Egypt & Beyond Day 04, Pyramids!
Sunday, October 15, 2022, Giza
After a fruitless attempt at contacting the airlines about our luggage, we finally retire and get a few restless hours of sleep before our alarm tells us that it’s 5 AM. This is the first real day of our Egyptian Tour and we pack up our bags and check out of our room by 6 AM. We get breakfast in the hotel restaurant and it is a buffet of tasty Egyptian food!
Then we board our Tour Bus promptly at 7:15 AM and set off is search of Pyramids. Our Guide, “Mo”, tells us we will head south for a half hour to the Saqqara Pyramid first in Cairo as we will be able to go inside without paying a fee and it will be a very interesting experience. So we arrive at Saqqara and we all have to get off the bus and walk through a security x-ray before reboarding the bus to drive up to the pyramid. There, Mo proceeds to give us a short history lesson on this pyramid and then we are ushered into a side entrance that is only one meter wide and one meter high. We have to crouch low and walk in for about 50-75 yards. When the room opens up, several people can actually stand up and the walls are totally covered in hieroglyphics that are spectacular.
We proceed through a couple more small passages into other rooms that are similarly adorned. The figures and symbols on the walls are still colored in paint like pigments from thousands of years ago! We are cautioned not to touch any of them as that would degrade their condition. So we are careful not to!
Finally back out into the sunlight, we let our eyes adjust from the dim flashlight illumination inside. We have most of an hour to walk around the site and let our cameras play. The place is magical! We are even directed to a side of the pyramid where we can point our cameras into a small 3 inch hole in the rock and get photos of a queens statue inside!
Soon we get back on the bus and head back to Giza the the Great Pyramid and its sisters. King Kyops was supposedly buried here. Parking lots adorn the area around the statuesque pinnacles where ours is only one of dozens of Tour Buses unloading tourists. But the area is huge and there is plenty of room for everyone! Mo again gathers us around him for a short history lesson before turning us loose on the mercy of our hungry camera lenses.
We walk around the Great Pyramid, which much to our dismay cannot be walked completely around due to ongoing excavation sites. So we get halfway around and have to walk back to see the other side where its sister pyramid stands, the one that still has part of a limestone cap on it that most of you recall when you see photos of the pyramids! Elee even manages to ‘touch’ the top of the Great Pyramid!
Our legs are complaining at all the hiking on uneven rock surfaces and Elee goes back to the bus. My camera snarls at me and indicates there is much more work to be done here! So I plod along finding more gems to keep the lenses happy. Finally satiated for at least a little while, I trek back to the bus in plenty of time but not before making sure my camera has a taste of camels in the foreground of the pyramids.
We now move on along to an optional Tour Point where there are fantastic views of all 3 pyramids at the same time. Then Mo takes the more adventurous of our lot for a short hike around a pile of rocks to find literally dozens of camels are resting all decked out with saddles ready to ride!
Yes, you guessed it, we are about to embark onto the backs of camels for a ride in the desert next to the pyramids! Now for those of you who have never ridden a camel, the trickiest part is hanging on while the camel stands up! We will find out later that staying on while the camel sits at the end of the ride is just as challenging! Lean back Don! Lean back!
The Egyptian guides walk our camels down a side trail next to the pyramids where our cameras are high on their own endorphins and the ride is amazing! I can’t wait until I start editing all the fun photos including close ups of camel faces taken from inches away. These magnificent animals jostle and jog each other, sometimes crunching our legs between them! But it is not painful, just a great experience! I won’t realize until later how many muscles I used in the short 20 minute ride!
Mo then directs the bus down a side road and before we know it, we arrive at the famous Sphinx and we get out and walk around this fantastic ruin! It is pretty spectacular to be here in person and my camera thanks me! Some tourists even pose in front of it by doing handstands!
After all of the days excitement, it is only 3 PM. We now arrive at Sphinx Sun Restaurant for a late lunch of delicious Egyptian food! Mo then takes us back to the hotel and has arranged for 3 rooms that we can use to take quick showers even though we are not checked in anymore. We check for our lost luggage, but alas, it has not arrived yet. But a shower sounds fabulous so I line up at the room designated for the men to use. Feeling quite refreshed, I go to the bar and get a glass of wine while we await to board the bus for our next adventure.
We get back on the bus and are whisked away in Cairo traffic which has to be the worst we have ever experienced anywhere in the world. In the beginning of the trip I likened it to traffic in Peru and Ecuador. But has become increasingly apparent that it is much worse! Not only do lane demarkations mean absolutely nothing because if a vehicle fits between two others, it just drives there. In addition, there are no traffic signals, they do not exist here. Neither do Stop signs or other instructional elements of modern cities. Even to the extent that it is even common to see vehicles driving the wrong way in traffic! Having mere inches between fast moving vehicles is a normal thing here. The horn seems to be the only tool of use for drivers here!
After about an hour in traffic, we arrive at the Cairo Train Station. Our luggage is rounded up and we soon board a Sleeper Train bound for Aswan, Egypt. The train is old and looks worn out. The cabins are tiny with one upper bunk and one lower bunk, a fold down table and a sink to wash your hands. A dingy window looks out on the moving countryside in the dark. This will be a very long night!
So after being served a barely palatable meal in our room, we find our way out to the Club Car where the younger crowd of our Tour is playing games and having a grand time! Even in the absence of alcoholic beverages which are not served on the train!
We are starting to get to know several people on the Tour, including several of the youngsters (mostly over 30) and one of them (Sarah) happens to have packed a Swiss Army Knife and she lends it to me and I use it to open a bottle of Egyptian red wine which I just happen to have in my bag and I pour myself a cup full and sit in the Club Car listening to the young crowd having fun while typing up our Blogs! Let it be known that Egypt is not the place for good wine!
But it is time to find out if sleeping is possible on this train and I bid you all adieu!