For our second day in Cairo, we had to see the pyramids. We had booked a private tour for two prior to leaving Australia with Egypt Day Tours for $120USD. We were contacted us the night before to confirm our accommodation and pick up, and Mimmo, our tour guide, was waiting in our hotel reception early & ready to go.
We started by heading to our furthermost destination, Memphis. Mimmo explained the Egyptian traditions and religion, and told us a bit about the Egyptian way of life during our car trip. He spoke very good english, and we learnt a lot.
Memphis was the original capital of Egypt, and steeped in history. It was also a great place to see how the Egyptian people live, and methods of getting around, on donkeys or carts. Memphis museum was great, with a massive 13m long statue of King Ramses II. There was also a Sphinx, and other various statues that were discovered in the area. Mimmo told us that prior to the 2011 revolution the museum used to be filled with people, however now with the downturn in tourism we practically had the place to ourselves.
Before we left we were offered some fresh dates. If you ever get the chance to try them, take it! Straight from the tree, the outer skin is peeled off, and under is a delicious sticky, caramel flavoured, jelly-like fruit surrounding a large pip.
It was interesting to see how the greenery from all the date palms just abruptly ends, and turns to desert. Next was the Pyramid of Djoser, also known as the Step Pyramid. The pyramid was under construction, with half of it covered in wooden, & not very sturdy looking, scaffolding. According to Mimmo, the renovation was started prior to the 2011 revolution, however with the unpredictable government all works were stopped, and even now reduced money is put towards any renovations of historical buildings. There were only about 12 people in the construction team, with large stones being lifted by a pulley system. We also walked past a group of 3 men with picks, shaping the rock into blocks. It seems it will be a while until they’ve finished renovation!
The pyramid itself was awesome. There isn’t really any other description, and it’s just amazing to think that they built these magnificent structures so many years ago, and in this case, approximately 4650 years ago. There was a large pit next to the pyramid where the mummified body and sarcophagus are lowered under the pyramid by displacing the sand next to it. This way the treasures cannot be easily accessed and robbed. The mummy of Pharaoh Djoser has apparently not yet been found.
From this location we could also see over towards Cairo & the Great Pyramids.
On our way back to Cairo we stopped at a Papyrus shop where we watched a demonstration of how this ancient paper is made. We also had the option to purchase art painted on papyrus as a souvenir.
We then moved on to the Great Pyramids of Giza. Right next to the city, they just come out of no where, and are again awe inspiring. The great and largest pyramid really is incredibly huge. While again we were surprised at the lack of tourists, it made it easier to get around and take lots of photos. The smallest of the 3 pyramids also had 3 much smaller, not as well built or maintained, pyramids. These were for the kings wives, which the kings can have many of.
Entering one of the pyramids wasn’t an opportunity we would pass up. Following a guide, we climbed backwards very slowly down steep footholds through a long, narrow tunnel. We then walked through the pyramid, marvelling at the rooms that had been built, including space for family members. All of this carved into the rock. The rooms were relatively big, but the tunnels were small, not for the claustrophobic. It was also very cool in the pyramids, with the rock providing insulation from the desert heat outside. The climb back up was slow and steady, and we were out of breath once we got to the top. The visit was not recommended for asthmatics, we found out why!
Our last monument to visit was the Sphinx with its missing nose, guarding the great pyramids. Not as large as I thought it would be, but still just as incredible. According the Mimmo, the rock surrounding was honeycombed due to the fact that the river used to run straight past! Hard to believe with the heat and the desert surrounding us.
I was amused to see that directly across the road there was a Pizza Hut and KFC… not what you expect when you visit one of the great wonders of the world. There was also a restaurant Mimmo suggested we eat at. Considering we were starving, and it had an incredible view overlooking the pyramids and sphinx, we went for it, not a view you get with your meal every day! We enjoyed flat bread, 3 different sauces, half a barbecued chicken each and some vegetables & rice. It was pretty good, reminded me a bit of Nandos chicken, and nothing could beat that view.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a perfumery. We watched the glass jars be hand blown which definitely involves some talent. The intensity & variety of the scents was incredible, and it was interesting hearing what each scent is used for. We ended up buying a couple, one of mint and another of lotus, which amazingly didn’t break on our travels.
All in all, we loved visiting Egypt. 36 hours gave us a great sample of Cairo, and I’d love to go back and explore other areas, like Luxor. I’m glad we decided to add it to our list.