Sunday, November 21, 2004

Adventures in Egypt - Day 2 Cairo

With everyone finally in Cairo, we began to explore the city.  First stop...the pyramids of Giza!  I always thought the great pyramids were in the middle of a desert...imagine the astonishment of walking in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Cairo and actually seeing one of the seven wonders of the ancient world!  Before going into the pyramids, we first went to a vista point so we could get a view of all of them...and ride a camel.

Rather than riding through the desert on a horse with no name, I rode through the Pyramids of Giza on a camel with no name.    Not normally a "been there done that check it off the list" traveler but I could not wait for this "magical" ride to end!  Not a big fan of sitting way up high wit the only thing keeping me on the beast of burden is a saddle horn too big for my hands...especially when the camel guide's idea of fun was to get the animal to gallop through the rocky terrain.

Often overlooked as they are much smaller than the Pyramids of Giza are the Queens Pyramids. The three are said to be named for Hensutsen (believed to be the mother of Khafre), Merites (sister and wife of Khufu) and lastly uncertain but thought to belong to the mother Redjedef (making her the Khufu's wife as well).

Me and my travel buddy, Lee

Next stop...inside they Pyramid of Khafre.  After stepping inside, I quickly understood why they call the pyramids "Egyptian Saunas"!  We were there in November and very early in the day and already it was stifling hot and humid...that added with the hoards of visitors made for a very interesting journey to the bottom of the pyramid.
They limit the number of people that can go inside the pyramid each day to help preserve this very ancient place so get there early to ensure you make it in. This is definitely not the place for folks with claustrophobia or trouble with steep inclines/declines.  To enter the pyramid, you share a plank about 3 feet wide with stumps every few feet to prevent slipping...the plank is the only way in and out.  Once you get to the bottom, there's a very small room and then you head back up the plank to some much needed fresh air at this point...just think small crowded space with a lot of travelers that don't appreciate the value and luxury of a daily bath or deodorant.

Next stop on the morning's itinerary was the Great Sphinx.  Once again I was struck by the contrast of the ancient world and modern society living in harmony. 
My travel buddies
Lee and I were actually interviewed by supposedly an American documentary team producing a film on Americans touring Eygpt.  They asked us about the safety of the city and if it was a tough decision to come to the Middle East in light of the events taking place in Iraq.

Amr, our most amazing guide, took to one of his favorite spots for lunch where we had the most unbelievable pita...fresh out of the oven!  What I so loved about Amr is that he showed us the touristy things but also gave us a peak into the life of a local.

After lunch we headed out to Saqqara.  The drive out of the city was very enlightening as we saw more of how the folks outside of the city lived.  Folks living outside of the city are pretty much farmers...a very daunting task in the desert.  The Step Pyramid of Saqqara is the precurser to the Pyramids of Giza design.

Our travel buddies were very keen on going to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner but that didn't really appeal to Lee and me.  More to our likely was dinner at the Four Seasons...I read they had a chef's tasting menu that consisted of four course for the equivalent of $20 so how could we pass up a swanky dinner?!

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