Our first few days in Cairo had us feeling like we would be heading into Jordan much sooner than we had originally planned. Lucky for Cairo it boasts the world's most impressive ancient structures, the Great Pyramids of Giza.
If you've looked through our Egypt photo albums you'll notice that we had already seen the pyramids. On our decent into Cairo the pilot took advantage of the clear blue skies and circled the Giza plateau, tilting the aircraft so that passengers onboard could get a bird's eye view. It was a pleasant surprise!
Our hostel provided a free shuttle service to the pyramids so we woke up early to beat the crowds (wishful thinking?). Although the transfer was 'free' the driver took us to a travel agency just outside the entrance. Of course his goal was for us to buy a camel safari or horseback package; we assume a nice commission was involved.
We decided to pass on the promotion because it was still much more expensive than what others from our hostel had paid. We fully intended to ride a camel that morning and chose to test our luck with the guides inside the archeological site. It paid off. We ended up finding a camel safari guide for over half the cost of the outside vendor. We shared a camel and our guide took us to the third pyramid where we did our standard tourist photos and marveled at the mind-boggling monuments. Riding a camel is not the most comfortable mode of transportation but it was a unique experience that we had to do.
When we arrived at the pyramid, our guide turned to us and said, "Do you want to do something crazy?"
Nicole cautiously replied, "Sure. Like what?"
"Stand up" was his response. Huh?
He wanted Nicole to stand on the camel's back!
After much hesitation, Nicole slowly stood up on the camel's back and we snapped a photo highlight for our global adventure. As much as Cameron would like to take credit for the photo it was actually our guide who captured Nicole grabbing the tip of the pyramid. It's probably the most typical tourist shot at the pyramids but how many people get it while standing on a camel's back?!
Simply put, witnessing the pyramids firsthand was incredible!
Words cannot describe the feeling we got when we turned the corner and there they were, with the massive limestone Sphinx staring at us. It was a moment that will stick with us forever.
Although some people many say otherwise, they really did live up to the hype. The 4,500 year old pyramids are so big and so extraordinary. They have a funny way of illustrating the insignificance of modern man.
After our camel ride finished at the third pyramid, the Pyramid of Menkaure, we hiked our way back to the second pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre (it appears to be the tallest because it's built on higher ground). While we circled the giant relic we were approached by a guide on a horse (surprise, surprise). Naturally he wanted to sell us something, as does everyone in Egypt.
Lucky for him he was selling horseback rides and Nicole was his prime customer!
We did our usual song-and-dance routine with him until he said the magical words "20 pounds". This is equivalent to $4 CDN. Nicole accepted with a big smile. Of course he also tried to persuade Cameron to get on a horse but there was no chance of that ever happening.
Nicole galloped into the desert plateau until she disappeared behind large sandy hills in the distance. Although Cameron was a little nervous having Nicole fade off into the desert with a toothless Bedouin, twenty minutes later the duo came racing back to the base of the pyramid. Nicole was thrilled.
While we approached the first and oldest pyramid, the Pyramid of Khufu, we passed a camel sitting on the path. Our natural instinct was to take a photo - why wouldn't you? Within a second there was a tourist police officer running towards us. He repeatedly shouted "Give me small money!"
We were thoroughly confused. "Aren't you supposed to be the good guy?" Cameron replied.
He wasn't buying it and continued to stick his hand out looking for a 'donation'. Unfortunately for him, we weren't buying it either. Some choice words were shared and we walked away disgusted that the tourist police of all people were trying to extort money from us. He did not succeed.
This is the corrupt side of Egypt that we'd like to forget, but sadly it's rampant where ever tourists are… which happens to be everywhere!
Sorry to say, that was not the last time we'd deal with the tourist police that morning.
While we were snapping photos of the legendary Sphinx on our way out, a young boy snuck up behind Cameron. We're constantly being harassed by underprivileged kids looking to sell us something or beg for money. Nicole was about 20 meters away and decided to take a photo of the boy as he approached Cameron - the photo was to be a 'yet another child beggar, even in front of the Sphinx?!'
Little did she know that this was to be the most opportune photo she's ever taken.
Cameron didn't see the boy, but felt something tug at his lower pocket where his wallet was. He immediately turned around and swooped his hand down, grabbing the boy's arm as he tried to calmly walk away as if nothing happened.
The little w*** tried to pickpocket Cameron and Nicole caught it on camera! We caught him red-handed… what are the odds of that? The photo is in the attached Pyramids album.
It was a very eventful and memorable day. We had finally visited the Great Pyramids of Giza. We can now happily cross that off our list of 'things we must see before we die'.
We spent our final two days eating delicious Egyptian food at a great local restaurant (Felfela) and bumming around our hostel chatting with other travelers. We spent an evening exploring and getting lost in the enormous medieval Khan al-Khalili Bazaar in the old Islamic Cairo, making sure that we took a moment to sample the customary green apple shisha (tobacco filtered through a water long water pipe) at a typical tea house.
We had our moments in Cairo but all-in-all it was a positive experience. The Great Pyramids and Egyptian Museum were fantastic and well worth the accompanied headaches.
With that, we said good bye to the big smoke and planned to travel by overnight sleeper train to the historical city of Luxor.
October 17th, 2009