A minor debacle at the pyramids

Sun, 7 Apr 2002 11:47:23 +0900

I arrived in Cairo about 4:30am on the 5th. Airport customs is a little strange. Instead of getting a visa directly from customs, I had to buy a special stamp from the Bank/Forex booth and then customs would put the stamp in my passport and call it legal.

'The usual hassles with getting a taxi to the hotel. They always want to overcharge you by a ridiculous amount. Get a second driver bidding for the fare, though, and suddenly it becomes much cheaper.

I didn't do much the first day. 'Mostly wandering around trying to find a towel. (the last one vanished mid way through my stay in Cape Town). Surprisingly difficult to find (electronics are easy. Go figure.) but I finally got one reasonable looking, if not exactly beautiful, for about $1.

Yesterday, I went out to the plateau to see the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. The guide books say to allocate half a day. They're nuts. I spent 6.5 hours there and that's without going inside the Great Pyramid and having only limited access to the Sphinx. They're doing some kind of work on the Sphinx. The only close access is on the right side (The Sphinx's right, that is).

The Great Pyramid, I should have been able to get into. But at 3:00pm, I was starving. Despite the abundance of curios, cold drinks, and camel rides being offered there's no food on the plateau. So I went into Giza to grab a quick, cheap, bite. I didn't exactly manage to cheap part but I made it sort of quick by eating quickly. I arrived at Great Pyramid at just before 4:00pm. According every guide book in existence, that left me with 30 minutes inside the pyramid and another 3 hours on the plateau. Unfortunately, reality worked rather differently that day. They closed the whole plateau at 4:00pm.

So I left the plateau rather annoyed that I had rushed through a rather nice and expensive (by Egyptian standards) meal only to be turned away at the pyramid. On upside, the walk off the plateau was amusing. The remaining tourists were being corralled toward the exit at they Sphinx. Most of these were local school children of various ages. They were practicing their English on me by asking me my name, over and over again.

A couple of highlights that day:

1) There are things that not on the map. Hierglypics on the wall near Kefren's pyramid, a few intact casing stones at the base of the Great Pyramid. Probably more stuff that I am forgetting.

2) On the camels decided to make a run for freedom. The tenders chased him halfway around the Great Pyramid before they caught him.

I did the Egyptian museum today. I'm not much into museums but this has some rather amazing things. Of course, much of it is under or even unlabeled but you can't have everything

Oh well. Must dash. I have a train to Aswan to catch.