“Man fears time, but time fears the Pyramids.”
Intense sunlight was already beating down on the Pyramids of Giza when we arrived at 8:00 am. Despite the heat and the early hour, throngs of tourists already crowded around the base of the Great Pyramid, gawking as it towered above them. It seemed that for every few tourists there was at least one vendor tagging along, trying to sell scarves or little soapstone pyramids. Despite all of the people, the atmosphere was subdued and quiet, owing either to the extreme heat or a collective reverence for the looming tombs of long-dead Pharaohs.
We could see people lining up to enter the Great Pyramid and, tickets in hand, we took our place in line. I was hoping that the air inside the chamber would offer a reprieve from the intense heat of the sun, but I quickly learned that the air conditioning on our tour bus would be my only escape. The narrow passageway inside of the pyramid equaled the heat outside, but had significantly less airflow.
The path inside of the pyramid began as a narrow tunnel with low-hanging ceilings. We had to crouch as we climbed upward into the unknown, hugging the walls whenever another person passed us on their descent. After a while, the tunnel opened up into another hallway that was much steeper, and had a high ceiling. My eyes were drawn upward, and I felt a sense of dizziness that was caused by a combination of the imposing architecture and a lack of fresh air.
After another laborious climb we were in the King’s Chamber, a stone room that was empty save for the large, granite sarcophagus that once contained the mummy of Khufu who ruled in the 26th century BC.
Although the novelty of being inside of a pyramid hadn’t quite worn off, we didn’t spend much time in the chamber because of the intense heat, lack of airflow, and a pervasive odor. Sweating, we descended back through the narrow tunnels, and stepped into the blinding light of day. Most of the rest of our Percussive Tours group was still inside of the pyramid, so we scooted to the side and waited for them.
We could see the buildings of Cairo stacked closely together in the distance as we lounged on the side of the pyramid, and I realized that my jet lag addled mind hadn’t fully grasped how monumental (pun intended) it was that I was touching the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. I felt a more appropriate sense of awe after this epiphany, and made sure to soak in the moment until the rest of our group had reassembled.
Our next stop was a panoramic viewpoint where we could see all of the pyramids. It was a nice view and we managed to accomplish something that to my knowledge has never before been done in Percussive Tours history. We got a picture with every single member of the group including our tour organizer, Jared.
After some time to appreciate the view, eight of us opted to take a camel ride downhill to the sphinx. Our Egyptologist guide, Adel, set us up with some camel owners and before we knew it we were lumbering through the desert on the bumpy-gaited creatures.
The ride resulted in the best view of the pyramids that we would have for the entire trip, and there was an almost-cool breeze as we crested a dune that overlooked the entire necropolis.
Halfway through the ride, we stopped to take some extremely cheesy pictures. Our Bedouin guide instructed us to do a pose where it looked like we were touching the top of the pyramids (a favorite amongst tourists), and one where he tried to make it look like we were holding up massive boulders by holding a stone near my camera. This didn’t really pan out because my lens was set to a wide aperture, which resulted in a picture that looks more confusing than anything.
Cheesy photos acquired, we continued our ride to the sphinx where Adel met back up with us and gave us a brief outline of its history.
Soon it was time to move on and visit Memphis, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt. We stopped at the museum of Memphis first. The museum houses a massive statue of King Ramses II, a beautiful alabaster sphinx, and a series of other statues and sarcophagi.
Next up was Saqqara, a necropolis of ancient Memphis that is home to the step pyramid of Djoser. We walked through the pillared funerary complex of Djoser, where a Bedouin man asked me to take a picture of him with one of the other members of our group, Braeden. He handed me Braeden’s camera and I obliged. Then the man proceeded to try to get me to tip him because I took a picture of him with someone else’s camera upon his request. Naturally I refused, but this set the tone of what to expect for rest of the trip as we toured temples and tombs.
In addition to the step pyramid, which is regarded to be the earliest colossal stone structure in Egypt, Saqqara houses the Pyramid of Teti. This pyramid, which looks more like a sand dune these days, contains pyramid texts. The texts are a vast series of spells and utterances written in Old Egyptian and meant to guide the spirit of the deceased into the afterlife.
We had to climb down another narrow passageway to view the carvings in Teti’s tomb, which turned out to be even more fascinating than the Great Pyramid. The walls were completely covered in tiny hieroglyphics that would take a person years to examine thoroughly.
By the time we were done at Saqqara everyone was getting hungry, so we took a break for lunch before visiting an Egyptian rug factory and the Papyrus Institute. Then we had some time back at our hotel where we took a much-needed swim in the pool.
On a whim, we decided to go see the Pyramid Sound and Light show that evening. It turned out to be absolutely hilarious. The show is extremely outdated and laughably over-dramatic. When we weren’t being lulled to sleep out of boredom, we were cracking up. I filmed a few snippets towards the beginning, but quickly gave up and just enjoyed the spectacle.
We went straight to bed after the sound and light show. It had been a long day, and we had another long day ahead of us in Cairo.