This will be a pretty straight-up touristic post, so why not start with the obligatory me-in-front-of-famous-stuff photo?
The pyramids of Gizah – the big league, the grand slam and the olympics all rolled into one – not just of antiques, but also of tourist touts, “guides”, trinket sellers, hawkers of camel rides, and everybody else after some tourist dollars.
Which is understandable given the state of the Egyptian economy, and the crazy exchange rates for hard currency, but still super annoying. I hired a driver for the day, and the first thing he did was warn me about all the scams – the solution to which would be, of course, to hire a tour with a guide, who would then shoo all the other would-be guides away…
I respectfully declined – a good decision, since most people who book a tour or a ride just go to the same few obvious photo spots, while I found the unexplored nooks and crannies the most interesting parts. The pyramids are fine – but, well, it’s just a big-ass mountain made of rocks, that looks not that different from the standard postcard view.
The building on the left houses a wooden barge excavated near the pyramid. If the sky looks a little washed out, it’s due to the persistent smog in the air – which I today was very glad existed, if only because it disperses the sunlight – with temperatures close to 40 degrees, much welcome…
Speaking of smog – in this view from the edge of the pyramid area, you can see the suburbs of Cairo in the hazy distance.
The other direction IS actual desert – real movie cliche desert, utterly dry rocks and sand, with hot desert wind blowing from the hazy distance. Although the camels so romantically perched on the horizon are not exactly trading bedouins, but tourists being taken to a photo spot.
Yup, I did get to go inside, too – although only tried two, because it’s at least as steep and cramped as it looks, and the inside is completely bare – more one of those things you do so you can say you’ve done it.
While we’re at ugly realism: this is possibly the most unflattering shot of the sphinx you can get. It’s pretty eroded from the back, and to the left of it you can just about make out the neon sign of a local Pizza Hut franchise in the distance.
And yes, it is not that large, more a large statue than a mountain – you can almost see the thought bubbles saying “I had imagined it to be larger” going off everybody’s head..
This one’s not at Gizah, but at Saqqara, a few kilometres further outside of Cairo. Also pretty huge, but not that impressive – except that it just happens to be the oldest pyramid in Egypt, and at the same time the oldest standing stone building in the world.
But much more interesting was the field of tombs and excavations off to the side of the step pyramid at Saqqara. In apparently typical egyptian fashion, there are no signs, maps or explanations – I almost would have missed it completely, if not for taking a random side turn and then ending up in a huge desert area full of more-or-less recognizable ruins. The pyramids in the distance seen in the picture above are yet more pyramids, the red pyramid and the bent pyramid at Dashur. Is it weird that I was most fascinated by the endless views of empty desert?
And then you come accross e.g. a completely unassuming hole in the ground, which in closer inspection reveals some intricate and finely preserved carving of hieroglyphs on the doorway. (Although it’s definitely a good idea to check for a way back up again before jumping down – pretty much nobody else was coming that far from the step pyramid, and it’s not like there’s any guards around).
Never mind, just another random entrance to a tomb that happens to be 4000 years old.
On the road to another stop – Memphis. Things got decidedly less glamorous than in downtown Cairo…
Not much left of old Memphis, and the excavations were all closed – but there’s a pretty good, if small, museum with e.g. a big-ass statue of Ramses II (who apparently was a bit of an egomaniac, and left big-ass statues of himself all over the place).
Another Ramses, I think.
I’ll finish with this picture of my friendly driver for the day, and an excellent roadside lunch. For which, since the driver took me there, I probably criminally overpaid – but that’s just a fact of life in Egypt, and rather than get mad about it it’s much better to just accept it, and enjoy the fact that even after criminal overcharging I enjoyed that feast for less than 8 euros.