I chickened out of going inside the great pyramid
And I am glad I did.
For a few days I have been saying that I didn’t think I would.
There is a doctor from Switzerland on the tour who gave me advice about pressing the soles of my feet against the floor if I started to feel faint. He is very kind and helped me when I went all ‘collapsey’ at the valley of kings.
There are three American guys also on this tour. One said that if I tried to get out of going inside the great pyramid he would personally pick me up and carry me in there to save me from later regret. Another mentioned that if I keeled over and fainted he would find it amusing to carry me back out.
But not today.
The pyramid is an impressive sight under any circumstances but when I got out of the bus and saw it looming up into the dark dawn sky I became very sure that I was not going inside that big-stone-thing.
So I officially chickened out.
The guard told me if I wasn’t going inside the pyramid I had to go and sit on the bus. I said I didn’t want to sit on the bus because it’s boring. So instead he told me to go and sit on one of the millions of huge stone blocks that build up the pyramid.
How awesome !
We had another early morning permit to get ahead of the crowds.
So as the guards paced below with their cigarettes I sat perched a little way up on the side of the great pyramid admiring a 180 view of the city lights of Cairo and the stars.
Yes I was lucky, this morning stars were visible.
What a sight.
It was silent too and the temperature a bit chilly.
But I think this morning I was at the most peaceful place in Cairo.
I don’t know all the stars but recognise the three stars of Orion’s Belt because they are so easy. They were hanging just overhead and quite brightly.
There is a theory that the three pyramids of Giza (Cairo) are precisely aligned with the three stars of Orion’s Belt. Sitting underneath those stars this morning, watching them almost dropping out of the sky, it is very easy to believe that someone sitting in this spot many years ago might have had the idea to do that. Besides, ancient Egyptians were really smart. They had precise mathematics and calendars and architecture. They were practising medicine, psychiatry and dentistry (including advanced forms of surgery like brain surgery) long before medicine was ‘ invented’ by Hippocrates in Greece. Pythagoras discovered triangles and angles but he studied with the Egyptians at Heliopolis (now Cairo) who were already experts in triangles
So it makes perfect sense that someone in ancient Egypt was smart enough and sufficiently inspired by the night sky to do that. There would have been no smog pollution in those days and the three bright stars of Orion’s Belt would have been impossible for anyone standing on the Giza plateau at nighttime to ignore.
Plus the Egyptians had mythology connected with the stars so it would have made sense and been entirely worth the effort.
I am grateful to them because thousands of years later I had the experience I had this morning, sitting there more or less alone, in the predawn breeze, on ancient solid stone, watching the light break across the sky and listening to the morning call to prayer rising atmospherically above the sparkling lights of the city.
Like a real life Arabian nights story.
I feel like I have totally “been to the great pyramid” and I didn’t need to go in it.
There was a dog too, black like the night, who came out of the shadows before I climbed up the pyramid, wagging his tail and licking my hands to say hello.
My new friend.
I am very happy.
Then we went to the Sphinx which was cool because I have read so much about it including an interesting theory that it isn’t a sphinx at all. Whatever it is, it is also very impressive and has a very silent and calm presence. There are noticeably different types of stones and bricks used which makes it look like it has been built / repaired by different people’s at different times.
Then we went on a camel ride alongside the pyramids and this was surreal. I wish I was more awake. By this stage the sun had truly risen and my eyes were truly closing after not much sleep. I was about 85% asleep I reckon. Looking up at three massive pyramids poking out of the sand I suddenly thought of Star Wars. As we lurched along slowly on the camels I was taking in their unusual physiques and strange noises (one blew his stomach out of his mouth to clean it then swallowed it) and I dozily decided that camels are very otherworldly and peculiar. With the city now out of sight it felt like were riding camels through one of the sets for Star Wars.
We were discouraged from taking ‘stuff’ with us for security reasons so I didn’t take a camera and don’t have photos of us all starring in Star Wars.
The cover photo for this post is a view from our hotel, an entirely different landscape.
There are weddings on today at Mena House. Very fancy. The Egyptian women look so beautiful in their dresses. We spent part of the afternoon lurking in the gardens watching everyone and deciding which dresses we would wear and which ones we wouldn’t wear, that sort of thing. Tonight we have our farewell dinner for the tour and then we all go home.
But stars will still hang over the pyramids and camels will still saunter alongside and one day I will be back, I am sure.
Postscript – here are some Star-Wars-ey shots taken by my friends husband who took his camera along and shared photos around later ( thankyou Guy)
also turns out there was a professional photographer amongst the guards etc who were with us on the special entry permit so later I had the opportunity to purchase the Star Wars shot of the camel ride at the pyramids, and further below are some old photographs showing areas of water and cultivation around the pyramids which are not there now