My Egypt Adventure and Transit of the Suez Canal – Part Two: The Grand Tour and the Pyramids

Part Two:  The Grand Tour and the Pyramids

Part Two of my Egypt Adventure was the Grand Tour.  I was met at the hotel by the tour director and a guide.  They escorted me to what I expected to be a bus full of tourists.  To my surprise the “bus” was an old Volkswagen van with a driver.  I asked about the other tourists and was told I was the only one!  The tour director outlined the itinerary, which included the Egyptian Museum, the Giza Pyramids and the Zaqqara Pyramids.  In addition, I was told, the tour included a visit to a cartouche shop (classic Egyptian jewelry), a papyrus shop (paper used for scrolls) and a carpet weaver.  After the briefing we were off.  The first stop was the Egyptian Museum where I was guided through the main exhibits.  I was impressed with the tour guide’s knowledge of the museum.

Below are some photos I took at the museum:

Cairo Museum-7     Cairo Museum-2

Cairo Museum-3     Cairo Museum-6

After the museum, we went to the first of the shops, this being the cartouche shop.  The shop itself was nothing spectacular.  In fact, it appeared that the shop owner and the tour director were old friends and that I was meant to actually purchase a cartouche.  After I decided it was worth purchasing, I bought one.  Our next stop was the papyrus shop.  When we arrived and I saw that the tour director was also very friendly with the shop owner, I figured out the scheme.  I did purchase a papyrus scroll, as I thought it would also be a worthy souvenir.  On retrospect, I could have purchased these items anywhere.   But the way the tour was organized, it would have been very difficult to refuse purchasing these items at these particular shops.

After that, we went to the Giza Pyramids.   From my newsletter:

“One of the great contrasts [of Egypt] is the fertile land of the Nile Valley abutting the arid desert of North Africa.  The contrast is so stark it looks as if someone had drawn a line parallel to the Nile defining where fertility ends and desert begins.  It is well illustrated at the Pyramids, which, to my surprise were located right on that line, in Giza, just outside Cairo.  On one side of the Giza Pyramids is urban greater Cairo and the other side endless desert.  I always thought the Pyramids were located in the middle of desert (based on pictures I had seen).  Was I surprised to see that they could be in someone’s back yard.  The Pyramids, however, were impressive, and I was awed at such an engineering marvel that is more than 5000 years old.”

Below are some photos I took at the Giza Pyramids:

Pyramids-Giza-1     Cairo-1-eb

Pyramids-Giza-6     Pyramids-Giza-4

During the visit to the Giza Pyramids, I was offered a camel ride for $100.  I elected to decline the invitation.  (I had heard stories of people taking a camel ride only to find themselves in the middle of the desert with the guide demanding a “present” to bring them back to civilization.)  From Giza we proceeded to the Zaqqara Pyramids, famous for the Pyramid of Djoser or the “step” pyramid.  Zaqqara was about 30 km from Cairo and the road was full of contrasts, as illustrated below:

Road-3  Road-2

Road-1

During the trip, I asked for a stop so that I could photograph some scenery.

While stopped, the mule-drawn cart (see picture above left) passed us and part of the cart hit the van.  What ensued was something I did not expect:  an argument between the cart driver and our driver as to who was at fault.  This almost came to blows as now the tour guide joined in.  The tour director came to me to assure me that things were OK and that they could tend to themselves.  The thought of being stuck in the middle of nowhere and not knowing where I was made me a bit uncomfortable but fortunately the matter was resolved and we continued on.

After touring the Zaqqara Pyramids, the guide came to advise me that on the way back to Cairo he would be dropped off at his home and that he would really be happy if I gave him his “present” privately for being my tour guide.   The present was a $20 bill.

The below photos are (1) the picture I took that precipitated the encounter between the mule cart and the tour driver, and (2) the “step” pyramid.

Cairo-2-eb      Pyramids-Saqqara-1

After we dropped off the tour guide, now $20 richer, I was asked about seeing the carpet weaver.  My answer was an emphatic “no!”   I was certain that I would be prevailed upon to add a carpet to the already excessive number of souvenirs already in my possession.  After being dropped off at the hotel, I gave my tour director and the driver their “presents” and retired to the hotel bar for a well-deserved drink.

This marked the end of Part Two of my Egypt Adventure.  Part Three begins with my trip to Port Said, the entry port for the Suez Canal.  Watch this space!

End of Part Two

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About James Patrick ("Jamie") Baldwin
James Patrick ("Jamie") Baldwin is an author, blogger, lecturer and consultant in air transportation, an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Maryland University College and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster (London). Previously at ERAU’s College of Business he taught Business Law, Business Law for Airline Managers, and Airline Management. He was also faculty advisor to Sigma Alpha Epsilon. As a lecturer he coordinates Aviation Law workshops for Aeropodium, a UK-based aviation-related events company and organizes Aviation Law Conferences at his law school, American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL). As a consultant he specializes in start-up airline strategies, airline marketing, regulatory compliance, licensing, aircraft sourcing, strategic planning, contracts, agency agreements and preparing business plans. An avid golfer, Mr Baldwin is a golf correspondent for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Previously Mr Baldwin served as Deputy General Manager for Legal and Regulatory Affairs of Star Airways, a small Turkish cargo airline of which he was a founder, and prior to that, the US Representative of Tajik Air, the international airline of the Republic of Tajikistan. In the latter capacity, he represented the airline’s interests before the US government, multilateral development banks and private US and international business interests. He also coordinated and prepared on behalf of the government of Tajikistan a request for a grant from the US Trade and Development Agency for a feasibility study on its air transport sector. Mr Baldwin also served as an officer in the US Navy (1974-1978) and the active US Naval Reserve (1978-1994). His latest assignments included service as a Naval Liaison Officer on tanker convoys during the Iran/Iraq War, Officer in Charge of military officers boarding, inspecting and briefing masters of merchant ships delivering military cargo during the first Gulf War and Commanding Officer of a US Naval Reserve unit. He is now retired with the rank of Commander. Mr Baldwin is the author of Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline (BluewaterPress, 2011). He also co-edited, with Jeff Kriendler, former Vice President, Corporate Communications at Pan Am, Pan American World Airways – Aviation History through the Words of its People (BluewaterPress, 2011). Mr Baldwin obtained an A.B. (Bachelor’s) Degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles) and a J.D. (Juris Doctor) Degree from the AUWCL (Washington DC). He is a member of the U.S. Naval Institute, the U. S. Golf Association and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He has traveled widely and includes among his interests golf, hill walking, sailing, model railroading, spectator sports, classical music and writing. He is married and resides in Maryland.

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