The Pyramids: Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

So I’ve just finished talking to you guys about my visit inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. It was certainly an experience, I’ll tell you that much. However! There’s more to the area than simply going inside, as there are multiple pyramids and (obviously) the sphinx to look at. The rest of our journey around the Pyramids was a lot better, and we got some awesome photos, except for one tiny detail.

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You see, there are a lot of hawkers around the Pyramids. You know, people who will “give you camel ride, best price, for you my friend the Egyptian price!”

They’re everywhere. And they’re vicious. The best thing for you to do is keep your head down, shake your head firmly no, and pretend like you can’t understand their English.

The worst thing to do is engage.

And the worst worst thing?

Let me tell you. Here we all are, meandering our way around the base of the pyramid (immediately after our hike inside), covered in sweat and still trying to make sense of what had just occurred. We’ve been solicited a dozen times already, but as long as you cling together in a large enough pack, they can’t really come at you.

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Safety in numbers

We’re like a herd of antelope, and they’re the lions, looking for the weakest link.

So here’s the thing. We’re here to better our Arabic, we really are. And to that end, we often go out, practice our language, and try to speak with people. And we have this friend, his name is Evan, whose Arabic is amazing. He loves meeting new people and improving his language.

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Except Evan is a little too enthusiastic sometimes. So we’re walking and chatting and all of a sudden we notice Evan has gone missing. After a moment’s search we spot him, taking selfies with a bunch of Egyptians and chatting with them in Arabic. He’s basically famous, this random white guy speaking like a local.

And we can sense it. There’s blood in the water.

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The rest of us huddle even more tightly together and begin hissing at Evan “come here! Come back!”

It’s too late.

Evan says his goodbyes to these guys and begins to walk away, at which point one of the hawkers shouts to the entire world“Hey! This foreigner can speak Arabic!”

And the hordes descend, a million men on camels and donkeys and horses all crowding forward, shouting at Evan (in Arabic) “You want a ride? You speak Arabic? Where did you learn it? We’ll give you the Egyptian price!”

And hapless Evan, finally sensing the danger, tries to scurry back into our herd and lose himself amongst us. And instead we’re targeted, all of us, harassed repeatedly while Evan pulls his hat down over his forehead and tries to look innocent.

One man followed us for half an hour with his horse and cart, even stopping when we stopped, to the point that he got out of his cart and followed us when we tried a diversionary tactic to lose him. He only left when we managed the entire walk without him and he realized there was nowhere left for him to drive.

But, y’know, the sphinx was pretty cool.

-Carissa “The Antelope” Rawson

The Pyramids: Part One

Dear Friends,

Oh my dear dear friends.

A few weeks ago we went to the pyramids. I mean, living in Cairo that’s obviously something you need to check off the list, right? My friend Carlos had been before, and from his grim expression whenever he spoke of the pyramids, I was a little bit apprehensive.

My dear friends. You have no idea.

It took us roughly twice as long as usual to actually get to the pyramids, because the president of Portugal happened to be visiting and they shut down the roads entirely. Four of us were in a cab, sweating as our driver chain smoked and the meter ran in the parking lot of cars. It was an auspicious start, I’ll tell you that much.

But we made it there safely, bought our tickets, and, with bated breath, wended our way up to the Great Pyramid of Giza.

It’s breathtaking, it really is. The sheer size of it is mind-boggling, and when you walk up, the ancient stones above you looming large, you can’t help but be filled with awe.

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We had bought tickets to go inside to have a look around the Great Gallery. “Be careful,” they warned us, “it’s a bit of a climb.”

And yes, yes it was.

Let me lay the scene for you here.

It’s Cairo, mid-April, and a group of eight of us have just purchased our tickets to go inside. We make our way up the ancient stones, where a roughly hewn opening has been cut into the wall.

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Just inside, it’s cooler, as the rock shades the sun and a nice cross breeze drifts into the mouth of the pyramid.

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“This is lovely,” you think, snapping a photo before making your way deeper into the pyramid.

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So excited!

Inside, an angry young Arab man is yelling at a line of tourists, insisting that the narrow path above is a two-way walkway. You look up, eyeing it, and wonder how small people must have been when they built it. It’s not simply narrow, no. It’s barely more than a tunnel, and people are bent over in half, crab walking up a steep incline as they attempt to avoid elbowing each other.

“Here goes nothing,” you mutter, lining up with your friends as you begin to climb. You soon realize you are becoming very well acquainted with your friend’s behind, as the angle of the hike has forced your head to become roughly level with his ass. You feel a moment of pity for the girl behind you, whom you’ve only just met and who is currently suffering the intense view of your sweaty Thailand pants.

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It’s getting hotter now, and humid, as the sweat of hundreds of people begins to condense on the walls of the pyramid. The air is rank with body odor, and you simply pray that your deodorant lasts the length of the climb. Harsh fluorescent lights from the eighties cast unforgiving glows on the people you pass, who prove, indeed, that it is a two way path. Several times you encounter men simply lying on the floor, for whom the walkway is too narrow for them to fit. They are waiting for the flow of people to ebb, so they can stagger down in relative peace. Little do they know that the stream of tourists is only intensifying, and you wonder how long they have before their sweating gives them dehydration.

On and on and on you climb, it’s a millennia of hiking, you with your back bowed and your contacts blurring and your breath coming in short, stuttered pants, punctuated with coughing as you inhale more of the fetid air.

Finally. Finally. You come to it.

The Great Gallery.

Tomb of Kings.

Ancient wonder of the world.

Home of history.

It is roughly the size of your bedroom back home, and empty save for a small stone coffin, devoid of markings, which sits in the back corner.

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Behold the glory.

You’re bent over, hands on your knees, attempting to regain your breath as you look around. “Is there more?” You ask aloud, and from the grimaces on the faces of the people around you, you know there isn’t.

Still, at least I’ve had the experience.

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So. Much. Regret.

-Carissa “You Can’t Pay Me To Go Back In There” Rawson