A trip to Egypt is not complete without a visit to the Pyramids. They are so iconic and growing up we have all seen them in pictures and movies. Well-known things like this can often disappoint when you see them in person for the first time. We have a tendency to make things bigger and better with our imagination. I was ready for this to happen, but found the complete opposite when I finally visited the pyramids myself. They truly are incredible an absolutely enormous. There are nine pyramids in total, larger ones for the pharaohs, and smaller ones for their queens. There are still remains of the villages that were built for the workers and architects. One side of the pyramids is closely bordered by the city of Cairo. You can imagine all the tacky shops selling plastic pyramids, pharos, and sphinxes and plenty of hotels and restaurants with a “pyramid view", if the smog is not too thick. But the other side of the pyramids face the emptiness of the Sahara desert. Hot and desolate, the sand and dunes stretch into the distance. You get the feeling that this is how the pyramids were supposed to be viewed, awe-inspiring monuments stretching out of the monotony of the hot sand. No wonder people thought they were built by aliens.
We were able to buy tickets and go inside one of the pyramids. Everyone kept assuring us that it was very boring, small shaft and room, no colors or hieroglyphics (the pyramids were built before there were hieroglyphics), but we decided to do it any. We disagreed with them, there were no paintings and hieroglyphics, but it was pretty cool anyway. We felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie. It is still pretty amazing that ancient Egyptians built these massive structures with perfectly made rooms inside of them when they did.
The sphinx and the 9 pyramids are not very close together, so to get between them is quite a long walk. This has opened up a strong market for iconic local forms of transportation, and the area around the pyramids is swarming with camels, horses, donkeys, and carriages. They all add to the view and sense of timelessness, even if they will cheat you on the price. Liz and I decided to take a camel into the desert to the point where all 9 pyramids can be seen in a line. I always forget how much bigger camels are then horses. These camels make Pilot look short. Liz was put on a camel called Daisy who was not in the mood for a ride and kept trying to stop being led by a very moody 13 year old boy who kept playing music on his cell phone and making it very clear that he did not want to be there. I was slightly better off, riding a 3 year old Camel named Bambi being led by a rather cheery man. My camel was about to start her training for the racing season that would happen in June, apparently she was very fast. Riding these camels through the sand I really understood how they were beasts of the desert, with their weird padded feet and lilting gait. Part of me wanted to just keep going to see what it would be like to ride a camel for days in the emptiness and heat of the Sahara.
We ended our camel ride at the Sphinx, which is probably one of my favorite monuments in Egypt. Carved out of a huge chunk of low quality stone in the quarry that was used when building the great pyramid. It is the guard of the second pyramid. In Arabic it is not called the Sphinx but the Abū al-Haul, or father of dread. It lays crouched in front of the pyramid, the massive body of a lion for strength and the head of the pharaoh for cunning. Its nose and beard as gone, cut off by invaders, and now in the Louvre, and they refuse to give it back (like most of the antiquities in foreign countries). Though worn and crumbling, the sphinx stares resolutely ahead with a determined look, on guard for over 4,000 years.