No glossy spread in my elementary school textbook or Discovery Channel special could have prepared me for our visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza. Anticipating a remarkably awe-inspiring experience relishing one of the world’s most outstanding historical sites, we had another thing coming.
Contrary to what most people think the pyramids aren’t in the middle of the desert. Quite the contrary. They are located in the trashy suburb of Giza, 20 minutes outside of Cairo. Yep, Egypt’s three crowned jewels stand guarded behind a wired fence overlooking sprawling Cairo’s polluted skyline.
Hopping in an early morning taxi north to Giza, we arrived just before sunrise. Trash covered the streets and exhaust filled the air as we were greeted by money-hungry Egyptians touting rides on their rib-bearing horses and colorfully ornamented, cheeky camels. Making our way through the congested streets and fighting off the army of aggressive scammers who stood in our way, we caught our first sight of the ancient site. There before us, in the soft light of early morning, the peaks of the Great Pyramids of Giza peeped out behind a massive billboard and skyline dotted with KFC’s and Pizza Huts.
The morning would get worse before it got better. After arguing our way out of a shady scam involving our taxi driver and a stable owner, we found ourselves on the backs of two horses bound for the foothills of the pyramids…or so we thought. Our hour-long, sunrise horseback journey first lead us down littered alleyways teeming with traffic. Hummers, horse-drawn carriages, camels and Range Rovers zig-zagged through the lane-less streets in all directions. People hung out of SUV’s and off the backs of horses spraying hot pink silly string at each other while blaring rap music from their bass-heavy sound systems. The complete chaos had our horses bucking out of control, so bad in fact Ryan was knocked off his horse.
Where the hell were we? Was this really Giza? Or had we wandered onto the set of a Mexican gangster movie? Wherever we were, it was total anarchy and it was only 6 a.m.
Here’s a glimpse at the early morning scene caught on video while holding on to dear life on horseback.
We did arrive to the pyramids and for a brief few minutes enjoyed the views. This was soon interrupted by our guide hounding us for backsheesh (tips) and sending us on our merry way back to the thuggish streets of Giza.
Off the back of the horses and back on our own two feet, we spent a few somewhat peaceful hours walking the grounds of the pyramids. It was here, standing at the base of the ancient monstrosities close enough to touch them, that we really took in their beauty and significance. Looking out across the swelling dunes lined with caravans of camels under a blue sky and puffy white clouds, we began to feel the history and uncover the draw of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Seeing the ancient pyramids and the wealth of sights that Egypt offers should be an experience you’ll never forget, right? More like something you’re hoping to forget. The touts are ruthless and the experience borders on the traumatic. Yet, still they photograph well with the backdrop the Cairenes have not yet developed.
All that being said, aren’t these photos fantastic? Hopefully not good enough to get you here.