If you think the pyramids are in the middle of the desert, you're wrong. It's on the city fringe.
At the pyramids
This morning, I set out for the Great Pyramids at Giza [Giza-travel-guide-1308491]. Hopefully, I’d be third time lucky aas the first and second times I didn’t get to go inside of the big pyramids. The hotel had offered a car for USD35 including waiting time and going to the Egyptian museum (10 minutes walk away) and a vegetarian lunch (which I found out was kashowri which is only USD0.50).
So I opted to do it myself, despite their warnings to expect trouble with safety or touts. Yes, with the current situation in Egypt, touts are always scaring tourists into buying their services based on the safety aspect. Outwardly, Egypt or even Cairo [Cairo-travel-guide-1231804] doesn't feel any different (apart from the lack of tourists) until you read the news.Cheops Pyramid.
I tried getting an early start by leaving the hotel at 0715 and grabbing breakfast on the way. The only place open was McDonald’s but they weren’t quite ready and it was about 0800 when I left in earnest.
The easiest way was to use the metro nearby to Giza then taxi or bus to the pyramids. First glitch was that Giza station was closed. I backtracked to Faisal station instead. There weren’t any taxis so I took a tuktuk to Giza station where buses ran to the pyramids. It cost me a total of EGP5 (including EGP2 but should have been EGP for the tuktuk necessitated by the Giza station closure). It was all quite easy and would have been even easier if Giza station had been operational.
That’s only USD0.70 for one-way, a huge savings to the USD35 (EGP245) return I wanted to charge.Entry into Cheops Pyramid is through a small hole on the side.The delay was largely getting stuck in traffic and it may have been worse coming all the way by car.
I needed to walk about 15 minutes to the entrance of the pyramids area. The hotel was right. There were touts along the way trying to mislead me, telling me the ticket office was in the other direction (where they would either sell me used tickets or camel rides).
I ignored them all and made it to the ticket office where I paid for the entrance and the additional fee for the interior. I started walking to the Great Pyramids of Cheops and was hassled all the way with camel rides and people trying to mislead me in one way or another. I managed to turn them all down without being too rude.
Entering the pyramid started with a short climb to a hole in the side. It felt somewhat like a dugout cave for a while.Cheops Pyramid doesn't look so pyramidal right close up.Then came the low and long inclined ramp which required me to duck. Next was the long inclined ramp which had a high ceiling the angle of which had a resemblance to the exterior angle of the pyramid. At the end of that, there was a low undecorated rectangular hole which led into a high-ceiling roomed where a stone sarcophagus sat.
It was all very stark and with no decorations, unlike what I had seen in Luxor [Luxor-travel-guide-1231895]. I wasn’t disappointed and I had been told there was actually nothing much to see. While it wasn’t hot, I felt all sweaty perhaps from the limited circulation in there.
I made my way out and continued to walk around the pyramids area, deflecting the occasional pestering camel man. I was relieved to get to the Sphinx which to me represents the exit area.Cheops Pyramid; trick angle makes it look like this portal is on one side of it.
I took a metered taxi to Faisal station and due to congestion, the driver took the highway which was a bit longer. The ride cost EGP50 which took away some of the savings of the day but bought me some time for additional activities in the afternoon. Thankfully the metro ride back to my hotel had no surprises.
After lunch, I rested briefly before heading out to the Egyptian Museum a short walk away. The area outside were full of armoured cars, barbed wire and military. They seem ready for the next flare up.
Knowing that cameras were strictly forbidden, I left mine back at the hotel. It is my third time in here as well but I seem to recollect very little from 22 and 10 years ago. I did recall 10 years ago that I didn’t recall anything from the time before and making mental efforts to log interesting things in my head.Khufu pyramid retains a bit of the limestone exterior.But it seems that was in vain.
The ground floor was full of stone statues and sarcophagi. There were many unopened crates lying around marked “Roma”. The exhibit that captured me most was a richly decorated and coloured coffin of which the bottom half had apparently disintegrated. The gold and paint flakes that they found had now been adhered into a clear perspex replica of the bottom half giving an idea of what it would have looked like intact.
Upstairs, there were shelves and shelves of coffins seemingly everywhere. A few had been given more prominent displays but there is literally not enough room for all of them. There were also exhibits of carriages, beds, mummified animals and knick-knacks that the dead may need.
The highlight was of course Tutankhamun’s treasures which were discovered intact (unlike most others which had been looted).Khufu pyramid retains a bit of the limestone exterior.I was somewhat surprised this didn’t come with an extra charge. The Russian doll concept really does apply here with his coffin and also the gilded boxes which held it along with the treasures. Of course, his famous death mask was on display and very stunning indeed.
It was about 1600 when I made my way to the Royal Mummies area which required an extra payment of EGP100 (which was more than the main entry price of EGYP75). It was closed already; the main entrance of the building closed at 1600 as well (rather than 1800 like I had read in the guidebook). I could get a glimpse of some of the exhibits. They were dark flattish dried-up corpses which didn’t look glorious like many of the items in the museum. Perhaps I didn’t miss much.
I felt like I had accomplished much in Cairo in my short time. I had been wary of spending too much time here in case it was unsafe. But the truth couldn’t be further. Life goes on and people are working, living, and living it up.