05/03/2011 - 05/03/2011 94 °F
We met our guide, Shaimaa, about 8:30 a.m. this morning: she is very nice and very enthusiastic. We outlined a rough schedule of what we wanted to do and headed out to the Giza Plateau first thing. Traffic is very bad and it took almost an hour to reach Giza. The traffic police are slowly making their way back to work. A few of the intersections have traffic police directing traffic but many are empty: lots of honking of car horns regardless of whether the traffic police are present or not.
A few cars along with four or five big tour buses were parked in the visitor lot of the Great Pyramid. The pyramids are far enough apart that you might not want to walk to each in the heat. It appeared most everyone, including the tour buses, drive to each pyramid.
We decided we wanted to go into the Great Pyramid - 60 Egyptian Pounds (LE) for the general pyramids ticket and an extra 100 LE ticket to go inside the Great Pyramid. I was surprised by how few people were there, maybe 40 or 50 people total. A lot of the people were climbing up to the entrance of the Great Pyramid so I thought we were going to have a lot of company. I had read that climbing around in the Great Pyramid was very claustrophobic so I was a little worried about the number of people who were going to be inside. Turns out I didn't need to worry about it: everyone was climbing up to the entrance to have their picture taken then walking right by the entrance. Shaimaa took our picture, our bags were checked to make sure we did not have a camera, we handed our tickets to the guard and went in.
The ramp (or Ascending Passage) to climb up to the Grand Gallery runs about 129 feet at a 26-degree angle. There are railings on both sides and a ramp with cross pieces to step on. They are not stairs exactly just metal bars to hook our feet onto so we don’t slip down the ramp. We then need to crouch down as we are climbing so we don’t hit our heads.
Once we reach the top of the Ascending Passage we enter into the Grand Gallery – we are still climbing at the same 26-degree angle but we can now stand up. The height of the Grand Gallery space is narrow but the height is about 28 feet; we continue to climb for another 157 feet. At the top of the Grand Gallery we then crouch down and crawl through another space to reach the King’s Chamber. This is as far as we can go in the Great Pyramid; the other passageways and chambers are closed to the public. We passed six people in the Grand Gallery as they were climbing down from the King’s Chamber – not easy since the width of the ramp is not made for two people to pass. Once we reached the King’s Chamber we were (amazingly!) all alone for about five minutes before two other people joined us. I have read that the King’s Chamber is usually crowded with tourists so I felt extremely fortunate to have a few minutes alone. All four of us sat with our backs against the wall since there really isn’t much to see there. There is the open granite coffer and two ventilation holes but that’s it. Amazing to think as we sit there catching our breath, “I can’t believe I’m sitting inside the Great Pyramid!” There is no writing on the walls, no paintings, nothing to look at. The coffer is a big piece of carved granite but it has nothing written on it either. The coffer is too big to have been brought through the passageway we just came through so it must have been placed there as the pyramid was being built.
After about ten minutes we hear more people coming so we decide to head back. We can walk down the ramp of the Grand Gallery facing forward but once we reach the Ascending Passageway it seems safer to turn around and back our way down the ramp holding onto the railings on both sides. Another nice workout for our thighs. (And we will be feeling it tomorrow!)
After we leave the Great Pyramid, we walk over to the second pyramid, the Pyramid of Chephren, and meet a camel along the way. His owner says his name his “Michael Jordan” but I don’t know if that’s true. He seems like a very nice camel.
After checking out the Pyramid of of Chephren from the outside (we don’t go in), we drive over to an area behind the pyramids for our camel ride. Shaimaa says if we hire our camels there we can then walk them back to the Great Pyramid and get some good pictures with all six pyramids in the background.
There are maybe 30 or 40 camels available to hire and Shaimaa says we shouldn’t pay more than 200 LE per camel. We get to ride the camels back to the Great Pyramid – Shaimaa and the driver will meet us there. We don’t actually tell the camels where to go, unfortunately, their handlers hold their rope and walk along with us. They tell me my camel’s name is Robin Hood; t.s.’ camel is named Michael Jackson. (Again, I don’t know if this is true – they usually ask us where we are from before they give us important information like the names of our camels.) They seem like nice camels but they don’t appear to appreciate it when I talk to them.
We try to take photos of each other as we ride towards a small plateau near the pyramids. Riding a camel is not uncomfortable but its not smooth either. Tim is worried I’m going to drop my phone and keeps telling me to put it away. I get a few good shots of him before I do since he has the pyramids behind him; I just have a desolate western desert behind me.
We make it to the plateau and the guides take our picture: sitting on the camel with our hats on – check; sitting on the camel with our hats off – check; off the camels and standing in front of the pyramids – check; crouching in the front of the pyramids - check. Yes, they are very familiar with all the tourist poses and have it covered. They also like doing this silly thing where they ask us to hold out our arm like we are touching the top of the pyramid. Very touristy and I don’t care for it (at least when they ask you to do that at Disneyland they add a picture of Tinkerbell on your outstretched hands).
A nice gentleman strolls up on a donkey and offers us cold drinks. We buy a couple of Cokes and he waits for us to finish our drinks (he wants the glass bottles back). Once we are done with our sodas he then offers us bottles of water. We say no but I realize later I should have taken him up on his offer – we are not drinking enough water and we are sweating a lot.
My camel likes to roll around in the dirt while waiting for us. The handler kicks the camel in the flank to get him to stop so I kick the handler. (My foot does not actually connect but he gets the point.) Then we climb back up on our camels and head back to the pyramids. All in all it takes maybe 30 or 40 minutes. A very touristy thing to do but I’m happy to have done it.
We then drove over to see the Sphinx. He's (she?) much smaller than I thought he would be. Here are a couple of pictures (and no silly tourist pictures of the Sphinx kissing one of us on the ear!):
And finally, here is Monday's front page of one of the local newspapers: