Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Pyramids - At Last!

Today we awakened at 5:30 am in order to get ready for heading into Cairo. We could tell by the crowds that most everyone would be doing a tour of some sort. We were going to Sakkara and then the Giza Complex to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Since we were docked in Sokhna we had about a 1 ½ hour bus ride before starting our tour. As we left the ship we were greeted by music and roses - and of course bomb sniffing dogs and guards with machine guns!

We boarded the motor coach and met our guide, Ghada, who would be with us the entire day. We had to wait until all of the buses were loaded since we were traveling in a convoy with security. We had to stop at several check points as we entered each town. We finally reached the outskirts of Cairo and eventually got on the “Ring Road” which runs around the city. We soon realized that the stories about driving in Cairo were true and the most significant thing that struck us was the fact that there are not any traffic lights!! Most of the buildings that we passed looked as though they were unfinished even though the bottom stories were already falling apart or already occupied. I think we were also shocked to see how dirty the city streets and the canals were. I don’t believe you can truly grasp this unless you are here. The canals were full of various types of trash, rotting food, and even dead animals – then a few yards away you would actually see men fishing in these same waters. We decided then and there we wouldn’t be having fish for lunch.

After crossing the Nile, we soon arrived at “Step Pyramid” built by King Zoser 5,000 years ago and is basically 6 mastabas stacked on top of one another.

We were also able to go into a small mastaba at this site and see the wall reliefs and even traces of the colors.

We spent some time admiring the view and from this vantage point you could see all of the way down to Dashur and the “Bent Pyramid”.

From here we went to the hotel Mena House Oberoi for lunch and were greeted by several men and women dressed in pharonic attire and a man playing a bagpipe of all things! Lunch was in a rather opulent ballroom and the food was quite good although we had a mere 40 minutes to get through lunch. Note my "Coke Light" below!

As we were walking out of the hotel we had our first really great view of the Great Pyramid in the background. We first drove up to the upper area for a complete view of the Giza Plateau – it really takes your breath away. This is the view you’ll rarely see in photos as you can see the city of Cairo goes right up to the plateau.

We really did have a great day to view everything, blue skies and no smog. We then drove down to get a closer look at the Great Pyramid (Cheops) and the smaller pyramid of Cephran. The pyramid of Cephran is the only one that still has the outer casing blocks (at the very top) which created the smooth look on the exterior of the pyramids. These outer stones were taken long ago to build other temples in the area. It isn’t until you are right in front of the pyramids that you realize the size of these stones that were used.

In total they believe more than 3 million blocks were needed to build the pyramids. It is at these sites where you find Egyptians trying to sell anything from postcards to scarves and they are very hard to get rid of – they will follow you if you even look at them. We learned a phrase “la shukran” which means no thank you in Arabic. Generally they will leave you alone if you say this to them with some authority, at least we found this to be the case. We took one more short drive down to the Sphinx. It is a real shame that this moment was used for target practice during WWII and of course some other damage was done during the Napoleonic conquest. Nevertheless, it is still an impressive figure with the pyramids just behind.

It was hard to spend so little time at these areas because we just would like to have sat there and taken it all in. We were then off to the Papyrus Institute where they demonstrated how they used to make paper out of these plants. It was quite interesting to see the process and how durable these papers were. After this short stop we were back on the bus heading “home”. We were very glad to be back in the comfort of our room and even more appreciative for what awaits us back in the US. We were not as tired this even, so we did go down to the dining room for our dinner. It was good to see our friends and find out what they did during their trips. We are both pretty tired and I will have another big day on Thursday going into Luxor, so we are calling it an early evening (for once).


Courtney Kaefer said...

Sitting here drinking my David Bruce...LOVED the videos with your mother..what must those Egyptians think about this little Southern lady?? :)

MARGARET said...