Camels in Cairo

Camels, what is not to love about camels. From their tiny ears to their toes (yeah, I went there) to how they scream profanity when asked to do anything. I freaking love camels.

After our pyramid visits, it was time to visit the camel camp at the back of the Giza Plateau. We arrived, and they were everywhere, lying down eating. I think I was a camel in a former life; I can relate to that.

I was introduced to my camel, Micky Mouse; I renamed him Bob. I looked at him; he looked at me and screamed. I was helped up onto his back, despite the horror he expressed at carrying yet another tourist in the sand. Finally, he stood up, and we were off.

As we walked along, I noticed Bob had his body shaved. Camels are used to the heat, so I pondered this for a while. Why? Could it be fleas? Then a little quote popped into my brain: “may you be infected with the fleas of a thousand camels.” Great, this thing probably has fleas.

I had visions of riding the camel, out in the desert, with a pack of other camel riders. I had such romantic visions in my head. Laura and I were going to ride our camels’ side by side, look at the pyramids and sand while chatting about the kings and pharaohs of old. But, yeah, that did not happen. Instead, we were led single file through the desert with plastic bags and water bottles along the path. It was a bit of a buzzkill.

Our camel leaders were busy playing on phones, ignoring the spectacular view off in the distance. I thought there would be snakes, scorpions, and cactus out there: Nope, just sand and plastics. I wondered to myself, is the trashcan not invented yet in Cairo, or do they just not use them? After four or five bottles, you stop seeing them.

We arrived at the end of the path, and it was worth it; all the pyramids lined up, and it was amazing. Our little leader guys took photos of us together, separate, acting normal, acting silly; they had a routine down and stuck to the script. It was fun.

We returned to camel camp, and poor Bob screamed bloody murder while he lay down for me to get off his back. I would think he would be happy about it. He finally got to lay down with the other camels and eat dried grass. I patted him, and we parted ways. I wish I were a camel.

Finally, the “ride the camel in Cairo” was checked off my bucket list.

Day Two – Giza Plateau

Not taken by me, I wish. Kudo’s to who took this one, good job

Today Laura and I would go to Giza to see the pyramids and Sphinx. It was amazing drinking coffee on our balcony, looking at the pyramids. The last time we had coffee together was in Florence, Italy overlooking Santa Maria del Fiore. It is strange to me that every time we have coffee, it is in an exotic place. Next time it will be in Bangkok. I like having coffee with Laura.

Laura soon learned the wonders of Egyptian pastries. I am not kidding when I tell you they are good, they are better than the ones in Paris. So we snuck a few extra ones in a little bag for the trip and share them with the boys.

Hassan greeted us with morning hugs, and we were off for the adventure. It was fun watching Laura’s excitement over the white donkeys, an occasional camel, and the condition of the buildings. She did not disappoint. She said, “OMG Cheryl, look at that” a lot.

Yesterday the crowds were absent, today there were people. We pulled into the complex while Hassan obtained water and our tickets. He kept asking us if we were sure we wanted to go into the pyramids. Are you kidding me? I think he was worried I wanted him to go with us. There was no way in hell I would not go into every pyramid I could, and the big ones were a must.

We started with the Great Pyramid, the one I saw from the freeway my arrival night. Massive does not describe the size accurately. There were horses and camels everywhere. It was a pretty large area; you had to drive between pyramids. I somehow figured it would be a more intimate setting in the sand, like the other pyramids. There was a parking lot near Giza. I mean, it makes sense, a lot of busses and people arrive there every day.

The parking area 4/2021
I am 5′ 4″ so you get the idea of the size 4/2021

Hassan led us up to the edge of the pyramid, or he tried anyway. I went crazy over every camel I saw. Finally, we get up to the edge, and the size of the blocks really hit me. They were almost as tall as I am. What is so shocking was how precise the blocks were cut and how big they were. How on earth did they do that 4600 years ago? The pyramid is 321 feet tall or 32 stories. Sadly the smooth white limestone was stripped of the great pyramid, and only a little was left at the top of the other one.

We decided to start with the great pyramid of Khufu. There were some stairs cut into the big blocks up to the entrance of the pyramid. Hassan told us we were on our own; he would meet us outside. We talked months after the trip; Hassan then confessed to me that he does not like to go into the pyramids but went in the first two with me as he wanted to make sure I could get myself out alive. Thanks for watching out for me, Hassan.

King Khufu’s aka The Great Pyramid.

This one was different; I expected a horrible tiny tunnel to the pyramid basement. Instead, we entered into a rough-cut tunnel that was almost like a cave. There was a small staircase and another ramp up into a small low climb; there it was, the hunched over the climb up this time. It was not too bad.

Gate at the entrance
The cave
Stairs up to the first climb
The short tunnel up

Up at the top, there was the grand gallery. It was a large corbelled ceiling climb to the king’s tomb. There were 2 ramps, and in the middle was the tunnel to the queen’s chamber. Unfortunately, it was not open at the time, so we did not get to crawl down there. There was another corbelled room with one ramp up to the top.

The grand gallery with the entrance to the queens chamber below. Yes, my photo sucks

The king’s room was very simple, clean, and pristine. There was a tomb at one empty end. It was made of beautiful granite. It was so hard to imagine that the room was as old as it looked fairly new. You could really see how tight the seams were in the massive blocks of rock. It will blow your mind. Then, of course, there was a guy up there wanting to take your photo for a tip. It happens a lot, in Egypt so expect it.

We went to Khafre’s pyramid next. This one still has some of the polished white limestone on top. I imagine when the whole thing was covered in the white limestone, it gleamed in the sun. We read the signs and learned a bit of the history before we went in. I decided I needed to lay down on the stone floor a moment to stretch my legs and rest as 5 pyramids in 24 hours…well, I was pooped. Poor Hassan thought he killed me at this point. Five minutes and some water, and it was time for us ladies to go into the pyramid and Hassan to sit outside and take a nap.

King Khafre’s Pyramid 4/2021

This one was more like the ones from yesterday. Laura got to experience her first long bend-over climb on a wooden ramp. At the top was a short hallway you could stand up in before another bend-over climb. It was so amazing walking down that hallway to yet another ramp to the tomb room. The granite tomb was in the floor, not sitting on it like Khufu’s. The lid was propped up nearby. This room was long with a peaked ceiling. Written on the wall was “Scoperia da C Belzoni 2 March 1818. Some Italian guy that explored Egypt and liked graffiti.

4/2021

We initially were down there alone when a loud man came in with a couple of tourists. He yelled at me, “no photos.” I was shocked at first but already took the photos that I wanted. I knew we already paid the guards for the photo license, so he was full of crap and pulling a scam. Hassan warned me about this. He told us for a tip we could take photos. I told him “NO” rather loudly and uttered a few profane American words under my breath as we left. He ruined the moment for us, and I was not impressed at all.

We told Hassan and the outside guards what happened as we knew it was a scammer. They felt so bad they decided to have some fun with us. They had us do funny poses with the pyramid in the background. We had to act like we were touching it and making silly positions. We all laughed, and the loud guy got a new asshole when he hit the entrance from the guards.

I was so excited about the next stop, the Great Sphinx. I imagined it to be absolutely massive, gigantic, larger than life, and I could not wait to see it up close. I expected a good crowd, but it was not that bad. I was shocked at how small it was. The pyramids are massive, so I just expected the same, nope it is fairly small in comparison. You could not walk around it, so it was a little hard to tell the true size. You got to stand on a ledge nearby and view him in all his glory. The face carving was quite nice, but it did look like a lot of the body was worn away. I felt a little underwhelmed, but it honestly. I wish I saw it first.

Hassan insisted we follow him to an upper area so a woman he knows could take some photos of us acting silly with the Sphinx. Goofy stuff like kissing it or having it kiss your hand. She rushed us through these poses, and for me, it was uncomfortable, but Laura seemed to have a great time with it. However, I did not like the experience as it felt rushed to me. The photos were cute but silly.

I could not resist taking this while she was being filmed by the lady lol

The large area in front of the Sphinx was nice; you could line up the pyramids behind him for some amazing photos. But, overall, the Giza Plateau was beyond overwhelming and amazing. It is almost surreal being there in this ancient world of the Egyptian Kings. You climb into the massive tombs built over 4600 years ago, and they still stand. Until you do that yourself, you can never really understand how it feels, and it feels unbelievably amazing.

Up next…CAMELS!

Teti Pyramid

After the glorious meeting with police camel number 42, I pretty much figured the day could not get any better; it did.

I had been inside three pyramids, a few temples, and other sites, but still, I craved more adventure in the sand. After all, I flew all the way from LAX, and it was my goal to see every nook and cranny of Egypt. Poor Hassan.

Down the road was another pyramid and some fancy tombs, the important rich people. Wearily, Hassan had Magdi, our driver, take us down there. Poor Hassan had to escort the American tourist running on nothing but caffeine, raw emotion, and chicken no bones.

Pile of rocks or pyramid?

I was not told where we were going and when we arrived, I thought it was cool we would go into more buildings next to the pile of rubble. It was big but not Step or Red pyramid big. So we entered the complex, and Hassan took me to the pile of rocks, oh goody, rocks.

I saw an entrance down into the rocks with a door. There was a large, friendly man there who approached Hassan. They talked a bit, and Hassan told me to have fun. I was at the Teti pyramid, and I would be ok down there, alone.

I expected it to be all crumbly and broken up inside, crawling over boulders and stuff. Almost like a cave, but that is not what I saw. The interior was in very good condition, the walkway down was very easy, and the walls were still crisp. It was pretty uneventful until I hit the bottom.

Pyramid of Teti, Saqqara

Holy, mother of God, this place has carvings all over the walls, super crisp walls full of hieroglyphics. There were rows and rows of the same figures from ceiling to floor. It was almost like Teti had to write out 1000 times “I will not talk in class” on the walls. The detail was amazing as these were quite small.

He had two rooms, his tomb room and a treasure room.
I entered the tomb room alone, and up on the ceiling were starfish carved into the peaked roof. Some of the ceiling blocks looked like they shifted down some, but they did appear to be reinforced by modern means. There was a large granite tomb at the end, but it was empty, just a few grains of sand. The treasure room was empty as usual. I was totally blown away but this place with all the fantastic details and the fact it was still standing.

Pyramid of Teti, Saqqara

Talk about your inside not matching your outside.

Teti is worth the visit. I mentioned to Hassan that I saw starfish on the ceiling. To his credit, he only laughed at me on the inside; they were actually stars. The king had stars carved into the ceiling and painted the night sky to look at from his tomb.

See, starfish

After the Teti Pyramid, Hassan decided to see just how much energy I had left. So he led me over to the fancy, rich important guys’ tombs to explore. I did not know at the time that there was a ton to see, and he only took me into a few. On the last day, Amir, our Cairo guide, took us to Sakkara. We went into the medical procedure tomb. More on that later, let’s just say the guide had a good time showing me certain things on the wall. I totally gave Hassan a hard time about that when I got home.

Milking the cow 4/2021

These tombs were amazing, especially in the fact that they were not deep underground. The best part was they were painted and carved with gorgeous artwork. Hassan picked the best ones to see, and I was not disappointed. There were stories of everyday life carved into the walls. I was told stories of what was being shown, and tiny details pointed out. I saw cattle being moved across the river, fish in the river, and the butchering of those cows. There were large figures of the owners on the walls. One room had a “door” carved into it. It was the portal for the dead guy to visit his tomb and afterlife. His people could come to talk to him through that door. I learned where the offerings were placed and how life was for the people at that time. It was all way too interesting.

Nile fish 4/2021

It was closing time after a few hours, and Laura would arrive soon, so we headed back to the hotel. I think Hassan just wanted a nap.
Magdi, Hassan, and I pulled in, and who had just arrived and was getting out of the van? Laura and Amir. She looked tired and overwhelmed like I did when I arrived. I was so happy to have her with me finally. Hassan and I agreed to tell her how horrible our day was so her feelings would not be hurt. That lasted all of an hour before I spilled the beans and told her how amazing it really was.

Butchering the cow 4/2021

Twenty minutes later, we were standing in our room looking out at the great pyramids of Giza. I looked at her and asked, “did you ever think we would be looking at the pyramids when we were in our 20’s”? Her response…” I know, right?”

How did this happen? How did we get here, and can you believe what we were looking at?

This pretty much sums up how I felt at that moment, shock, joy, disbelief, and amazement all experienced with a dear friend. It does not get any better than that, I thought. But, of course, the next day proved me wrong, and so did every day after that.

Step Pyramid

Before my trip, I watched a ton of National Geographic videos on Egypt. The Step Pyramid of King Djoser was one of the most fascinating places; they still discover tombs today. The outlying tombs are freakishly amazing. I cannot wait to see this place and the surrounding dead guys.

Heading into the Step Pyramid complex – 4/2021

Seriously, what makes this one so amazing? It was the first pyramid ever built, plus it is over 4,600 years old and still stands. The other claim to fame is the designer, Imhotep. Even I have heard of this dude; he was so famous. He and Djoser were besties. Imhotep started the traditional mastaba tomb (flat mound) and decided it was not good enough for his bestie, so he added five more on top. This masterpiece stands 204 feet tall and is also the very first tomb built of stone.

Not only is the pyramid super amazing, but the surrounding complex is also just as cool. There is a giant courtyard, temples, shrines, and other buildings I had no idea what they were. Oh, and camels, freaking real desert camels.

Step Pyramid – 4/2021

The complex built by Imhotep was so impressive to Djoser that he carved Imhotep’s name on the kings monument. That is quite the honor back in the day. Unfortunately, tomb raiders did manage to get into this one and stole most of Djoser’s riches and body. However, they did drop his left foot. Make sure you ask Hassan what was dropped from King Tutt’s body when it was moved. I heard Djoser’s toes are on display at the museum next door.

You have to enter the complex through the temple. A lot of it is reconstructed, but much of the thing is still stands. It is imposing when you approach it because of the size. Keep in mind this was my first temple, so everything was amazing. Once you pass the doorway, you head down a long hallway of 40 columns. The first columns were built in Egypt. Imhotep was not sure they could stand freely, so he connected them to walls.

Stolen off the internet, my photo sucked

Ok, I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I lost complete control of myself when Hassan and I hit that hallway. I froze for a moment then did an accidental little dance with a squeal at the end. I mean, can you blame me? I was walking down my first row of ancient Egyptian columns towards the first pyramid. Something about Egypt brings out raw emotion and uncontrollable dancing.

I felt like a kid going to Disneyland for the first time, and I wanted to see everything. The place had only a handful of others, so it was easy to roam around, and the weather was nice, the mid-70s. The first order of business was to wander around that pyramid and see all sides. Both entrances were closed to my horror. We ended up peeking into a few nearby buildings of sorts and looking into holes.

The back of the pyramid had some ruins and a strange limestone box. It was weird, like a guard shack or snack bar. I was like, cool; I could use a popsicle about now. What it was is the King’s own personal peepshow. The King had the magical powers of being able to inhabit limestone statues of himself. After his death, he would sit inside the statue and watch what everyone was doing outside his tomb. There were even two holes cut into the stone so he could see you.
He was the very first big brother, and he had trouble letting go of things.

See the leaning box, that is the peep show
Holes to spy on you 4/2021
We see you too King Djoser. 4/2021

After we walked around the pyramid, we stopped at the big entrance (the one in the back was a sketchy hole), and Hassan proceeded to visit with the guard. A few other people were around, and I had no clue what was happening. The others left the area, and I was quietly told to hurry up and follow the guard. It was all so secret squirrel and oh so fun. The guy looked around, saw we were not being watched, and unlocked the door. We were hustled in, and he shut the door. My first instinct was I hope he did not lock it and go to lunch.

I cannot confirm or deny that a bribe was given. I was escorted into the pyramid, and I was over the moon excited. What made me even more excited as this was a straight path to the tomb, no more climbs in short passages.

Hassan and I walked down a long hallway lined with columns. At the end of the hallway was a massive pit in which Djoser once laid. It had large limestone blocks at the bottom. I found out later the other entrance was a maze of tunnels that ended up at the bottom of the pit. That door was non-bribable, plus no one was there at the time. So I made Hassan promise me next time we would wander those hallways, he told me I was going by myself. It was a very impressive hole.

The sketchy entrance in back 4/2021
Path back to the pit 4/2021
Looking down on the limestone blocks Djoser was once laid to rest. 4/2021

After our naughty secret visit to the pyramid’s interior, we headed over to the little city area. I have no clue what he told me because I was so excited to see a camel on the hill. There were some rooms we could go into, probably tombs. Once again, I lost my mind; there were hieroglyphics there; I had to look at each one; some actually still had paint. Again, nothing super fancy but, to me, it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Hassan laughed at me silently as he knew what was at the next stop.

At the edge of the complex was a large pile of boring rocks. I found it strange in the middle of the desert but whatever. Well, that is known as the pyramid of Unas, and you could actually enter that pile of rocks. One word from Hassan and that boring pile of rocks became fascinating; he is magic. But, unfortunately, we could not as it is only an early morning entry, and we were there in the afternoon. Next time I will go into that one.

Pyramid of Unas and yes you can go inside that thing.

As we headed out of the park, I absolutely had to get up close to that stupid camel. I rode a camel in Morocco and wanted to meet an Egyptian one. The camel had a “42” painted on his butt. As we got closer, someone whistled at us, and Hassan turned around. A policeman yelled at us, “no photos, police camel.” We thought it was a joke until we spoke to the guy and it was his police camel. I watched as he put his Russian rifle into a burlap bag hanging off his camel, mounted the beast, and rode off into the desert. He seriously rode a police camel.

Police camel #42 4/2021
A policeman and his camel riding off into the desert 4/2021

Up next….Teti Pyramid and fancy people’s tombs of Sakkara.

Eating in Egypt

After the pyramids of Dashur, we went to a local restaurant for lunch. I had no idea what to expect, but I have to say, the food was delicious.

We ate at an outdoor restaurant; as we entered, to the left, was a woman baking fresh flatbread in the wood-burning oven. She offered us a piece. It was so delicious, I knew that if I hated the rest of the cuisine, I could survive on this alone and be happy.

Hassan ordered us a variety of different dishes to try. First, we had 3 different dipping sauces for yet more of that yummy bread. One he called “old, spiced cheese,” tahini, and eggplant. They are all good, but my favorite was the tahini. Next, he ordered us a few side dishes and chicken no bones along with a beef stick. Ok, there is a major joke about the chicken I will tell you later.

Dipping sauces and veggies 4/2021

The meal was pretty much family-style for the side dishes and dips; we got our own plate of rice and meats. We ate this almost every day with a variety of sides. The chicken was boneless sometimes and grilled with bones other times. The meat was like a hamburger roll with spices in it for flavor. It was quite good.

So delicious 4/2021

Egypt has pastries to die for. There were pastries of every flavor and size you could ever want, sweet to savory. I did not gain weight on this trip only because we walked so much. Now for the weird food, falafel, and French fries. I admit to eating fries for breakfast, but it was weird.

Breakfast in Egypt 4/2021

I know you are all wondering about the dark side of eating in a country other than your own. The Trotsky’s, Montezuma’s revenge, shits and giggles, painting the toilet….diarrhea. Yes, we do need to talk about this fun travel event. When you are in a country with a suspect water system compared to your own country, just do yourself a favor and only drink bottled water. Be careful when you eat street food, and always, ALWAYS carry Pepto in your pocket.

French toast, pastries and fried for breakfast 4/2021

The one thing I really appreciated about Hassan is he understood the American bowel system. He made sure we went to restaurants that would cook food that could not give us issues and only let us drink bottled water. He watched out for us the best he could. I am not going to say nothing happened on our trip, it did, but thanks to a pocket full of Pepto, the day was saved.

4/2021

Ok, now for the chicken no bone story. While I was there, I was told a story about a visitor who was shocked at how many bones the Egyptian chickens had compared to American chickens. Ours were mutants, freaks of nature with no bones. Seriously, this person thought our chickens had fewer bones in their bodies. We laughed quite a bit about that one as it is just crazy. A chicken is a chicken, all the same inside. The difference was our chickens are much meatier due to how they are raised. The Egyptian chickens are cut up differently, so bones showed up where you would not expect them due to the butchering process. I found it funny. They tasted like chicken.

Another thing that surprised me about Egypt was how small my appetite was. I ate a good breakfast and was not hungry for lunch until about 3pm. We never ate dinner and never wanted to. It could have been the heat, or I was too interested in the trip to stop and eat.


Who knows, really.

Day One – The Bent Pyramid

This pyramid is my favorite, and I was so excited to finally be there. I read up on this one before my trip. Walking up to the entrance was yet another surreal experience for me on this trip. I had the feeling of “how did I get here mixed with OMG, I am here”! That feeling happened a lot in Egypt.

Bent Pyramid – 4/2021

The Bent Pyramid has an interesting story; it was the first attempt at a smooth-sided pyramid, and it failed. It was an Egyptian oopsie. The pyramid threatened to collapse as the angle was too steep, so they changed it mid-build, creating a bent shape. Pharoah Sneferu started this one about 2600 BC, his second pyramid. The keyword here is an attempt. Another fun fact about this one is much of the polished exterior stone was left intact and not stripped for building in Cairo.

The entrance tunnel was also a meter tall and almost twice as long as the Red Pyramid. This one had a backward crawl of 120 meters, and THAT was not the worst part of the descent; oh no, it gets worse. The last part of the tunnel was even smaller; I ended up crawling backwards to get down there. On the positive side, this one was cool inside and had no smell to it. I wanted an adventure, and this pyramid gave it to me.

1 Meter tall and LONG. Look at the amazing condition of the tunnel, 4,600 years old. Well, the railings are new

Hassan went down first, and I followed. We descended down to an open area we could stand up and stretch our backs. At the other end of the room was an enormous staircase. After that brutal descent, we had to climb up a huge staircase. At the top of the stairs was a passage to get to the burial chamber.

As if the climb down was not bad enough, there was THIS! – 4/2021

I was so excited to get there, I anticipated a massive room with carvings on the walls and a huge stone sarcophagus… and that was not what I saw. There was nothing but a deep hole with wood poles down there. So I was like, “what the hell is this?” there was no dead guy. I saw more dead guys in central Europe than in this country.

Bent Pyramid 4/2021
Hassan Elian – 4/2021

Tiny tunnel 4/2021

Then there were the bats, up high, down low; they were everywhere. My lovely guide thought it would be fun to make them fly. He found himself funny. Flying guano machines is not my thing. He failed, and I was happy about that. This one was super creepy because of the bats and that we really were deep inside this oopsie pyramid. A dead guy would have made it epically creepy.

See, no dead guy in that pit. Just a lot of creepy flying rats 4/2021

Going 120 meters down was easy; going up not so much. I ended up crawling the last 1/3 of the tunnel. It was exhausting, and my legs were shaking when I got to the top. This one was a challenge, and I did it like a boss, except for the crawling part.

Almost to the top, this was the “big” part of the tunnel

After we exited the pyramid, Hassan wanted to rest. But, I had the need to keep moving; I was on pure adrenaline at that point after my amazing day so far. So, I told Hassan I was going to go over to the other side of the pyramid for photos; the light was better. I expected him to sit and rest. So, I took off; Hassan wearily chased after me to ensure I did not do anything stupid like step on a snake or something.

That odd rock formation in the distance is actually a pyramid, The Black Pyramid 4/2021

There I was, wandering alone in the Sahara Desert, looking at a large crooked pyramid with the best guide in all of Egypt running after me to keep me safe. Unfortunately, poor Hassan figured out pretty quickly that he may have his hands full with me, and he has not even met Laura yet.

Hassan Elian – 4/2021

After all that hard work and water, I needed to use the ladies’ room. TMI, I know but hear me out. I heard there is no toilet paper in Egypt.
I mentioned this to my guide, and once he stopped laughing at me, he told me they did have toilet paper. After all, they built the pyramids, toilet paper is easy. So, I left my roll in the car, and guess what? No toilet paper. I got the last laugh on that one.

Day one – The Red Pyramid

The sun woke me up at 5 am, so I walked to the window, and there they were, bathed in the early morning light; the Giza Pyramids.  It was surreal for me as I had seen them on google earth, in many National Geographic films, but now they were across the street staring back at me.  Once again, I was speechless.

The Red Pyramid from across the Sahara 4/2021

Hassan picked me up, and we headed off for the day.  We did not drive through Old Cairo or New Cairo but the edge of town.  As we left, I have to say I was shocked at the condition of the city’s outskirts.  When I thought of Cairo, I expected to see Souks and Minarets, lovely cobblestone streets, and men in traditional garb walking down the street. At the same time, women carrying baskets of their shopping for the day’s meals.  I thought I would see a donkey here or there, along with a street dog. This is not what I saw. 

Typical building in Cairo at the edge of the city

The streets were littered with debris and garbage along the canal—piles of construction-type rubble.  I initially thought it was from bombing during their revolution.  The buildings were not the lavish Islamic architecture I expected, they looked like a parking garage with some cubes bricked up. Some had partial walls and a lot of open areas. But, again, I was on the edge of the city, not in the main area of the city itself.

I finally got the courage to ask Hassan if their revolution destroyed the city.  I was told that only a small part of the city was damaged.  The buildings I saw were family buildings.  As the generations grew, they build their homes on top of family members’ homes as up was the only way to go.  As the families needed the space, they would brick in another area and enlarge their homes.  I am so glad I asked.

 The further we drove out of town, the more exotic scenes appeared. From date fields to white donkeys pulling produce carts to an occasional camel or cow.  For me, each donkey was exciting, and I had to get a photo. But, of course, I lost my mind the first camel I saw.

Cairo – 4/2021
A freaking camel by the side of the road! 4/2021

The driver pulled over when I saw a woman loading her cow cart with something.  I filmed the cows until I discovered what was in the cart, cow poop. The guys loved showing me their country; you could tell they loved it very much.  I adored every second of the drive. 

Poop

The first stop would be Dahshur where the Red and Bent pyramids were.  I understood the Bent pyramid was the most difficult pyramid to climb, so we started with the Red. I was afraid I would not have the strength to complete it if I was too tired from the Bent. 

Red Pyramid. The entrance is almost halfway up and to the left.

I assumed the entrance to the tomb was a normal hallway, like the catacombs in Paris. Not quite, they were narrow, a little over a meter wide but the height? One freaking meter tall. So you had to go down 60 meters into the hot desert sand, in a tunnel only a meter high. It gets better; you have to go down backward.

You read that right, backward.

The tunnel leading into the Red Pyramid. Yes, that is about one meter tall

If you fell face-first, you would have a long tumble; backward, you just did a face plant. Try this, bend over and put your hands out to your side and above your head.  Walk back down the stairs in that position, and you will know what it was like.

The Red pyramid is a reddish color and in very good shape.  Hassan went down with me and showed me some things while we were inside.  The one thing that struck me about this pyramid was the smell.  There was a strong ammonia smell from the bat urine, but I never saw one bat.  The deeper you go, the stinkier and hotter it got.

Inside the pyramid, those are about 4,500 years old.

We got to the bottom, and there was a peaked ceiling, it was like being in an attic.  I was able to stand and look at the stones.  They were still in such good shape and the workmanship was amazing.

Look how tight spaces are!

We finally reached our destination in the pyramid and found no tomb; it was empty.  It smelled so bad I just wanted to leave.  It was a bit of a letdown to me. The climb up was tough in such a small space but not too bad.  At least there were hand railings to help pull yourself up. Finally, we reached the top of the pyramid as a few other tourists arrived.  We were down there the entire time alone, and it was creepy, deliciously creepy.

Heading up to the entrance of the pyramid 4/2021

Stolen off the internet

Fun Facts:  Pharaoh Snefru built the pyramid about 2575 to 2551 BC. It is over 4,500 years old and the 3rd largest pyramid in Egypt.

It is the first smooth-sided true pyramid built after Pharaoh Snefru’s failed attempt with the Bent Pyramid.  

It is 105 meters tall, and the main passage descents 63 meters to a short, horizontal corridor. There are two 3.6 meter x 8.3 meter, 12.3-meter tall corbelled roof chambers. It is unknown if Snefru was buried there, but bone fragments were found.

Egypt 4/2121

Egypt is finally open to tourism, and now is the right time to go.  Tourism is still down, and the crowds are low.  A close friend and I decided to head over this past April, and it was amazing.

Covid tests were required 36 hours from the time you arrive at your destination.  Down at LAX, it is simple, they have a lab on-site, and you can get results in 6 hours or less.  I drove down to LAX, took a test, and got a great deal on a sleep/park package for $170.  The hotel printed off my covid test for me; it was super easy

It was not as easy for my travel buddy.  The rules changed the night before, and my friend’s test was invalid.  She took a new test, but she missed her flight. So she would have to delay her departure 24 hours, and I would arrive in Cairo alone.  We were going to meet in Frankfurt, eat sausage and drink a beer.

I always wanted to see the pyramids of Giza.  When Google Earth came out, the first place I looked at was Venice, Italy; the second, The Giza Pyramids.   Friends told me it was safe, and they introduced me to my guide, Hassan.  He assured me many times Egypt was safe, and they had toilet paper.  Excited is not how I felt about this trip when I found out about Laura’s flight delay.

Look at the cars parked at the base of the pyramid,, not the foreground. That give you an idea of the size of the thing,

I have never been to the middle east, and now I am going alone.  I admit to being very nervous.  I thought Egypt was unsafe due to the 2011 uprising.  I also believed that it would be unsafe for women to travel alone; we needed to be escorted. I put the trip off many times due to my fears. But, boy, was I wrong! (post trip I figured out Egypt is in Africa and NOT associated with the Middle East…LMAO) Everything I assumed about the country and people was so very wrong.

After a long, lonely trip, I arrived in Cairo.  Honestly, I was less than thrilled to be there.  I was nervous about being in the Middle East, and I was missing my friend.  (I still have not been to the Middle East as Egypt is North East AFRICA!) We live at opposite ends of the country, so we do not see each other often.  Due to past experiences, I knew what to expect in Europe but not Egypt.   I was scared and uncomfortable until I met Amir.  I think he saw the look on my face and took pity on me.  He took control of the situation and guided me through the Visa process with ease.  I felt safe and protected by my tall, handsome travel assistant.  He escorted me to the waiting van where Hassan was waiting.

Hassan Elian 4/2021

There he was, my private Egyptian guide for the trip, Hassan.  We have been talking for months, so I felt I knew him.  An enormous smile and hug greeted me.  I felt safe and welcome, ready to start my journey.  Hassan, Amir, and the driver took me to the hotel.

We had an hour’s drive to the hotel, and it was already dark.  Suddenly, the driver pulls over to the side of the freeway.  Hassan tells me to look to the left as there were the pyramids.  To my surprise, they were not illuminated.  I have seen a few other ancient ruins, and all were lit up at night.  It was so dark that night, and I struggled to see.  I looked low on the horizon as I had no idea how close we were or how big they were.

It took a while, but then I saw them, a shadowy silhouette in the distance.  They were massive and took up most of the horizon.  It is hard for me to put into words how I felt when I saw them for the first time, but I will try.  That moment I saw them will forever be burned into my mind.  Shock, amazement, awe, and disbelief all rolled up into one big emotion.   I have seen photos, and I knew they existed, but you can never fully comprehend how big they are until you see them in person. So there I was, looking at something I have dreamed of seeing.  I have only felt this way one other time in my life, the moment I saw the Grand Canal in Venice for the first time. For the second time in my life. I was speechless.

We arrived at a gated hotel.  The guards inspected our vehicle and made sure we were on the guest list.  I was unnerved at first by the security. Then, I realized this is standard, and Egypt has a large military and police presence.  My guides checked me in and escorted me to my room.  They made sure my room was comfortable.  I had a view of the new museum and the pyramids.  I felt safe, secure, and looked after upon my arrival.

The view from my room

Hassan took care of all the details for Laura’s arrival the next day and assured me she would be cared for by Amir.  I finally relaxed.  Hassan and I met in the bar a short time later.  We had a cocktail and discussed the plans for the next day.  We would visit the Red Pyramid, Bent Pyramid, and Step Pyramid before Laura’s early evening arrival.

I headed off to get some much-needed sleep; I felt welcome and safe my first night in Egypt.  I knew I was in good hands.

Residenzmuseum

Bavaria’s Wittelsbach royal family ruled Bavaria from 1180 to 1918.  The Residenz was their home until WWI.  This is said to be Munich’s top attraction; personally, I think the beer gardens are better.  You get to poke around the amazing treasures of the Wittelsbach family and make googly eyes at their over-the-top lavish lifestyle.  The residence is the main residence for the royal family and the seat of government for the rulers.  You get to see all the interior styles from Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicist, and Historicist.  Oh Goody.

There are 3 museums in there, Treasury, Cuvillies theatre and Residenz.    The treasury is all the cool family jewels (no, not those family jewels you perves).  You can see fancy stones, gold, and crystal owned by the rich people who lived off the peasant farmers’ backs and told them what to do.  The theatre is old and pretty.  Lots of wood and fancy shit. The residence is, well, a residence of the Wittelsbach’s.  Their private rooms are on display. You get to see where the magic happened.

Basically, it is the royal home of rich people turned museum.  Go see how the other half lived back then.

Schloss Nymphenburg

This place was yet another hommage to the birth of a long-desired heir of Ferdinand Maria and Henriette Adelaide of Savoy for little Max Emanuel. Finally, after ten years of trying for the brat, they built a church and started this castle, so he had a place to spend his summer vacations at.  Yeah, he was that spoiled.

Little Max Emanuel continued to build the place as he grew up and became a ruler; of course, he did.

The Bavarian kings spent their summers here; in fact, one of the Wittelsbach family members still has an apartment.  It appears it is hard to evict anyone in Germany these days.

A few fun facts about the place is the gallery of lovelies put together by King Ludwig I, the grandpa of The mad king Ludwig II.  Luds II is the famous one of the Luds line.   So, who cares about these paintings?  They were paintings of 36 ladies from all the social classes, rich or poor; he liked beautiful women.….  Another cool thing about Luds I was he brought the beauty of Roman and Greek art to Munich.  He was totally into artwork and made several little museums for the people.  Luds I also created the city’s beer gardens and Oktoberfest.   Thanks, dude

The other cool thing in the palace is King Ludwig II was born there; you get to see the place of the famous mad king’s beginning.  I love him. Being born there really explains a lot about Luds II.

The palace has museums today, natural history, carriages, saddles to porcelain, and local, regional artists of the day. So go check it out but plan on an entire day.  The place is a mini version of Versailles.

The grounds cover 500 acres that include a lake for gondola rides and incredible gardens.  The average visit to the garden is about two hours unless you lay down in the grass and take a nap, then it is three.

The very best part of the Schloss Nymphenburg Palace is the free wi-fi.