There are few monuments in the world as recognizable as the Sphinx of Giza. It is a remarkable statue that guards the Pyramid complex of the Pharoe. There are different theory’s about how old the Sphinx is. Most Egyptologist thing it is close to five thousand years old, while others think it is much older, perhaps as old as ten thousand years. Before the Aswan Dam was built back in the 60’s, the Nile river would flood every year and the water would reach almost to Giza. There are old pictures, mostly drawings, from the 1700-1800’s that show the Sphinx almost buried in sand. If left alone, the desert would claim many of the Ancient buildings and monuments.
We visited a factory that still makes Papyrus the way the Ancient Egyptians did. The pith from the plant is sliced thin, woven and presses in a wooden press. Local artists paint them today like they did thousands of years ago with natural paints and pigments. They are truly beautiful.
After lunch we drove to the Giza Plateau. This is probably the most photographed place in Egypt, yet, there were not as many tourist there as I expected.
The Pyramids are everything we expected and more. The size of these structures is unbelievable. I knew they would be big, but I was amazed at how big they really are. Standing at the base of the Pyramid of Cheops, the course of stone along the ground is more than waist high.
Base of the Pyramid:
The stone goes on forever. When they say that no one knows how they were built, I can understand why. How ancient man quarried and moved these stones is a definite head scratcher. Not just that part of it, each stone is put in the exact place it was needed. Who layed these things out? What kind of knowledge did the ancient’s have that we don’t?
The three Pyramids on the Giza Plateau belong to Khufu, or Cheops, Khafre, and Menkaure. That is the order of size as well with Khufu being the largest. The only warning I will give anyone contemplating a trip to Egypt, is that all of the tourist locations are a hive of activity with the local people. Everyone who owns a camel, or a donkey, or a pair of shoes is there trying to sell you something. Nothing is for free with the locals. They are wonderful endearing people, but they are relentless when it comes to making money. If you want to take a picture of them on their donkey or camel in their full Egyptian dress, it will cost you money. If they take a picture of you in front of their camel or donkey, or the pyramids for that matter, it will cost you money. There are men selling postcards, maps, pictures, various items of clothing and small statues. Some will offer you a free gift of some small item, usually a scarf and then they watch for you to return to your bus, and they stop you and want money. Their hope is that you will be worried about missing the bus, and just pay up. Luckily, our guide had warned us and shure enough, a nice young Egyptian man wanted to give me a scarf. It was wrapped nicely in plastic, and I could tell it was new. he said it was the Egyptian custom to give free gifts to visitors, but seeing the scam, I told him is was against my religion to accept free gifts. After that he left me alone.
The plateau at Giza had another tourist attraction other than the pyramids. They offer camel rides. There are many men sitting around with large heards of camels. I don’t know if more than one is called a heard or not, but there were many camels about. Some of the less honest ones will offer to take you for a ride in the desert for a price, and then when they have you out in the middle of nowhere, the price goes up. If you refuse to pay, they try and leave you with a long walk back. We were told not to go for a camel ride in Giza.
Our guide said she was taking us to lunch at a very nice outdoor restaurant. Their specialty is rottiseri chicken. The driver dropped us off and we made our way through twisty side streets that did not look to inviting, but then at the back of the building it opened up to a wonderful courtyard eatery with flagstone floors and bright red table cloths. Overhead was a lattice work covered in vines and flowers. The meal was a traditional Egyptian lunch with many exotic dishes. Everything was wonderful. Just outside the restaurant proper we saw three women sitting on the ground in front of an old earthenware oven baking bread. This was the wonderful Egyptian bread that we came to love.
Posted in EGYPT on February 28, 2010 by michael ceci
Our first pyramid we saw was the Step Pyramid of Dzoser. The step pyramid was the first pyramid built almost 5 thousand years ago. The pyramid was built as an extension over a mastaba, which was a mud brick platform over a burial tomb in the Old kingdom. King Dzoser had an architect that built one mastaba on top of another until it was what we see today.
This was one of the pyramids that I wanted to see, being the first and the oldest. It was massive and very emotional to see something that I had read about. The weather was clear and the day was hot. This was the first place that we ran into the local people trying to sell us things. They were a bit pushy, but nothing like we would experience at Giza.
Every tomb in Egypt is made up of a mortuary temple and the tomb itself. Some of the mortuary temples are very impressive in their own right.
Mortuary Temple of Dzoser:
The temple is 5 thousand years old and of a tribute to the stone masons of old. The massive stone blocks are cut to perfect fit and many still show the shine of being polished by hand by ancient workers. This temple was the first that we saw the columns that we would see in later temples. The columns were supposed to represent bundled papyrus plants, which is what the ancient Egyptians used to build their homes. Many of the columns have been damaged over the years, but the Antiquities Department of Egypt has done what they could to put some of these temples back into their former glory.
Posted in EGYPT on February 27, 2010 by michael ceci
The next morning we were up early and went down to the dinning room for breakfast. Our room had been up-graded to a suite , and it proved to be the way things would go for the rest of the trip. After breakfast we waited in the lobby and right on time our tour rep. arrived. He told us that we would have a private guide, car and driver for the day. He then introduced us to our guide Shereen. She was a young attractive woman who would show us around for the day.
Our first stop was to be Memphis, the first ancient capital of Egypt. The ancient city was all but gone with just a few statues and some stone work left. Shereen showed us how to read the Egyptian cartouche. The symbol of the Pharos, which showed their names. Each Pharoe had two names, their birth name, and their coronation name. She was very knowledgeable about hieroglyphics and Egyptian history.
One of the highlites of Memphis is the reclining statue of Rameses II. He was Pharoe for 67 years and lived until he was 94 years old. He had many wives and over 130 children. We would find out that he was one of the most influential rulers in Egypt.
The statue was huge (see picture) it was found exactly where it lay and they built the building around it. For something so old, it was immaculate. The work on the statue was very impressive.
Our guide showed us all the pertinent sights and then gave us some free time to walk around and take pictures. It was a very relaxing way to see the sites.
Posted in EGYPT on February 26, 2010 by michael ceci
We left Toronto on January 19th at 7:30 pm aboard our Air France flight to Paris, our first leg of the journey. I can’t say enough about Air France and their service. The food was unlike any airline food I had ever eaten, it was very good and there was lots of it. Our plane had a personal video monitor in the back of the seat in front of you so everyone had there own choice of dozens of movies, TV shows, and video games. Something for everyone.
The flight from Toronto to Paris was seven hours long, and despite the wonderful service, I was glad to get on the ground for our three hour layover.
As they say, the best layed plans…..It seems there was a baggage handlers strike in Rio, where our plane was coming from, so we were told there would be an additional two to three hour delay. There is something to be said for sitting around an airport for five hours…but I can’t say it here. We finally boarded our Air France flight to Cairo, and again the service and amenities were excellent.
The flight from Paris to Cairo was five hours, and when we did arrive, we were both tired and exhausted. For anyone who has travelled before, you know the drill….you get off the plane, go through customs and immigration, find your bags and then look for someone holding a sign with the name of your tour group. When we got out to the public area, there was a well dressed man holding a sign with our name on it. When we asked about the rest of our group he informed us that it was just us. Our own private tour. He loaded us into a mini-van and off we went to our hotel.
The Sofitel Le Sphinx Hotel:
Our hotel was right across the street from the pyramids, but we had a room with a garden view at the back so we couldn’t see them. With it being almost 11:00 p.m. we turned in for our first night in Egypt.
Posted in EGYPT on February 25, 2010 by michael ceci
When Planning a trip of this size it is best you do as much research as possible. We collected many travel books from various travel agencies and found many interesting things. Most of the different tour operators offer many of the same tours with subtle differences. Some may seem cheaper at first blush, but upon further investigation, many of the sites to be seen are an extra cost. With all of these extras, the price slowly climbs higher and higher.
We also did a lot of research on the internet and looked at all the options that were offered. As we searched for the things we wanted to see, some companies chatged a lot of money for the extras and our price was getting out of hand. Then we found EXOTIK TOURS. It was a little known tour company (at least to us), but they seemed to offer everything we wanted at a very reasonable price.
A good friend of ours that had done the Egypt trip before commented on the low price and the extras that came along with it. We finally decided to go with them and went to our local travel agent and started to put things together.