The Great Pyramids


Day 2 in Egypt – after a real good night’s sleep, we are eagerly looking forward to walking up to the Pyramids and getting an early start. The afternoon heat can be quite sapping and we plan to take it easy then.

The breakfast at the hotel is quite a surprise – it is elaborate and tastes good too. Perhaps it has something to do with locally grown produce – i suspect it is “green”.  There is a large variety of fresh juices – guava, melon, watermelon, orange – well supplemented with sausages, ham, eggs, cereal, hash browns, – fresh fruit and a whole lot of other stuff I cannot remember. We spot another Sikh couple from Atlanta walk in to the dining hall – they nod to us and come over for a brief chat. We pack some hash browns for the day and head out for our sojourn with history.

Although the pyramids are less than a mile away, we decide to hire a cab for the day – the guy promises to take us to the monuments at Saqqara and Dahshur as well – for EP165 it is not a bad deal. We reach the pyramids before the tourist buses can make it – and enjoy a brief moment of quite admiration. It is a bit disappointing to note that there are no boards/plaques/commemorative stones that outline a succinct history of the pyramids – and most people have to resort to guides or travel books to figure out the historical perspective. No two guides tell the same story, so the monuments are doubly perplexing and enigmatic at the same time. The locals do not waste a moment to sell you their stuff – or to ask you to pose for pictures with their camels, or try the traditional headgear etc. — All of this come s at a cost – also known as “bakhsheesh” – and ranges anywhere between EP10 and 50. A polite “no” will not drive them away – so one has to be stern in order to enjoy their day out.

The Pyramid of Giza was built for King Khufu – and is a testament to ancient architecture – With 3million blocks of stone, each weighing 3 tonnes – the monument is colossal. The pyramid complex is huge – so in hindsight taking the cab was a wise decision.  One of the pyramids has a giant hole on its north facade – legend has it that one Sultan Othman tried to destroy the pyramid, but gave up after a year of trying. One can go inside the pyramids, but it is restricted to a few hundred people a day and if you can manage to get the tickets early. We decide to go inside the pyramid at Dahshur – to skip the long lines of tourists at Giza. Next stop was the Sphynx, with its broken nose. The statue is huge and is awe inspiring. Numerous legends surround its construction and partial destruction.

Ancient people did believe in supernatural occurrences and their lives revolved around appeasing the natural powers. Hence the construction of elaborate temples and deities, and a firm belief in afterlife – that led to the construction of these giant monuments. The Pharaohs and the subjects all believed in the superiority of afterlife – where all people possessed a soul and could be welcomed into the company of the gods -and made it the  ultimate goal of human existence. From an economic perspective, construction activity created a number of jobs for the local population and they were quite dedicated workers. Even the laborers believed they could have the company of gods in afterlife if they worked without malice.

Next we trek up to Saqqara – about 30 kms south of Cairo – it is most notable for its step pyramids – the earliest known pryamids that perhaps served as prototypes for the smooth faced pyramids built in Giza. We have a quick lunch at the base of the pyramid – it is a tented restaurant and surprisingly even though it is 40 C outside, we hardly feel the heat in the tents – the manager welcomes us with music and we dance our way inside. It is back to falafals, kebabs, guava juice and pita bread as we get a taste of local cuisine away from the city. We make it to Dahshur before sunset – to take a look at the bent pyramid – and to visit the inside of another pyramid – there are no tourists here and I just pay EP5 to the guy manning the entrance of the pyramid as bakhsheesh. (there is an official ticket required to go inside) the complex. The inside of the pyramids are predictably narrow – with 3 small chambers – most of hte artefacts have been taken out and the rooms are largely empty. It can get a bit claustrophobic and it is advisable to stay out if you cannot handle the steep access way down the pyramid shaft. It is certainly worth a visit specially if you are on budget travel and dont want to spare the extra money to see the interiors of a pyramid.

Our last and final stop for the day is the light and sound show at the Pyramids of Giza. This is not to be missed under any circumstances. For photographers, I suggest using a camera with a tripod with a long exposure time to capture incredible pictures of the Pyramids.

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