To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Egypt - Pyramids, Sphinx's and Bullets oh my...

As Danni’s former high school principal said ‘When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do’.  Upon reflecting on such sage advice we, being the rebellious people we are, ignored our parents’ wishes and ventured out of our hotel.

Before I get to that, we flew from Istanbul to Cairo and it took 2 hours. It was 2 hours I wish I could have skipped. It wasn’t fun and the pilot did not give me much hope, especially how he pretty much landed on, what felt like, one wheel.
Our room was nice though and the bed comfortable, no complaints there.

Back to today, we were greeted by our tour guide and jumped in their thankfully air-con’d minivan and headed out to Cairo.
Cairo itself is a bit of a mess, rubbish is everywhere, the buildings and roads are dilapidated and in need of some serious repair. It was also noticeable that pretty they all went to the Jordan school for driving. For some reason their roads have these white lines, I thought they were to indicate lanes, but apparently this isn’t so in Egypt. You can drive wherever you want, even in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road.
Our first stop was the Egyptian Museum, home to some 120,000 artifacts, with another 120,000 or so in the basement. It was a fascinating place with a tonne of stuff from the Ancient Egyptian period and all the real stuff, not replicas (so they say).
Entering it was quite discerning since the road leading to the Museum is lined with military personnel, most of them sitting in tanks. Once you enter the courtyard, you are transported back to Ancient Egypt with pillars and statutes, a lot in surprisingly good condition, sitting here and there with hieroglyphics chiseled into the stone.

Yes, they're tanks in the background

Inside is much the same, I think the most fascinating part of it is how they could have built such things, especially the 10 foot tall statues of Gods and former kings done in stone with nothing but chisels. There was even one statue made of the strongest stone the Ancient Egyptians had (can’t remember the name of it) that couldn’t be destroyed by an invading army because it was too tough to break. Yet they managed to cut away this stone into a perfect statue of a King.

It was a-maz-ing.

What else was amazing was the King Tutankhamen room, which had everything that was found in his tomb by Howard Carter in 1922, especially his mask that he wore after he was mummified. The mask weighed 11kg and was made of solid gold. It is on display and it is astounding, the detail on it cannot be described.
They also had on display the 4 tombs he was found in, the jewelry he was buried with and his beds, chariots and everything else.
That alone was worth the visit.

The Museum also has two rooms dedicated to mummies. Here 22 mummies are on display, some still wrapped, some showing their faces and the preservation is something to behold. They are not simple skull and bones, some still have their skin, it’s warped but hasn’t rotted away, hair and teeth still in tact.

It was a shame I could not take my camera inside.

Once we finished in the Museum we walked a couple of minutes down the road to el-Tahrir Square. Yes, the one where the protests were taking place.
The square is a far cry to what is depicted in the media. There were only a few tents still there after the Egyptian Military removed them but it is a lot smaller than I thought it would be and you can see the signs of the people who have been there (graffiti and rubbish etc) but it was safe. There was no sign of violence, no gathering of groups ready for anarchy. It was surreal and I am glad we went there.

el-Tahrir Square...I thought about starting a 'Free Tibet' movement

Once we spent a couple of minutes in the square, we drove west, across the Nile and into Giza.
Much like Cairo, Giza is a rubbish dump surrounded by buildings, but you don’t go for its cleanliness. You go for one reason.

The Pyramids.

You head along the main road, round a curse and there they are. One of the Wonders of the World sticking up and over Giza like a God looks over his disciples. Due to the current issues in Egypt, the place was pretty much empty and we had free reign to go where we wanted, aside from the annoying people trying to sell you stuff.
The Pyramids themselves are huge. Weirdly enough, they don’t look that big until you get up and close to them and you realize just how impossible it seems that these were made by mere humans. The blocks are easily taller than most normal sized people.
There are three major ones in Giza and 6 minor ones that surround the great ones, the minor ones are hardly noticeable and some are just mostly rubble. We were able to enter one of the great pyramids through a 40-50m tunnel heading down and underground at a crouch. It wasn’t good for the back but the things you do to experience history. Also the things you do to realize you have about 4000 tonnes of pyramid just sitting on your head. After you reach a normal sized tunnel, you climb back up and into the room where the King was buried. The sarcophagus is still there but the remains of the king are long gone.
The saddening part of the pyramids is all the idiots in the past who have etched their names and graffiti their names on the base. Such stupid and reckless actions for no reason at all.

Proof we were there

Once we finished and returned back to daylight we drove up to a plateau where you could get some amazing views of the Pyramids with the cityscape behind it, we drove a short distance to the Sphinx.
We all know what the Sphinx is, the human head, body of a lion carved into a single stone. It looks magnificent, but also out of place because if you walk a couple of minutes you hit a main street.
I also thought the Sphinx and Pyramids were in the middle of the desert, not the edge of town.

All the cool stuff in one single photo...and no tourists!

Satisfied with what we’d seen for the day, and that we avoided any protests/a coup/war and getting shot at, we headed back to our hotel to pack and get ready for our flight to Nairobi.

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