Giza. This Egypt series may get unmanageably long, but as I am temporarily back to the Hausfrau lifestyle, I have time.
Giza sits on the edge of Cairo and is home to the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and an awful lot of people. Rather than sitting alone in the middle of the desert, the pyramid complex is near the edge of the city. This was our first view of the Great Pyramid (or Pyramid of Cheops):
Not exactly as I’d imagined.
Due to our late start and time at the Egyptian Museum, we arrived only a couple hours before closing, after many of the tour buses had left for the day. The experience began a bit oddly with an old lady trapping me in the bathroom and demanding baksheesh (tip). Had she not turned the bathroom floor into a sudsy swimming pool I would have gladly given her more. As it was, I handed her some money and escaped my first baksheesh experience (with plenty more to come).
Our experience at the pyramids was…complicated. The pyramids are (obviously) awesome. Enormous. Mind blowing. Larger than life. Incomprehensible.
They are also surrounded by tour buses, men selling camel rides, boys selling cold drinks, people pushing trinkets and books, tourists and a paved road. Perhaps 100 years ago they were quiet and romantic. Perhaps you could sit and quietly contemplate the unbelievable-ness of it all. Perhaps the sky surrounding them was not hazy and smoggy and gray. Today however, it’s a bustling scene and no amount of “La, Shukran” (thank you) will save you from harassment.
However, we’re talking about the pyramids here. The last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the World. You can’t not be impressed.
Since time was short, we skipped going inside the pyramid and instead headed to a lookout point. This proved to be tour bus/vendor/people-watching central. There was the girl in the red, flowing skirt/scarf combo taking glamor shots. The boy/man in nothing but short swim trunks. Touts (vendors) everywhere. And a pretty damn good view of the pyramids.
Before seeing the Sphinx, we opted to drop a bit more money to check out the solar ship museum. The boat was built for Khufu (the middle pyramid), most likely for the afterlife. It was found in 1,224 pieces underneath several tons of stone blocks and was assembled over 14 years with ropes and no instruction manual. It is displayed quite well, and by walking on all three levels surrounding the ship you get a good view of the construction.
The crazy part is, there is another ship nearby, still underground and in its bedrock tomb. Apparently it was decided to wait on excavation until better techniques were developed for learning more about the background and history. Were I an archeologist, I’m pretty sure I’d be itching to open that thing now.
Last stop on the Giza site was our friend, the Sphinx. Seeing as the monument (she? he?) sits right next to the Valley Temple (or likely funerary temple of Khafre), it’s possible the statue belongs to him. Apparently no name or proof has ever been found on the monument, although the temple was filled with statues of him (23 statues, according to our guide).
Unlike the pyramids, the monument was carved out of the surrounding rock and tourists are not allowed in the immediate vicinity. Thus, unlike the pyramids, it’s hard to get an appreciation for how large and impressive the monument is while standing quite a ways away. Also, the hassling of the touts ever 30 seconds kind of kills concentration.
Overall, our experience at Giza could be summed up as rushed, full of hassle and awe-inspiring. Thanks to our prior research, I was not expecting a magical experience and was even pleasantly surprised by the lack of people at the end of the day. Nevertheless, it was still a must-see, considering that we had the time and means to do it. Plus it offered my first view of the Egyptian desert, a close up of many camels and of course, the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.