Here we go then, the actual pyramids! We read up on the scams and the tricks employed to part you with your money. We braced ourselves for the constant onslaught of touts doing their bestest to get you to ride camel or buy a thing you don’t want or need at a price that’d have your bank account scurrying to the nearest dark corner for a good cry. We were ready!
Even walking through town we got asked a few times if we wanted a horse or a camel or a carriage but guys, these poor animals. They’re not in a good way. There’s a stable at the end of the alley where we’re staying so we got a good look at them before we even got to the pyramids. Tarrant had her little heart set on a camel ride but after seeing them she changed her mind.
As we left the hotel this morning and we saw one horse which was definitely already dead (it’s going to smell wonderful in a few days), and one which didn’t look far off it. The camels look like they have skin diseases. Some of them have open wounds, seeping gashes from branding, or where a rope has rubbed against their haunches for a significant amount of time. They’re clearly starving. I’m not any manner of animal expert but I’m pretty sure you’re not meant to see a camel’s ribs, or a horse’s for that matter, and I don’t think their hip bones are meant to protrude that much.
Anyway. Onto happier things, like the last remaining Ancient Wonder of the World. We made our way to the main entrance rather than the Sphinx entrance because we wanted to buy the extra tickets to go inside the Great Pyramid and Mers Ankh III’s tomb. I’d read that it wasn’t really worth going inside the pyramids, it’s just a bare walled sweat box, but fuck it. How often do you come to Egypt and visit the pyramids?
That’s where we started, at the Great Pyramid of Giza, Khufu’s pyramid, the biggest bastard of the lot. Completed around 2570BC it used to be nearly 147 metres tall and encased in polished white limestone. You can imagine how fucking incredible that would have looked. These days it’s closer to 138 metres tall, but hey, size doesn’t matter, right? It’s missing its pyramidion, its top cap, and the limestone casing was stripped over time and used for buildings in Cairo and for mosques. Only the crumbling bedrock remains.
You can see the entrance a bit off the ground and you have to climb up some steps to get to it. It’s probably the closest you’ll get to climbing a pyramid without getting a bollocking off a guard. Tickets are all scanned these days, don’t go giving your ticket to anyone for keeps, then in you go. You have to do quite a lot of this crouched over in a narrow tunnel, stopping to let people trying to get down past, and when the people in front of you have to stop to catch their breath. It’s stuffy and it smells old, it gets hotter the further in you get and it’s pretty fucking steep at one point.
You’re not meant to take photos inside but everyone does. I’ve read that you can give the guards baksheesh (a tip or bribe) to let you take photos and assumed it’d be a surreptitious cloak and dagger operation but nope. We got to the chamber and he was offering to take photos of people in front of the now empty sarcophagus. He was even getting people to pose. I don’t know the going rate but I gave him LE20. He made me chuckle with his enthusiasm for making tourists pose like mummies.
Getting out is awkward as fuck, crouching forwards whilst walking down a ramp isn’t any manner of fun, but eventually we emerged dripping sweat as the guards on the outside told us, “Welcome back!” Well thanks, buddy. It’s not for the claustrophobic or anyone with mobility issues.
We decided not to find a guide for the pyramids, you can get a lot of information online, but it’s actually a bit of a ballache to find your way around and it’s absolutely vast! It’s a shame there’s no ethical way to take a camel because it really would be quite useful. We stumbled through the eastern cemetery in search of Mers Ankh’s tomb, fending off offers of camels and horses. One guy was hell bent on getting us to go into a tomb which was included in the ticket cost and I kind of wish we’d gone in but his rabid insistence put us on high alert.
Eventually we found the tomb we’d paid LE50 for and the fucking thing was closed. You’re shitting me, right?! Thankfully LE50 isn’t going to break the bank but it’s the principle. Fine, whatever, we’d come back later. We took some photos of the Sphinx from a nearby road and headed to the Pyramid of Khafre, the second biggest pyramid built by the son of Khufu.
Tarrant was starting to feel unwell by this point, she was feeling nauseous and the heat wasn’t helping. We sat in the shade for a bit until she felt well enough to carry on, then we sat at the foot of the pyramid by the pink granite casing stones that adorned the bottom of the pyramid. This bad boy still has some of its polished Toru limestone casing around the top which helps you imagine how it would have looked when covered in the stuff. We decided not to go inside this one. We figured you only needed to see the inside of one pyramid and it might as well be the big one.
I wanted to go to the panorama lookout but Tarrant wasn’t up for it so I left her in the shade and walked up to it by myself. Obviously every camel driver wanted to take me up there. I didn’t actually find them as awful and annoying as people made out. One review I read described the onslaught as being set up on by locusts. Sure, it’s near constant but it’s not overwhelming and generally follows the same script which I execute with an unwavering smile:
“You want a camel? I take you to the (insert name of attraction that you’re currently meandering towards)”
“No thank you.”
“I give you good price!”
“No thank you.”
“Where are you from?”
“Ah! Tally ho!” Or this could also be “Lovely jubbly!” and which ever one they say I started replying with the other one. One guy then responded with, “Fish and chips!” Then they try to get me on a camel again so I tell them I’m scared of camels/horses/large animals in general which isn’t a complete and utter lie and they’re not here to work through my issues so they leave me alone, then the cycle repeats ten metres up the road.
I got to the viewpoint and got my photo. A camel driver deviated from the script and told me he’d been to Yorkshire. I said Yorkshire was beautiful. He said it was cold. Well, yes, that too. Then I headed down to the teeny tiny Pyramid of Menkaure, a mere 62 metres tall, to meet up with Tarrant. By the time I got to her she’d been offered seven camel rides and a marriage proposal. Menkaure was the son of Khafre and they think he might have died before his pyramid was completed on account of the fact some of the construction is quite rough. It’s also got a fuck off great big hole in it from where some sultan or other in the 12th century opened it up in search of treasure. Knobhead.
We’d fully intended to go back to Mers Ankh’s tomb to see if it was open but Tarrant wasn’t going to last much longer and we deemed the Sphinx more of a must-see so that’s where we headed. We didn’t faff about in the complex in front of it, we just went straight to the lion/human combo to get our photos and bail. He’s missing his nose which was apparently lost before the 15th century, and the beard isn’t lost. We know exactly where the beard is. It’s in the British Museum. Because of course it is.
But yeah. Pyramids? Done them, mate. The other thing we’ve done is contracted some manner of stomach bug on our fifth day in Egypt. How wonderfully clichéd of us. When we got back to the hotel I became overwhelmingly tired. I assumed it was a carb coma given we’d just eaten koshari which is basically rice, pasta, spaghetti, beans and tomatoes, but when I woke up I felt a bit sick. Tarrant is a lot worse than me, she’s done nothing but sleep since we got back. I’m already feeling a lot better. We’re going to assume it was the dodgy meat of indeterminate origin we had last night and will probably now avoid sausage in a country that doesn’t consume pork.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Pyramids Of Giza, Giza Governorate, Egypt
أهرامات الجيزة ، محافظة الجيزة ، مصر
Stayed at: Capo Pyramid, Giza
Useful shit to know…
- It cost LE240 to get into the plateau, LE440 for the Pyramid of Khufu (Great Pyramid), LE50 for the Tomb of Mers Ankh III, and LE100 for the secondary pyramid which at the moment is Khafre.
- There’s only ever one of the secondary pyramids open at a time. I believe the Great Pyramid is always open.
- You have to buy the extra tickets at the main entrance, you can’t buy them at the Sphinx entrance.
- The solar boat that used to be behind the Great Pyramid has been moved to the GEM, the brand new museum that isn’t open yet.
- There are signs up advising that the official prices for camel or horse rides are LE350 per hour for foreigners and LE100 for Egyptians but you’re probably still going to have to haggle.
- The price I was repeatedly offered to take me a short distance was LE100 which is obviously a starting price.