Well this part of my journey takes me off the road for a bit. With the trailer needing a new roof I dropped it off at my RV place in Tulsa. I then hopped on a plane with my sister Terri to leave for Egypt.
Now this isn’t the first time we’ve traveled together. In fact it’s becoming at least a once a year sojourn. Three years ago we drove Route 66 from Tulsa to Santa Monica. Four years ago we met in Albuquerque and went up to Aztec, NM, Mesa Verde National Park, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Met her and the family recently in San Antonio as well as in New Orleans. Then we had the parents birthday celebrations with the cruise in Caribbean for my mom and the World Golf Village in Saint Augustine, Florida. So making a regular habit of this.
I had originally turned her down when she asked if I wanted to go on this trip. Last summer she asked me and I was hemming and hawing about whether I’d have the funds to go. So she booked it with her assistant and I backed off. Even though she and I have talked about how we both wanted to go. Well it came to the fall and her assistant didn’t think she could go. She asked my nephew but he didn’t think he could leave school for that long. So I said I’d go. It’s been one of the places I’ve wanted to visit because its such a great archaeological site.
I think this started when my parents took me to Mexico when I was 10. Went to Chichen Itza then and haven’t looked back. Now been there, Ankgor Wat, and Machu Picchu. The great pyramids were a natural progression.
We left Tulsa and flew to Houston first. Had a six hour layover before our next leg to Frankfurt, Germany. My niece Candace met us at the airport for lunch.
We then migrated to the American Express lounge to wait out the rest of our layover. 6 hours in total. My sister had made sure she had access to the various travel lounges in case we needed them.
Now as it came closer to our flight leaving we found out that our plane to Frankfort was running late. We only had a 2 hour layover in Germany so it became apparent that we wouldn’t make the connecting flight. We stopped at the United desk and was able to get rebooked on a flight leaving 2 hours after the flight we originally had. My sister doesn’t like having to make changes mid stream. I guess I’ve just become used to it and since we had an extra day before our tours began I wasn’t too worried.
We then got on the plane and my sister had the window seat. Well it was a 9 hour flight and the guy on the outside slept the entire way. She was going stir crazy being stuck back there in corner. I don’t think she’ll ask for a window seat ever again.
We got to Frankfurt and then began our hike. It seemed a crazy long way from the gate we landed at to the gate for Egypt. We had to exit out of security and then go back in. Although, we didn’t have to show passports for any of it so it wasn’t like we left the airport. Thus began our 11 straight days of hiking. I think my sister would be in favor of teleportation so that she wouldn’t have to get on an airplane or step foot in an airport ever again. I think I may be similar which is why I drive everywhere now.
My sister had brought her phone and enabled international calling on it. I had number of the Egypt office for Abercrombie and Kent in our travel packet. Called and left a message that we were on a later flight.
The flight to Egypt took 5 hours. This was an Egyptian Air flight. It amazes me how much different international carriers are compared to domestic US carriers. Better meals, real silverware, and better service. Reminded me of how much I liked Bangkok air when I went to Thailand. We got there and a representative from Abercrombie and Kent met us before we got to customs. He took the $25 fee from my sister and went and got her Egyptian Visa. I had gotten mine ahead of time for 4 times the cost. It was a painless process compared to some places I’ve been. My sister definitely came out ahead on this one. Might have been different without our tour rep there.
Anyway, our guide that night was named Mohammed. Our bus driver was named Mohammed. I think the first person we met at the hotel was named Mohammed. I want to make a joke about 10,000 men named Mohammed but then that would be politically incorrect.
It was an hour drive out to the Mena House from the Airport. The tour representative made arrangements for us to go see the Red and Bent pyramids tomorrow on the drive out. We also drove across the Nile for the first time. We ended up getting to the hotel around Midnight the next day after we had left Oklahoma. The Mena House hotel is right next to the pyramids. By next I mean a couple of hundred yards. So we could see the silhouette of the pyramids as we drove in. The bus went through the security screening process looking for bombs. The dog didn’t bark so we were good to go. We finished off the night by ordering a hummus plate and a bottle of wine for a late snack before going to bed. We had some questions as to whether we actually had a balcony view of the pyramids but determined there weren’t many rooms that would make that much of a difference.
We woke up and went down to the restaurant for breakfast. Was a hazy morning but we could see the pyramids as we ate. The Mena house is beautiful. It was originally built as a hunting lodge to celebrate the opening of the Suez canal.
We weren’t leaving until around 10am. Terri shopped in the stores at the hotel. She ordered her Cartouche which she would pick up later. Our guide for the next several days met us in the lobby. Hesham told us that we would be going to the first pyramid that had actually been completed. It was about an hours drive to get out to Dahshur. You see how quickly the landscape transforms from being lush green farmland to harsh desert. My sister was probably a little upset with me because I had left the United States without bring any US dollars with me. Our guide wanted to be paid in cash $75 per person. I hadn’t gotten money in my account until the day I hit Egypt so wasn’t able to withdraw any prior to then.
The red pyramid was the third pyramid built by Sneferu. The first one collapsed. The second called the Bent pyramid, you can see from the Red pyramid. It’s called the Bent Pyramid because they didn’t have the angle right to complete it and so it is bent.
Hesham gave us the first of many souvenir tickets we would accumulate over the next week to get into the Red pyramid. My sister and I would climb down the 200 feet to the bottom of the pyramid. The passage way is 3 feet high by 4 feet wide. I spent most of my time going up and down on my butt.
You get to the bottom and there is a staircase in the back going up so you think your going to have a reprieve and not have to go back up the way you came. WRONG. That just leads to the burial chamber. They offset it this way to try and confuse potential grave robbers. The way up is a lot harder than coming down. I stopped several times. You wonder during this what happens if someone has a heart attack going up and down this passage way. Because there is barely enough room for one person and when you pass someone going the other way you have to suck that gut in.
You often find yourself questioning the sanity of making this climb. But in the end you are glad you did because all the climbs the next 7 days seemed easy by comparison.
We then drove over and hiked around the outside of the Bent pyramid. In back you could see the smaller queen’s pyramid.
It was an enjoyable way to spend our first day in Egypt. As we left the pyramids here we could use the Water Closet if we wanted to. Thus begin our first lesson in that always have small change when you go to the restroom because every restroom in Egypt seems to have a washroom attendant. (Usually always taken care of by our guides)
Going back to the hotel we got a little history/economics lesson of Egypt and how things had changed since the revolution 7 years ago. Because you could see that going to and from the pyramids the trash that was everywhere and how nothing was being done to pick it up. Our guide told us before the revolution is was pristine but afterwards no one seems to care. He even got local news coverage on the problem but nothing happened.
Egypt was once self sufficient for food. However, that is no longer the case and it is getting worse because lots of the good farm land are having houses built on them. It seems like it was a squatters paradise and that there really isn’t any private property rights.
Got back to the hotel and had the first of many Sakara Gold’s I would have over the next week.
After beers we went back to the room. Only to find out our key cards weren’t working. So after climbing the pyramids it was a hike back to the front desk to get a new key. Afterward I tried to take a nap and Terri went down to the pool. I joined her shortly as I couldn’t sleep.
After some relaxation we went back to the bar area in the hotel to wait for our bus to the light show at the Great Pyramids.
There we met some of the other couples that were on our cruise. From a miscommunication we ended up taking a separate bus to the light show then them though. They probably just thought we were being special. Although once we met everyone I think they were the reason the trip was so nice.
This was our first opportunity to see the Sphinx. The view of the pyramids was incredible. Then the light show really topped it off. I mentioned to my sister I kept expecting to see Roger Moore running around. In the introduction they had Elizabeth Taylor speaking from Cleopatra. I’m sure there were other movie lines in there but I didn’t recognize them.
We got back to the hotel and there was a wedding going full blast in the court yard. We figured if there was anyplace to get married in Cairo this was probably a pretty good one. Terri picked up her Cartouche and I think has worn it everyday since.
This was the first of many fine days in Egypt.
The next morning the haze from the previous day was gone.
The rest of the Oklahoma contingent showed up.
Joe, Jimmie Lee, Lents, and Gayle. This was from our welcome orientation that next morning. It was here that we met the rest of our group for the next week. We had Donna and Bob who came from Hawaii and are friends with the actress who played Isis on the TV show the Secrets of Isis. (I was a fan of it when I was a kid) Ivan and Michael. Michael had arrested Charles Manson before the Tate murders. There were the two college professors who were writing a book together. Susan and Sue. Kirk and Linda. Steve and Karen. Steve owns a sports statistics company and had some good Howard Coselle stories. Carolyn and Michael. Carolyn never wore earrings that matched. It was a great pleasure travelling with these fine folks.
They gave us headsets so that we could hear Hesham as he described the history as we went around. Although, I could probably be taken to task for capturing pictures and not listening quite as intently as I should have been. But then we had some other photographers in the group. So don’t feel that guilty.
No pictures were allowed inside hiking up to the burial chamber. Although one of the security guards took a picture of the group at the top on someones camera. Again, anything is possible if you are willing to tip for it. (It gets old quickly) I didn’t think this was as hard as the Red pyramid because there were only a few points where you had to duck down. Coming down someone lost their glasses and we spent about 5 minutes looking for them. I think we were warned about putting everything away before going up.
Also, we weren’t allowed to go down to the lower chamber. I talked to a friend of mine who went there in the 70’s and he said that at that time only the men were allowed to go down and see it. So I wonder if it’s just easier to say no one can see it now rather than risk offending someone because of religion and gender issues.
Behind the great pyramid is a building that hosts the Solar Boat. It is around 4,500 years old.
It was between hiking up the Great Pyramid and going to the Solar Boat that I picked up my hat. Hadn’t seen anywhere else to get a hat except from the vendors outside the pyramid. Negotiating with him another vendor ran his con and it ended up costing me another 60 Egyptian Pounds. (OK, it was a little over 3 bucks) Hesham came in and saved me. Its obvious he is know with the vendors and they backed off when he came around.
We then went on our Camel ride.
I was concerned my Camel was going to dump me off when he was getting back down to the ground.
Finally we got up close to the Sphinx.
We then stopped across from the Sphinx and had lunch. We also got to see them practice for the Aida Opera that we are going to next week.
Excellent meal. We had the rest of the day to ourselves. Some people went to a shop that our tour guide was recommending. I was tired and just wanted to hang out at the pool. So that’s what we did. Although my sister found a slick spot and fell hurting her knee. Didn’t slow her down that much. Tomorrow is an early day.