My Egypt Adventure and Transit of the Suez Canal – Part Two: The Grand Tour and the Pyramids
3 August 2013 Leave a comment
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:
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:
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:
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.
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