Here, we've arrived at the "Welcome Center" or whatever you want to call it where they charge you roughly 40LE (Egyptian Pounds -- one dollar = six LE, so about 7 bucks) to get in to see the pyramid:
For reference, here's Andrea standing on one of the blocks at the base:
There are two things I cannot ever accurately describe to you sufficently enough to convey just how insane they are in Egypt: The traffic and the vendors. Above, they're at our bus IMMEDIATELY to sell us trinkets like cat statues, pyramid statues, sets of 10 ink pens with Egyptian decorations, maps, bookmarks made of fake Papyrus, postcards -- anything and everything. They do not take "no" for an answer, and not in the way we think a used car salesman doesn't take "no" for an answer. They actually take ANYTHING YOU SAY, up to and including "No," "Fuck you," "Seriously eat shit and die" and "Your mother is a whore" as an invitation to dialog, and they will NOT leave you alone until you've entered a building with a guard or gotten back in the bus.
A real exchange, that happened more than once, after instance after instance of saying "no" or trying to ignore these pests:
Me: "Fuck you."
Vendor: "Oh I like the english curse words! Yes, yes, fuck you! England or USA?"
See? The ONLY way to get rid of them once you've talked to them is to buy something -- and the second you whip out your wallet, there is a mad rush of them to you to sell you what THEY have, and then THEY won't leave you alone.
Even if you try to walk past, they'll drape whatever they're selling to you on your arm, hand it to you, lie and say it's a gift. If you take it, they will try to sell you 200 other things, and when you leave wherever you're at, they'll find you and force you to pay, refusing to accept the item back.
There is NOTHING ELSE LIKE THIS I've ever experienced, ever, in my life. There is now something that ranks as more annoying than telemarketers and Jehovah's Witnesses, and I never thought that would ever happen.
The ONLY defense is to say nothing. NOTHING at all. Do not make eye contact. Move forward and move on. NO smiling, NO frowning, just keep going. That's how they realize you've realized what they are and how they act, and they finally leave you alone. But if you say a thing -- anything -- even if they touch you, you're snared.
At any rate, here's what Cairo looks like from midway up the Great Pyramid (click for full-size panorama):
We made our way to the panorama view of all three pyramids (click for full-size panorama):
And here's what the three look like, a little more close-up:
And here's what the medium-sized one looks like, much more close up. The stuff at the top is a limestone casing covering the outer granite. They say that the limestone-tipped pyramids were then coated in gold leaf, which reflected the sun and shone like beacons -- which is why the pyramid on our One Dollar Bill has light rays coming off of it:
At the panorama, you can rent a camel:
Technically, you can rent a camel nearly anywhere in Egypt -- but our guides told us very clearly "NEVER TRUST A CAMEL DRIVER." Because the guides were Egyptians, I don't think they were being racist.
Apparently, if you are a tourist and you rent a camel from a camel driver without a guide, representative, or native Egyptian, what they will do is lie to you about how much, even tell you it's free, until you get on. And camels are TALL -- so when you're done with your ride, they won't let the camel kneel down so you can get off until you pay whatever they try to extort from you. Thankfully, our guide knew how to handle them and arranged for our group to go together and pay a flat fee.
The reason the vendors, camel drivers and such are so desperate -- since the revolution, tourism in general has dried up. More on this later. For now, enjoy seeing Andrea get on a camel:
And here's me, trying to use the stick shift on the camel:
In the main courtyard / temple, there are blocks stacked to form corners -- but they aren't stacked into a corner, they're literally carved and shaved to form a corner on each block, to prevent crumbling due to erosion:
Here's Mr. Sphinx, with no nose:
And a macro shot:
And another shot, because fuck it, it's my blog and I like it:
After the tour of the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx, we got a great lesson on how real papyrus is made at Sondos Papyrus:
(We bought the painting he's holding the papyrus plant in front of, it's immaculate)
Each of these pieces is hand-painted on original, real no kidding papyrus. They're beautiful.
Cameras weren't allowed in, and this place was HEAVILY patrolled by Egypitan Police, because there's something on the order of two three hundred pounds of gold inside, not to mention the irreplacable Egyptian antiquities. So I have no photos. But it was truly educational, and you can see some of the best stuff when the King Tut exhibit comes to a town near you next time. Trust me, it's worth it.
After all that activity, Andrea and I had a nice dinner cruise to ourselves:
The Nile in Cairo is truly beautiful:
Especially at night:
But I couldn't help but focus on how beautiful my wife is:
Even when she's sleepy: