November 28, 2014
The Pyramids. Those ancient, magnificant, mystical structures… holding the secrets of the desert and of times long past. Structures once hidden from view by the blowing desert sands… now… an incredible discovery… monuments to memories of a brilliant history… a tick on a bucket list… a sight & a feeling that is unforgettable… the highlight of any Egypt trip.
This day was definitely my highlight! If someone told me a year ago that I’d be visiting the pyramids, I wouldn’t have believed them. But somehow… I moved to the Middle East and just nearly on a whim, jumped on a plane to fly 3 hours with my friend to go see something we’d always dreamed of seeing.
This day was much more than the Pyramids though.
We started early in the morning with our tour guide showing us Saqqara… Saqqara is one area of the ancient city of Memphis, the Old Kingdom of Egypt capital city… and home to the step pyramid. The oldest pyramid of Egypt’s 97 known existing pyramids. It was designed by Imhotep, the brilliant architect who was the first person to build stone tombs to honor the kings of Egypt.
We entered the grounds of Saqqara through this doorway… (isn’t it amazing??!!) and walked around the grounds surrounding the tomb… and found a man riding a donkey… who offered to let us ride his donkey(for a small price of course). We couldn’t resist. We even got to wear his headgear! Inshallah I won’t get lice! :S
Our tour guide gave us very detailed information about some posts with hieroglyphics… but I honestly can’t remember what they meant. (Had a bit of a history overload in our time in Egypt!)
And then we saw the oldest pyramid in Egypt… the Step Pyramid of Djoser… for King Djoser of the 3rd Dynasty. Unfortunately they were doing some work on the pyramid so there was a lot of scaffolding on it. But it was still magnificent!
After the Step Pyramid, we went to Memphis, the capital city of the old kingdom of Egypt. In its time, the city thrived on commerce, trade and religion and was a busy, successful city. Memphis deteriorated in importance as coastal Alexandria became more significant.
Today, there are some small ruins of the former city remaining. As well as a large statute restored in the name of King Ramses II. The town itself is very small although apparently it has really great markets on the weekend.
We visited the statute of King Ramses II and toured the the remnants of the city. But our trip to Memphis was very brief! (To anyone thinking of visiting Cairo… and on a time crunch. It’s definitely something you could skip! Spend your time on the Pyramids of Giza instead!)
Below: Looking out at the remnants of the ancient city of Memphis…
This statute of King Ramses II was huge actually!! Like check out how big the guy is compared to me!! (and I’m 180cm tall!!) Even his fist is gigantic.
Funny little statute… probably my favorite of the whole trip actually… apparently it’s the remains of a statute of the god of fertility, love, romance, sexuality, marriage etc. Our tour guide asked us if we were married/dating/mothers… and when he found out neither of us are married or have children… he figured we definitely needed a picture with this god… for good luck.
We were kind of starving by the time we finished visiting Saqqara and Memphis, so we stopped at a little restaurant to get food. Legit Egyptian food. We even got to bake our own bread. Tossed the little flatbreads into the oven (slightly unsanitary looking :S), watched them puff up, and then ate them still super fresh and warm and puffy and absolutely delightful!!!
Next stop… a papyrus factory. Papyrus is a type of thin paper made from the papyrus plant that grows in some areas of Sudan as well as the Nile River Delta. It was used frequently in ancient times, as far back as the first dynasty in Egypt. The papyrus plant was considered a bit of a sacred plant and shows up in many Egyptian sculptures and paintings.
We watched a man demonstrate how to make sheets of papyrus… and then wandered around the gallery looking at the beautiful paintings on papyrus. I chose a small painting, and the girls in the shop added my little brothers name in hieroglyphics and rolled it up in a little scroll so I could take him home a souvenier.
And then… finally… we were off to go see the Pyramids of Giza, 3 famous pyramids located in the Giza Necropolis. (I think our guide was taking us to as many places as possible before the great pyramids so that we’d appreciate it even more!!)
The pyramids are HUGE!!! Seriously. We could see them from miles away. (We could actually see them from the roof of our hotel if it wasn’t too foggy or smoggy!)
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and despite its age, still mostly intact! It is also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or Pyramid of Cheops, and it is believed to have been built over 10-20 years around 2560BC which makes it approximately 4575 years old! MIND BLOWING! It was most likely the tallest structure in the world for about 3800 years as well! Now we’ve got crazy buildings like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and such that completely dwarf this… but it is still absolutely magnificent!!
Standing at the base of the pyramids, the blocks were at least 3/4 of my height… at least 4 feet high. Solid stone! And standing at the base, you could not really even see the top! It was absolutely incredible!
I can’t imagine how difficult it was to build those pyramids. Especially back in ancient times when they didn’t have the heavy duty equipment we do now, and the majority of those stones were placed used man power and ox/horse power. Originally, the pyramid was covered in white casing stones so it was flat, but time and nature damaged much of those stones and loosened them and many were used to build other structures such as mosques and such in Cairo.
There are several theories about how the pyramids were built. Obviously they had a master plan and brilliant architect. Some believe slave labour was involed while others think it was the work of thousands of highly skilled workers. Regardless, it is a brilliant architectural feat.
I stood there in awe for a few minutes… watching puffy white clouds sail past the top of the pyramid…
I climbed up on the pyramid… (in a section you were actually allowed to climb on)… and after climbing up only a couple blocks of stone, you were already quite high up! Amazing!!!
We wandered around the pyramids and over to a smaller pyramid where we actually climbed down into the pyramid. It was a very narrow passageway at a significant incline downward, with only a ramp with rungs on it to get down. At the bottom of the ramp, there was a sharp turn right, and a ladder to climb down… into the bottom of the pryamid where the body and treasures of the king/queen were kept at one point. Now it is empty. It was humid and warm and smelled a thousand years old down in that pyramid. Thankfully I’m not the claustrophobic type or I would have been freaking out!!! My friend was definitely anxious by the time we got to the bottom… surrounded by hundreds of thousands of tons of stone… an anxiety producing thought! But… it was really amazing to go inside and see what it was like!
If we hadn’t been so nervous deep in the bowels of the pyramid, we probably could have stayed a bit longer and imagined what it was like hundreds of years ago… but we quickly took our pictures and scrambled back up out into fresh, open air!
Now for the absolute highlight of the entire trip…
A camel ride around the pyramid!!! We drove past the pyramids up a hill looking out over the city and the pyramids. There were many camels there and our guide bargained for us and picked out 2 camels for us to ride. Moses (Amelia’s) and Casanova (mine). To be honest, Casanova really was no Casanova! More to come on that shortly…
My friend absolutely adores camels and was just thrilled to finally be up close with a camel… I’m not such an animal lover and definitely was not kissing any camel!! No matter how cute he might be!
Getting on a camel is a bit of an adventure. They start out sitting on their knees… you climb on and then hang on for dear life while they unfold their legs and stand up in a very jerky zig/zag motion (similar to a teeter totter ride feeling!). And then we set off… along the edge of the desert and out past the pyramids.
The wind was whistling in my ears… it was so quiet and calm and peaceful… the wavy sandy endless desert on my right… thousands of years of history and antiquity on my left… the gentle swaying motion of the camel… the unique and pungent camel odor… Slowly making our way towards the pyramids like we had all the time in the world. It was like living a dream. Really.
And the view… there really are no words to describe it and pictures just don’t do it justice. I highly recommend you go check it out for yourself some day!
After about an hour of riding along the edge of the desert and absolutely loving our camel ride, we came back to the front of the pyramids where we were to get off.
Getting on and off the camels really isn’t much of a problem. Amelia dismounted (in the reverse manner we got on) and then I was going to get off Casanova. He sat down on his knees, and just as I swung one leg over to hop off, he flopped over on his side and then freaked out because I was still sitting on him… on his belly now! 8 foot long legs x 4 flailing in the air, massive hoves whipping through the air… I didn’t know whether to stay on until he settled down or risk getting hit by those gigantic feet and hop off! I waited until he paused for a moment and then launched myself off. The tour guide and other camel opperators and a dozen tourists came running to watch the spectacle. I brushed the sand off my ass (as I’d landed on it in my desperate attempt to get out of the way of the camel)… inspected my scrapes and scratches… deemed them pretty insignificant and started laughing. It really was hilarious actually. Who goes to Egypt and rides a camel… and then proceeds to get kicked off the camel yet too??!! Apparently I do! Happy to be ok… scratches stung a little but at least I didn’t get kicked in the head or anything! And our guide was so thoughtful… he even stopped at a pharmacy on the drive back to the hotel to pick up some antiseptic for disinfecting my scrapes!
Now, for the last stop of the day, the Sphinx! The Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the oldest and most famous statutes in the world. Designed after the mythical sphinx, a creature that was half lion and half human, the Sphinx of Giza has a lions body and the head of a Pharaoh. It literally means Father of Dread or the Terrifying One. Not so freaky anymore but still pretty amazing!
Was supposed to be “kissing” the sphinx but I couldn’t stop laughing. Ridiculous touristy photos.After viewing the Sphinx, we finally headed back to our hotel. It had been such a long but completely amazing day of touring famous historical sites in Cairo and I really enjoyed every minute of it.
We celebrated our last night in Cairo with sunset drinks on the roof of our hotel overlooking the Nile River… cheers to travelling to places and making dreams reality.
Gorgeous sunset to end a mythical day!!! Goodnight Cairo…