Next stop: Giza, Egypt
Giza was even better than I could have ever expected. I had heard all sorts of feedback regarding Egypt- its safety, dirtiness, crowds, etc. but nothing could have prepared me for the magic that comes with seeing the pyramids and the sphinx right in front of you…….
With an extreme delay in my arrival time to Giza, I was tired and bummed. I was so determined to see these pyramids that I would do whatever it took. As soon as I missed my flight in Italy, I contacted my bed and breakfast in Giza who I had prearranged a driver with. I told them that I was not scheduled to arrive until 2am and was there any way I could possibly get a ride at that ungodly hour? Fortunately me they seemed to have no problem with the time and I was told the driver would be waiting for me. When I finally received my bag and walked out in the darkness of Cairo I was shocked to see dozens of cab drivers waiting for passengers. My driver Muhammad greeted me with a sign and my name and escorted me to his car. As he drove me through the dark streets of the city I was surprised to see people waiting for buses, eating meals at restaurants, and walking along the side of the road. As we got deeper into the city, I saw worked scrubbing side walks and even operating a fork lift in the complete darkness. It was bizarre! Muhammad told me it was the city that never slept. No kidding.
I arrived at 330am to my hotel. I was exhausted, I was confused, I wanted to sleep but was so excited to see the sites that my body only let me rest until 8am. Breakfast was on the rooftop and I had purposefully selected a small hotel right next to the pyramids for a breakfast view of the landscape. Walking up the steps to the roof, I had butterflies of anticipation in my stomach... it was the moment I had been waiting for since I was a child. And then there it was, in all its glory, right in front of me. Having seen the Roman and Greek ruins, in my mind I thought what I would witness would be somewhat destroyed- I mean these structures were CRAZY old- but what sat before me looked so beautiful and well preserved I almost felt as if it was fake. There was a Disney-like quality to the surreal landscape that stood before me. How could anything so old, large, and impressive be sitting so close to me?
All the chaos of the past few days, the money spent, the research done, the friends and family members I worried, all of it was worth it simply for this one moment. But then I got to explore. You could literally touch and walk onto the pyramids. I felt like I was committing a crime (which became a theme in Egypt). Where were the guards? Who was protecting this relic? Yes there was a payment to get in but then it was fair game! I couldn't believe it. Men on horses and camelback beckoned to me and other tourists for a ride to see the pyramids from all sides, but in my typical fashion, I wanted to walk.
I have always hated the feeling of being trapped— in a tour where I cant peruse things at my leisure, in a public vehicle where I cant stop as a please, on an animal’s back on some group adventure. I didn’t want to miss out on things and as a photographer I always found that I stopped more and for longer periods of time than any of my fellow companions.
I was fortunate enough to visit the Sphinx first and met a very nice man who lived in Germany and was Hungarian. We had both arrived to the pyramids so early that they were virtually empty. We were the only visible non-Muslims and were both traveling alone, so we gravitated towards each other and decided to join forces for our exploration. We walked around all the pyramids and even stumbled upon some archeologists who were in the process of uncovering more tombs! I couldn't believe after all this time they were still finding things!
After our explorations it was back to the hotel to pack and leave for Alexandria. Nothing like rushing through some of the most important history in the world!
My 3am driver had specifically told me to try the "hot hummus” before I left and I thought it would make the perfect pre-travel quick lunch. Contrary to the hummus I had experienced everywhere else in the world, hot hummus was a broth that could be made spicy or mild and contained chickpeas. It was warm and intended for eating and then drinking. Odd. Tasty yes, but I was not into the concept of drinking the broth that had a similar salty consistency to brine so I finished the meal once the last chickpea had been consumed.
Faster than I could have imagined it was off to the train station to head north to Alexandria. The traffic was absolutely insane the entire drive. It was not rush hour, this was just what the hours of daylight were like in Cairo. In a city with an average of 3 actual lanes, cars, motorcycles and trucks had decided to fashion 5-6 lanes across. There were no cross walks and local people ran and weaved across main roads and highways. Everyone honked, but more as a friendly warning, thank you, or permission, rather than out of anger. There seemed to be absolutely no order to anything, and yet, everyone was able to work together in a beautiful strategic mess.
While the airport process was moderately simple (even though it took more than 45 minutes to get my bag) the train station was a whole other process. Cars cannot approach the station directly so I was dropped off in an intersection of downtown Cairo by a man who only spoke Arabic who pointed in a general direction to signify the train was that way. I had a massive rolling suitcase, a heavy camera bag and my purse, plus was running on 5 hours of sleep. It was not a good combo. Through motioning and making Choo Choo noises for directions, I finally entered the train station. This building, like every other entry to a building in Egypt including large hotels, required all luggage and humans