It’s been ten years since I last visited the Giza Plateau. Much has changed. Ten years ago, you could walk up to the Pyramids and actually climb them. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not. But it’s much better than the Disneyland like setting that surrounds them now. It’s funny. I don’t remember the roads. I don’t remember the buses. I looked at my old pictures and at least one road was there. I can see one bus in one of the pics as well.
The last time that I was in Cairo. Back in 1998. Perhaps, I was there at a less busy time. I didn’t remember the roads and such around the Pyramids. There were a few other tourists during that visit. Not many, though. I rode a camel out of the desert to the Pyramids. We came upon them from the rear. Cairo looked far away. It gave the illusion of being out in the desert and away from civilization. I rode the camel to the smaller pyramids. Dismounted my camel and walked up to the three great Pyramids. On impulse, I started climbing. There were a couple of Bedouin and one or two tourist police hanging around. I got about 2/3rds of the way to the top of the Great Pyramid. One of the tourist police started pointing his AK47 at me and yelling for me to get down. I ignored him and continued to climb. Nearly to the top.
It is not possible now to climb the Pyramids. The Egyptian tourism authority has laid more asphalt roads around the pyramids. Buses actually drive up to the base of the Pyramids and offload hundreds of Japanese and European tourists each day. Possibly thousands. There were so many the day we were there, it was impossible to get a clear picture of the Pyramids without a Japanese or Euro tourist in the photo. There are hundreds of vendors trying to sell scarves, cheap jewelry, small statues and all manner of trinkets. You also have to contend with the Bedouins and their camels. The primary push is camel rides, of course. If they can’t get you to ride the camel, they attempt to have you sit on the camel for a picture. If they can’t get you to sit on the camel, they try to bully you into giving them money for taking a picture of them or their camel. I just laughed at them and sang “La La La” to them. La is No in Arabic.
I walked up to the Cheops Pyramid and started taking pictures of everything. Including a little guy with a camel. I walked up and snapped a few photos of his camel. The little dude asked me for a cigarette. So I gave him one. I kept taking pics of him and his camel and everything in the area. After a few minutes, an older Bedouin fellow walked up and demanded that I get on the camel for a pic. I said “LA!” He then told me to give him my camera so that he could take a pic of me with the camel. Again, I said “LA!” I would also say ; “Nah, I’m cool dawg.” He started saying “Doog! Doog?” I laughed. I like to throw American slang at these folks. It throws them off. Perplexes them. They usually don’t know what to say to it. Finally, he demanded that I give him money. “Baksheesh!” I laughed again and said “Hell no…” as I walked away laughing and singing “La La LA.” i do a lot of singing when I’m on vacation. I don’t know why. I guess because I’m so happy to be out there and free.
These guys try to bully or harass tourists into giving them money. Sometimes it works. You’ve got these small Japanese women walking around looking lost. Euros walking around looking bewildered. It was quite comical.
The Pyramids and Sphinx are now surrounded by asphalt roads. Tourist police in the hundreds walking about. Riding camels and horses. The tourist police try to get you to give them money as well. Sometimes, they just see you walking by and ask you to take their picture. If you do, they ask for “baksheesh.” Arabic for money, I think.
Walking around Cairo, invariably you’ll have little kids running up to you whispering “Baksheesh.” They put on these sad faces for you. I’ve seen a group of kids laughing and playing. Suddenly, one of them will spot a tourist and he will assume the saddest posture and look imaginable and walk up to you saying baksheesh in a low voice as if he is sad and hungry. This was similar to the kids begging in India.
The Pyramids and the Sphinx are still magnificent. Don’t get the wrong idea. The asphalt does make them more accessible. Unfortunately, the roads and buses and massive crowds detract from the beauty and mystery of these ancient monuments. It was still immensely enjoyable visiting Giza and gazing upon the Sphinx and it’s sister monuments. And, of course, this time we had Shaimaa telling us wonderful stories and histories which made this visit all the more enjoyable.
Enjoy the pictures.