The Great Pyramids of Giza

That's a big pile of rocks
Cairo, Egypt: the place is synonymous in many peoples minds with one thing — or perhaps more exactly, three. It is home to the Great Pyramids of Giza, those icons of Ancient Egypt that are now over 4500 years old and still standing. As we drove into the city of Cairo, the peaks of the Great Pyramids could be seen as hazy silhouettes above the skyline of buildings What a sight! They seemed to welcome us, as though driving the length of the African continent had served only to bring us to this moment. It was the end of our journey with Oasis Overland, but only the beginning of our experience in the Middle East, of which Egypt feels more a part. On our first night in Cairo, we had the trip end party at a nearby hotel, and enjoyed Egyptian food and wine along with each other’s company. But it was the morning that we most looked forward to — the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World awaited us.

Khaffre pyramid

Morning came, and we boarded a bus and picked up our guide on the way. As we drove towards the pyramids, I was surprised at how close the city crowded in around them. It was very surreal to be riding on an air-conditioned bus through modern city streets, and to have these ancient monuments looming up on our right, seemingly just a stone’s throw away. We were one of many, many tourist buses to pull into the parking lot at the base of the pyramids, but I wasn’t bothered. All of the other tourists did a nice job of keeping the touts and camel riders busy, and I just let my eyes wander upwards, away from it all. Just in front of where the bus stopped, the biggest of the Great Pyramids (Khufu or Cheops, in Arabic and English respectively) climbed stone by stone towards the sky. It was huge, but the reality of it’s size only hit home when we saw how tiny people looked in comparison. When seen on it’s own, it’s still very impressive, but it’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the stones used to build it. Put a person next to one of them, and suddenly you have an appreciation not only for the size of the Pyramid, but also for what an incredible feat it was to build them out of stones that size over 4000 years ago.
Giant pyramid stones

We spent a couple of hours walking around the bases of the three Pyramids, although Meg and I decided not to pay the extra money to go inside them. Our guide suggested that the inside of the Pyramids, while interesting, was not as grand as the outside. Many people did opt to go inside, but it seemed that the main motivation (and indeed the main sentiment afterwards) was just to say that they’d done it. We felt that the Valley of the Kings had given us a very good taste of the inside of Egyptian tombs, and they are meant to be much more spectacular that the rooms and corridors inside the Pyramids. We contented ourselves with appreciating their grandeur from without, and were not disappointed.

One of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World

As much as I was surprised at the city’s proximity to the Pyramids as we approached, I was equally as surprised to discover that, once among the bases of the Pyramids, the city seemed to disappear into the distance. The Great Pyramids are built on a piece of high ground in the middle of Cairo, which shields the modern city from view. It was possible to get at least an idea of what it must have been like to have them rising out of the sand in the middle of the desert, which must have been quite a sight. After seeing them up close, we drove to a lookout where we could see all three pyramids together, providing you could fight your way through the throngs of tourists to get a view. Even hordes of gaudy, obnoxious tourists couldn’t spoil the moment. I was duly impressed.
Our next stop of the day was the Great Sphinx, which is near the pyramids, and is equally overrun with tourists. The narrow ramp leading up to the viewing platform was a perpetual traffic jam of people, and it felt a little claustrophobic in the heat. Once at the top, we couldn’t resist taking the requisite cheesy picture. Mwah!
Pucker up

The Sphinx and the Pyramids stood together on the skyline as we departed, and it was an image that will stay with me for many years to come For all the hype and all of our high expectations, we weren’t let down at all. It was a pretty special morning.
What a sight. Incredible.

Our last stop of the day was at the Cairo Museum, which is packed to the seams with statues, sarcophagi, and other artifacts from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. We were very impressed with the collection from King Tutankhamun’s tomb, which is famous for being the only tomb so far to be discovered intact. The gold and other jewelry was magnificent, and the mask found on the King’s mummy was, for lack of a better word, awesome. And speaking of mummies: there is a room in the Cairo Museum which houses 11 mummies, on display in glass cases. We paid the extra to visit this room, and it was something else. The mummies are creepy, but also incredible. They are so well preserved that some of them still had eyelashes. You could see manicured nails and hair, but it was all set against dark, leathery skin pulled tight over bones. It’s surprising how thin a human neck really is when seen in that condition. These mummies were over three thousand years old. I’m only 29 Crazy.
Our second and last day in Cairo was spent madly repacking our belongings into two backpacks, in preparation for life on the road as individuals again. Like so many of our stops in Egypt, it was too short a visit to do proper justice to the city of Cairo, but perhaps we’ll be back one day. Next up, we are looking forward to a week in Dahab, located on the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea — and famous for its diving!


    I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts and looking at the fantastic photos. My husband is on a similar trip with Oasis and we started off reading your posts to give us and idea of what lay ahead. He started off from Scotland to Capetown around when you reached Nairobi,the demographics are a bit different as he’s the oldest at 45 – so more drinking and less yoga!

    In the meantime, I’ve been checking in to see how you guys are getting on. It sounds like an amazing trip and hope that the rest of your journey continues to go well.

    Regards, Soraya

    Thanks Soraya. I hope your husband is enjoying his trip. It can be quite challenging at times. I’m sure he’ll have some great and similar stories of his own.

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