Where is your favorite place in the world?
I often get this question when talking to people about my travels. I never have an answer. There are so many awe-inspiring places, sights, foods, and people that choosing just one is impossible. Like many people, I grew up with ideas of places I wanted to go when I was older, and someplace I always wanted to go was Egypt! The continent of Africa has always been a draw, but the top of that list, just like its place on the continent is Egypt. I couldn’t wait to go.
In our Social Studies classes at school, one part of the textbook was devoted to those ancient Egyptians whose technology was far and above anything the rest of the world could conceive, let alone execute. I wanted to learn how to read hieroglyphics, climb down into the tombs of the kings, and imagine what life would have been like hanging out with Cleopatra. I’m pretty sure the Kardashians had nothing on her! So with all of my wishes soon to be fulfilled, I was off to the land of the Pharaohs, water horses, and the majestic Nile River.
Anyone landing in Cairo knows the feeling of frenetic excitement that comes with standing in the line waiting for the customs officials to paste real stamps in your passport, then filing out into the total chaos that is Cairo. Traveling on our own, we had a few errands to run. We had to go to the train station and buy our tickets on the overnight train to Aswan, and then we had to find our way to the pyramids…priority number one!
Taking a taxi from our hotel, we knew we had to negotiate our fare beforehand, and felt that we did a pretty good job of it, but it was getting late in the day, and we just wanted to get there. As soon as we got out of our taxi, the touts swept down on us not unlike a flock of buzzards on some new road kill! Yes, it was a little overwhelming, but we just politely said, “No thank you,” and continued on to the ticket office.
This was the first venue where we noticed the significant difference in prices for locals and tourists. Many places have a small difference, but in Egypt it is astronomical. Now, you can see the pyramids from outside of the park, but to walk around them, in them, you have to pay. We balked a little, because, wow! But the reality is, we were going to pay, and the Egyptians knew it. I had been waiting my entire life to walk where the pharaohs walked. I wasn’t going to miss it. In fact, we had already decided that we would completely do up the tourist thing and either ride camels or horses or something while there, because we could!
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I think we were quite lucky that we went late in the afternoon. The sun was about to set, which meant that the horse vendors would soon have to go home. They really didn’t quibble too much on the price we were willing to pay. One last sell was one last sell. Riding around on horses around the perimeter of the park, getting uninterrupted views of the pyramids and the Sphinx, even though it was quite windy, was exactly what we thought it would be. We loved it.
We took our time, wandered among the ruins, went inside Cheop’s pyramid, and mostly had the place to ourselves. I highly recommend going in the evening. It was almost magical. When the sun began to set, and the colors lit up the sky with the pyramids and the Sphinx in silhouette, I knew I had made it to a place that I had always wanted to go, and I was not disappointed!
Visiting Giza was our first foray into Egyptian tourism, with the yells of “baksheesh” (tip) and the touts coming out of every alleyway, magically appearing as you arrive anywhere in the country. We learned that just politely saying no, and sticking to the price that we were willing to pay, served us well. Do we think visiting the pyramids of Giza is worth it? Yes!