The Giza pyramids are surprisingly close to Cairo. Cairo has spread out and Giza has become a suburb. But beyond the pyramids to the West, there is nothing but Sahara desert.
The group of Camel Jockeys in this picture are the guys who sell you rides. It looked very touristy so Ronda and I didn't do it. I did hear later about two in our group who rented horses and went for a sunset ride in the desert near the pyramids. Next time I'll try that. I got this picture by peeking over a wall and it was apparent the Camel Jockeys didn't like it. They want the tourists in their places.
The Sphynx was undergoing reconstruction while we were there and was covered with scaffolding. The three main pyramids at Giza really are quite impressive. The largest was commissioned by Cheops and the smallest by Mycerinus. The second largest (pyramid of Chephren shown here) is the only one that has any marble covering remaining on it. Originally the large blocks you see were all covered with marble, making a smooth surface. Apparently the pyramids were used as a marble quarry for building the many mosques that came later.
This picture shows the entry to the Pyramid of Cheops. You can see the size of the blocks that comprise the structure. They're about 40 inches high. When we were there there was 'no climbing allowed', but it would have been neat to climb to the top. The 40 inch steps would have been an effort though. The picture shows in the upper left an elaborate entrance that is not currently used. The dark hole where people are congregated is the actual entrance.
This is the Grand Hall inside the Pyramid of Cheops. Ronda and I, and a handful of others from our group, did climb up inside the pyramid. The picture shows the Grand Hall, an enlarged passage area where one can stand upright while climbing. Most of the passage was about four feet high, requiring a constant crouch. There is no ventilation I could detect and the air inside was humid from human breath. At the end of the passage is a chamber containing a stone sarcophagus.
Apparently one can climb into the Chepren pyramid also, but it was 'closed' because the lights had gone out. That would be too dark for me. Ronda noted that on her way up, her bottom was patted tentatively by one of the Egyptian youths who was climbing down. Good thing the lights stayed on.The new museum which houses the reconstructed boat is very close to the pyramids. Its very impressive how they put together the pieces dug up after thousands of years and assembled a real 125 foot boat. They make you pay a little extra to take pictures inside the Boat Museum. I was feeling very photographic with my extra camera body for fast film, so I paid extra and snapped away. Later I found that my marbles had left me and there was no film in the camera. This snap is 'lifted' off the web. The 'step pyramid' of Zoser at Saqqara predates the Giza pyramids. They apparently practiced with the Zoser pyramid, got their techniques figured out, then built the ones at Giza.
I was awed by the Hippostile Hall at Karnak. Hippostile refers to a roof supported by multiple columns. The roof has disappeared but the remaining columns are most impressive. This area was highlighted in Murder on the Nile.
It's difficult to get a bad picture here, but I kept trying. It's also difficult to get a picture that gives the impression of being in a forest of massive columns.
The Temple of Luxor (at the right) would be more impressive if it were not in close proximity to Karnak. It's right in the town of Luxor, and over the years, other structures have been built over it. One can see in the excavation that the lower they dig, the older the buildings.
These little guys are the most charming part of Egypt. In the backgound is a small town that is supported primarily by its 'alabaster factory'. The factory consists of several fellows sitting on the ground carving stone with hand tools.
The factory building is used as a shop for sales to tourists. One outside wall has a mural painted to commemorate the proprietor's trip to Mecca. It shows a very cartoonish jet plane and other aspects of his trip. Not much different from putting pictures on a web page.
Here we are, the pampered tourists, overlooking the Nile on the drinking deck (only a tourist from Amsterdam actually sunned himself here).
The Sun Boat was a small craft with about 25 guest cabins. Most of the boats on the Nile are about four times this size. It was quite elegant however, nicely air-conditioned, and everything worked. During our cruise from Luxor to Aswan, we occasionally saw other boats but were very pleased with all aspects of our own.
We went into the temple door in the front and saw the statues and decorations shown in the interior photo here. The surprise came later when our little group was ushered into a little hidden door and we were abruptly returned to the 20 century. It turns out the hill is hollow, and artificial, like a theme park. The 'hill' is really a large structure with the stone monuments pasted cleverly onto the outside. Inside it's air-conditioned and dark, except for florescent light, metal catwalks, and a background hum of generators. Very odd.
During one of our excursions, we got a glimpse of the City of the Dead. This is the primary and historic cemetery of Cairo and it covers many square miles. Due to the crush of people and the housing shortage, there are many people now living unofficially in the crypts and mausoleums.
Canopic jars were used in burials to contain the internal organs of the departed. Different gods are depicted and correspond to the kind of organ stored in the jar. Pretty neat.
There were quite a lot of models taken from tombs and exhibited in the museum. I could understand providing a symbolic boat for a pharoah's use in the afterlife, but some of the models seemed more instructive, showing little men in posed scenes.
We weren't the only tourists at the Alabaster Mosque. The mosque is an attraction for Egyptians also.
We visited here for some hours. The mosque is a fort-like structure, situated on a hill that overlooks a large part of Cairo. One removes one's shoes before entering. The shoes are received by an old, old man who gives you a pair of slippers and adds your shoes to a huge pile. I had some concern I would ever see my shoes again, but I guess faith was the answer.
The souk (market place) in Cairo is a shopper's paradise. The market is so large and extensive, the specialties are clustered in separate streets. There is a street for leather, one for gold, one for spices, one for fabrics, etc. This is also the place to people watch, to see and be seen. I would have liked to spend a lot more time here, soaking up the ambiance.
The Egyptians in the shops didn't know much English, but we managed to get by using a mixture of languages. French seems to be their best second language. They are also patient and good-humored which helps a lot. Bargaining is expected, but there are unwritten rules. One shouldn't offer too little or it betrays ignorance of the real price and the bargaining isn't taken seriously. Once the price is settled, there should be no more quibbling (over quality, additional demands, etc.). It's tough for people trained at Safeway.
And we returned to the modern world, Chicago Airport in this picture.