Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wanders Among Cairo’s Ancient Wonders ~

Sphinx:
"I bear witness of the will of Cheops, my father: to defy time, forever. I saw Anthony and Cleopatra pass. Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon paused at my feet. I saw ambitious dreams of conquerors whirling like dead leaves. As my motto, I chose an Arab saying: 'The world fears time, but time fears the Pyramids.'

From the book "Wonders of the Pyramids: The Sound and Light of Giza," introduced by Zahi Hawass. American University in Cairo Press (AUC Press, 2010)
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Great Sphinx - Giza, Egypt
Sometimes we’ve been let down by a tourist destination; usually the kind where we’ve believed the hype and expected more than what we found. We wondered if our outing to Giza, the Cairo suburb where the Pyramids and Sphinx are located, would be one of those experiences.  Smog could obscure our views and suburbia has surrounded these centuries old desert delights, guidebooks warned.

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Sphinx with suburbia as a neighbor - Giza, Egypt
On the flip side, sometimes we end up in such amazing places that we need to pause and allow ourselves to absorb the place; a mental ‘pinch’ you give yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming – the kind of moment in which you give thanks for being fortunate enough to be at that particular place on earth.

The latter is how we found ourselves on the morning we toured the Egyptian Pyramids and Sphinx. They didn’t disappoint! As imagined scenes we’d carried with us through the years came to life, we tried to comprehend the scope of  history to which we were bearing witness. Our brains were numbed by the size and the grandeur of these wonders from the Ancient World.

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Wandering among Ancient Wonders - Giza, Egypt
The Sphinx (which means ‘strangler’) with the body of a lion and the head of a person, simply knocked our socks off - as proven by the number of photos of us we let the guide take of us with the Sphinx as a backdrop. 

But we almost needed a photo like the one above to assure us we hadn’t dreamt it all.  Yes, we really were standing at this amazing structure believed to have been built for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khafre during his reign, 2520-2494BC. (The date alone is mind-boggling!)

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The Great Sphinx and Pyramid - Giza, Egypt
Egyptians built sphinxes, usually with the head sporting the likeness of a Pharaoh or god, to guard tombs and temples.  This one, the Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the oldest and largest statues in the world; its head believed to be the likeness of the Pharaoh Khafra. It faces to the east (sunrise) and guards the pyramid tombs to its rear.

At 241 feet long, 20 feet wide and 66 feet high, it is enormous. The eyes alone are 6 feet tall, the ears three feet and the nose - before it was knocked off - is believed to have been five feet long.

(About that missing nose:  for decades Napoleon and his men got the blame for the ‘nose job’ but other stories say it was Turkish soldiers and yet others say it was chiseled off by someone who considered the Sphinx as evil.)

Undated photo - source and attribution not available
I found this un-dated photo of the Sphinx covered with sand (source and attribution not available). which shows how erosion and weather have affected it in the last 4,500 years.  The Sphinx once had a beard which served to help support the head. A portion the beard is in the British Museum in London.  Beard or not – the Sphinx should be on your ‘must see’ list.

Sadly, pollution and rising ground water are now joining that blowing sand as threats to the Sphinx, which is said to have been carved from bedrock in an ancient causeway, and repair work is on-going.
 
The Giza Plateau

The Plateau is home to the Great Sphinx and the famous Pyramids, Wonders of the Ancient World.  What we hadn’t realized before our visit was the vast number of cemeteries and tombs – far less grand in size and design that are tucked into the hill along the causeways and that border the Pyramids.

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Camel ride vendor rides among tombs - Giza Plateau, Egypt

Standing in the shadow of the first of the three Pyramids on a warm late December morning it was easy to understand why they are considered such wonders.  You can’t help but wonder how in the world they were ever built back in a time without computer-assisted-drafting and modern-day construction equipment.

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Size as compared to modern day vehicles and buildings - Giza, Egypt
We’ve all seen photos of the Pyramids but until you are there, looking at their towering height and substantial girth and the size of the stones used to create them, you can’t quite get the feel of  just how enormous they are and the feat of their construction. Each stone weighs several tons and the number of them used in construction is mind-blowing: 2.3 million in the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) alone!

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Humans carved and placed these stones - Giza, Egypt
I am not a fan of small places so we opted not to crawl/walk through the Pyramids. It can be done at an additional cost (not included in the entry ticket).  We opted to climb a bit of the stairway to the entrance – I am five feet tall to give you an idea of the size of stones put into place by the hands of human workers.

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Camel ride, anyone? Giza Plateau, Egypt
You can also hire camels to get you from one viewing area to another, but we chose to be driven by our guide. The ‘crush’ of souvenir and camel ride touts didn’t materialize; we may have been approached by a few but they quickly left us alone when we indicated no interest in their products.  Tourism has tanked and those who make a living from those visitors are suffering.

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Mystical, magical and somewhat smog-obscured Pyramids - Giza, Egypt
You could visit the Pyramids on your own, using public transportation or taxis to get there. We opted for a half-day private tour and selected a company, Ramasside Tours, that had been highly recommended by Tripadvisor users. We’d used the same company for our airport to hotel transfer and again for a transfer when it came time to leave Cairo. Our guide was knowlegeable and the driver had nerves of steel.

We hope you’ll join us next week when we head off to explore the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo. Thanks for the time you spent with us today. Happy and safe  travels to you and yours ~

Linking up today:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday Weekend Travel Inspiration


40 comments:

  1. What an blog you have. And what an amazing life you live!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by - I just paid a return visit to your blog and the comment form never came up so hope you see this response anyway. A fun blog you've created and loved the Monday chuckles!

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    2. I know about the comment box problem; some wacky blogger issue that I can't figure out. It happens to me on other blogs. One solution is to click on the back button on your browser. The comment box usually appears like magic :)

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  2. Egypt is high on my list, but it doesn't even appear on Steve's! I taught 6th grade history for years and loved teaching about the Egyptians.

    Thanks for a little virtual visit.

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    1. Oh my goodness - if you get a chance, especially since you've taught about it - you should visit. I am glad Joel kept prodding us to do it and not put it off any longer. It was amazing, simply amazing!

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  3. This is a lovely post which shares in palletable form the history of such a magnificent place.
    You should be a History teacher!
    I've been to Cairo but alas, had a different experience ie: I was hassled by touts and felt it quite aggressive. But I'm so glad you had a different experience and have shared it here...it's helped me have a different view of the place

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    1. Hi Bed, thanks for the lovely comment - I like researching, but far prefer travel writing to the thought of being a teacher (although I once did aspire to that profession) ;-). I suspect the touts - who were few in numbers - have someone given up on the tourist trade. There simply are so few tourists that it probably isn't worth their time. There simply were no crowds at the pyramids and we were among a smattering of folks at the Museum (next week's post). Sorry you had a bad experience there and glad I showed a bit different side of the place.

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  4. From your beautiful photos, it seemed like you picked the perfect to visit the Pyramids. What a feat of engineering! Truly mind-boggling.

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    1. Sadly with tourism's drop it created a double edged sword: bad for Egypt and its economy but good for those of us who did/do venture there.

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  5. Thanks! I really feel I understand being there better than I have from any other accounts I've read.

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  6. Thanks! I really feel I understand being there better than I have from any other accounts I've read.

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  7. We've been talking about Egypt since I read your last post and are thinking that 2016 might/should be the year we make the journey, at the very least to Cairo. Visiting the Great Pyramids and sailing down the Nile have seemed so far off the list of possible destinations due to the political turmoil that we'd long since removed it from our current list. However, reading your posts have me dreaming of visiting one of the ancient wonders and sooner rather than later while the crowds of tourists are far away. I'll be in touch when we start planning and thanks for igniting the dream again!

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    1. We purchased round trip air, Cairo-Seattle-Cairo so will also be returning to Egypt in 2016 -- late March. Plan to spend a few days in Cairo, perhaps Alexandria, then return for our springtime in Greece. Do stay in touch!

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  8. Mystical, magical and magnificent! Wow! Great photos! I would love to visit Egypt and see these wonders. Ancient history has always fascinated me.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Marie! You know I wasn't that enthralled with ancient history until we took our Middle East cruise last spring and now I can't get enough of it! Hope you'll come back next week - we'll be at the Cairo Museum!

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  9. Egypt and the pyramids are so magnificent! I enjoyed visiting again with you.

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    1. Glad you could join us on another jaunt in Egypt Carole! Thanks for stopping by ~

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  10. It's amazing and from the photos doesn't seem nearly as over crowded as we had been led to believe

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    1. Well before the political turmoil and terrorists, I do believe it was very crowded. Several have commented that it 'didn't look like that when we were there' back before 2008. It was nice for us having it so empty but I feel bad for the Egyptians.

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  11. Wow. I've often wondered whether to Pyramids would live up to their hype. I'm so pleased that you think so. The photos are exciting.

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    1. The Sphinx was the one that really blew us away, Jan, but I have to admit that walking toward the Pyramids from the parking lot, seemed unreal. . .I never dreamed I'd ever see them, and yet, there I was. Thanks for the visit!

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  12. What amazing photos! The one that reeally has me bowled over, althought it does make sense, is you two standing on one of those giant cubes of the pyramid. Why of course they have to be that big... but you don't realize it till you are actually there.

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    1. The stones were simply amazing Mary - their size and the precision of the cut - not to mention the structure itself was absolutely mind-boggling. Not only a wonder of the Ancient world but of the modern day as well. . .thanks for the visit!

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  13. You described here exactly how I felt when I visited the pyramids in Giza: a little skeptical at the prospect, but then absolutely blown away! I did go into one pyramid: there wasn't much to see, but the walk gives you a powerful sense of the size of the thing!

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    1. It is pretty amazing to go from, "Oh well, we are here, we really should see them" to "Oh my God, look at that!" isn't it? Glad you enjoyed them as well Rachel!

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  14. I think Giza will not disappoint anybody. The magnitude of the pyramids are only understood when standing next to them And then, you understand it a bit more when you try to climb them.

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    1. Absolutely, Ruth! It is amazing to stand near them and realize just how magnificent they are! Thanks for the visit~

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  15. Wow - what an amazing experience. Guess we need to check it out for ourselves. So glad you decided to make the trip!

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    1. You two would love it and especially the wooden ship museum near by. We are kicking ourselves for not making time to see it. . .but keep saying, "When we go back. . ."

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  16. I also loved wandering among the pyramids. It doesn't look that croweded while you are there. Great photos!

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    1. It wasn't at all crowded Corinne and I guess we have the political upheaval and terrorism threat to thank for that. In fact just read two days ago that a bomb blast attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood had taken the life of six policemen in Gaza. So terribly sad. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

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  17. The pyramids are impressive, aren't they? Like you, I've wondered how so-called primitive Man could accomplish these feats of engineering and architecture without the array of tools we have now - structures that last thousands of years.
    It is true that we humans use the materials at our disposal. With our current trend towards glass buildings, I wonder how many will be around 100 years from now?
    Thanks for the tour, Jackie! Glad you went when you did. Love the emptiness of it - it's like you had the entire place to yourself. Sweet!

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    1. If the workmanship of the pyramids and Sphinx wasn't enough, wait until you see next week's photos of artifacts in the Museum. Absolutely unbelievable! Thanks for the visit, Marcia!

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  18. I absolutely loved the Sphinx and the Pyramids. I would go back in a heartbeat. I love that undated photo of the Sphinx, although it's sad what both the human and natural elements are affecting its future. Thanks for linking up this week.#TPThursday

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    1. Yes, I'd join you in a return visit, Nancie. Once is just not enough! Thanks as always for hosting #TPThursday

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  19. What wonderful photos! This is definitely one of my dream destinations. Can't wait to read your post on the Egyptian Museum. Such a mysterious and historical place in the world.

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    1. Sue, thanks for much for stopping by and I am glad you are enjoying this slice of Cairo!

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  20. I REALLY hope to get there some day. Amazing photos!

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    1. Amy you would find this place absolutely fascinating. Hope you do get here one day! Thanks for the visit~

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