22 April 2011

Giza's Need Excitement

A trip to Egypt isn’t complete without a visit to one of the seven wonders of the world, the pyramids of Giza. For 100 Egyptian pounds ($16) each, C and I managed to get a driver to drive us around for a day.

Our driver picked us up from central Cairo and dropped us off in a quiet street in Giza. He walked us into a small room and together, with his dear friend, a camel-tour operator, tried to rip us off. They told us that after travelling all the way to Giza, we could only access the pyramids by camel, or the more expensive option, limousine. We were agitated and knew this was part of a well-rehearsed profit-making scheme. The driver had strategically driven us to an extremely tourist-unfriendly area – there were no signs of the pyramids, other tourists, or anything in English. In other words, we didn’t want to be stranded here.

Our driver dropped us off in this street.  This was where our camel tour begun.
After bartering and paying about a quarter of the original obscene camel-riding fee, we found ourselves at the back of the building surrounded by unhealthy-looking camels. It was at this point that I deeply regretted my decision to ride these camels. I had ridden camels in Morocco just weeks before this adventure, and knew that the ones in Giza were horribly neglected – they seemed weak, malnourished and heavily scarred. Nevertheless, as we reached the desert plateau overlooking the Giza pyramids, it was a breathtaking sight. As our camel guide dropped us off at the site, he unsurprisingly tried to scam us again, asking us for an extra payment.

One of the three large pyramids of Giza
One of the things to be careful about in Egypt are scams. Every time you sign up for something and agree on a price, there will undoubtedly be a reason why more money needs to be paid over at a later time. In our instance, this applied to taxi rides, tours, driver’s fees and the like. The extra payments will be for reasons such as fictional road tolls, road taxes and additional service fees.
The Sphinx
A large pack of tourist buses were crowded together between the pyramids. As we walked around the pyramids, security officers warned us not to get too close. At this site, there are nine pyramids altogether. Each one is worth marvelling at. How they were constructed, I still don’t know. Unfortunately, there was no information regarding the history of the pyramids at the site. The famous Sphinx was only a few hundred metres away. It was tiny compared to the Great Pyramid of Giza and was somewhat disappointing considering how well publicised it is.
The Red Pyramid of Dahshur
Later that afternoon we drove to Dahshur to see the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. As you would expect from its name, the Bent Pyramid has bent sides. It looks funny, as if it were made by some bored kids who were no good at Jenga. I managed to delve into the centre of the Red Pyramid through a small tunnel. It was dark, hot and tiny inside…and the smells were putrid. I had never felt so claustrophobic in my life. It was an anti-climax once I made it to the end of the tunnel; there was a small room with boulders scattered around.

This is the entrance to the tunnel leading into the Red's tiny!
We finished off the day with a quick visit to the Step Pyramid of Djoser.  That's a pyramid with six giant steps on each of its walls.


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