Gazing Up at The Pyramids of Giza
My name is Siobhan and I am Egypt’s Number One Tourist.
As part of my hotel deal I got a free driver to take me around the Pyramids for the day. Mohamed was good company, as well as being my tour guide, security guard and photographer.
Let me say first off, I loved the pyramids. They really are incredible to behold. BUT. But the hassle and the scamming at the pyramids is unbearable. Even for a seasoned hassle receiver like me, it was way too much. Before we had even arrived at the pyramids it started. ‘Road is closed. Go this way’, a man standing in the middle of the road shouted at our car. Mohamed kept on driving. ‘I have killed 20 men’, he said, aiming the car at the shouting man. I believed him. Mohamed asked me if I would like to drive to the pyramids or arrive by camel. News of my camel love has spread as far as Cairo. I told him that by car would be fine. I might be a big tourist but pratting around on a camel around the pyramids is a bit uncool even for me. Mohamed gave me a pep talk before I got out of the car. Basically I was not to talk to, look at or listen to anyone but him. I bought my ticket and went through the security gate. ‘Ticket?’ a man asked me as I stepped out of the x-ray machine. I gave it to him. He happily held on to it. It was a scam. Lucky for me it was a badly executed scam. He continued to hold my ticket in his hand. ‘Um….can I have my ticket back?’. He clearly had not worked out how to get money from me and really had no choice but to give my ticket back to me. I almost felt sorry for him. Better luck next time pal.
‘WHAT DID I TELL YOU???!?!’ Mohamed screamed from the car. ‘DO NOT GIVE YOUR TICKET TO ANYONE’. I hung my head in shame and walked to the Great Pyramid. Instantly I was bombarded, ‘Camels, camel, horse, excuse me, where you from, hello, camel, papyrus, ticket ticket ticket, whats your name, excuse me, where you from, hello, papyrus, camel camel camel’. Just like the rest of Cairo, there were only a handful of tourists at the Pyramids that day. The sellers/scammers/hustlers outnumbered the tourists easily 20 to 1. I felt like I was being verbally molested. I could not take a step without someone trying to make money from me. It was relentless like being slowly eaten to death by a pack of mosquitoes. There was no pleasure in visiting the Great Pyramid. I muttered ‘shokran’ under my breath every second to no one in particular. I shoved my headphones in my ears and turned my Ipod up full blast to somewhat block out the barrage. The pyramid itself is very big. Each slab is massive. Like everyone else, I took a second to ponder how they were possibly built. I am deathly claustrophobic and didn’t fancy living out my ‘being trapped in a pyramid’ nightmare that day. I couldn’t wait to leave. I didn’t even bother to get my Lonely Planet Guide out. It is really sad that there is no regulation of the sellers at all. I paid my admission fee, I should be free to enjoy the place in peace.
I got back into the car and drove to the Pyramid of Khafre and then to the Pyramid of Menkaure. Now these were lovely. There was virtually no hassle. There was also no tourists. Away from the Great Pyramid I seen maybe 5 other tourists (The Friday I went was a day when the protests in Cairo were probably the worst since the revolution. Most organised tours had been cancelled.) I took my time to walk around and really marvel at the sheer scale of these monuments. They have stood in exactly the same place for 4000 years. The only Ancient Wonder of the World still standing, and standing firm. I had the chance to take a million photos. Mohamed is Nigel Barker in training. Taking lots of photos in a row, changing the angle slightly every time. I would like to hire him for all my future solo sight-seeing trips.
My favourite Pyramid was Mycerinus. It is the smallest one and it has a big hole where Saladin’s son tried to dismantle it in 1186. The gap that you can see in the front was 8 months of hard labour, after which he gave up. The views from here are beautiful and it was easy to imagine for a second that I was standing in the middle of an untouched Sahara Desert.
The anticipation of seeing a site like the Giza Pyramids can be too great and it is easy to leave disappointed. The opportunity to see the pyramids was wonderful, I left with memories and photos that I will treasure forever. It was an honour to not only get to see them, but to feel almost like I was discovering them in the sandy desert. Of course it is tragic how few tourists are in Egypt at the moment but I made the most of the peace and quiet.
In terms of enjoyability, I had a better time at the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico. What I remember about that visit is the amazing pyramids, the story of their creation and the good company. With Egypt’s most famous pyramids I hate to say it but it is the relentless hassle and lack of tourists that will stick in my memory.