Waking up at 8am after falling asleep at 4am is a very difficult task. But when you know you’re going to see the pyramids, it’s slightly more worth it. Our driver, Ayman, picked us up and brought us to Giza, which still looks impressive no matter how many times I’ve seen it. (Which is three now, for the record.)
We photographed the pyramids and then hopped on some camels. I thought I’d be used to the awkward rocking motion involved in getting on one and the striking height, but I still felt myself gripping the stinky saddle. Shar, on the other hand, got on nimbly, as if she moonlights as a Bedouin caravan-leader. Shar’s camel seemed pleasantly at ease with the world, while mine, a young fellow named Banana, was full of energy and an insatiable desire to bite our guide. After a few photos, we got in the car and headed for Sakara.
The drive took us down some of the canal-side roads I ran on during the Pharonic, and really gave Shar an inside look at Egypt’s trash problem; not only is the canal polluted – a disturbing fact that is all the more harrowing when you witness people washing their clothes in it -, but the piles of garbage heaped on the roadsides are often ablaze.
We sped down the straight desert road until suddenly, Ayman slammed on the brakes and the car came to a screeching halt followed by a thump. Again, Shar looked surprisingly calm, though we were both a bit confused. Ayman continued driving and laughed at our shocked faces in the rearview mirror.
“I don’t like to run over cats,” he said. “But she dead.”
The last time I visited Sakara, I’d run out of money and couldn’t actually go in. This was unfortunate, as there was apparently a beautiful tomb there with colorful hieroglyphics adorning the walls. This time, we explored Sakaraand the tombs, and while we were told not to take pictures, we couldn’t help it. The color on the walls is extraordinary, and it’s still unfathomable to me how it’s lasted for so long. (Sidenote: The Egyptian Museum boasted artifacts whose bright colors were still shining after over 3,000 years. Insane!)
We were feeling very drained and hungry after Sakara, but we had one last stop on our trip. The pyramids at Dashour are a special species of pyramid. The bent pyramid is the neglected, Quasimodo-type stepbrother of the other pyramids, and the red pyramid has a leg up on the rest of them, as you can actually go in this one.
Shar and I were equally psyched about this, and eagerly clambered up the steep steps to the opening in the pyramid. I’d been warned about the tunnel; it’s incredibly tiny, and some of my friends admitted to feeling exasperated when, making it halfway through on a crowded day, they had to turn around and back out to let others emerge from the pyramid. I’d been advised to crawl in on my hands and knees, as the ceiling makes for a cramped walk. (Fun Fact: Ayman says this is because you’re heading into the burial chamber of a king, and the only way to greet a king is by bowing. Hence, you enter in a stooped position.)
It took a while to get into the musty-smelling chamber, but luckily we encountered little traffic going the other way.
“I just realized we’re in the middle of a giant rock that could collapse at any second,” Shar observed at one point. If I wasn’t feeling claustrophobic before, I was now. “At least we’re together,” she conceded. (Later, Ryan comforted me by detailing a scenario where a climber might be pinned down in a cavein but given just enough air to stay alive and die a slow, agonizing death. I’m glad he didn’t join us.)
The room we emerged in was empty, but there seemed to be scaffolding at the back of the room. Ryan later told me it was actually a stairway to another room, but by this point, Shar and I were okay with the thought of it being scaffolding. We practically bolted back up the ramp, a move that rendered us both in serious pain the next few days.
Once outside, we snapped a few more photos before heading home, starving and with an urge to watchAladdin. (This happens to me frequently here, as it did in India.)
After a grueling morning/early afternoon visiting the pyramids, we relaxed with some Gringo’s burritos and Aladdin before Shar hopped into the shower and I got my hair done. Simon and Ashley came by and we all headed out for a sunset felucca ride on the Nile that was windy but calm.
Our authentic Egyptian day came to an Irish end at the BCA’s St. Patty’s Day party, which, despite feeling slightly exhausted, was a blast. We were given complimentary green beer and found a quaint table by the Irish band where we packed chairs for all of us to sit. There was Irish stew, mushroom soup, vegetable curry, and lots of bread. The event was advertised as having Guinness, Baileys, and Jamesons to name a few, and the line for the Guinness was hilarious. (How often do you see people lining up for a limited stock of Guinness?) I’ve never liked Guinness, but I tried it again, and it wasn’t bad at all.
We sat around swapping stories and shivering in the chilly Cairo air before going inside to a DJ and a dance party. Ryan won a bottle of Baileys (creamy Baileys), which really made the night for me, and Shar managed to score some cheese sandwiches.
All in all, it was a lovely night spent in fabulous company.