Monday, January 14, 2008

Cairo, Egypt, Part I

Eva and I rolled into Cairo on the sleeper train at 6:45 in the morning.

Unfortunately, when we got to Hotel Luna, we were told our room wouldn’t be available until noon. We ended up staying the in freezing cold lobby until 11:30 waiting and waiting.

We finally got into our room, did a quick shower and headed to see the famous Egyptian Antiquities Museum, which houses such things as King Tut’s death mask and all the treasures found in his tomb along with many, many statues, papyrus scrolls and other artifacts – even a colossal mummified fish. We also bought an extra ticket that allowed us to visit the royal mummies. It was cool to see the remains of the royalty whose tombs we toured in Luxor. As you can imagine, no cameras were allowed. In fact they confiscated cameras at the gate, so we had to sneak Eva’s inside in my sunglasses case.

Today was the big day – we toured the Pyramids!!! We’ve been in Egypt for over a week and we finally got to see the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Egypt – the pyramids and the Sphinx!

We decided to see all three major groups of pyramids near Cairo: Giza, Saqqara, and Dashur. We had to hire a driver, which would have been tricky, but fortunately we met a guy in our hostel who speaks Arabic and wanted to hang out with us today touring the pyramids. Tyler, a guy from Washington D.C. who is in Cairo touring and practicing his Arabic, was great to have around. Without him, we never would have made it!

Dashur was our first stop. The biggest of the three pyramids at Dashur is the Red Pyramid. It is the world’s oldest “true” pyramid (with flat sides). We chose to go inside this pyramid instead of the Great Pyramid at Giza because the ticket was very inexpensive and there was virtually no one there. From what we’ve been told, the view inside is equivalent to the Great Pyramid and we had the place to ourselves. To get inside we descended into a narrow tunnel 125 steps into the pyramid. When we neared the bottom, it was very hot and smelled like ammonia.

Also a part of Dashur is the Bent Pyramid, which we couldn’t get to close to because it was in a restricted military zone. As much fun as dodging landmines sounded, we decided not to try to sneak past the guards and check it out. The Bent Pyramid got its name because ancient Egyptians started building it at an angle too steep for it to remain intact, so they had to decrease the angle partway through construction.

At the next pyramid group, Saqqara, we saw the Step Pyramid, the World’s oldest pyramid.

The last pyramid group, Giza, is closest to Cairo and is the most famous of the three. We rented camels and saw the pyramids in style.

We also saw the Sphinx, which stands guard in front of the Great Pyramid.

Tomorrow, our last day in Egypt, we’re going to see Islamic Cairo and the famous Khan al-Khalili souk. Wednesday morning, bright and early we’ll be on our way back to the United States.

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