1/24/10

Giza, Egypt

the Sphinx and the pyramid of Khafre

Anyone who has read Paulo Coehlo's "The Alchemist" will no doubt remember Santiago, the shepherd boy from Andalusia who literally followed his dreams of treasures inside the pyramids of Giza. These days, busloads of tourists go to visit the pyramids not to search for buried treasures but for a more allegorical search which might as well be the pyramids itself - truly one of the many treasures of ancient Egypt.


Our group of 9 had a female Egyptologist accompany us on our early morning visit to the Giza necropolis, some 25 kms. away from downtown Cairo. Nancy - a Coptic Christian in a predominantly Muslim country - is proud of Egypt's glorious past and its great contribution to civilization as we now know. As expected, she's very well versed in ancient Egyptian history, detailing to us the stories of the great three pyramids: the pyramid of Khufu (also known as Cheops, the largest and oldest), the pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. And of course, a visit to Giza won't be complete without seeing the Sphinx up close.

tourist police

What strikes first-time visitors is how close suburban development is to the pyramids. There are hotels and apartment complexes nearby and a screaming branch of KFC and Pizza Hut in front of the Sphinx! Nevertheless, the sight alone of the pyramids standing tall at the edge of the Western desert gave me a shock and awe experience - it's like an apparition that brings goosebumps especially when I look at the pyramid of Khufu, the only remaining monument in the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

persistent camel tout

We got our entrance tickets for 60 Egyptian pounds. Our van dropped us off at the parking lot between two of the pyramids. No sooner have we set foot when Egyptian men astride camels came upon us with an enterprising call for a ride - the fee could go up depending on how wealthy a visitor looks and Nancy warned us to be wary of them. I've been on camels before so that's not in my agenda anyway. I was looking forward to exploring this massive complex during my own free time. However, one of the camel touts was very persistent just as I was aiming my camera at one of the pyramids. I set to walk further away from the crowd and into the tranquil zone of the Eastern Cemetery past one of the queen's tombs, but this guy follows me with a more demanding tone. Getting more desperate, he finally asks for money because he saw me taking a picture of him earlier on his camel. "Five dollars, give me five dollars!" Just when I thought I might have to run for help, a tourist police officer also riding on a camel came by and sensing what's going on, gave him a mouthful of Arabic. That was all I needed. "Shukran!" (Thank you!).

limestone at the base of the pyramid of Khufu
This being winter in Egypt, the weather is quite pleasant but I know the sun is still intense so I had my hat on all the time and slathered myself with sunblock. I sat there for almost half an hour in one of those massive limestones - the very building blocks of the pyramids - while looking at the magnificent view and listening to New Age music on my Ipod and at the same time trying to digest a very rich history Nancy had earlier told us.


Built during the period of the Old Kingdom (2575-2150 B.C.) , the pyramids were purposely constructed to house the deceased pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The largest of them all has about 2.3 million blocks of stone each weighing between 2.5 to 15 tons each. Nancy stressed that ancient Egyptians who built these pyramids - about 20,000-30,000 people in a period of 80 years - were not slaves but workers paid for by the pharaoh. Some were tasked for temporary work, just like today's crop of contractual laborers. Archaeological excavations close to the pyramids gave proof there were actual builder's settlements and just recently, more tombs of the pyramid workers were discovered.



Those without claustrophobia can enter the narrow passages inside the pyramids of Khufu or Khafre but I gave it a pass after Nancy reassured there's nothing to see but an empty chamber. Besides, it's an extra fee with Khufu being the most expensive at 100 Egyptian pounds and tickets being limited to only 300 a day. The real bummer here is that no cameras are allowed inside. What I did was break a rule instead: even if it's not allowed anymore, I followed some locals who clambered up a lower portion of the Khufu pyramid, mindful that a tourist police may just come any moment and holler at us.


I rejoined my group and we were driven a short distance in front of the Sphinx, one of the world's largest and oldest statues. Carved from bedrock, the Sphinx depicts a reclining human-headed lion wearing a pharaonic headdress. Its nose is missing, often mistakenly blamed to one of Napoleon Bonaparte's soldiers allegedly firing a cannonball which hit the statue's face. Further excavations and restorative work is currently undergoing here.


our cheesy moments

As we all went back to the van that will bring us back to Cairo, I thought about how lucky early explorers have been when they had the pyramids all to themselves and they only have camels or horses to bring them there. And then I thought about Santiago, the shepherd boy and his quest for treasures - it took him quite a long time to finish his epic journey while for us modern day visitors, it only takes a plane ride to realize the dreams of Santiago living within ourselves.

32 comments:

  1. wow Egypt! yeah, I remebered Santiago too. Ü

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  2. i love your cheesy moments:) I do that with my friends from time to time. Gosh, i'd really want to see the pyramids! thanks for sharing your photos.

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  3. charlton10:10:00 PM

    wow! are you planning to go to alexandria, luxor and aswan? they are worth paying a visit!

    i love your photo at the panorama!

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  4. Ate Emma10:31:00 PM

    Hi den nice seeing your pictures. Hope one day I can also visit the pyramid.
    See you!

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  5. Beautiful pictures... i'm so jealous you get to travel a lot!!! great blog btw...

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  6. Oh you had a good sun to work with your photos. We were there in Nov and it was quite cloudy. I didn't go inside the pyramid either. Not too crazy about cramped spaces without any photo op.

    It was an amazing experience for me to see the pyramids, very surreal, like it's not happening at all.

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  7. Woweeeee! Colleagues who visited the pyramids told me that there's really something magical there.

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  8. Wow...that is a beautiful place...great pictures!
    Wish I can see this with my own eyes one day...

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  9. your entries are AWESOMENESS spelled out in BIG BOLD LETTERS. thanks for sharing. makes me go here in a jiffy!
    happy travels~

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  10. I got a kick our of your last two pics LOL. Btw, all your shots are fantastic.

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  11. astig! kahangahanga talaga ang mga pyramids ng egypt. nasa bucket list ko to. ganda din ng mga kuha mo. whoa! more more photos!

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  12. Great escape from chilly weather in your home. Cairo is one of those places where I wish to visit but reluctant to do so all these while. Perhaps is the high living cost there that stops me. But when I saw your photos here, it made my foot itchy again... nice photos :)

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  13. The Nomadic Pinoy12:49:00 PM

    Santiago is a character I can't forget Chyng - he inspired me to travel more.

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  14. The Nomadic Pinoy12:51:00 PM

    We had plenty of cheesy moments but my most memorable is definitely in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni.

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  15. The Nomadic Pinoy12:51:00 PM

    Not to Alexandria but Luxor and Aswan. Thanks Charlton!

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  16. The Nomadic Pinoy12:52:00 PM

    Thanks for visiting my site Ate Emma. Hope you get a chance to visit Egypt someday.

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  17. The Nomadic Pinoy12:53:00 PM

    Thanks for dropping by Malou.

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  18. The Nomadic Pinoy12:54:00 PM

    We're lucky it was sunny although depending on your position, you could get a blue sky facing southward or the smoggy sky facing Cairo to the north.

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  19. The Nomadic Pinoy12:57:00 PM

    The experience is truly awesome - just like seeing Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat or Macchu Picchu for the first time.

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  20. The Nomadic Pinoy12:59:00 PM

    Sidney, I'm sure you'll be able to see it for yourself someday.

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  21. The Nomadic Pinoy1:02:00 PM

    Thanks RV. Happy travels to you as well.

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  22. The Nomadic Pinoy1:03:00 PM

    You know Bert, I just can't do away with cheesy shots - it's fun.

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  23. The Nomadic Pinoy1:05:00 PM

    Thanks Dong. Isa rin sa listahan ko ang Egypt kaya when the opportunity came, I grabbed it.

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  24. The Nomadic Pinoy1:07:00 PM

    Yes it was a nice escape from NY since winter in Egypt is mild, from upper 50's to upper 70's in degree Fahrenheit.

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  25. lechuaphotography2:55:00 PM

    amazing photos... love the ones with the camels especially 'camel tout' - very national-geographic-like - maybe coz egypt and the whole desert setting is something i've never seen for myself

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  26. lechuaphotography3:00:00 PM

    amazing photos... love the ones of the camel especially 'camel tout'. it's like out of national geographic - maybe because eqypt and the whole desert landscape is something i haven't seen for myself

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  27. KFC & Pizza Hut in front of the Sphinx? Boy, talking about commericialism envading our ancient heritage. Time will come you'll see "Coke" or "Intel Inside" on the facade of the pyramids, just like what Sony did in its ads.

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  28. i thought the first few photos capturing the magnificence of egypt are enough to grab my attention, but i was wrong! the last 2 shots are more amusing! eyesolikeyour pictures of the pyramids, particularly the close-ups of the blocks! *envy*
    great, great, great! thanks for sharing. keep it coming, dennis!

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  29. The Nomadic Pinoy6:32:00 AM

    The last two were taken merely for fun and it came out great. Thanks for appreciating them Doc Gelo.

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  30. The Nomadic Pinoy6:33:00 AM

    Who knows you'll be visiting Egypt in the near future Poot? Tapusin mo muna pag-aaral mo. I'll be checking your entry.

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  31. Wow! I never realized that the stones that make up the pyramids are that big!

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  32. I'm baaaack Kuya!

    Wow naman. I also dream to get to Egypt. I think the place is very mysterious.

    I have been busy with my thesis these past few weeks that I failed to visit your blog every now and then. Btw, watch out for my new entry tomorrow. For sure, it will be a “love-me-or-hate-me” post. Want a clue? Ok… Noynoy

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