes of the others, this one is built with giant steps on the exterior. The sun moves lower into the sky. Pillars cast geometric patterns in the slanted rays, and shafts of light pour into the temples magically.

Tomorrow we head into the desert, so it’s our last night at the Aracan Hotel. We pack some of our belongings and change into our white duds. 

We have dinner on a riverboat cruising the Nile. There is live music with a Della dancer and a whirling dervish. The musicians switch between traditional Arabian numbers and more modern dance tunes with a unique twist. Celebrants take to the dance floor, and when they play “Walk Like an Egyptian”, the party takes off. Chinese tourists cut the rug with my friends and the cohesion of our group thickens.

We finish our meal with coffee on the rooftop of the boat. Cody, our gracious host and guest of honor, calls up those of us celebrating birthdays during the trip. Bashful but grateful, I stand with the others for a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday “. 

Back to the hotel. It’s going to be an early morning. We’re headed to the Sahara to camp.

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