With the overnight flight and the immediately-after day trip to Alexandria to recover from, most of Christmas Eve was spent doing so with a lot of sleeping, eating and reading. The evening trip to the Pyramids was another add-on, but with the logic of “I’m not likely to be here again in a hurry” it was a bit of a no-brainer to hand over a few more Egyptian pounds.
Six of us went along and I got my first taste of Cairo traffic – more on that later. The result was that we missed the first, English, sound & light show that night and after a short tea stop we went to the Italian version of the show – luckily we had the English version on small radios. This was the closest I had been yet to the Pyramids & Sphinx and the various lighting made them a spectacular sight – not that they aren’t usually, but there’s something different about it being dark all around. The audio of the show went some way to describe the story behind these huge structures and some of their features which was good, but not nearly as wonderful as sitting marvelling at the age and immensity of the achievement. Decent photos were difficult with a phone and a point & shoot – mostly because by the time one realised that the particular lights and colours were good for a shot, they had changed.
It wasn’t too early a start to Christmas Day – especially compared to those no doubt sharing houses with excitable early-rising children. Meeting after breakfast, it was our first time together as the whole tour group. With this being my first multi-day tour, I prefer to travel independently but wasn’t really keen on that for Egypt in its current situation (hindsight supports that decision), I was well pleased to see that there were only ten of us on the tour – a nice small group. Hesham, our guide for the week, took us through some of the points about being tourists in Egypt and what would be happening on the tour before we loaded on the bus (one of the many small ones we would use for the week). Riding along with and shadowing us for the day was our guest from the Ministry of Tourism – an unobtrusive guard keeping a sub-machine gun well hidden beneath his jacket.
With the traffic markedly better than the previous night it wasn’t long before we were in the parking lot and feeling pleased with our fortune at travelling to Egypt at this particular time. With all the upheaval in the last two years, tourism is well down in the country (Cairo hotels are only running at six percent occupancy!) and the industry is hurting. But this was our gain as there were very few people, comparatively, at all the sights we went to; no where was this more noticeable than at the Pyramids which were going on for deserted. The downside of this is that the vendors selling tat (souvenirs) really have to work hard to make a sale – some found this a little overwhelming, but dark glasses with eyes front, hands in pockets, not uttering a word or giving an opening worked well for me.
I digress, I was thrilled to see the only remaining wonder of the ancient world (they really don’t look like they are going anywhere in a hurry) and get up to close to the many large limestone blocks that had been hauled and positioned four and a half millennia ago. We had plenty of time to wander around and take photos and avoid the vendors in the sunshine. Although a lot warmer and drier than the UK, it wasn’t ever too hot – as you can see by the icebreaker sleeves in the photos below.
Beside the Great Pyramid/Pyramid of Cheops, mandatory wearing of Christmas presents. Thanks Adele – & yes, that is a sheep driving a Massey Ferguson tractor.
Looking towards the second pyramid, Pyramid of Khafre, which still has some of the smooth outer layer at the peak
Most of us went down a very steep staircase and then up another to get to the centre of the Pyramid of Khafre. Despite the mildness outside, all that limestone really holds the heat – it was really hot in there
Much time spent holding, pushing, lifting pyramids. Guide Hesham & Radley; unfortunately none of the efforts on my camera really worked out
Camel riding – that was a bit of fun for three quid. All the handlers/herders/whatever were good fun & took plenty of photos
A brief visit to the Sphinx and funerary temple beside it
We headed south to see some pyramids earlier in the evolutionary chain, this one a step pyramid and another bent pyramid
Back at the hotel in Giza after a most excellent day looking at many pyramids, big and small, there was enough time for a shower each before heading to the Giza train station for the overnight sleeper train five hundred odd kilometres south to Luxor. I was initially due to go on the, separate, seater train overnight but decided a bit of extra money was worth it for something resembling sleep and extra security. It was just as well we left in plenty of time for the station as the twenty kilometre (12 mile) trip took us close to an hour and a half in what has to be some of the worst traffic everywhere. Strangely, fuel is heavily subsidised bringing the cost down to about twelve US cents per litre (!) – this just adds to the traffic woes as an over-abundance of vehicles compete for position on worn out, unmarked and unsigned roads. This chaos does lead to some great sights though – best of the trip being the passenger standing on the front bumper/fender of a large lorry/truck cleaning the windscreen as the vehicle drove on; absolutely nuts. After an hour or so the traffic thinned, about the time we drove past the massive crack running down the length of part of the elevated highway.
We all managed to make it to our cabins and settled in for some food and a bit of sleep.
Train food is not all that different to plane food
The only part of the train that made me feel like I might be in an Agatha Christie novel