Friday, December 24, 2010

An adventure to the Middle East ( Part 10 ) The Pyramids of Giza, The Sphinx, Citadel of Saladin

We are finally back in Cairo. This will be a long day once more since --- we have to cram  all the places that we were supposed to see on our  first day of the tour. Moheb was there to meet us at the airport and he gave me my visa to Jordan. Finally!!!! I jumped for joy!!!

Yes--- there was a BIG problem before I left on this tour to the Middle East......I left Manila without a Jordanian visa ( I ONLY had an Egyptian visa ).... The processing of my Jordan visa did not finish on time.. and the reason for this delay was---- Manila does not have a Jordan Embassy ( we ONLY have a consulate). All the paper work had to be sent through email to the nearest embassy which is Japan. The processing of the papers takes one month ( I am wondering if all the Middle East tours originating from Manila has this problem too!! ). If my Jordan visa will not be sent to me on time... I was going to be left behind in Cairo.... of course I was not happy to stay behind. According to Tony, my brother who is a honorary consul of Mongolia, there were more delays since we were traveling during a Muslim holiday, therefore the offices will be closed for several days. That only meant MORE DELAYS! I started to panic--- I called Lulu, my friend from the States who I was going to be with me on this tour and told her of my dilemma. Lulu immediately called up Friendly Planet in New York to ask for visa assistance since I was the ONLY one from the Philippines who was joining a tour that originated in the States ( actually-- this is the first time I joined a tour that did not originate from the Philippines). The day I left I received an email saying that my visa will be handed to me AFTER my Nile cruise...When I finally got my visa---- I was so happy ----  I will be going with the group to Petra...

Back to our tour.... Our first stop was the Pyramids of Giza and to see the Sphinx.

                                                          ( courtesy of Ernie Kamatoy )

The great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is the only one still intact. As the burial chamber for the fourth dynasty of Pharoah Khufu, it took an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers to build it over a period of 20 years. The Pyramids of Giza are located 40 miles outside the city of Cairo. The pyramid of Pharoah Cheops or Khufu is made of limestone. Each stone block used to build the pyramids weighs around 8000 kilos and the stones are arranged in a perfectly symmetrical pyramid. It measures 150 meters high.

Contrary to popular belief, the pyramids were not built by slaves. They were actually workers who lived in nearby villages.

You can enter the tomb of the Great Pyramid. I was not able to enter the Pyramid.. but Lulu and Ernie entered.  She was kind enough to share with me her experience when she entered the pyramid... I would like to share it with you.

According to Lulu--- the entrance of the pyramid is  3 and 1/2 foot wide and 4 feet high ( it is good for one person only ). When you enter the pyramid you will have to be in a crouching position as you descend the steep stairs. This stairway is the ONLY way in and out of the pyramid. There are handles on both sides which you can hold on as you descend to the first landing. She advised that if you are claustrophobic --- DO NOT go inside the pyramid. It is an area with no ventilation and fresh air.... another thing to know before entering the pyramid if you have oxygen deprivation problems ... you also cannot enter. You need to have good lungs in order to get in.

When she started to go down--- she had to descend the stairs sideways because there were people on their way out of the pyramid. Once you start going down or vice versa, you cannot stop and catch your breath.... there is a long line behind you also on their way down to the King's Chamber. This crude, steep , twisting crawl space called the Well Shaft connects to the first landing called the Queen's Chamber. There is nothing to see here--- and you have to continue your descend up to the King's Burial Chamber. Do not worry---- there are a few flourescent lights installed here and there to light your way down. As you reach the King's Chamber otherwise known as the Grand Gallery, you will see a big room with polished granite walls and in the center of the room stood an empty granite tomb which was supposed to be Khufu's tomb. Once inside the gallery there was a mysterious ( and claustrophobic ) aura that engulfed her... She called it " Pyramid Power ". The quality of air was getting poorer but still manageable on the King's Chamber. She was not able to hang around but only stayed a few minutes then started her climb up the stairs again. " It was a long hard climb, but worth it " was what she had to say about her pyramid experience. When I asked her to describe what she felt after entering the pyramid.... this was her answer, " I felt extremely proud of myself for having adventured inside the pyramid and ecstatic for just standing in the middle of it... seeing it with my very own eyes. No words can describe the exact feeling of it as I was quite overwhelmed".

Tips on entering the pyramid:

* If you are claustrophobic DO NOT ENTER --- there is very poor ventilation inside the pyramid.

*If you attempt to go inside the Pyramid, you will have to bend down all the way till you reach the burial chamber.

*From the main entrance of the Pyramid-- there is a long narrow corridor with low roof that descends more than 330 feet.

The next photos are courtesy of Ernie Kamatoy....

Before we went down from the bus, Randa advised us that when we go for a camel ride--- The price usually varies. If you want to have a photo taken on the camel.... it costs a dollar.... to get ON TOP of the camel and go around for a short while it is $3.00 and you pay the owner another $ 2.00 as tip. Yes, I was able to ride a camel and had my photo taken by the owner of the camel..... the bad part was---- All I wanted at the moment was to take the photo of the owner and the camel. But he INSISTED that I should ride the camel... so I did.... and I gave him my camera. He and another Arab hoisted me on the camel ( I did not know how to  ride much less get up on a camel ).... He started to take photos of me on the camel as I slowly moved around the area... When I told him I wanted to go down and I was about to give him $5.00, he and the other Arab told me that the ride costs $ 100.00 for photos and the ride on his camel. I was really shocked and I said.. NO!! too expensive and I gave him the $5.00 in my pocket... They started to hassle me ( since I was all alone ).... They kept on poking my arms and asking for more money.... I told them if they don't stop I would call the police ( I think that scared them )... they got my money and left me... I went back to the bus and told Randa about the incident.

Tips on the camel ride:

* Bargain hard BEFORE you get on the camel.

* Don't take a photo of the camel unless you are prepared to pay.

* If you are feeling harassed ( like what I felt )---- grab your nearest policeman to help you out.

* Enjoy the ride, it is a once in a lifetime experience and worth a few bucks.

Behind the pyramid you will find the Great Sphinx with the head of a man and the body of a lion. The head is believed to be that of Pharoah Khafra. It is one of the largest monolithic statues in the world. I could not get closer to the sphinx to get a better shot ----- there was a locked gate leading to the sphinx... all I could do was to take the shot from a distance. I noticed that the nose and part of the face was missing.... but it is still a sight worth seeing.

The downside to this tour to the pyramids and the sphinx... we were ONLY ALLOWED to stay for 40 minutes... ( 15 minutes to take the sphinx --- just to walk to where the sphinx was --- you will have to walk back immediately.. and another 30 minutes on the pyramids )... We all wanted to stay longer but out tour guide would not allow us. She told us that we still had other places to go to..... Can you imagine ??? ... The Pyramids was the HIGHLIGHT of this tour to Egypt.... THE PLACE we all wanted to spend time wandering around and we had  so little time to do so.

Lulu, Ernie and I could not believe .... that WE are standing right in front of the pyramids!! I never imagined that I'd make it here... Now that I have , it reminded me once again how amazing this adventure to the Middle East is!! The pyramids of Giza is exactly what I expected---- enormous pyramids made out of limestone sitting out in the desert ... I am truly having the experience of a lifetime!!

Yes,  the pyramids are amazing architectural wonders and a amazing site to behold! But I believe that it is the mystique, the uncertainty, the questions they raise that we all truly love about the pyramids. And while I'd love to find the answers, the truth, the real story about the pyramids.... I am happy to keep the mystery as long as possible.

On our way to the Citadel of Saladin..... Randa pointed out the City of the Dead. I was only able to take a photo from the bus. She said it was not safe to go there.

The City of the Dead is where you will find the poorest of the poor people in Cairo. It is actually a cemetery where the poor people make their permanent homes because of Egypt's chronic housing crisis shortage. As you can see in the photo--- the narrow streets are car-less and empty. The homeless and poor people make a living for themselves as tomb keepers. They live inside mausoleums, sleeping on top of tombs.

The next stop...... The Citadel of Saladin

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Cairo and it is often the most popular non-pharaonic monuments.

The Citadel of Saladin also known as AL-Qala, is a walled fortress on top of a hill in Cairo. It has been home to Egypt's rulers for about 700 years. The Citadel was built in different stages, so it turned out to be a mix of different styles.

We saw beautiful medieval decorated facades , arches and wooden bay windows. Here are some photos taken inside the mosque. It was absolutely stunning!

There were school children visiting the Mosque that day.... they approached Lulu to have a picture with them.

( courtesy of Ernie Kamatoy )

The view of the dome.. from the inside...

What I found amazing was the view from the terraces.

Definitely a MUST SEE when you go to EGYPT!!!

Tonight we will be going to have dinner cruise on the Nile River....


1 comment:

  1. LOL@camel ride. I forgot to warn you about that one! Good thing he didn't run away with your camera! It was our tour guide who negotiated for us for the camel ride and we also entrusted our cameras with him to take our pics.