Today we woke up early. I think that the Mullahs were still sleeping and didn't wake up yet to make the daily call to Moslem prayer. My eyes didn't even adjust to the darkness. Outside the horns were still blaring from the previous night. Don't these people know when to go home to bed?
The reason we got up so early is that today we are going to visit the Giza plateau. Home of the 3 largest pyramids in Egypt; Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) only allows 150 people per day inside to see the great burial chamber. Although nothing really remains inside, just being inside is one of my life's dreams. The gates open at 7:30 A.M. and tickets to enter the Great Pyramid sell out early.
Pyramids & Sphinx
Breakfast is buffet style with runny scrambled eggs, various salads, yogurts, hardboiled eggs, breads, lamb or beef sausage (?), and various pastries. I'm not sure what the grilled cheese is, but it looks like a slice of grilled feta. I'll pass on that today.
Our bleary eyed group gathers at 6:45 for the bus trip to the Giza plateau. We take the new bridge and road connecting the outskirts of Cairo to the Giza plateau. The entire trip takes about 30-45 minutes. I hear Sharon waking up in the back of the bus. Jet lag is getting to her too. Margie points out a man on a camel and 2 women on donkeys riding on the opposite side of the road.
Suddenly we see the side of the Great Pyramid to our left as we near the plateau. Everyone perks up and takes notice. A cheer comes from the group as everyone realizes that we are nearing the pyramids. You just don't realize how close to the city the pyramids really are. They loom over the city like great mountains of the past. I get a feeling of wonder at the size of these monstrosities. It's an oxymoron seeing the ancient wonders behind the modern city.
Mahmoud directs the bus to an area on the plateau just beyond the pyramids so everyone can get the overall awe of the entire site. Unfortunately the morning is hazy and it hasn't burned off quite yet. Mahmoud get the tickets for those who want to go inside the Great Pyramid. It cost LE40.00 to go inside. I think it's worth it. Margie takes a few photos of the overall area.
While Margie takes the still shot, I concentrate on taking some video footage of the site. All around are vendors wanting to sell us their trinkets, postcards, statuettes, papyrus pictures, camel rides, and other various items. Jim gets his photograph taken by a vendor who will have it processed in 30 minutes.
Our next stop is to see the Great Pyramid up close. I mean we got real close. The stones were so large I couldn't see how anyone could possibly climb the entire pyramid. Each stone was probably about 4 foot high. I really can't see an entire army of workers place each stone by sliding them on rollers, skids, or ramps. There just has to be an easier method.
1. Great Pyramid, 2. Margie, 3. Jim & Margie, 4. Jim against base stone of Great Pyramid, 5. Mahmoud and Jim discussing pyramid trivia. These photos show how large each stone is.
Our next stop is the Solar boat museum. The Solar boat was built for King Cheops funeral procession. Supposedly it was pulled instead of rowed. The paddles aren't really for rowing, scientists think they were steering oars. The entire boat is built without nails. Every board is attached by a series of ropes linking board to board, board to beam, and beam to beam. The boat was found in 1954 in a limestone lined pit out side the Great pyramid. To gain entrance you pay LE20 and wear protective slippers over you shoes to prevent grit build-up inside the museum.
After the Solar Boat museum we went to the see the greatest enigma of all time, the Sphinx. Entrance into the grounds around the Sphinx is prohibited due to the ongoing renovation. At the rate they are working on it, it should be done sometime in the next century. Each stone is hand hewn and fitted without machinery. This is about the 3rd time the Sphinx has been recovered in its known lifetime. I say known lifetime because nobody really knows when the Sphinx was built. Some say by Khufu in his lifetime, others say before then. Maybe as old as 10-12,000 years ago. One theory says that the Sphinx was really a monolithic rock that was carved by ancient people to resemble a stone lion due to the constellation leo that could be seen at that time rising over the night horizon. Others say that the Sphinx is no older that 5,000 years old. You can get to the plateau surrounding the Sphinx and look down on the monument from a wall on the left side.
1. Cheops behind Sphinx, 3. Sphinx, front left quarter, 4. Jim and Margie, 5. Jim and the Great Sphinx, 6. Sphinx showing proximity of Cairo city limits, 7. A panoramic view of the Giza Plateau.
After our tour of the Giza plateau we head out for lunch and then Memphis. Here is a photo of Ramses II statue in a covered museum area. This guy had over 200 children! Unfortunately only one could be king. Memphis is closed to visitors. We could only go to this site outside of Memphis. There were only a few artifacts to view and the visit was a little dissapointing. It would be wonderful to see the entire city with the monuments in their place as the Pharohs had constructed them.
1. Ramses II, 2. Hieroglyphics in Memphis (No, not that Memphis), 3. Ramses II seal of authority, 4. Whole Ramses II statue, 5. Alabaster sphinx of Ramses II
Saqqara and the Step Pyramid of King Zoser (circa 27 BC), the largest stone structure ever built at that time. The pyramid was built during several periods of Zozer's life. Each was a single layer of stones built on top of each other in tel fashion. The actual burial pit was below ground level. Each step was added during various times to become the finished step pyramid shown below.
After seeing the step pyramid, we visited a carpet "school". These are vocational schools where children learn the craft of carpet weaving. As children only go to school in the morning and early afternoon, these kids spend 3-4 hours a day learning how to make carpets. The one on the left is a silk carpet with over 450 stiches per inch. The right one is a wool carpet with less than 150 loops per inch. All the carpets are for sale in an upstairs sales offices managed by private/state officials and staffed by over 20 salesmen. We can't help but wonder if this would be legal in the states.
1 - Arrival in Cairo
Day 2 - Tour of the Citadel, Egyptian Museum, Coptic Cairo, and the Bazaar
Day 3 - Visit to Giza Plateau to view the Pyramids, and Sphinx. To Memphis and Saqqara
Day 4 - Flight to Abu Simbel, Aswan city, Felucca ride around Kitchners Island
Day 5 - Tour of Aswan, Cruse down Nile to Kom Ombo and Edfu
Day 6 - Tour of Edfu, Esna Lock and on to Luxor
Day 7 - Tour Valley of the Kings, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Colossi of Memnon
Day 8 - Tour Luxor, Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple