Pyramids and Mounds and Sarcophagi, Oh My!

Clicked our heels, and we’re finally here (ha!)

Two Geezers in Giza – One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

It’s actually day two after our long, long, direct flight from JFK to Cairo. Fortunately, Egypt Air was more comfortable than anticipated (especially after our recent cramped and creepy experience on Finnair to Scandinavia). More leg room, decent food, and “current” movies (most from the ’80’s and ’90’s).

The only setback was the delay leaving the airport after a big train collision that morning that snarled traffic all over Cairo. Then off to our hotel on the island between Cairo and Giza.

Our Marriott has two towers, one a historic structure (we stayed in the other). Not for long though as we started our journey back into history at 7:30 am the next day. Our first glimpses at Cairo and the way through populated parts of Giza were of a not very interesting cityscape and landscape. It is dry and dusty (only one to two inches of rain a year) with mostly drab, concrete structures (very little wood available). The concrete sucks in gray and brown dust and the wind swirls a ballet of plastic and paper trash into eclectic sculptures in every protected space.

The pyramids suddenly appear – a lot closer to civilization than we had imagined. In the foreground of the photo is the beginnings of the Grand Egyptian Museum that will eventually stretch from there to the foot of the pyramids with walkways and exhibits.

We also see hundreds of mostly abandoned three and four story buildings built on spec by land-grabbers after the Arab Spring, terribly close to the ancient pyramids. The new government is in the process of having most of the structures demolished and removed. The unauthorized building is also wreaking havoc with local agriculture the Egyptians are so dependent on.

In front of the Great Pyramid (Third and Fourth Dynasties) for the Pharoah Cheops
The other two are the Pyramids of Khefren and Mycerinus

Up close, the Pyramids of Giza might not photograph as spectacularly, but it gives you a real sense of the almost unbelievable skill and determination of their builders.

The camels of Giza seem as ancient and wise as the builders of the Pyramids

They prepare to take visitors into the desert, hopefully avoiding the modern civilivation you can see, just off into the distance.
…except this one reluctant dude…who knows better.

The Great Sphinx of Giza…

The head of King Khfren meets the head of Marsha
Chairs ready for the evening light show (that we didn’t hang around to attend)
The classic view
The lunch view, and a delicious one with mezzos, seafood soup, shrimp, calamari, fried fish, (yes, seafood in Egypt), rice, and fresh fruit. Nothing inscrutable here.

Off to Saqqara, the Ancient Capital of Egypt

After exploring and learning about the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the granite temple and mummification hall (preserved during the valley flooding because they were made of granite, not limestone), we drove through the countryside. You could see the gradual changes in culture and life-style. For example, the women’s birkas were now covering everything but the slits for their eyes.

Saqqara is the huge cemetery of ancient Memphis. It was active for over 3,500 years.

Saqqara is Egypt’s largest archeological site. Old Kingdom pharaohs were buried in 11 major pyramids. Smaller tombs abound.

An ancestor of one of the Pharaohs still guards the place, carefully and suspiciously
We scramble in and out of three or four tombs with incredible stories and heiroglypths. No cameras allowed unfortunately.

Emerging from one of the tombs, we see the spectacular and significant Step Pyramid of Zoser (Pharoah until 2648 BC). His chief architect, Imhotep was asked to build the world’s earliest stone monument, 60 meters high, surrounded by a vast funnery complex. Instead of mud brick, Imhotep built this pyramid in hewed stone.

A closer view of this truly amazing structure.
Major restoration has been underway for years on the Step Pyramid. No one is allowed in, but try to time your next trip for the grand opening – or maybe remind your great-grandchildren.

It was quite a day. Our bus wound its way back toward the island between two places where our dinner and rest awaited. The next day would be no less amazing, flying all the way to Aswan, the southern-most part of Egypt, adjacent to Sudan. The Great Dam, Philae island, and our trip up the Nile will begin. Join us.

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2 Responses to Pyramids and Mounds and Sarcophagi, Oh My!

  1. Pauline says:

    What an amazing country!

  2. Jolene Martin says:

    Loved it Joel and Marsha. I’m signing up for your blog -s.
    Really brought the trip back. So glad you do this.
    See you in October at the Tyler State Park Festival.

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