World through my eyes

Friday 1st October

I awoke at 7:35am to the sound of Mikhail knocking on the door. I must have overslept and/or my alarm failed. No time to figure it out, I quickly got ready and made it to breakfast in under 10 mins. I called Barbara and it was great to hear her voice and chat for awhile. A few minutes later the locals came by waving a clock to show us that the clock had gone back an hour and it was 6:45am, so the mystery of the missing alarm was solved. Fortunately the “taxi” arrived early at 7:30am (new time). The driver was Osama a friend of Ahmed. We paid him in US $ and set off for the Giza plateau and the pyramids. We arrived at the pyramids at about 8:45am. There was a slight hot breeze which sucked the moisture from us so lots of drinking was the order of the day. With it being Friday (the Muslim Holy day) it was not packed and we only queued for about 10 minutes to get tickets to enter the area, and also enter Khufre’s pyramid. We could not purchase tickets for the Sun Boat outside. We first went to Khafre’s pyramid (the one with limestone cap) and waited another 10 minutes in the queue to enter. The entrance was at ground level and started out by going down about 80 sloping steps to a level bit, then about 40 sloping steps up to the burial chamber. This was not for the nervous, claustrophobic or anyone with a bad back since the ceiling height was probably was low and we had to stoop to avoid hitting our heads. The chamber was about 20 feet high and empty apart from a sarcophagus (also empty), so someone had beaten us to it by a few thousand years. There were also no carvings or paintings on the walls. Despite this it was impressive to be inside such a great mass of stone. After the pyramid we drove to the western edge of the enclosure where there was bazaar, camels and horses to ride, and a great view of the pyramids. We returned to the Great Pyramid of Khufu and walked around it to get a better feeling of its enormity. Then we bought tickets for the Solar Boat museum on the South side of Khufu’s pyramid. It houses a boat that was disassembled into 1,224 separate pieces that were excavated in 1954. They were then put together in precisely the right pattern to create a graceful 143 ft long vessel with a high (16ft) curved prow, a 23 ft stern and a set of 5 oars on each side. It was in remarkably good condition. We then drove a short distance to the Great Sphinx (strangler) that was originally named by the Greeks. There we parted company with Osama after getting his cell phone number and agreeing to meet under the shade of a nearby tree in an hour, while he went to prayers and we viewed the Sphinx. The Sphinx was full of photo ops, but exposed as we were it was extremely hot. On the way out from the Sphinx, I decided to try my bargaining, knowing I did not really need anything and could easily walk away. There was trio of crystal pyramids and a fried magnet I decided to try for. After about 10 minutes of walking away to be called back we negotiated down by a factor of 3 on the asking price. We returned to the tree and shade and called Osama who showed up about 5 minutes later. We then headed to Saqqara about 45 minutes away where Egypt’s oldest pyramid is located. On the way, feeling puckish I finished off some of the comfort food Barbara provided me before I left. This pyramid is the 196ft high Step Pyramid of King Zoser who commissioned his polymath Grand Vizier Imhoptep to build it more than four thousand years ago. It is part of a larger complex that symbolically re-enacts the Hed-Sed Festival. We went into the pyramid via tunnel with a set of about 40 sloping steps downwards, and then about 20 yards of a flat tunnel before entering the burial chamber. Again not for people with bad backs or claustrophobia. The chamber was decorated, which made it more interesting than Khafre’s burial chamber. At one end there was a large granite sarcophagus. There was an adjoining room. After the pyramid we explored several other burial chamber is small temples nearbye. Many were beautifully decorated and the colors still held up. They used lapis lazuli for the blues. On the way out we stopped at the air conditioned Imhotep museum which was nicely laid out and had some interesting statues. However it was closing so we did not see as much as we might have liked. Since they kept it open for an extra few minutes the Antiquities and Tourist policeman requested some bacshi. We returned to the Guest house getting there at about 7pm just in time to grab a shower, before we met up with the atheist Cairo professor and drove to his club. We had a private room with perfect air conditioning neither too warm or too cold. A large selection of very tasty hors d’oevre quickly appeared, together with beer and wine. Luc claimed the wine was in the style of the South West of France. We then ordered the main course. I had shrimp kebabs which were very tasty. We treated our host. It was very reasonable, about $30 each (divided across 5 of us) including two bottle of red wine and 4 beers. On the way out we picked up some beers for Satuday night so we could celebrate the last night together. We got back to the Guest House at about 11:30pm.



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