23 May 2014

Giza, Egypt 2008

My next sortie into Egypt after many years ...

Giza was a huge tourist hive, almost unrecognizable as a village from forty years ago. Cairo's urban growth has stretched all around. Teeming streets. We had to wait, patiently, in lineups, even to reach our lunch place.

While waiting and viewing the colourful passing scene (with a multitude of camels) we were treated to a furious harangue at the noon call to prayers. 

Can hardly blame the imam when you see an anomaly like this. He ranted for some time, calling on the faithful to reject the unbelievers ... for instance, the mostly-oblivious dumb tourists? Our local guide Saliba was embarrassed when I asked him to translate the gist and presumably softened the message for me.

The lunch venue was excellent with a postcard view of the pyramids, well staged. Literally. In the evening one would see a son et lumiรจre show from here, standard productions these days.

We were told lunch would be only soup, mezzes and fruit, i.e. no traditional (substantial) third course. Fine with me for sure but I pitied some of the big-guy eaters in our group. A few in our group were already experiencing the irregular urgency to run to the john which involved frantic searching for the elusive piastres needed to purchase toilet paper! We saw the pyramids from all sides. Now, tourists are only allowed to climb one small low-level section of the Great Pyramid. Nevertheless, the blocks are huge, and progress is slow. 

I was photographing my friend Mary Ann doing some climbing when this sandstorm blew up, just amazing and quite scary. It only lasted about a half hour, but visibility was hampered as in a snow storm. The effect of getting grit in your face and eyes was worse. Forewarned is forearmed; always have a handy scarf around your neck. Hoping the camera still works.

While some trooped off to see the recent excavation of a boat (yes, buried under the desert sand), yours truly spent time talking to camels and joking with the predatory camel-ride salesmen. We had a prearranged ride coming up so no need to haggle over their extortionate starting prices. Had some sign language discourse with a cop on a camel. He was happy with being slipped a little baksheesh for posing.

Finally, time for our camel ride that couldn't come soon enough. Guide Saliba had arranged it and promised me I would have “all the time you want.” He lied ... sigh. Sadly, the briefest ride on record. Not a real ride at all, just a rushed photo opp for a short distance, among an enthusiastic group of camel tenders pestering for more tips. You could say I was not impressed.

However. The glorious monuments are what we came to see; they are enduring and spectacular. So, it seems, is the industry they inevitably generated.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

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