Memphis, Step Pyramid, Sakkara & Pyramids of Giza

Day 2

We were awakened by the alarm at 6:45. We gave ourselves 2 hours to shower, pack and eat before meeting Waled, then walked downstairs for 9 am.

After showering we headed down to the Lobby of the hotel for our free breakfast. At first all we could find was a 125 pound Breakfast buffet which everyone was eating at and Lisa and I thought we had been misled by our trip pamphlets. But after stopping at the little stall in the hotel to get some water we noticed something at the back of the hotel, sure enough it was the free breakfast buffet.

We both threw on some scrambled eggs, hash browns and a few mini sausages on our plate then sat down to eat. There was only one other couple in the room where we had been eating. I kept on wondering to myself if it was a coincidence that everyone was paying for breakfast on the floor above us or if the hotel purposely set it up that way.

After breakfast we headed back to our rooms and packed our bags for the day, then headed downstairs to meet Waled.

Downstairs we met Waled, our driver and our Egyptologist/hostess for the day.

Memphis Ramese II Statue

Memphis Ramese II Statue

We hopped into the van and headed for our first stop of the day, Memphis. Memphis was the capital city of ancient Egypt. We got to experience the full force of Cairo’s traffic as we drove through the city and out into the country side.

As we got further out of the city into the country side you could really see more of the poorer parts of the country. We saw trash pilled high on the banks of the Nile. We saw the condition of the houses and the poor farmers on the sides of the road selling some of their crops. About one hour drive later we arrived at the archaeological site of old Memphis.

Our Guide jumped out of the van, got our tickets to enter the site. We followed her into the site and through the lax security at the entrance. When I first saw the statues and the rest of the ancient artefacts I was a little disappointed and shocked at their means of preservation. All the statues are kind of laid out around the grounds and are left in the wide open for all the elements to have at them; there is no type of preservation actually being done to the artefacts. We took some pictures of the different statues on the site and entered an open building to see a big statue of Ramses the Second; the statue is missing its feet but is still pretty spectacular to see. The size and detail are quite amazing; it’s really hard to imagine that a group of people could have created such a thing over 4000 years ago.

Sakarra, Egypt

Sakarra, Egypt

Next we headed to the Sakkara were the step pyramid is located. Again Lisa and I got to see more of the country side. When we arrived at Sakkara our guide once again hopped out and got our tickets. We drove up the hill to the entrance of Sakkara.

There was a lot more tourist traffic this time. At the entrance you are greeted with the remaining wall that once surrounded the entire grounds of Sakkara. The Egyptians estimate that the entire length of the 10 meter high wall was a little less than 1.5 kilometres in length. As you pass through the wall you enter into an entrance that at one time would have been spectacular to see. There are huge stone columns 10 meters high holding up two massive pieces of stone that form the roof. The weight of these stones would be incredible.

Once you walk out the entrance you are in a large courtyard with the Step Pyramid in the distance. Our guide gave us a very brief description of the area, pointed out a few structures and then told us we can walk around. By this point I was starting to see what our doctor back in Winnipeg meant. He warned us that the guides are pretty general with their tours and that if you really wanted to learn about the different places in Egypt to watch documentaries about Egypt.

Step Pyramid, Egypt

Step Pyramid, Egypt

Lisa and I headed towards the Step Pyramid where oddly enough no one was around. There isn’t all that much to see really. You can only get within about 50 feet of the Pyramid as it is completely roped off. There was also some scaffolding set up and there were some workers working on fixing or preserving the Pyramids, but they were moving at an incredibly slow pace. We then wandered off to the side of the Pyramid where there had been some stones and structures scattered about. As we started walking towards the structures one of the tourist police approached us and started showing us different spots of interest, I was a little hesitant about his intentions thinking that he would want money but in the end his phone started to ring and he just wandered off.

Lisa and I then made our way over to the other highlight of the area which is the shafts that go directly into the ground some 30 plus meters. One of the shafts was used to lower things down, and the other shaft had a set of stairs down to the bottom. Both shafts met at the bottom. When looking at the shafts you can see that whoever constructed the shafts had to bore through solid rock, it’s really quite impressive to see.

We then headed off into a section were there were a few tourists and a couple of guys trying to sell camel rides. I avoided the guys selling the camel rides but Lisa walked right into them and sure enough the sales pitch started.

First he asked her where she was from so she said, “Canada”.

Right away he says, “Canada Dry!”

Sakarra, Egypt

Sakarra, Egypt

I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean, I think they just say it because that’s the only thing they know about Canada. I’m not even sure if they know what they are saying. Anyhow the guy then tried to get her to take a picture and once he realized that wasn’t going to happen he then tried to push the camel ride. All of a sudden there was a ruckus amongst his camel friends and he wandered off.

We then started to look around some more. As we approached a passageway between a set of Egyptian structures we were encouraged by one of the tourist police to come and see. He led us to a tomb entrance were some other guy took us through a few rooms. There was no writing or carvings on any of the walls, just small humid rooms that lead to a room where I’m guessing a tomb once was.

As we exited the guy wanted money but I just waved him off. We then noticed a Chinese couple a few meters ahead of us that seemed to know what they were looking at so Lisa and I just started to follow them around. They led us to a few stone structures were we could see some hieroglyphs carved into the stone, we also came upon a cave like entrance that had some garbage strewn around and what looked to be a shaft at the back.

We walked about the structures for a few more minutes and then returned to the courtyard to find our guide/Egyptologist.

Great Pyramids of Giza

Great Pyramids of Giza

Next stop on the tour we went to a carpet school, which is really a carpet factory. I was a little sceptical going in because I was now aware that anything you do in Egypt had a dollar sign on it. Our guide led us into the carpet school where we were introduced to our other guide. The guide then proceeded to show us the different types of carpets being made by the children. The work space was clean and safe but was a sad looking place.

After the brief tour of about 15 minutes we were taken upstairs and sat down for the sales pitch. Right away as our guide was giving us the pitch I noticed that there were a hundred potentially thousands of rugs throughout the room and earlier in our tour the guide said it took the workers about a month to make one meter of carpet. I did a few quick calculations in my head and came to the realization that it would take several years for this one factory of about 10 workers to produce all these rugs.

I also recalled something about looking at the back of a carpet and being able to tell the quality, so I picked up one of the rugs and started looking at the back, as soon as I did this the guide got a little panicky and asked me if I knew anything about rugs, I said no but the guide was finished as his sales pitch had already shown me his bluff; and these were definitely not handmade carpets. Lisa and I walked around the floor anyhow to look at some of the carpets. None of them really appealed to us so we left.

Pyramids of Giza, Camel Ride

Pyramids of Giza, Camel Ride

Our next stop on the tour was the all famous Pyramids of Giza; these are the three largest Pyramids in all of Egypt. Our drive getting there was an interesting one as we had to drive back through the countryside along the Nile. Lisa was looking out of one side of the van while I was looking out the other. I didn’t see anything I hadn’t already seen other than a few men fishing from the garbage littered Nile.

I thought the Red River back home was dirty but seeing the Nile makes the Red River look like a swimming pool. Lisa on the other hand saw a dead donkey partially floating in the Nile and a skinned horse strung up in one of the stalls alongside the road. The horse I can understand as different cultures eat different things, but a dead donkey in the water was a little disturbing to Lisa. She actually only ended up telling me about what she had seen when we got back to our hotel room that evening.

After about a one hour drive we finally arrived at the Pyramids. It’s kind of odd when you first see them because they are literally right on the edge of the city of Cairo, not in the desert like you see pictured in all the brochures and advertisements.

We got out of the van with our guide to purchase our tickets. Lisa had to use the wash room; I figured I might as well to.

Our guide said that we would need money to enter, so we grabbed a few Egyptian pounds and headed toward the wash rooms. At the entrance of each wash room someone sat in a chair and collected the Egyptian pound fee. As I got inside there was another boy selling toilet paper, luckily I didn’t need the toilet paper and didn’t have to pay anything extra. I got back outside and waited for Lisa. When she got out she told me of her similar experience but instead of getting a roll to use, the girl inside ripped of a few sheets of paper and handed it to Lisa. Lisa said she used the toilet paper to cover the seat and thankfully had some Kleenex in her purse for the rest.

Inside the Pyramid of Giza

Inside the Pyramid of Giza

When we passed through the entrance we met our driver on the other side and hopped back in. We then headed for the lookout spot which gave the best angle for taking pictures of all three Pyramids. Lisa and I took a few photographs of one another and then had our guide take a picture of both of us together. After the photo opportunities we headed back down towards the Pyramids and parked ourselves between the two largest of the structures.

We had purchased extra tickets to gain access into one of the Pyramids, so left our gear in the van and headed for the entrance. As we walked over to the entrance I saw one Egyptian fellow peeing on the Pyramid and another one sitting on it. At the entrance we were met by one of the tourist police who was checking people for cameras; we had left ours in the van. We proceeded down the tight shaft About 100 yards before we came to an open area were we could stand up but almost immediately there was another tight shaft that went another 100 yards up. About halfway up the second shaft we were able to stand back up. We were greeted on the other side by an Egyptian man who was pointing out some of the different parts of the shaft. As we got to the top of the second shaft we entered into the tomb. I was expecting something great but other than the thought of building the room there was nothing all that great about it. It was large and very hot and humid. The Egyptian man then pulled out a flash light and shone the beam on an open tomb/casket. He then said we could take pictures if we wanted. I had the camera on my phone but the room was too dark to get a descent photograph. Lisa and I looked around for a while and then started to make our way out, but not before being asked for some money. I handed the Egyptian man 2 dollars and started to make our way out. As we were climbing through the shaft we stopped at a few spots that were somewhat lit and snapped a few photos with my phone.

Once out of the Pyramid Lisa and I went back to the van to grab our gear and started walking around the Pyramids. There were a few ancient structures partially standing around the Pyramids, so Lisa and I started to wander around. It didn’t take long before a few of the camel guys spotted us and started to hassle us to take a photo or go for a ride. I ignored them for the most part but Lisa couldn’t help herself.

Somehow after a few minutes they managed to talk us into a photo with the camel. After the photo the negotiating started for the picture. I gave them 40 Egyptian pounds, knowing I was being generous but they wanted more, I grabbed Lisa and we just walked away. We made our way over to the largest of the three pyramids and just followed the crowds. At the entrance there were a lot of tourists climbing the first few levels of stones, so Lisa and I each took our turns and took a few photos of one another. After an hour so of walking around we made our way back to the van where our driver and guide had been waiting.

The Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt

The Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt

We got back into the van and drove a short distance to the all famous Sphinx. For some reason this seemed to be the busiest spot on the tour so far. It was nothing too crazy just a little busy. Our guide led us into the entrance of the Sphinx which was where the Egyptians once embalmed the body of the Great King (king’s name). She then pointed out the direction of the sphinx and said she would wait there for us. Lisa and I made our way up the ramp which was once used to carry the body of (king’s name) to his Pyramid and outside to see the Sphinx. The Sphinx is thought to be the only statue in Egypt to be carved out of stone that hadn’t been moved. The Sphinx was pretty amazing; the sheer size of it is incredible. It’s in pretty rough shape and there are some signs that work is being done to try and restore/preserve it, but it doesn’t look like they’re moving too fast. Lisa and I spent a few minutes looking over the Sphinx and then headed back down the ramp/corridor to meet back up with our guide. We exited the entrance and headed back to the van.

Our guide asked us if we would like to visit an Egyptian cotton store and a papyrus store and we said sure. Our first stop was the Egyptian cotton store. Lisa and I walked around and found a few items that interested us, I tried on a few shirts but nothing really seemed to fit proper, so we ended up walking away with nothing. I saw our guide give one of the sales clerks a weird look as we exited and I found that to be really strange. In the back of my mind I couldn’t stop wondering what her cut of the sale might have been.

Streets of Suburban Cairo, Egypt

Streets of Suburban Cairo, Egypt

Our next and final stop was the papyrus shop. Once again our guide came in and sat while we walked around the shop. We were first given a quick demonstration of how papyrus paper is made and then given a chance to walk around and see some of the works. I was still pretty sceptical about what we were being sold but it was nice work and I thought it might make for a good souvenir. Lisa and I took a look around the shop and found a piece that we liked. We told the guy we wanted the piece but smaller, he then went on to tell us that he had three different sizes, so we asked to see the smallest. When he showed us the smallest we said it was still too big and without hesitation he produced an even smaller one; at that point I just thought to myself, what a scam. We ended up finding a piece we liked and purchased it for 70 Egyptian pounds.

Our drive back across the city was pretty chaotic we got to experience the real traffic of Cairo; it’s pretty nuts. Our guide told us that a lot of people don’t go out in the evening simply because the traffic is so bad. We dropped our guide off somewhere between our last stop and our hotel. Our driver who I don’t think spoke any English took us the rest of the way.

Back in our hotel Lisa and I were starting to get hungry and we knew there was a ‘rotten Ronnie’s somewhere around our hotel. So we walked across the street from our hotel into the Hilton shopping center after a little looking around we managed to find the McDonalds on the 6 floor. We both ordered the Big Mac Meal which came with the option of beef or chicken patties; we stuck with the beef. We got our food to go and headed back to our rooms. There we ate our food posted our pictures on the Internet for our family to see and prepared for bed as we would have to get up at 3:45 am in order to catch our flight to Luxor the next day.

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