“Man fears time…but time fears the Pyramids”
A great quote I believe and one that captures the essence and the presence of the Pyramids. Nobody knows when and how they were built, there are theories, some good and some are out there, but it’s one of life’s great mysteries-that’s still a mystery. They’re the definition of what a wonder should be. The Pyramids are the only remaining wonder of the original seven wonders of the ancient world and are perhaps the most amazing and impressive thing to see in this world. This was the second time I have been in the presence of the Pyramids at Giza and it was as awe inspiring as the first time. I could barely take my eyes off the millenniums old structures. Different viewing angles and the different angles of the sun tell a different story every minute but the one thing that remains the same is simply, the Pyramids are timeless.
I had a 14 hour layover in Cairo after a 10 hour breeze flight from New York on the much improved Egypt Air. I was en route to Asmara, Eritrea where I am now but was pumped to have some time to see the Pyramids, the Sphinx and hopefully the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities along with a nice dinner before heading back to the airport. However, two problems arose immediately.
First, Air Egypt wouldn’t let me check my bag all the way through to Asmara because it was more than a 12 hour layover. Second, the Cairo airport didn’t have a bag deposit for left luggage and I didn’t want to carry around my bag and backpack all day especially in 100+ degree heat. Being a travel veteran and extremely exhausted I took a taxi directly to a nice hotel in the center of town to check the bags at the Ramses Hilton which is right next to the museum. After at least an hour in Cairo’s famously brutal and polluted traffic I arrived and tried to check my bag immediately and was asked for a room number.
Obviously, I didn’t have a number so I crept around the lobby and finally saw someone’s room key card that said room 2622 or something like that. So I went back and told the bellman that I was in room 2618. He looked suspicious and checked the computer saying that the room was registered to some couple for another 3 nights. I then said they were my friends I had been visiting and I was leaving that night and needed to leave my bag. He didn’t seem too convinced but the lobby was very busy so he reluctantly wrote me the ticket and I was off to Giza.
After at least another hour in brutal traffic I arrived at the Pyramids and negotiated a camel to bring me around the Pyramids and the Sphinx. If I remembered correctly, the camel was the way to get the best views and the best pictures from the middle of the desert. While this was true, the driver had dropped me off at the wrong entrance and the desert position was too far to go for what I wanted to pay. That, plus the fact that camels in 100 degree heat are miserably uncomfortable to ride. So I just did what they offered close by and then got off the animal and walked the rest of the time.
As I walked around the complex I couldn’t help but remember the first time I was there in May 2000 when my cousin and I climbed pretty far up the great pyramid. This of course is not allowed and wasn’t then as we found out when the guards with machine guns started yelling at us. This time, I just admired from the ground and pondered their vastness.
After the Pyramids, I headed down the hill to where the Sphinx is located and remembered why his face is shot up. It was because Napoleon used it for target practice way back when but it makes an amazing foreground with the backdrop of the great pyramids. Luckily there is an overpriced café near the Sphinx with some shade, cold drinks and great views over the seats for the night light show they do on a nightly basis. I did it ten years ago and didn’t have time this time but I remember it was cool.
The next move was to hit the museum and see the awesome Ramses and King Tut exhibits but because of the traffic we arrived after the museum had closed and couldn’t go inside. I was completely exhausted with jetlag and not sleeping so I just went to the hotel and crashed in a hammock they had at the pool.
About 2 hours later some guard woke me up and said I had to leave because they were closing the pool for the night. I shrugged and started to leave as some hotel worker asked me my room. I explained I had checked out etc and that my friends were still there but he asked me to write down my room number for him. I was like, “WTF dick”, but I did it anyway. So I was a little nervous because I had obviously not stayed there and didn’t really have a room and my bags were still checked and my bag ticket said that number: I simply didn’t want to have to deal with any crap from the hotel or police. So I made a quick decision to get the bags and go to the famous restaurant Felfela for dinner. After a few nervous minutes, I got my bag and headed out via taxi to the restaurant across the street because just in case they asked a question I said I was going to the Marriott hotel and not dinner. Long story and I was delirious (and still kind of am now) so it made sense at the time and I communicated to the driver to go to that restaurant and I had dinner.
Dinner was OK, not what I expected from one of the top restaurants in Cairo, one that Jimmy Carter loved. They seemed to forget to add the flavor to everything I tried so everything was very bland but still fun nonetheless. After dinner I just headed to the airport to get my late flight to Asmara and crash. I am here now and about to head out for a daytrip around the city and in the middle of the night tonight I fly to Istanbul which I am really excited for! Stay tuned!