Egypt Experiences Part One: The Great Pyramids of Giza

I knew one day I would make it to Egypt, but I didn’t realize it would be so soon.

Many of us had an Egyptology phase growing up. For me, it started in elementary school with a fascination of the Great Pyramids, and then in middle school it became a full-blown obsession following me through high school and college. I wrote a short novel that took place in ancient Alexandria, and I spent time between classes reading books about the Ptolemaic dynasty. I knew the differences between the lower and upper kingdoms of ancient Egypt, I could draw the crowns from memory, and I had the hieroglyphic alphabet memorized.

Imagine my excitement and awe when I booked a trip through Bucket List Travel to visit the country I had so extensively researched, obsessed over, and loved for a majority of my life. Now, take that emotion and quantify it by 4600 (the approximate amount of years since the pyramids were built,) and that almost encapsulates the feelings I had when I looked up at the Great Pyramids of Giza for the very first time.

Our Grand Tour of Egypt began in Cairo, the home of over 20 million people. We woke up bright and early, where I stepped out onto the patio of our hotel room and saw the pyramids for the first time. They were far away, but so big. I couldn’t wait to see them up close.

I didn’t have to wait long, as we went to see the pyramids first thing that morning. After breakfast and meeting everyone in the group, we drove the 15 minutes to the pyramids. I knew that they were close to the city and not in the middle of the desert, and I had seen pictures detailing just how close they were to one of the biggest cities in the world, but man, experiencing it is something else entirely.

I chose not to go inside the Great Pyramid of Cheops because I am a big baby when it comes to small, enclosed spaces, but I didn’t miss out– I still climbed on top of the pyramid, took pictures on the ground, took selfies with middle schoolers, and repeatedly told vendors “la shukraan” while trying to take their portraits instead of buying their wares. Some vendors really knew how to butter me up with pleasantries such as “beautiful smile!” and “beautiful eyes– would look great with this scarf!” I would almost feel special if they hadn’t said that to all the ladies!

We spent all day exploring the pyramids, learning about the kings that built them, and being followed by school groups that really wanted pictures with the Americans. We had to be careful though, because acquiescing even just once meant suddenly being trapped by a hoard of excited kids wanting selfies. Talk about endearing.

One of the funniest moments for me was riding a camel. Now, I’m up for just about everything (minus small enclosed spaces,) so I was like “hell yeah time to ride a camel.” So when I was walked over to a HUGE camel to mount, I was beginning to become doubtful of my own bravado, but I easily swung my skirt-clad ass over the side and up I went.

And up, and up.

And holy hell I was up high and my camel was not happy. He was very vocal about my being on his back. He also didn’t like being lined up with all the other camels, and thought it would be funny to ram his neck into the nearby camel’s. So when they asked if we wanted to go for a longer ride I was like “NOPE I’M GOOD.”

Camels, man. I was very happy to see the ground again. Others in our group did go for the longer ride and enjoyed it, so I definitely recommend doing it. Just make sure you have a happy camel, I guess?

No trip to the pyramids is complete without visiting the Sphinx and getting a cheesy photo with it, so naturally…

As if our day wasn’t crazy enough, we also went to the Papyrus Institute, where we learned a brief history about the art of making papyrus paper and watched a demonstration about how it is done in modern times. It was super cool to watch, and wandering around the shop and admiring the artwork wasn’t so bad, either. My friend, Jessica, had one very eager shop employee trying to sell her anything with a cat on it, despite the fact she doesn’t like cats. My favorite was when he tried the maybe-if-I-compliment-her-she-will-buy-something-route and told Jessica, “You are very beautiful,” to which she replied, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”

Crushed ’em.

Our evening ended with being stuck in traffic for a good hour and eating dinner at an authentic Egyptian restaurant. While we were eating, I asked our tour guide what weddings were like in Egypt (and I found out they are very similar to what they are like in United States.) Briefly after his explanation, we heard loud music and celebrating right outside– a wedding procession was coming through the area. We all ran outside and watched as the bride, groom, and all of their friends family danced, laughed, and sang happily for the couple.

Our first day in Cairo was definitely memorable and set the bar high for the rest of the trip. My friend and I joked that everything else following would pale in comparison. We should have known better.

Next time: Saqqara, one of the largest cemeteries in the world.

Happy Shooting and Safe Travels!