The Pyramids, The Camel and The Sphinx

Today was the day of dreams coming true.  Since we were both young children, Richard and I have dreamed of the day that we would see these great wonders of the world. Egypt almost did not make the cut for the trip as the Canadian website had warned against travel to this region. However, we checked with some tours and they assured us that it was completely safe. So, that is how we actually ended up in Egypt and to this day of days.

Our first stop of the day was at the Saqqara Archaeological Site and Imhotep Museum, also known as the Step Pyramid of Djoser. The earliest colossal stone building in Egypt, it was built in the 27th century BC during the Third Dynasty for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser by his vizier, Imhotep. You may remember Imhotep from the movie The Mummy with Brendan Fraser. Imhotep was never a king but he was christened the god of Medicine and Architecture for his work during this era. We entered the colonnade from the east entrance of the structure and once through this magnificent work of architecture, came into the large courtyard that served as the Sed Festival or rejuvenation ceremony area. Now a festival does sound a little morbid considering that a pyramid is actually a place of burial. However, it was believed that the festival was meant to allow Djoser to continue benefiting from the ritual even in the afterlife. This pyramid is also different from the Great Pyramids of Giza as Djoser decided to stack six mastabas, (bench of mud) each of a decreasing size, on top of each other, thus producing the Step Pyramid. The site is still an active excavation site which most of the pyramid sites are so it looks a bit like a construction site with mounds of rock and sand everywhere. We also were able to descend into an actual tomb here. Much like the catacombs that we saw in Alexandria but much larger. It just gets better and better!!

And then off to the great pyramids of Giza. These are the ones that you see in all the photos and they did not disappoint. The largest of the three was built in the 2550 to 2490 BC by the Pharaoh Khufu. The second largest was built by his son and the smallest of the three by his grandson. It was a definite “pinch me” moment to actually see these great structures up close. We climbed part of the way up and were amazed by the size of the stones. How did these people with no modern technology build this? Were slaves actually used? If not, then where did the manpower come from? There had to be thousands of men to do this work. Unbelievable. Like the Taj Mahal, we just sat for a few minutes and drank it all in.

And….I rode a camel! I wasn’t sure whether this was the ethical thing to do but I decided that I would probably not get another chance to ride a camel in the desert – especially around the pyramids. It was pretty cool but I don’t think that I would want to sit in one of those saddles for a long day of riding!!  Richard has signed up also for the Camel ride, but when he saw what was required to get up on the Camel he did not want to chance damaging his knee that has been very good to  him so far, so I went solo.

The Grande Finale – The Sphinx, constructed from a large block of bedrock with the head of a man and the body of a lion, sits in front of the second pyramid. The detail is amazing!! The paws. The tail. And so large! Another sit and stare moment.

An Egyptian lunch buffet. An educational trip to a perfume factory. Back to our hotel. And our second day in Egypt is already over. Tomorrow we catch a short flight to Aswan and get on board our cruise ship on the Nile. Three days of cruising and touring. Life is good!!

The Step Pyramid.


The Pyramids of Giza.  Someone Pinch Me….


Mr. Sphinx.

Ride em Cowgirl…



Our first day trip in Egypt was to the ancient city of Alexandria. This was a 3 hour bus trip from Cairo through much traffic and extreme fog. Though it does not even come close to Delhi standards of traffic, there is definitely more vehicles on the road than Muscat. Through the fog I could get the occasional glimpse of the landscape that we were passing by. Most was buildings and construction but then evidence of the Nile delta came into view. Crops of oranges and tomatoes, vineyards of grapes and olives, fields of sugar cane revealed a sharp contrast to the sand colored soil. We passed by pickup trucks and horse drawn carts laden with this wonderful looking produce heading into Alexandria markets. By 10:00 we reached the city. From a distance it looked massive, stretching for miles along the Mediterranean. In actual fact, it stretches 100 kms along the sea and is the second largest city in Egypt after Cairo with 5.2 million people. Alexander the Great, a Macedonian by birth, conquered all of Greece, then crossed the Mediterranean to Egypt and built the city of Alexandria around 331 BC.  The city has been a major trading port ever since. 

We drove through a few narrow streets to our first stop – Kom al-Shoqafa – The Catacombs. Though only discovered in 1902 when a donkey accidentally fell into the access shaft, they actually date back as early as the second century AD. We descended underground via a circular staircase which opened into a number of tomb rooms. A high ranking official usually had a room of his own whereas people of less importance had to share their room with many others. All the mummified bodies from these burial chambers have now been removed and placed in various museums around the country.   

We travelled further into the city to Pompey’s Pillar, a Roman triumphal column and the largest of its type constructed outside the imperial capitals of Rome and Constantinople. This is also the sight of one of the ancient libraries. Unfortunately, all evidence of the library is now gone but the excavation site has a number of hieroglyphics stones from as early as Ramses II. 

Our last stop before lunch was the Qaitbay Citadel, a 14th century fortress built along the sea for protection from enemy forces. With a mosque as the centre showpiece, the lookout ports are high above on the fort walls. It is majestic and the clear blue water of the Mediterranean frame the structure perfectly.

Lunch was local fish served in its entirety. I know that you all will find this hard to believe but I opted for the chicken. Richard had the fish and said that it was just fine. Maybe I’ll be braver next time. LOL

Our last stop of the day was the Alexandria Public Library. Now you wouldn’t think that a library would be a tourist attraction but it is a world renowned library and it was pretty amazing.  What also makes this library special is that the original one was built by Ptolemy who was a general of Alexander the Great and became the ruler of Egypt upon Alexander’s death. The Library became the center of knowledge for the ancient world but was unfortunately destroyed completely when Julius Caesar and Pompey were fighting it out for control of the Roman Empire.  As the library burnt to the ground all the accumulated knowledge from the known world at that time was lost to antiquity. It was decided to rebuild the library in 1995 and governments, businesses and philanthropists from around the world answered the call to help out. The tour guide rattled off many statistics but if you are truly interested you can check them out on their website We spent an hour or so there wandering through the archives, artifacts and books. Not nearly enough time!!

We headed back to Cairo and the trip seemed to take much less time than the outbound journey. We had a meeting with our tour guide in the evening where he explained the rest of the tour and got us pumped up to see the pyramids. Can’t wait!!   

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside the catacombs, so you will just have to take our word we were there.

Pompey’s Pillar.

The Citadel.


Statue of Ptolemy outside the Library of Alexandria.  Apparently it was discovered at the Pillar of Pompey archaeological site.