Egypt – The Great Pyramids of Giza

I write this with a heavy heart after hearing about the Egypt Air Flight 804 tragedy. Egypt has a past and present filled with magnificence and turmoil – I truly feel for the country and its people. My mother and I took a trip together to visit Egypt in 1996 after a terrorist attack on tourists. Our friends and family thought we were crazy to go there after that incident but to this day that was one of my favorite trips and ironically, it was one of the few countries where I felt completely safe. Recently I had my photos from that trip scanned and put into a digital format (shout-out to DIGITAL DOORSTEP!) so that I could blog about my experience travelling down the Nile River witnessing where the past meets the present. I hope you enjoy this series as much as I have had writing it.

I have always had a strange obsession with ancient Egypt. If you believe in reincarnation then I was Egyptian in another life. Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Hatshepsut… you name it, I was one of them (well, at least in my head). I was and still am very much intrigued by the mystery of the ancient culture and monuments. The sheer magnitude of the memorials, the hieroglyphs, and the reliefs were mind-blowing to me, so I could not contain myself when my mother and I boarded the plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean to step foot in the glory of Egypt! Like most cross-Atlantic flights, we slept during the night on the plane to arrive a few time zones away and still have daylight left to explore. I remember opening up the airplane’s window shade to see the Sahara desert. I shed a tear (OK maybe four tears). I could not hold in the joy I felt at that moment. First, it was the great and mighty Sahara desert that I had only seen in movies and on TV. Second, being an African American on my first trip to Africa was itself an emotionally overwhelming experience. When we arrived in Cairo our tour guide met us at the airport and took us to the hotel. We unpacked, ate an early dinner, and then started to explore the neighborhood. After a while, we realized something strange… we were the only women outside. I’m not sure if it was the area, the culture, the time of day or what but once we observed this we hightailed it back to the hotel and got ready for our next day adventure to Egypt’s most famous monuments… the pyramids!

The Great Pyramids of Egypt

We left Cairo on a tour bus headed to Giza. I enjoyed this trip because not only did I get to see the different neighborhoods and cities in Northern Egypt, I also got to see the Nile River (yay!). Giza is the third largest city in Egypt and is a little over twelve miles away from Cairo. It houses some of the country’s most impressive monuments including two of the seven wonders of the ancient world – The Great Pyramids of Giza and The Great Sphinx. I can recall turning a corner, looking straight ahead, and seeing the pyramid in the distance. Wait a minute, how are we this close already?

Egypt Aisha Niang_00018AAll of the photos and movies make it seem like the pyramids are far and deep off into the desert. Nope, it actually is the backdrop to Giza and is the everyday view for thousands of people (lucky them). As we got closer and closer to them, the more impressive they became which I couldn’t believe was even possible!

It is believed that there are approximately 138 Egyptian pyramids. Many, if not most, were built as tombs for the pharaohs. I was fortunate enough to be able to enter one of the Great Pyramids. As a Civil Engineer, I could not comprehend how these amazing structures were erected thousands of years ago (some as early as 2630 BC) and still be proudly standing to this day.

The Great Sphinx of Giza

After visiting the pyramids, we went to stand in awe in front of the Great Sphinx of Giza. The Sphinx is the largest monolith statue in the world; it stands at 241 feet long (73.5 meters), 63 feet wide (19.3 meters), and 66.34 feet high (20.22 meters). It is made out of limestone and represents a lion’s body with a human head. It is believed that the Sphinx’s face is that of pharaoh Khafra. There is much debate regarding when it was built, by whom and for what, and it is still one of the many mysteries of ancient Egypt.

I will be posting a blog series on my trip to Egypt that covers the Nile River, The Valley of the Kings, and Abu Simbel and the great people of this village. There is an Egyptian saying, “Everyone fears time, but time fears the pyramids”. Stay tuned…

Facts

  • There are several pyramids in the bordering country of the Sudan. The Kushite kingdom built approximately 255 pyramids around 800 years after the ones constructed in Egypt.
  • The step pyramid is identified as the world’s oldest substantial monumental structure built of dressed stone.
  • The shape of the pyramids is thought to represent the primordial mound from which the ancient Egyptians believed the Earth was created.
  • Most believe that the pyramids were burial monuments but there is continued disagreement on the theological principles surrounding their purpose.

Tips

  • Drink plenty of water; I made the grave mistake of going to Egypt in August and it was over 110 degrees in the shade.
  • If you are female, bring a few scarfs in case you want to enter a mosque – one for your head and one to cover your shoulders and upper body if you are showing too much skin.
  • Haggle away! They have different prices for people from different countries.
  • Research the cost for your itinerary.  Some people may charge you to enter places that are actually free to visit.

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