If you know too much about Egypt, you know there are a lot more things to see than just the Great Pyramids.
Our second day in Egypt was devoted to even more ancient sites, all outside of Giza and Cairo. We woke up bright and early, climbed on the bus, and headed out to the small city of Memphis, which used to be the capitol in ancient times.
The interesting thing about the drive to Memphis was the security checkpoints and the military police standing along the road from our route from Cairo to Memphis. We asked our guide, Yasser, about why there was so much security, and he explained how as a tour group, we only have access to certain roads. Egypt is extremely protective of its tourism industry, therefore there is a lot of security on the roads tourists travel on. We had extra officers because they knew that an American tour group would be traveling that day (a.k.a., us.)
Disclosure: I never, for a single moment, felt unsafe in Egypt. But man, as an American who has had very little experience with the military or police for that matter, it was quite jarring.
We arrived in the city of Memphis nice and early, and drove through the town where everyone was waking up and starting their day. We saw fresh meat hanging at the butchers, families getting their produce, and students on their way to school. I really wished that I could get off of the bus and wander around with the locals, as there were many fantastic photo opportunities. Alas, we had places to be and giant statues to see, so I just snapped some photos from our bus.
Our first stop for the day was at the Colossus of King Rameses II, one of the most prolific rulers of Egypt. He is responsible for the construction of many of the monuments and tombs that we are familiar with today, like Abu Simbel. Dude built a lot of stuff, especially statues of himself. Yasser explained that back in the day, before photography and print and traditional art as we know it, buildings and statues were regular PR for royalty. So, if you lived in 2000BC and you wanted everyone to know how much of a boss-ass-bitch you were, you had to build a lot of statues.
And since Rameses II is considered one of the greatest Egyptian kings, he built a lot. Including his big statue of himself that was chillin’ in the river for a long, long time. It was found in 1820 by an Italian traveller named Giovanni Caviglia, and today it now resides at an archaeological site with a museum built around it to protect it from the elements. Thing was HUGE. It’s always astounding to me just how BIG the Egyptians managed to build everything.
Go big or go home, I guess.
Just outside of the museum was a small market, where vendors were selling the usual tourist wares. This time, however, there was a dapper young man running around in his adorable suit, and he kindly posed for me. His little smile was the highlight of my morning. We also noticed that there were rugs being sold, which we hadn’t seen at all the day before at the tourist souks in Cairo by the pyramids. As it turns out, there are carpet-making schools in the area… but more on that later.
After our adventure in Memphis, we headed out towards Saqqara. Along the way we saw many goats and palm tree forests that seemed to stretch forever in either direction. And then, suddenly, no more trees, no more shade, just sand.
Saqqara is one of the largest cemeteries in the world and contains the tombs of several kings and other nobles. The oldest pyramid, the Step Pyramid, finds it home there as well. The Step Pyramid of Djoser is housed in a complex, where visitors enter a gate and walk through a roofed colonnade to reach the other side, which opens up to a huge court yard. The pyramid towers over the courtyard, practically blinding in the sunlight.
The pyramid itself was amazing. It is considered to be the oldest stone structure in the world and was a precursor to the Great Pyramids in Giza. Baller.
After Saqqara, we went to a nearby carpet school, where people of all ages were weaving Egyptian carpets. There were little little kids and older men, weaving away. Some of us had an opportunity to try it, so I gave it a shot. I thought I could do it easily since I’m an artist or whatever, but man. I blew it. Next thing I knew, a little girl was sitting next to me, weaving away and showing me how the pros do it.
They took us into the show room, which was bursting with color. Some of the carpets were so detailed it really blew my mind, with subjects like fairies, souks, Jesus, and intricate patterns. As always, sales people were following us around trying to keep us interested, but beautiful Egyptian carpets were wayyyyy out of my budget! The best part about this escapade was the sales people throwing carpets on the floor to show what they looked like, well… on the floor. They left a huge mess!
The rest of our day was pretty relaxing, with lunch at an adorable restaurant, where I met the love of my life, this piece of bread.
Get yourself a partner who looks at you the way I look at this bread.
We also met some goats on the street. Best day ever.
Next time: Karnak Temple, probably my favorite place we visited in Egypt.
Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!