One of our first excursions in Cairo was to the infamous Pyramids of Giza. I was extremely excited to go to the pyramids – what could be more quintessentially Egyptian? Our day started early, and I was quickly surprised to find out that the pyramids were right on the edge of Cairo (still a good 45 minute drive from Zamalek thanks to the traffic, but closer than I expected).
Immediately I found myself in awe of how large the pyramids were and marveling over the amount of man-power that went into these massive structures. Truly amazing when you think about it! Before I knew it, our tour guide (who was fabulous and sassy to boot) was handing us tickets to go inside the Great Pyramid (aka the Pyramid of Khufu), the tallest one of the three pyramids of Giza. WE WENT INSIDE A PYRAMID. I kid you not. I have never been so overjoyed in my life. I felt like I was Indiana Jones or Jack & Annie from the Magic Treehouse series book Mummies in the Morning (didn’t read those? You didn’t have a childhood). While crouching through the cramped passages and climbing up the steep inclines, I quickly learned that a maxi skirt was not the right clothing item to wear on this particular excursion day – I ended up stepping on it so many times that when we went into other tombs and such I just tied it by my knees with a hair tie. The main chamber of the pyramid was slightly anticlimactic, being small, hot, empty, and undecorated, but I was excited nonetheless thinking about the fact that I was in the center of an ancient pyramid, where once the mummy of a pharaoh was laid to rest. Eep!
We also got to go inside a small tomb in front of the pyramid, which had very impressive hieroglyphs, the first of many to be seen during our time in Egypt; and also a smaller pyramid in front of the Great pyramid, which to enter into we had to crouch and climb down a steep incline. I felt like an explorer and going into each tomb gave me an adrenaline rush!
We then went to the Cheops boat (or Khufu ship) museum, which was very interesting. Found in a pit by the pyramids, it was intended for use in the afterlife, as the afterlife was extremely important to ancient Egyptians. It is thought to be the world’s oldest intact ship and is a distinct type of boat called a ‘solar barge’ that was intended to carry the resurrected king with the sun god Ra across the heavens.
As a group we then decided to ride camels (again!) in front of the pyramids. These camels were a lot larger than the ones we rode in Morocco, making the whole ordeal a bit more terrifying but still lots of fun. The boy who was leading my camel kept asking me if I wanted to go fast and would pretend to start running with the camel, to which I heartily replied “La-ah!” (an emphasized ‘no’ in standard Arabic). Slow and steady was fine with me!
We topped off the day by seeing the sphinx, which is right in front of the pyramids. One thing that surprised me was how small it is – in comparison to the pyramids, it truly is tiny! Nonetheless we enjoyed exploring the temple that surrounds its base and taking pictures with it. I even managed to steal a smooch from it!
One funny thing about our day is that our group (a group of sixteen white Americans) became the center of attention at the pyramids. There were tons of school groups there and the Egyptian teens would follow us around, snap pictures of us, and ask us our names. We were even asked to be in a great number of pictures with the teens and amused, we almost always obliged. Most of the teens asking for pictures were young girls, and they would shyly approach us and hold up their phones or cameras, asking for just one picture (which always turned into at least five, because then all their friends would want one too). We even created a mini riot outside the Cheops boat museum and had to fight our way through a crowd of teens yelling “Welcome to Egypt!” just to go inside. To them, our small group was more interesting than the pyramids, and we all enjoyed our 15 minutes of fame.
Overall, I had a great time at the pyramids and am so lucky to have stood in the shadow of this wonder of the ancient world.