In third grade, my TAG class embarked upon a special unit on Egyptology. Mummies, King Tut, and the Pyramids of Giza fascinated me back then and it never went away. My mom and I planned a trip to Egypt and were 5 days out from going when the Arab Spring and Revolution began in Cairo back in 2011. Our tour and flights were all cancelled and visiting Egypt again moved to the backburner for travel planning purposes.
Finally, the time was right for me again. Safety had improved, some tourists had returned but not the masses, and things were still inexpensive compared to prior the Arab Spring. I was finally going to see the Great Pyramids of Giza.
I flew into Cairo from Amman, a quick 2 hour non-stop trip on Royal Jordanian Airlines (Egypt Air is the other option) and immediately met someone on my Egypt tour from Canada. We bought SIM cards a the airport for our phones (which were 150 Egyptian Pounds or $8.50 USD- so cheap!) and drove for an hour to the hotel which was right outside the Great Pyramids of Giza.
It is crazy that they are located in the middle of a city now!
The moral of the story in the Middle East is always going to be: Go Early! I’ll have it printed on t-shirts soon We arrived fairly early to the Pyramids and did not have much of a crowd to contend with. The good thing is that we could climb into the pyramid without much waiting but the bad was that all the hawkers and annoying people trying to get money for taking your photo or leading camel rides were stopping you every 30 seconds. That part was not enjoyable.
Inside the Great Pyramid you can climb into the burial chamber of the Pharaoh Khufu (buried around 2550 BC) .
The second largest pyramid is that of Pharaoh Khufu’s son Pharaoh Khafre (approximately 2520 BC) but is now technically the largest pyramid because the outer layering of the pyramid to make it smooth is still intact at the top, adding additional height and width. The “biggest” pyramid used to have that outer layer too but it has since fallen down.
The smallest pyramid belongs to Pharaoh Menkaure built around 2940 BC.
After the pyramids, we attempted to walk down a short hill to the Sphinx but we were stopped by a dozen armed guards. Our tour guide argued in Arabic with them and all of a sudden he yells “hurry, hurry” and my travel pals and I raced down the hill with the armed guards to the Sphinx.
As the only people in front of the Sphinx, we took advantage of the the amazing photo opportunity. Then we heard loud booms and gunfire behind us in the adjoining neighborhood (but separated by big fences). It turns out the police were raiding illegal hotels and dwellings and destroying them once people were out. Since it was so close to the Sphinx, no one was supposed to be there. After we found that out, we hustled out of there to see some more pyramids.
The viewing point for all 3 pyramids was not great the day we were there. Sand was blowing everywhere but really it was the smog that killed the view. Usually the Weather app will tell you sunny, rain, partly cloudy, etc. According to the weather app in Cairo that day, the weather was smog. Just smog. And this made photos with any distance impossible.
So we took a camel ride instead. I named my camel Larry because I didn’t hear the guy when he said my camel friend’s name. Larry liked to be petted by everyone and he also liked to eat plastic bottles he found on the ground (Egypt has a trash problem!).
Larry the Camel:
Camels are very tall so it was a little scary at first. We ended up trotting a little bit at the end but you don’t slide around much on the hump, just lean back a bit.
The only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World had been on my bucket list since first made a bucket list. It was not a perfect visit but I was in awe of the grand structures. Too see it all in person was a great moment in my life.
Reader Question: Are the Pyramids of Giza on your bucket list? Did you learn about Ancient Egypt in school?