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So Hot, Yet So Very Very Cool

Let me just apologize up front for any of you trying to read this post on a dial-up Internet connection. There are a LOT of photos to follow…

Upon first arriving in Cairo, my initial reaction was that it was very similar to Bangkok. A large city, with lots of cars, lots of dirt, lots of people, lots of chaos. After spending a full waking day in the city, not much of that initial reaction has changed.  The city has nearly 18 million people in it, and it seems like all of them drive. None of their cars have any sort of emissions regulations. But they all DO have working car horns. And they like to let you know about it… as often as possible.

We woke up bright and early to meet up with our tour guide Fatma at 8am. Even this early in the day, it was already pretty hot outside. Here’s a panoramic image from the hotel room.

We jumped into the air-conditioned van and were shuttled off to the first stop of Saqqara. Along the way we got a first hand look at the realities of this developing nation. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the driving. It’s utterly chaotic. There is no concept of driving lanes despite the guides painted on the road. There is no such thing of right of way, especially if you are a pedestrian. There are roads that seemingly lead to nowhere as traffic will go for several kilometers to only get to the end of the road and everyone — and i do mean everyone — turns around and goes the opposite direction on that same road, despite the fact that the road keeps going in the other direction. It just makes no sense. So many of the dwellings were dilapidated, or at least looked it. Many demolished buildings. Many animals on the road. And many young children walking around without supervision. It was quite a culture shock.

After driving for what seemed like forever past carpet weaving schools, we came to our first stop at Saqqara which features the world’s oldest standing step pyramid.

The pyramid and the nearby tombs were designed by Imhotep, one of the most advanced architect of ancient times. The cut limestone designs have stood up remarkably over the past 5000 years.

Flanking the great pyramid…

…are various tombs where kings from both the first and second dynasties were buried.

Many of the offering tables outside of the tombs have since been destroyed (not by us)…

The similarities between Latin characters and hieroglyphics are just uncanny sad!

This was an epic moment in our lives…

… but just the first of many that the day would provide.

Next up was a short drive over to the pyramid complex of Teti. The pyramid itself is pretty much gone and only resembles a small hill now. But the chambers and corridors below it are in very good shape. The hieroglyphics all over the walls are totally legible. If you can read hieroglyphics that is. We did learn one thing about reading them… there is no preset left-to-right, right-to-left rule. They can be read and written in all 4 directions! The direction in which you read them is determined by the direction that the bird glyph is facing.

With that new knowledge under our belts, it was off to Memphis to view more kings. No, not Elvis, but King Ramesses II. This 83 ton masterpiece is flawlessly carved in solid granite. It once towered above the land below at 11 meters high.

Also in Memphis is this alabaster sphinx from the 19th dynasty, or 1200 BC.

Now, for Big Bertha…

That’s right, the Giza Pyramids!!!! The only remaining member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!

OMG, these suckers are ENORMOUS!

Folks it doesn’t get any better than this. The great friggin’ pyramids are right there in front of us!

Er, behind us.

And under us.

It’s impossible to even capture their enormity on film. But here are a few photo to put it all in perspective.

Take just one of those steps, and repeat it over 200 times!

The great thing about having a tour guide is that she can take you to the spots that many people never see…

…and help you take photos that no one else will take.

And she can help you not fall into the typical tourist traps, of which there are many in Cairo. And instead get you the really good deals on camel rides!

Hey, we’re in Egypt! What did you expect!? Certainly not more Segways I hope!

And of course the most majestic half-human, half-lion hybrid of all time. The Great Sphinx of Giza!

What else can you really say about a day like this!? Nothing. Nothing at all. It was perfect.


I want a camel!

Not to ruin the awesomeness, but I believe the pyramids were built by Jewish slaves…Also add to your Netflix list “Lawrence of Arabia” for awesome desert scenes (but see it in a movie theater, preferably a 70mm screen). I think you’ve gotten a great perspective now on how art is best scene in the setting it was meant for, not randomly placed in a museum. However, I think there are a lot of major Egyptian works in the Berlin museum of art. Why were the ancient Egyptians so obsessed with life after death? Did your guide go into any discussion about mummies? Imagine how cool it would be to take a cruise down the Nile! (I think there’s an IMAX film about that) Well, enjoy your falafels!

We watched that movie together in Hollywood at the Egyptian Theater — on a 70mm screen too! Remember?

We did pass over the Nile a few times via car. I wanted to dip my feet into it, but ran out of time. 🙁

I had been taught that the pyramids were built by slaves as well. I asked our guide and she said it wasn’t true. According to Fatma they were voluntarily built by a 100,000 people to show appreciation of the king. She is Egyptian and Muslim so maybe she’s biased? Tough to say.

those pyramid shots are effing unreal.

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