After our first night of real sleep since leaving for our trip L. and I woke up rested and ready to start the day. It felt so good to take a shower and put on clean clothes. AY. picked us up early today around 9:30 and drove us to Giza. Upon arriving in the city you can see the pyramids towering in the background, but because there is so much pollution they look ethereal. AY. dropped us at the ticket counter and this is where our education began.
Today we learned:
- People will try to help you, when you don’t need help, and then expect a tip for their (your) trouble.
- No fee/I don’t want any money means I expect you to give me money.
- Do not take anything from anybody, esp. when they tell you it is a gift and start quickly unwrapping packages.
- ALWAYS set the price beforehand, even if you think you already have, and emphasize the fact that you will be paying in Egyptian Pounds.
- Make the camel driver drop you off where there are other people.
- Carry money in a wallet, not in a money belt and never let anyone see US dollars.
We should have read the sign before visiting the ticket office. On it we would have seen that it costs 60EP to enter the site, 30EP to enter the second pyramid, and 100EP to enter the main pyramid. When we asked for tickets to see the pyramids the ticket agent gave us 2 tickets to enter the second pyramid We took these tickets to the entrance gate and the man there told us we needed a ticket to enter the site, but not to worry because he would get it for us. Instead of going over and getting the tickets ourselves, like we should have done, he told us he would get us two student tickets (half the price of the regular tickets). When he came back he had pocketed the rest of the money (40EP) and then wanted a tip on top of that. Handing out money left and right gets tiring quickly.
After going through metal detectors we were able to enter the site. As soon as we stepped out the other door someone asked to see our tickets and said don’t worry I work here. He took our tickets and started walking us to some structure. When we got there we told him that L. and I wanted to walk around the pyramid on our own and he said okay we will go here and here and then we can get a carriage, and we this and we that. We said no, us without you, and again the we this and we that, this time with illustrations in the sand of all of the wonderful things we three would do at the pyramids. This time we said no, not with you and walked away. Luckily he did not follow.
At this point we were very hungry because we hadn’t yet had breakfast. We decided to fast track it to food and look at the pyramids later. We walked out of the site and asked the guard if we would be able to reenter with the same ticket. He said, “Yes, do you have a pen?” I gave him one thinking he had to mark on the ticket in some way. Instead he shook the pen at me and said, “A souvenir” and proceeded to keep it!
In the city we found a delicious fruit smoothie place. For less than $1 L. and I both got a glass of strawberry, some Egyptian fruit, and mango, with banana and pear slices. It was delicious. Then we went and had a proper meal. We found a kebab restaurant and ordered kebab. When the food was delivered we couldn’t believe the portions. We must have gotten an entire chicken, along with a pound of mixed meats. We stayed at the restaurant a long time, but we (mostly L.) ate all of it.
Sayings that Hint Trouble:
- My friend, my friend (followed by anything)
- I make you very happy, you make me very happy (with money)
- No problem, no problem
- A gift, a gift
- America forever
- Where are you from?
- Don’t worry
- I work here
Back at the pyramids we went to see the Sphinx first. It truly is spectacular. The base of the Sphinx is protected by a stonewall, so it must be viewed from a story or two up. Behind the Sphinx you can see the first and second pyramid in the distance. We spent some time taking photos and talking with a man from Vermont.
My personal space was invaded for the first time on our way to view the pyramids. L. and I were walking through the sand up a large hill to get back to the first pyramid when a man approached L. and asked him where he was from. L. replied America and a broken conversation started. As we kept walking up the hill the man shoved something in L.’s hands and said a present for you. L. said thank you but I don’t need a present and tried to give it back. The man wouldn’t take it so we hurried on. The man ran up to me and said a present for you and shoved the same thing in my hands. We kept walking and he followed. He ran up to in front of me and took the thing he gave me out of my hands. L. and stopped walking, big mistake, Before I knew it he took my hat off of my head, unwrapped the package, and shoved the traditional desert headdress on my head. A second man ran up and quickly began unwrapping three pyramid statues and shoved them into L.’s hand and then demanded money from him. L. said we don’t want any of this stuff and they started yelling at him. L. gave them some money to get them to stop. What a hassle. We did learn that if this happens again to just drop whatever it is they shove at you and not to stop walking no matter what.
Inside the pyramid.
We made it to the second pyramid where we had tickets to go inside. The way into the pyramid is down a narrow, low-ceilinged, poorly lit shaft that looks never ending. We followed a line of people down until we reached the actual entrance. People were both going down and coming up at the same time. I panicked and couldn’t do it. It took three or four times for me to attempt entering before I finally got up the courage to go in (I waited until it was only L. and I in the shaft) I proceeded to run down the wooden planks, bent over at the waist because the shaft must have only been 4 ft tall by 5 ft wide. I didn’t want to get caught in the shaft with another person. Once you have gone thirty to forty feet down the shaft straightens out and the ceiling raises to about 5’9”. You have to walk another twenty to thirty feet before having to walk up another narrow, low-ceilinged shaft that leads to another straight shaft and into the burial chamber. The heat inside was suffocating. Inside there were no hieroglyphs and only the bottom of a large, unadorned sarcophagus. After spending a minute or two inside the chamber we made our way back to fresh air. I’m glad I worked up the courage to go in; it was quite an experience.
L. and I decided that we wanted to take a camel ride to the third pyramid. The guidebook said camel rides cost 35EP for an hour ride, but to negotiate. We found a camel rider who agreed to take us for 30EP. The ride started out innocent enough, a slow walk toward the far pyramid. When the camel driver stopped the camel my personal space was invaded for the second time. The camel driver had the camel bend down and he climbed on and proceeded to sit in my lap! I was so uncomfortable sandwiched between the driver and L. as the camel ran across the desert. All along the way the camel driver kept saying, “Are you happy? I make you very happy, you make me very happy.” We got to the third pyramid, took some pictures and then returned to near the first pyramid. When we stopped the camel driver made us get off in an area where there weren’t any people. He then said we needed to pay him $30. We said, no we agreed on 30EP (about $6). He started yelling at us. We gave him his money and left. The people of the pyramids are like pirates, they really give Egypt a bad name. The silver lining is we learned from this and can share the info we E. so that she doesn’t run into the same problem.
On our way out of Giza we stopped at the first pyramid again to climb up it to where the burial chamber entrance starts. L. and I went individually up so that we could get pictures. I went up first and then L. When L. was climbing my personal space was invaded for the final time. When I was sitting near the pyramid a little girl with a nose totally crusted over with bright green buggers came up and asked me for a piece of gum. I gave her a piece and she hugged me and kissed me on the check. For the next 10 minutes as I waited for L. she asked me for a piece of gum every minute. I would say, “I already gave you a piece” and she would reply “Oh yeah, oh yeah, I sorry.”
I was happy to get back to our house. The pyramids are cool, but it’s exhausting being approached every two seconds and asked for money. On a side note I discovered that gas station bathrooms are incredibly clean and the preferable place to stop to use the lou.