Monday, June 18, 2012

Pyramids and sharks...

No pictures so far. I have either erased the card or misplaced it. In any case I can't find the photos from our day at the pyramids.

Another early morning. We don’t normally mind getting up early but our body clocks are so screwed up—even though it’s a cruise and we didn’t think that could happen!—because for the last few days we have gone back one hour (Safaga, Egypt) followed by forward one hour (Petra, Jordan) followed by back one hour (Cairo) and tonight we’ll go back one hour (Mykonos) again. Or maybe it’s forward an hour, I don’t know anymore! We are also starting—oh, me, poor me, I can feel your sympathy—a sequence of many, many port days and not so many sea days. By July 7 we’ll see Mykonos, Istanbul, Athens, Naples, Dubrovnik, Rome, Venice, Florence, Cannes, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Le Havre.

The pyramids were everything we thought they would be and so much more in so many ways! Mohammed—not Muhammed, he told us, nobody but the Prophet is named Muhammed—was our guide, a very nice, knowledgeable man. He has a degree in archeology and is working on a masters in hieroglyphics. Who knew they even had such a degree? Since the bus ride is three hours each way, we had lots of time to learn more about both the pyramids and Mohammed that we ever thought we’d know. Most of which I promptly forgot. I do remember that the Pyramid of Cheops is the largest manmade structure—ever! It is a pyramid 142 meters (956 feet) high, contains two million limestone blocks, and the angle of the sides is exactly 48°. The mind boggles to even think about how they thought about all the mathematics they needed to construct that pyramid!

We were able to climb part of it using steps put in in modern times but we didn’t go too high so I don’t know how high the steps go. We could have crawled in an opening in the pyramid if we wanted but I didn’t particularly fancy crawling on hands and knees a fair distance (you can’t turn around until you get to the end of the passageway).

Our first view of the Pyramids. Looks like a residential area in the US, doesn't it? It is.

We're getting closer. Note the vendors waiting to pounce!

Flat Stanley meeting his first camel, in front of the Pryamid of Cheops, 142 meters high.

If your knees will survive, you may crawl into the Pyramid. And crawl back out!

One of the many, many camels (I know, they are actually dromedaries, but everyone calls them camels) available for hire.

Stanley is excited to see the Pyramid of Cheops

Randy, dwarfed by the Pyramid

Flat Stanley, Pam, and Randy. This gives you a good idea of the size of the blocks of limestone used to create the Pyramids.

You can get a camel ride around the Pyramid. But you may have to pay again to have the camel driver tell his camel to kneel down so you can get OFF!

Arguably the most famous three Pyramids. Unfortunately I only know the far left one is Cheops'.

The Sphinx and a pyramid with some of the covering it originally had.

Can you tell I loved the Sphinx?

The Egyptian version of a rest area on the highway. Literally ON the highway.
We saw the Sphinx as well and where we were amazed by the large size of the pyramids, we were amazed at the relatively small Sphinx. Not that it’s exactly small, it’s just much smaller than I imagined. Unfortunately, what overshadowed everything were the vendors! The vendors around the pyramids are by far the most aggressive and obnoxious of all that we have been subjected to in Jordan and Egypt.

As soon as a bus pulls up they start pushing trinkets and clothing on you. Literally pushing! If you won’t look at them (my technique is pretending to be deaf) they hold the item directly in front of your face, two inches away, yelling “one dollar!” or “five dollar” or whatever price. They will put items in your hands, drape clothing over your shoulder and then demand you pay them for the item you have “bought.” If you take a picture of the vendor (they are colorfully dressed and usually standing directly in front of what you want a picture of) they yell in your face that you owe them “five dollar” for the picture you just took. Any eye contact at all and more of them will converge on you. And never, never say anything to them. They block the door to the bus, they are inside the areas that I would consider part of the various monuments, there is no place where you can be left in peace to enjoy what you came to see. The whole experience is unpleasant at best and comparable to being in a feeding frenzy of sharks. But I refuse to let it spoil my experience of Egypt and the pyramids.

We had to stop at a shopping opportunity, actually a very nice, government run store with jewelry, inlaid wood items, and lots of other stuff. And, although a government-run store, bargaining was necessary. But it was a fun experience and not at all like the vendors at the pyramids. And yes, kids, we did finally buy something!
A ride on a feluca (sailboat) on the Nile and a buffet lunch in an open air restaurant on the Nile completed our day other than the three-hour bus ride back to our “home.” The feluca ride was nice—cool under the awning with a nice breeze—interesting but the best part was watching the “captain,” a 20-something young man, pull down the sail and glide into his mooring from a couple of hundred feet away, against the current, and with barely a bump as the feluca came to a stop. To me, a non-sailor, an amazing feat of seamanship. Of course he sort of spoiled it by demanding “tips, baksheesh” (baksheesh is apparently a bribe).
Are we actually going to get ON this feluca? Yup!

In full sail regalia, Cairo in the background. The horizon is a bit off because I am leaning back, reaching out over the edge, and a bit off-balance trying to get a decent photo of the feluca.

Drifting in (no motor is even available to help) to a perfect landing.

This shows just a tiny portion of the building un-boom in Cairo.


  1. Hi Pam.... I am back... now to catch on everything... yes those hawkers brought back lots of memories... I just stood next to my man in black for protection LOL...

    joanne & garry

  2. Hope you enjoyed the US as much as we enjoy OZ!