14 February, 2015

Egypt, Day 13

Ok my friends, here is the very last post about the Egypt trip.  I’m writing this from home as the last few days have just been so full there hasn’t been time.  But do bear with me as this is going to be a long post.

First off, I have not skipped Day 12.  But it was pretty much just a travel day.  We flew from Luxor back to Cairo.  We got checked back into the Mena house, had another lecture with Dr. Hawass and then dinner.  The only picture I have is a shot from the balcony of our new room.  You’re going to be seeing a lot more, but here’s what the pyramids look like during the sound and light show on the other side.  

Day 13 was hands down the best way to end such a fabulous two weeks.  We were up insanely early again and on the bus before the sun came up.  We made the very short drive into the pyramid complex.  BEFORE it opened to the public.  And still before the sun was up.  I know you can’t see it very well, but there was a luscious moon right over the pyramid when we got there.  Unfortunately, because we weren’t allowed to carry cameras (other than cell phones) I don’t have many great night shots.  

Climbing up to the entrance of the pyramid in the dark is kind of surreal.  Trying not to stumble, yet filled with excitement.  Lucky for us, the tourist entrance to the great pyramid is far lower than the original entrance.  Tourists enter through a robber's tunnel that by some blind luck, managed to find the ascending and descending passages.  Once inside the tunnel, you proceed to a small set of stairs.  Along the way, you pass the shaft leading up, which was the original entrance and leading down to the subterranean chamber.  (More on that in a bit)   Up the stairs and you arrive in the grand gallery.  It was everything I could have imagined and more.  I won’t lie, the climb isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t horrible. The grand gallery itself is a climb of just over 153 feet.  At the very top, you arrive at a tunnel where you have to walk hunched over for about 3.3 feet.  Past that tunnel, you arrive in the burial chamber.  Constructed of granite with no decorations, it’s hard to believe you’re deep inside a pyramid with so much stone above you. Here's a look at the placement of the rooms inside. 

 R also took a quick shot of me headed back down into the grand gallery.

 Heading back down, at the base of the great gallery, we were allowed to enter the Queen’s chamber.  A smaller room that isn’t generally open to the public.  This too required some stooped over walking, but nothing up or down.

Last of all, we went all the way back the way we had come and decided to descend to the subterranean chamber.  This is another room that isn’t open to the public and I now know why.  A very steep climb down about 252 feet led us to the smallest tunnel yet.  One small enough that the only good way through was on hands and knees, for about 29 feet.  So of course, I crawled.  Yep, I crawled through the pyramid.  Here’s the dust to prove it.   

This buried room is the deepest and largest of all the spaces inside the pyramid, with a hole in the ground that appears to go even deeper.  Knowing that all the weight of an ancient, massive structure was above us was fairly awe inspiring to say the least. 

Upon returning to the surface, we were exhausted.  It’s quite a bit of climbing up and down.  However, we were greeted with the sight of the sun rising over the Giza Plateau.  Our group was alone in front of one of the wonders of the ancient world.  

I was pretty sure nothing could top that.  I might have been wrong.  Our group then moved to the Great Sphinx.  Generally the public isn’t allowed very close.  We met Dr. Hawass right in between the paws of the mighty beast.  Looking up at it, you can only imagine how impressive it really was over 4,500 years ago.  We were able to walk all around it and have Dr. Hawass point out the various places where he has looked for any chambers or anything at all to indicate the sphinx is more than just carved out of the mountain.  (there aren’t any)  He pointed out to us the original stone as well as the small bricks the Romans used in trying to restore the Sphinx in their day.  With few qualms, I touched both.  Please forgive me, if I post too many pictures of it.  I was just a little impressed.


 We made one quick stop after the Spinx to get an over all view of the plateau and then it was time for the up close view.


Then, lunch time!  Not a bad lunch spot, when this is your view.

On our way to lunch, we got a good glimpse of how lucky we had been this morning.  Take a look at the crowd trying to get into the plateau complex.

 We made a quick stop at a perfume store and then it was time to drop part of the group off at the hotel while the rest of us headed to old Cairo.  First we saw a Christian church that is built over the cave where the Holy Family hid for a time when they were in Egypt.  Sadly, no pictures allowed.  Then we stopped by a Synagogue that was one of the oldest in Cairo.  Last of all was another Christian church.  This one, called the hanging church has something like 150 icons decorating the walls.  As this one allowed pictures, I snapped a quick one of St. George. 

 The last stop on our excursion was the old bazaar, Kahn el-Khalili.  We were a bit distressed that we didn’t have enough time here to really enjoy the bazaar, but we still had some fun.  It’s a place worth another visit.  

Back at the hotel, it was time for a final dinner with all the tour groups together.  (There are three with Archaeological Paths)  We exchanged info with our new travel friends.  I have to say, this has been an amazing time.  The people are kind and so happy to see American tourists back in their country.  Generally when I’m at the end of a trip, I feel as though I’d like to keep going.  This time, I’m looking forward to being home.  I’d love to go back again someday and see a few more of the sights, but I’m grateful for a lot of small things we take for granted. 

So a few tips if you’ve at all been inspired to go to Egypt.  I can’t recommend the tour we were on highly enough.  Not everything was perfect, but the special treatment we got for being associated with Dr. Hawass was well worth it. 

Practical things… besides the obvious of sunscreen and hats bring toilet paper.  The majority of the bathrooms we went to didn’t have it. 

American dollars seem to work just as well there as Egyptian pounds.  Some people seem to prefer dollars.

If you’re going somewhere where you will see children, bring pens.  Apparently they’re a bit of a luxury and it was nice to give a few away here and there.

Be prepared for temperature changes.  We had some days we were freezing in the morning and some days where we baked all day. 

Be prepared to be dirty a lot.  The sand is everywhere.  It gets into everything.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to dump quite a bit out of my day bag at home. 

Last of all… it’s safe.  I can’t say this enough.  I know there were several incidents that happened while we were there, but we were never close to them.  We had police escorts when we left the city and an armed guard with us all the time.  This apparently has been going on since the 90s so it’s standard practice.  We never felt threatened or like we were anywhere unsafe.

I’m sure there are other things I’ll remember as the days go along, but if you do have any questions, please feel free to comment or email me.  Thanks once again for following me on this amazing adventure.  I cannot believe I’ve now been to Egypt.  Now it’s time to figure out what’s next on the bucket list!

Safe travels!

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