Cairo, Egypt

  • Date
  • 3 November 2000

The morning haze over the city – caused by the farmers burning their rice fields – caused us to think twice about visiting the Pyramids today, but optimistically we took off for the world’s oldest and largest mausoleums.

Pharaohs believed that after death they would become one with universe, so these 4500 year-old mammoth tombs were supposed to blend with the land. Buried inside the tomb along with the worshipped pharaoh were jewelry of gold, silver, alabaster, lapis and turquoise, carved chairs layered with stones and gilt, swords and protective armor, several golden burial boxes, funerary beds, urns and more (toys even in the case of King Tut who died before reaching the age of 20). Enormous wooden rowboats – up to seven with Cheops – were buried in the graves allowing the pharaohs to travel in the afterlife. We entered the small pyramid via a tiny, slanted, scorching passage with a backache-making, low ceiling that led to few not overly impressive stone rooms that once held the mummy of the pharaoh and his treasures. The lavish history surrounding these simple, hand-made rooms caused Jim and me to shake our heads in awe.

The Sphinx – fabled to have been covered in sand for thousands of years – is as regal and grand as I’d expected. Twenty meters high and made from limestone, the Sphinx was used for target practice by armies a couple of hundred years ago. But even sadder, the magnificent stone animal has an internal disease where disintegration of the stone is happening from the inside out.

An amazing view on a nearby hill is the site of the three pyramids with Cairo as the backdrop. Seeing the only surviving ancient Wonder of the World with smoky, loud and bustling Cairo just behind is quite spectacular. And like most highly visited sites, vendors and swindlers surround the guarded complex. We escaped without buying a horse or camel ride, but I did opt to mount a camel for a photograph in front of Cheop Pyramid.