Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Our Adventure in Egypt, Part Three: The Giza plateau

Sorry for the delay here - Thanksgiving and all, you know how it is (unless you're not American, of course). I wanted to do at least a day for each of these posts, but the last one ran long (not in the length of it, but the length of time it was taking me to get it posted), so I figured I'd devote one whole post to the Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza. They are, after all, pretty iconic.

One of the thing many people don't know about the Pyramids is that they're pretty much in Cairo itself. On television, they're always artfully photographed so that they look like they're in the middle of the desert, but they're not. The suburbs come, quite literally, up to the feet of the Sphinx. The Egyptians have simply gone around the site, too - on the west side of the Pyramids is a relatively new apartment complex, and I'm sure in 50 years or so the site will be completed surrounded by apartment buildings. Why preserve the past when 36% of your population is under the age of 14? We have buildings to erect!

We drove up the hill to the site and were immediately blown away. It's a bit of a cliché to say that you can't appreciate the Pyramids unless you see them in person, but that's only because it's true. Their sheer size is enough to take your breath away. But we'll get to that. First we checked out the solar boat of Cheops, which was discovered in 1954. They think it's the pharaoh's funerary boat, but who really knows. Anyway, considering it's made out of wood, it's pretty damned impressive that it stayed preserved for a good 4500 years:

This last picture is looking down on the model of the boat. It hangs from the ceiling, and you have to climb several stairs to get to the walkway around it. No shoes allowed, either - they gave us shoe coverings for our feet so we wouldn't scuff the parquet! Ghada told us it was so they don't have to clean the floors, either - we do it for them!

Then it was on to the Pyramids. Again, unless you're Graham Hancock, you believe the Pyramids were built by the Fourth Dynasty kings, Cheops, Chephren, and Menkaure, who lived around 2550 B.C. If you are Graham Hancock (and I have read one of his books on the subject, and I'm certainly not in a position to say he's wrong or right, so we'll just let smarter people sort it out), you think they were built by a lost civilization 10,000 years ago. Whatever. They're freakin' big. And massive. And overwhelming. Seriously. They are just magnificent structures, with perfect lines and a wonderful, powerful presence. As the proverb says, "Man fears time, but time fears the pyramids." Not that's a proverb!

So here are some pictures:

This is Chephren's Pyramid, the second biggest one. Chephren, respecting his father, built a smaller pyramid ... but placed it on higher ground, so it looks bigger. Oh, that wily pharaoh! The cap on top is made out of limestone and used to cover the entire structure. That must have been something, to see it gleaming in the sun.

These are the Cheops' Pyramid, looking straight up and then the side. It doesn't look too impressive until you realize that each block of stone is about as big as one of the Fiats that zip around Cairo's streets. Then it's amazing.

There's me and the missus. No, we did not get our pictures taken from a perspective that allows us to put our hand on top of the pyramid. We're not, you know, morons.

You're allowed to go into the Pyramids, and we chose to go into Chephren's, because apparently going into the Great Pyramid requires you to be underground twice as long, in a more cramped environment, to see essentially the same thing - an empty chamber. It was a good thing, too, because Krys got really claustrophobic and I got really freakin' hot. It's kind of interesting, though, although the "burial" chamber is a disappointment - as I mentioned, it's completely empty, and there's not even anything on the walls like in later Egyptian tombs. There is, however, graffiti - Belzoni, the great explorer, Egyptologist, and all-around dirty rotten thief, signed it in 1818! That guy behind us somehow glommed onto us and led us through the Pyramid, even though it's kind of difficult to get lost as there is only one passage. He had a flashlight, so I guess he was sort of useful. Of course, we tipped him - that's all he cared about!

Here's a nice picture of Krys with the Pyramids behind her. The next two pictures show just how close Cairo is to the site. As for the last one, well, I just found the idea of Tourism Police humorous.

Then it was onto the Sphinx. The Sphinx is also pretty neat, even with the scaffolding erected on its right flank. As usual, we had to run the gauntlet of merchants selling things to even approach it. Running the gauntlet of merchants without buying anything and saying "shukran" (Arabic for "thank you") over and over should be an Olympic sport!

This last picture is the causeway that runs alongside the Sphinx. It's all part of the huge complex of Giza, which is pretty impressive (there's a map at the link to the Great Pyramid above). Those Egyptians should could build a massive complex out of granite and sandstone!

After visiting the Sphinx, we visited a perfume shop, where the proprietors, like the carpet people, tried to get us to buy something. Neither Krys nor I are big into perfumes, but it was an interesting stop. We met the owner, who went to college in the States and was very friendly. We had a nice discussion with him about Americans and their reputation around the world, and he told us that most people (in Egypt, at least) don't hate Americans, they just hate "that guy." He didn't even use Bush's name, which we found humorous. He actually thanked us for the results of the election. We should have told him that Nancy Pelosi is, in her own way, as crazy as Bush, but we didn't want to rain on his parade.

Then we headed back to the hotel. On the way we ran into a huge traffic jam, which we believe had to be the result of an accident and not the usual Cairo logjam of cars. Felipe, our driver, decided to plunge off the main route and into the dark underbelly of Cairo! It's amazing: you take one turn off the main road and the roads are dirt. Dirt, in a major city. So we struggled through the maze of dusty streets, dodging (I kid you not) chickens and cows on the road, and Felipe got lost pretty quickly. Luckily, there were plenty of men sitting around doing nothing who were more than happy to give directions. So we made many twists and turns, I dozed off a few times (it had been a long day), Krys saw a dead horse on the side of the road (more on that later), and we finally made it back to the hotel. The car drive back was almost as exciting as the sights we saw!

So those are the Pyramids, the symbol of Egypt. They weren't the coolest thing we saw, but they were the most staggering. Considering that modern engineers are a bit mystified as to how they were built, it's pretty neat. I'll finish with one more picture of Chephren's Pyramid:

Next time: we see some religious stuff in Cairo and enter the bazaar, which was, well, awful. Read if you dare!

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