And so I return to Cairo. Having spent much time sightseeing two weeks ago, we decided that this time round we must visit the pyramids at Giza.
This wasn’t my first trip to the pyramids, flashback to 2007, undergraduate archaeology student, smells fear and laugh in it’s face etc. etc. Fast forward to 2013 postgraduate archaeology student and boyfriend in a taxi driving up to the pyramid complex. One thing to watch out for is men standing outside the actual complex forcing your driver to “buy” parking spaces (which of course aren’t parking spaces for sale). One man jumped out in front of our car and we almost had an accident, no police in sight. Our driver dropped us off at the ticket office instead , 100LE to enter the complex and a further 100LE for the Great Pyramid (Khufu). After a quick security check we were through and what a sight to behold! Three spectacular examples of the achievements of man standing in a row before our very eyes.
Here comes the frustrating part. Unfortunately there weren’t many tourists visiting the pyramids therefore we became the victims of constant harassment for camel, horse, carriage rides, papyrus, postcards and cheap souvenirs (made in China) merchants for the entire trip. It’s a tricky situation. They try to make a sale, you say no. They ask “maybe later?” and politely you say “maybe later” back. They follow you for 15 minutes and you try to sway them off your track. You get frustrated at the questions “where are you from? ah I lived in… (insert country of origin here – any will do, they’ve lived there)” “Your wife looks Egyptian…” “guess how much for camel ride…” and you start to raise your voice in hope that the final stern “no” means no. Suddenly you’re the bad guy because you’re the “rich” tourist who won’t take camel rides to pay to feed half the camels in Cairo. It’s a sad situation, a nation that thrived on the tourist industry must result to aggression, begging and blackmailing tourists for a camel ride.
Another thing to watch out for is the selling of tickets to enter smaller pyramids and mastabas. You should only have to buy your tickets at the ticket office and not at the entrance to smaller sites other than the pyramids. I knew this from my previous visit but I saw a group of Korean tourists paying to enter a temple that should have had free entry. Still I couldn’t see a single police man in sight.
Two other things to watch out for: young Egyptian men racing their horses up and down the pathways (extremely dangerous) and the rubbish dump which the site has turned into. I would advise you to bring a plastic bag to collect your water bottles and rubbish into as finding a bin on the complex was a challenge on its own.
Just as I began to lose hope in the pyramids, we entered the Great Pyramid and made our way up to the Queen’s chamber. It was warm, sticky, dark and magnificent. Due to my fear of small spaces I held back but my boyfriend ran around like a schoolboy, it was heart warming to see him discovering these ancient wonders with inexperienced eyes.
Entering the pyramid was definitely the highlight of the trip as walking around the site was completely ruined by merchants. It’s a shame that the Egyptian police and authorities are incapable of preserving what should be considered a national treasure and a symbol of the potential of Egypt. Egypt has a long way to go after the revolution, I only hope that this wonder of the world isn’t eventually lost in antiquity once again.