I had an opportunity to go anywhere in the world for 7 days, and I picked Egypt, largely because of the luster and my wonder of the pyramids. Sometimes, when traveling, I’ve gone to a tourist destination and been largely unimpressed, and during those times I’ll think to myself: “damn, it’s just another church,” or “damn, it’s just another museum.” However, the Giza Pyramids warrant an authentic stamp of approval – these things are worth seeing, and they are made even better when one has historical context.
So, let’s start.
The night before, I organized a driver for the trip to the pyramids through my hostel. The morning of, the driver picks me up around 8:30 and we head off. Somewhere along the way, we stop at a papyrus paper museum. At first, I was confused, but then I remembered some of the blogs I read before getting to Egypt (“drivers will occasionally take you to their friend’s or family’s restaurant or gift shop because they are trying to help them earn a few bucks, and the drivers will earn commission on any sale”)…
The brief visit to the museum included a brief description of ancient egypt and papyrus paper by a local Egyptian. A few minutes in, he asks me to look around to see if there is anything I would like. He tries to sell me. I say no. I cite my philosophical reason: “I only try to buy things that I need, not things that I want.” He doesn’t understand. I tell the driver I’m ready to go see the pyramids. We get in the car.
The driver tries to take me to the camel stables. I tell him I’m going to walk the pyramids, not ride them. He says OK and points me to the entrance. I pay 50 or something Egyptian Pounds (8-10 USD) to enter. And then the unending harassment began.
I walk out of the metal detector and a guy grabs my ticket. He walks next to me and tells me that he is going to be taking me to see the Sphinx and the inside of the pyramids. I ask for my ticket back. He counters, “I work here. Come, we are going. I will take you.” I tell him I don’t want to do either of those things, and, “give me my ticket.” (Because I didn’t believe that he worked there.) He repeats his earlier line with some variation that sounds like a bull taking a shit. At this point, I just put my hand out in front of his body, with an open palm, awaiting my ticket to arrive in my hand; I say nothing, and start to walk at a slower pace so that he walks into my hand. He finally hands me the ticket, and I walk away. This was my first experience at the Giza Pyramids.
There’s the Sphinx! I walk toward it. On my way, I am hit with a barrage of people asking me if I want a camel ride. No, I don’t want to ride a camel right now. I get closer to the Sphinx and take a photo. Someone else asks me if I want to ride a camel. No, I don’t want to ride a camel. They ask again, this time, half price. No. “Maybe later,” he asks. I say nothing and continue walking. There is a man in front of an entrance, blocking it. He asks to see my ticket. I look at him and give him a face of disapproval. I physically hold my ticket and show it to his face. He tries to grab it out of my hands and I don’t let him. (I didn’t think he worked there.) He then states, in an authoritative way, “I work here!” He opens up his wallet and pulls out a photo ID of him, fully written in Arabic. It’s probably his fucking driver’s license, but I don’t know how to read Arabic. I let go of my ticket. He then asks me if I want a camel ride. No, I don’t want a camel ride. Immediately, I put my hand out for my ticket. I’m pretty frustrated. He hands it back to me. I walk off to the largest pyramid.
As I walk around the pyramids, trudging through the sand, I realize something: I’m in a desert! And it’s hot. I notice these things especially because I do not have sunglasses with me; this is a mistake.
Speaking on the overall facilities: The Giza Pyramids area is horribly maintained. Paint is peeling. Fences are broken. Boundary ropes are non-existent, and of course, they clearly have no sort of method for preventing harassment of tourists by fake tour guides and people trying to sell camel rides.
But the pyramids are still spectacular. I walked up and around them, marveling at the size of the stones. Again, I was constantly being interrupted by someone trying to sell me a camel ride. At a point, I started counting the number of approaches. By the end, I had lost count, but it was somewhere over 30.
Last, I go inside to see the Sphinx (it’s actually pretty small — smaller than you’d think). While there, I talk to a nice guy from Japan. We take photos for each other and I call it a day. On my way out, someone asks me if I want a camel ride. I thought about saying yes, and having the guy take me to my hostel — 15+ miles away. I didn’t say yes. Instead, I said No. NO. NOO. NOOOO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.