Wasn’t travelling with my laptop this time, so I’m considerably behind on the updates…let’s go back to Cairo, February 20th.
After haggling at the front desk of the Concorde Hotel, we were led to a taxi driver who agreed to drive us to the Pyramids for about 75 Egyptian pounds (less than 10 English pounds). Two minutes into the ride, after asking the requisite questions about where we were from and whether or not we’d been to Egypt before, the cab driver snuck in a sales pitch.
“So I drive you Memphis, Sakkara, Pyramids, Sphinx…” he began, reeling off a day trip’s worth of places.
“No, no,” we told him. “Just the pyramids, thanks.”
“Ok, ok,” he agreed.
The taxi whizzed through the dust of Cairo, passing donkey carts, fruit stands, prayer rooms and men smoking shisha pipes. Still no sign of the pyramids when the taxi slowed to a stop in front of a rundown little building. ‘Egyptian Papyrus Museum,’ the sign announced.
“You want look at papyrus,” he said. It seemed more like a statement of fact than a question.
Jared and I repeated our mantra. “No, no. Just the pyramids.” We may even have made pyramid motions with our hands. As if that was going to help.
The driver, whose name was evidently Ramadan, reluctantly agreed and pulled back onto the manic road, where lane indicators are little more than a suggestion.
A few minutes later, we could see the tips of the pyramids just in front of the car. Ramadan navigated the car into a small back alley, which opened into a sandy car park/free-reign stable. Camels and horses milled around with Chevrolets and Egyptian men in long traditional gowns.
Ramadan turned off the engine. “We are here,” he said. It seemed that Jared and I had no choice but to get out. We were immediately approached by one of the men.
“Camel or horse?” He said.
“No thanks,” we answered. “We just want to walk to the pyramids.”
“Camel or horse?”
“No thank you.”
“Camel or horse? You just try. See if you like it.”
“Ok, horse,” I said. I’m still not sure why I opted for horse over the much more exotic camel. In saying that, Jared and I both have previous camel-riding experience, so I guess that curiosity has been satisfied.
Suddenly we were both astride two bored-looking ponies and led around the car park in circles by the boss’s minions.
“You like?” he said. “Now I tell you price.”
We never had any intention of purchasing a horse trek around the pyramids, so his offer of 160 Egyptian pounds for a forty-five minute ride wasn’t overly tempting.
“No thanks. We’ll just walk.”
He leaned forward. “Ok. For you, I do for 80 pounds.”
“Is very sandy. Sometimes hard to walk around the pyramids. Will take maybe half an hour on foot.”
The next thing I knew, both Jared and I were politely removed from the horses and directed back into our taxis. The disgruntled driver took us to the entrance of the pyramids, told us we had one hour, and parked the car nearby. It took approximately five minutes to reach the great pyramid from the entrance, and we walked along the paved road up a hill. Every few steps we were approached by people offering camel rides (40 Egyptian pounds) or, in one case, offering camels to Jared in exchange for me. (Net worth = 1000 camels).
I was wearing 3/4 length trousers, but still felt that they attracted more attention than necessary, so I switched to jeans for the rest of the trip. I’d recommend a long (i.e. ground length) skirt for all females considering a trip to Egypt.
We were able to see three of the pyramids from where we were, as well as the sphinx, which is front and center when you walk through the entrance. Smaller than I had imagined, but much longer in length than I would have thought.
Towards the end of our alloted hour, we stopped at the public toilet, where we paid a couple of pounds to go into the bathrooms. An attendant was doling out toilet paper at the entrance, and the stalls were all reasonably well-kept. I was pleased to see toilets, as my squatting over a hole technique could use some work. As it turned out, there was opportunity to practice, but that came later in the week.
We met back up for a hand sanitizer session, then returned to Ramadan and his taxi. There was approximately one inch on either side of the car, but he maneuvered seamlessly out of the parking space.
Ramadan drove us back to the Concorde, where we had the rest of the afternoon to sort out an overnight train ticket to Luxor. And it was a mission that did take most of the afternoon.
But that is a story for tomorrow.