19 September, 2011

Yup, I Saw 'Em

Well first of all, some serious apologies are in order.  To all five of my followers, I truly apologize for letting you down.  Did I ever drop the ball on this one, being that it is 1 MONTH and 2 DAYS since my last post.  I had pictured my coupla' years in Egypt a certain way involving a fair amount of leisure; let me tell you that I had not anticipated being too busy to talk about myself for a few minutes everyday...

Busy with what you ask?  Well I had an inventory project that I was working on for a little while (okay - a freaky, friggita, fleep of a long while actually... I'm a slow counter), plus I was getting set to teach some dance classes.  Not to mention all of the good times to be had - seriously getting in the way of my on-line recording duties.

But as a result, I have some real catching up to do with y'all.  All 5 of youse.

Yes, I saw the pyramids of Giza.  That's right, the oldest and only remaining of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. Built around 2560 BC... Is it just me or does anyone else find that INSANE?!  It really was truly surreal to be there.  Scott and I went with another couple who had just arrived in Cairo a few days earlier.  They shall forever after here be referred to as Randy and Gerry.  And yes, due to me excessive tardiness, this adventure was a whole month ago!

Getting in the front gate of the pyramids was an experience in itself.  We couldn't help but feel a bit concerned when our cab driver let us out on the other side of the street and said "this is as far as I will go." The level of persistence of the people trying to sell us something or be out tour guide or give us some kind of deal was something the cab driver had no interest in dealing with.

Once safely inside the front gate, we paid for our admission tickets and passed through the token metal detector.  (Those things are everywhere and no one seems too concerned about a follow-up-wand-swipe-and-pat-down if you have the 1 in 2 fortune of setting it off).  We get in and an older gentleman (sans teeth) takes our tickets and starts walking in with us and telling us some factoids about the  pyramids.  I, the trusting soul that I am, just thought he was doing his job and telling us the lowdown before setting us free to explore.  Everyone else was a bit more savvy and realized that this guy was trying to poach us, be our tour guide, and expect some serious tips at the end of it all.
So we demanded our tickets back from his clutches and thanked him, but we didn't want a tour guide...  Honestly, we found out that we actually did need a tour guide since there was no signage, no little brochures, or really anything at all to let us know what we were looking at beyong some really old, cool stuff.  We tried hijacking an official looking tour group going on ahead of us to maybe hear a bit about what we were seeing... unfortunately, closer observation led us to realize that this tour group would not have helped us to be any better informed: They were speaking German!

The first great thing we got to check out was the sphinx.  Again at this point we were aggressively approached by the tourist-hungry vendors.  We could easily turn down little knick knacks and trinkets being sold, but were not able to say no to the kids that were standing next to a good view of the sphinx ready to take our pictures.
There were about 4 of them, all about 10 yrs old or less, and they would  grab you as you pass by and start posing you for pictures with your own camera.  My photographer was maybe 9 yrs olds and was AMAZING.  She could be a professional photographer like right now, anywhere.  She directed me and physically manoevred me into about 10 different poses (kissing the sphinx, being kissed by the sphinx, leaning on him, etc).  She was so confident and authoritative and the whole thing took about 2 minutes.  What a bizarre but humbling experience to be out grownup-ed by a 9 year old.

We had a little success trailing behind a private tour for a few moments and listening to what we were looking at as we entered the tomb of a doctor.  We saw a carved out rock basin used to prepare the bodies and after a steep, cave-like climb/crawl down some steps we got to peek inside where the actual vessel where the doctor had once rested.  The only signage we saw anywhere was inside the entrance to every structure on a plain piece of white laminated paper saying "no photos inside please".  Right beside each of these signs was a dude that would tell you that you could absolutely take pictures as long as you gave him a tip.
The thing that struck me most (besides the offensive poo smell from all the horses and camels that they kept trying to get us to ride) was that there were no areas off limits, nothing behind fences or glass.  I got to actually put my hands on everything, including pictures carved inside of the structures we entered.  We felt lucky to be so free to explore and experience but on the same token, if people are allowed to do this for hundreds of years more, the damage will be truly shameful.

If I were in charge, which let's face it is just a matter of time, I would have a set walking tour, complete with a map depicting what we are looking at.  I would have actual enforcement of what should be touched and what shoudn't; and there would be a single gift shop at the end, rather than random trinkets and their vendors scattered throughout the site.  But first and foremost, I would hire someone to pick up all that gosh-darn camel poo.

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