Egypt: Land of Pharoahs, beetles and pointy monuments. Ever since I first read R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps book “Curse of the Mummy” at about age 7, I have dreamed of being an archaeologist and exploring pyramids and tombs. I’ve been lucky to do the archaeology part, and have even explored a few tombs in my time, but last year I finally got to fulfil one of my lifelong dreams – to visit Egypt.
So, if you’re fascinated by everything ancient – or you just want a deeper appreciation of Nile’s lyrics – I recommend a visit to Egypt. And here’s what I think you should do:
1. Crawl Inside a Pyramid
The pyramids are indescribable. Until you’ve been there, you won’t know. I knew exactly how big they were, exactly how many blocks it took to make them and how many workers pulled those blocks, but I still stood beneath them
What surprises many people is just how close the pyramids are to the city. They’re right on the cusp of the western edge of Cairo.
Many – less educated tourists mistakingly assume the Pyramids at Giza are the only pyramids in Egypt. They’re wrong – there’s over 75 pyramids discovered to date, spanning a period of over 1000 years, and many more
still undiscovered. You might wonder how archaeologist might possibly miss 150m high sandstone monstrosities poking out of the desert, but the truth is most pyramids have been demolished in ancient times by people using the stone for other projects. The Romans take some responsibility for this, as do the Greeks, the English, and pretty much everyone who’s ever attempted to penetrate Africa. Most pyramids exist only as foundations.
Most tourists visit the Giza necropolis and maybe the step pyramid of Djoser, and then go shopping or something, but if you’re still pyramid hungry, visit the necropolis of Dashir. These pryamids (the red pyramid,
black pyramid and bent pyramid) are a little further away, but you can easily find someone to drive you there (we organised a taxi with a couple of others from our group).
The bent pyramid was the first smooth-sided pyramid design, and one of the first pyramids every built – by the famous architect Imhotep. After constructing part of the slope, Imhotep realised that if he continued using the angle he had chosen, the pyramid wouldn’t support its own weight, and this wouldn’t please the king’s eternal soul. So he changed the angle, and after a few more rows reailsed this angle was still too steep, and changed it again. He finally completed the pyramid, but the Pharoah looked at it and said “Well, it’s not really very staight-sided, is it? I was really hanging out for a straight-sided pyramid. If you could start on that, that would be super.” So Imhotep built another Pyramid – the Red pyramid.
It costs you nothing to see this necropolis, and something like 15LE to go inside the Red Pyramid, and it’s worth every, single, cent.
Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside.
2. Play Nile on the Nile
Yes, it’s dumb, but our friends dared us to, so we played a little “Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks From He Who Is in the Water” in our suite on the cruise ship.
3. Climb Mt. Sinai on a camel.
Camel travel is the best travel.
Camel’s are seriously the coolest creatures. They are so clever, totally mischievous, and they have such unique personailities. The guys who run the camel’s at Mt. Sinai seem to genuinly love the animals and we didn’t
see any cruelty being directed towards them (unlike an experience we had riding donkey’s in Jordan).
CDH’S camel bolted on ahead. He told me later it was plodding along, when it’s owner turned on his cellphone and started playing some music, and his camel jived the rest of the way to the top, plodding in time to the beat.
My camel believed in “slow and steady wins the race”. He was extremely polite and would pull over and wait for people to pass him. His name was Petey and he had the coolest smile.
The journey is about 1 and a half hours, and by the end of it, you think your thighs have permanently worn into a bow shape, but then you look at all the tired people. trudging along around you, and you think “Yep,
Camel travel is the only travel”.
For those of you unfamiliar with biblical mythology, Mt. Sinai is where Moses received the ten commandments. It’s an extremely sacred place for Christians and Jews, and the 3am hike lit by the moon and stars and lanterns, with people singing songs and camels farting. There was a wisp of magic in the air.
4. Buy the world’s Tackiest Souvineers
Egypt is the land of tack. If you can dream it, they can slap a cartoon sphinx on it and try and sell it to you. I needed a new pen to write my diary and the man we approached was absolutely convinced what I REALLY needed was not one, not two, but SIXTEEN of his tacky pens. An entire box. We didn’t buy them, thank god, because my tacky pen ran out pretty fast.
5. Go Shopping
When you’re in Egypt, be prepared to be treated as though you are an inconveinent means of transportation to your wallet. Everyone wants money for something, and you’ll be dishing it out just to make them all sod off.
We did however spend a really fun afternoon in Cairo visiting a papyrus factory, a cartouche factory and a perfume factory. We also went to the Khan el Khalili market and tried our haggling skills – what haggling skills? Exactly.
Christian Jacq, the Ramses series
Wilbour Smith, River God
Terry Pratchell, Pyramids
Tim Powers, Anubis Gates
Nile – Amongst the Catecombs of Nephren-ka
Iron Maiden, Powerslave
Nile – Annihilation of the Wicked
Ramses – Dellrio de Desastre
Katra – Katra
The Bangles – Walk Like an Egyptian
Salaam Alekum \m/