03 February, 2015

Egypt, Day 2

Well posting first thing this morning didn’t happen at all.  You’ll all have to forgive me as the wifi here in the hotel is terrible.  Really, it’s the only thing to complain about in this lovely place.  When you walk to breakfast and are greeted with this view, you really are somewhere special.  

So for the posting, you’ll have to forgive me if I run a little behind.  It takes almost an hour to upload and post all the pictures I want for each blog entry.  Hopefully on the boat, things will be a little better.  If not, here’s a camel rider in the middle of traffic for your troubles.


So on to day 2!  Right after breakfast, we headed to Saqqara, home of the step pyramid, created for King Djoser.  It’s much more in the middle of the desert than the pyramids at Giza.  

There are more parts to this complex than just the step pyramid though and the first thing we did was head for the tomb of a nobleman named Kagemni also known as Memi.  It’s not too far from the step pyramid and very close to the pyramid of King Teti I.  Apparently Memi was vizer to King Teti I.   His tomb is above ground and has some very nice scenes of hunting and wildlife. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to take photos inside the tombs at all.  They tell us that even without the flash, the photos can be destructive.  So I'll be a good student of archaeology and obey the rules... for now!

Next it really was time to enter our first pyramid.  Even if it was the smooth sided  one of Teti I.  This Pharoah was the first of the 6th Dynasty and he is believed to have ruled for about 12 years.   So down we went!

 The we headed across the complex to the step pyramid, built for the Pharaoh Djoser between 2667-2648 BC.  Sadly it has scaffolding all over it, but you'll get the idea.

You enter the Step Pyramid complex through a facade meant to represent a royal palace.

Then there are several other temples and buildings plus a large courtyard.  It's suggested that pyramids weren't just tombs, but active ceremonial sites that required more buildings.

 Whatever the  case, it's massive and stunning.  You almost don't realize just how big it is until you're right under the thing.   It simply towers over you.  And I'm sure I'll continue to mention the size and scale of everything, which will be dwarfed by the Great Pyramid.  (which we won't see up close until the very end of the trip)

On the way back into the city, we stopped at an adorable local place to eat.  Lots of amazing meat that was left grilling on each table.  

One of the interesting things about our lunch location, it was attached to a seasonal hotel.  So towards the back, you wandered into the land time forgot.  A very 70's style pool with all kinds of old cars and junk all over the place.  But I happened to stumble across a few very beautiful wooden doors.  Now I know this isn't normally my thing, but they just struck me as so beautiful, I just had to share them with you.

Yep, they even had horse, camel, and pony rides out front.

The very last thing for the day was going to be our first meeting with Dr. Zahi Hawass.  Some of you may know who he is.  Some of you may not have had the chance of seeing the short-lived show he was on a few years ago.  Let's just say, when you want an expert in Egyptian archaeology.... Dr. Hawas is THE expert.  We'll have several lectures with him later in the trip, but this first meeting was at the closed site of his passion project.  This is the site of the tombs of the artists and skilled workers who actually built the pyramids.  That's right, workers, not slaves.  These laborer ranged from very poor brute force to fairly wealthy artists.  They had food and beer and medical care.  Through his excavations, Dr. Hawass has found evidence of how they were treated and cared for.

So there we were, in an area closed to the public, in the shadow of the pyramids of Giza.

If you take a closer look at that second photo above, you'll see different levels of tombs.  The ones towards the top are the artists and the lower are the workers.  We met Dr. Hawass at the bottom and after a few words, we climbed up to the top to see a couple of tombs.

It was quite a climb but it was worth it.  Though by crossing the doorstep into the tomb, we may have activated a curse.  It was apparently the fate of who ever entered the tomb to be eaten by lions, crocodiles, AND hippos.  So if something happens to any of us on the Nile, you’ll know who to blame. 

We’ll have several other chances to hear Dr. Hawass speak but for now, it’s time for bed.  I’ve got one more post to catch you all up and not enough hours in the day.  Safe travels!

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