We decided that we could not leave Egypt without seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx, so at the start of the trip we booked a day-excursion to Cairo, not realising how full our regular daily schedule would be. We had to get up at 03:30, were given tea and cake and a rather stodgy and dull packed breakfast of white rolls, cheese, meat, and water, and driven to the airport for our flight. The only others from our group who chose this excursion were a lovely couple, Lynn and Gary, from Wigan near Manchester.
We flew with Egyptair, which has the head of Horus as its insignia.
A new guide met the four of us, and several others who joined from different ships, and we were driven by coach for 90 minutes through Cairo to the Pyramids - in silence. We could not believe this young guide/Egyptologist missed so many opportunities to tell us about the buildings we passed or about culture and life in Cairo! So different to Sahar, who used every opportunity to enlighten us about her country and culture, in the most enthralling way.
The traffic is hectic, especially as there are no lanes marked on the roads.
We passed the Citadel on top of a hill, which was built in 1176 by Saladin. Next to it is the Alabaster Mosque built 150 years ago.
We passed this ancient quarry, where red sandstone was mined in antiquity, and from where the stone for the Collossi of Memnon came.
Our first glimpse of the pyramids.
The great pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.
The second biggest pyramid, that of Kafhre. At the top one can see the remains of the polished limestone covering, which originally smoothed the surface of all the pyramids.
Close-up of the pyramid building blocks, showing how the sandstone has eroded.
A perspective on the middle pyramid, which is the one we could enter.
The subterranean entrance to the middle pyramd.
We had to leave our cameras behind, and descend in a stooped position along a passage for 75m to get to the central burial chamber. All there was to see in the sarcophagus chamber was some graffitti by Belzoni, an antiquities dealer 200 years ago.
Sandi took her life in her hands by snapping this picture of one of the Tourist Police. They get very upset if they see you taking pictures of them.
The pyramid of Menkaura is the smallest of the three.
Next to it the pharaoh built 3 tiny pyramids for his wife, mother and daughter.
From the official viewpoint, one can see all three pyramids on the Giza Plateau.
Sandi and Lynn.
Crowned with a pyramid. We had to capture this for an amusing perspective on having a "pointy-head"!
Nearby the camels rested, waiting patiently for tourists to ride them.
We then moved down the hill to the Sphinx, which at first impression, was smaller than we had imagined!
Close-up, one appreciates how big it is, especially considering that it was carved out of a single block of bedrock!
The one has a nose, and the other not!
Most of the body was buried beneath the desert sand, and one can see scaffolding at the rear, indicating on-going restoration work.
Gary and Lynn.
It was fun trying to deceive one's perspective!
In front of the Sphinx lies the ruins of the Sphinx Temple, which may have never been completed. Next to it is the Valley Temple of Kafhre, built at the same time as the Sphinx, and built of the same easily-eroded sandstone. The walls were originally dressed with red granite from Aswan, and the floors paved with alabaster. The cut-outs in the floor originally held 24 statues, one for each hour of the day.
By this time, we were ready for lunch, so were driven to a restaurant [TGI Fridays] on a ship moored on the Nile, for an utterly vile meal. Even though hungry, since the breakfast wasn't very palatable, Sandi found it impossible to eat the grilled chicken meal, which was cremated - not grilled - and David managed to choke his down with glugs of over-priced beer! Several folk complained, but the guide couldn't do anything about it, and the restaurant staff wouldn't, and couldn't give a damn into the bargain. What a disappointing experience - certainly not up to Thomson Travel standards - particularly as the excursion was at significant extra cost.
We passed many blocks of apartments in the city, studded with thousands of satellite dishes.
The afternoon was spent at the Cairo Egyptian Museum, where we joined throngs of tourists, all milling and flapping around the rather shabby and tired displays.
Statues and ancient artifacts are dotted about the gardens.
The pond contains both lotus and papyrus plants, representing the Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively.
It was so difficult to hear our guide inside the museum, that we eventually wandered off on our own to explore the treasures of Tutankh-amun. This small, enclosed exhibition was utterly spectacular. The famous burial mask and triple coffins made of solid gold and beautifully adorned, are truly breathtaking! We could only gasp in wonder at the intricate engravings on the coffins and the perfectly preserved jewellery. What a civilization!
One of the three coffins in which his mummy was encased.
The iconic burial mask from the side, showing a false "beard". Egyptian men were clean-shaven, and beards were sacred to the gods. Pharaohs were endowed with a beard to signify god-like qualities.
Tutankh-amun's scarab pectoral, encrusted with precious stones, and worn on the chest.
One of Tutankh-amun's pendants, displaying goddess Wadjet, depicted as a cobra, and the wings and eye of Horus.
Unfortunately we couldn't take photos inside the museum, as one of the cabinets in King Tut's room had an ancient condom on display, which would have made a rather unusual photo for the blog.
After a hectic, but very interesting day, we boarded our plane for the flight back to Luxor, arriving back on the ship at 22:00 - to two plates of yet more bread rolls and cheese, as we had missed dinner. A considerate gesture, but too much refined white glue for our constitutions, so we munched some fresh pomegranate seeds instead. On checking the schedule for our special 30th Anniversary excursion next morning, we could only laugh when we saw that we would have to be up again at 03:30! Obviously, sleep is not a priority on this trip!