After another fantastic night (this one spent at the Welcome Back party at the BCA, or British expat club in Cairo) that included a fantastic Irish band who rocked some wicked covers of New York Girls, Rocky Road to Dublin, and Little Lion Man (absolutely brilliant), we woke up around 4:30 in the morning to trek on out to the pyramids.
I groggily trudged into the kitchen, still heavy with sleep, to eat some pretzel sticks when a disgustingly large cockroach scuttled across the floor from behind the refrigerator. It’s amazing how fatigue can desensitize you. I continued eating my pretzels, completely grossed out, and shouted to Susannah that we had company. I feel very lucky to live with a gal who’s super laid back; instead of going ballistic, she simply laughed. We left our cockroach – whose size is most likely appropriately proportionate to the size of our garage-sized kitchen – behind and hailed a cab. It’s crazy to see how desolate the streets of Cairo get in the wee hours of the morning. We all met at Laura’s and our driver, Ayman, took us to the pyramids. From Maadi to Giza, where the great pyramids are, was 20 minutes. It was equivalent to a trip down to Sea Bright in the middle of July.
Before snapping a dozen tourist shots of the pyramids, we journeyed to a different area where a caravan of camels awaited us. If you’ve never ridden a camel before, here are a few things you should know:
1. They are very tall. You will be up very high.
2. Their heads are swarming with flies who, by default, will swarm you next.
3. Getting up can be frightening; getting down is terrifying, and something akin to riding a mechanical bull.
4. They may not spit frequently, but they make disconcerting gurgling sounds that sound a little bit like a lion attempting to roar underwater.
We got comfortable fairly quickly, and the camels took us out to the desert via the dodgy back alleys of Slumville, Egypt. What began as a tour through ditches piled with steaming garbage quickly became sprawling acres of garbage filled with the occasional horse carcass or emaciated, scavenging dog. We passed by a cemetery, and Recoleta cemetery quickly came to mind. The contrast would make a cool picture. (That will come, I promise.)
Out in the desert, we took in a hazy view of the pyramids and enjoyed camel photo shoots before returning to the van and driving out to the pyramids. They’re pretty cool, and they’re not what you think they are. Whenever you see pictures, they appear to be these untouchable, isolated monuments in the middle of miles of desert, but there are major roadways and a panoramic view of Cairo right smack next to them. It was neat to see them up close, climb one, and learn about the construction of them.
Fun Fact: The pyramids aren’t actually smooth; the stones are pretty jagged and you could probably climb the pyramid if you were feeling especially ambitious. They used to be smooth, but prior to one of the many European “invasions,” it was decided that a wall should be constructed around Cairo for protection, and where might they find some stones? The pyramids. Or so our guide told us.
We traveled around the pyramids to take pictures from every angle before visiting the Sphinx, which is much smaller than you’d imagine it to be but still as cool. Finally, we trekked out to Sakara – known to me as the Egyptian beer they serve everywhere – to see the step pyramid. By this time, it felt like four but it was really only a bit after noon. The sun was scorching and brief walks from the van to a pyramid were brutal, so we finished up our tour, ate some authentic Egyptian barbecue at a “resort,” and headed back to Maadi.
Ashley and I went to the market, so Susannah and Shannon were at the apartment when we returned and the day ended where it began; armed with an empty Mott’s applesauce jar, Susannah had trapped the cockroach beside the door. An adventurous critter, it had shed its refrigerator home for a more cozy abode: Susannah’s shoe. The capture was a comforting end to one of the coolest days I’ve had in a while. Perhaps we’ll embalm the little vermin after he dies in an attempt to preserve culture.