|The Great Pyramids|
When I travel, I am a big fan of eye witnessing iconic structures. Suzette Mendonca can attest to this as I made her take way too many photos of me posing in front of the Acropolis. It is not until I stare in awe at the Eiffel Tower that I truly feel like I am in Paris. The Golden Gate Bridge still takes my breath away when I am in San Francisco. So, I did not feel like I was in Egypt until I saw
1. the Nile River
2. the Great Pyramids in Giza.
The veteran and newbie ex-pats set off to Giza, a city located just outside of Cairo. Even though we left around eight in the morning, I was already moist from the desert humidity. And because I am a female in an Arab country, I faced the heat in more clothing than I would like to wear in the summer-skinny jeans and a sleeved shirt with a long sleeved shirt in case we were traveling to more conservative areas. After paying the entrance fee, we walked through the gates (and a metal detector). Up to this point, I had only seen the pyramids from afar. So when I set my eyes on this ancient wonder of the world, my profound and thoughtful comment was "Holy Crap, the Pyramids."
Even though it was at this moment I felt I was in Egypt, the experience was still surreal to me. I couldn't believe that I had actually made it here, to a place I had only seen in travel books and google image searches, a place that I had only taught my students about at Kimball High School. I was so excited that my childhood instincts kicked in, as I climbed without fear up to the point where the armed gunmen were posted. I wanted to share this experience on social media, hence my new Facebook profile picture. I love that picture because it captures one of the first moments that I truly felt at peace to be living in Egypt.
What I found so interesting though is that contrary to Wikipedia, the Pyramids are not necessarily in the middle of nowhere like so many images suggest. The city of Giza is within viewing distance from the pyramids. One can take a short taxi ride and have KFC and Pizza Hut for lunch, which takes away a bit of the exoticism and mysticism of this historical site.
I was also surprised when I went inside one of the pyramids. It is not one big open space, but merely a narrow and claustrophobic tunnel to a few tombs, most of which have been closed off. But still, freaking awesome. We took a short camel ride to the Sphinx, which I thought was much further away. However, I learned that the Sphinx was built to protect the Pyramids, which surprisingly paled in comparison to the size of the pyramids.
I am sure before the Arab Spring, there were tour buses upon tour buses here. But it was not even crowded and therefore the merchants were even more willing to take our money. Which leads me to introduce you to Hadi. Hadi is an excellent photographer, capturing angles I never knew were even possible (please see below). The great thing was that Hadi simply offered to take as many photos as we wanted to. I was going to be generous and give him a 20 Egyptian pound tip. But when I handed him the money, he looked at me and said, "What is this? I charge 200 Egyptian pounds for my photography services." Needless to say that he would do well as a venture capitalist in the States. Not knowing what to do and slightly intimidated by him, my friend Michelle gave him a bit of extra money. We went back and told our tour guide and fellow middle school colleague Hanan what had happened. And it was amazing because she totally laid the smack down on him, scolding him for being so selfish and taking advantage of tourists. With his shoulders slouched and his head down, he looked defeated and gave me all of my money back. I told him to keep the original amount that I had tipped him and then we were on our way for some lunch-which the aftermath of the beef schwarma deserves another blog post.