Postcards from the Pyramids

Sometimes you dream about a place so much, fantasize about yourself in it for so long, that by the time you reach it, the “wow” you expected to feel is really more like a “meh.”

Well that was absolutely not the case with the Pyramids. In this case, I think the experience topped the fantasies.

But before I go on to gush, let me first say that it’s a requirement (and by requirement I mean I think you should really, really do it) to go to the Egyptian Museum first. And don’t just do it like I did, without a guide, because there are many things in there without prominent—or any—signage indicating what they are. You may be tempted to save the money and go it on your own like you normally do, as I was, but don’t because it’s a mistake. Luckily, I was able to go back as part of a function with a guide and it was like I’d never been there before.

*Note: I’d recommend emailing Ahmed Samir, a freelance tour guide, who was the best)

The guide, Ahmed at least, will make you feel Egypt’s ancient history. Make you want to comb over every inch of that museum, and of all of Egypt just to soak up as much about all that Egyptians were and are.

That new zeal is what’s going to make you even more passionate about the Pyramids.

Some tips: spend the extra to go inside the Great Pyramid. What you’ll see isn’t mind blowing, but it’s pretty cool. And how many times have you climbed the inside of a Pyramid? Yep, for most of us, probably a grand total of none.

*Note: climbing inside the Pyramids isn’t really for the elderly or less healthy or those with back problems. But no one will tell you that when you’re paying double the price for the go-inside ticket (though that ticket is still only $12). It requires a fair amount of climbing on what’s essentially a slanted ladder, at the same slant as the Pyramid’s slope. You’ll also have to duck while climbing. And it’s very hot. Just a heads up.

Also, pay for the camel ride. But negotiate your little heart out. You have to. When you’re done haggling, the ride should absolutely be less than $10.

It’s a one hour excursion that comes with a guide who will tell you what you’re seeing and be your personal photographer, using your camera. And they have all the ideas for all the best (and silliest) photos, which they’ll direct you in taking. You will have to tip them at the end. Oh, and don’t hand anyone your ticket. They’ll make themselves seem like an official ticket taker, but they’re really just holding you hostage while they try to convince you to pay them to be your personal guide of I don’t really know what.

Another tip: when you’ve moved from the Pyramids to the Sphinx and are walking out of the monument complex, you’ll probably be hungry. Walk straight out of the security check, cross the street and go into the restaurant in front of you. It’s called Abu Shakra and it’s right between a bookshop on the left and Pizza Hut on the right. The food is delicious, cheap (three of us ate full meals, with drinks and the total came to $16 and some change). And if you eat upstairs, you’ll have prime views of the Pyramids.

What the whole experience boiled down to, apart from the majesty of it all, was the people in my Pyramid party.

I made new friends on a Friday at the textile trade fair I was there for, and by Sunday we were jumping together for a trio photo in front of the Pyramids. We laughed and joked and colluded about prices we’d pay for things and it felt like we’d always been friends. This isn’t to say that going to the Pyramids requires turning strangers into friends, but it should include people who are fun. Because fun makes everything more beautiful.

Riding through the desert on a camel, past the only remaining ancient Wonder of the World, was like being in a dream. It was magic. And it made for one of those travel moments when you recount your blessings and remember how truly breathtaking it is to be able to see the world.