Friday, September 3, 2010

the one with the pyramids.

This is my first daylight glimpse of the pyramids, across a freeway and miles of Cairo, on our drive over there. They completely dwarf the city, even from far away, and it's amazing how huge they are up close.
Every individual block weighs at least two and a half tons, and the ones I stood next to came up almost to my shoulders.
Finally being at the great pyramids was a dream come true, although in my dreams there were no other tourists, many fewer camels, and it definitely wasn't that hot!
my view from the ledge up the pyramid wall
We started our tour at the oldest and largest pyramid, built by the pharaoh Khufu in 2560 BCE. There were steps hewn into the stone, which let us climb up about 15 feet to a small ledge. Looking up the slanted wall of the pyramid, it was hard to imagine climbing any higher, and impossible to imagine anyone building it. It seemed like a mountain, just plunked down in the middle of nowhere without any human intervention at all.
the second pyramid, featuring my friend emily
From the first pyramid, we were herded back onto the bus by our crazy guide, who then took us to the second pyramid, Khafre's.
It was slightly smaller than the first, but still held some of its limestone casing at the very top. The rest of the limestone was pillaged by successive generations of Egyptians looking for new building material.
Our guide informed us that for 30 Egyptian pounds (about $6), we could climb into the pyramid to view the king's burial chamber, and we all coughed up the cash immediately.
We were forced to hand over our cameras before we could enter the pyramid, and while I have respect for rules in general, I wish I had hidden my camera at the bottom of my bag, just because the sight of the burial chamber was so surreal I wish I had a record of it outside my own mind.
The tunnel floor sloped immediately down at a steep angle, and featured metal bars fastened to the floor to act as footholds. After about 10 feet, we entered the pyramid, into a tunnel 4 feet high at the most. Everyone crouched, and held onto the handrails for dear life, but kept moving forward as fast as possible into the dark. After about a minute, the ceiling opened up and the floor leveled out until we came upon another small tunnel that led up to the burial chamber itself. This path sloped as steeply as the first, but we all found that going up was easier than coming down.
our tour guide and the sphinx. uncanny resemblance, no?
Emerging into the chamber was a relief, especially since I could finally stand up straight, but the temperature in the room was terrible. We were all sweating bullets within a few seconds as we stood amazed at where we were. Of course, someone had been there before us and left his name scrawled on the wall for everyone to see: Giovanni Belzoni, antiquarian Egyptologist extraordinaire. I meant to post a picture of his graffito here, but I honestly cannot find one. Apparently everyone is more scrupulous than me and didn't take a picture of it.
We emerged from the pyramid into the baking Egyptian heat, and all we could think about was how good it felt to feel fresh air. I'm glad I'm not claustrophobic, because I wouldn't have missed my journey into the second pyramid for anything, but I would have felt bad having a panic attack down there!
fezzes are cool
Unfortunately, we didn't visit the third and smallest pyramid, but we did get to see the sphinx from up close. No, Dad, it didn't ask me any riddles. And yes, I would know the answer if it had.
After seeing the sphinx, we headed to lunch, a buffet of traditional Egyptian food served at a famous Saqqara restaurant. I tried all the food I could, and all of it was delicious.
yeah, you read that right
The restaurant was decorated with traditional art as well as photographs of famous Egyptians. I don't know who this man is or why he was important, but I know I like his hat.
After lunch, we got back on our bus for the drive back to Zamalek. Don't you love our bus? I loved our bus.
When we got home, sunburned (slightly) and exhausted (totally), we called the day a success, and all took naps.
I spent the rest of the day filming and editing this video for the youtube channel I share with my friends Amber, Natalie, and Nicole, and my sister Erin. The part about the pyramids starts at 1:49:

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