The taxi drove me along the straight road leading up to the Pyramids complex in Giza ! The Pyramids are located on a large plateau …..because of this and due to its height, the peaks of the Pyramids can be spotted from miles away !
The first sight was simply breath-taking ! As we approached closer and closer, the enormity of the structures just kept becoming more evident !
I paid the cabbie the agreed 7 pounds and walked towards the Pyramids complex. It was about 9 Am , and already quite a few tourist buses and loads of western tourists were at the site. I bought my ticket for 40 pounds and after being subjected to stringent security checks, got into the complex.
Right ahead was the great Pyramid – the biggest of the 9 Pyramids at the site. Known as the Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops, as the Greeks called him), after the Pharoah for whom this was built, it towered a good 150 metres and consisted of about 3 million blocks of stones each weighing around 2 tonnes !
The Pyramid was just huge ! Though it appears to be a perfectly smooth triangle from far, in reality the surface is quite uneven and stepped, and consisting of huge stones laid in rows one above the other. Standing right at the base of the Pyramid and looking up, the structure appeared to look like steps leading up to infinity! [ one of the symbolic purposes of the Pyramids was to serve as a staircase leading up to heaven, which the dead Pharoah could ascend in his afterlife !]
There was an opening near the base of the Pyramid which led into the chambers inside. There were lots of people queuing up to get in. I went to the counter nearby and bought the required ticket ……It cost me 100 Egyptian pounds …not bad , considering that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience ! But what hits you hard is realising the fact that for local Arabs, it costs only about 20 Egyptian pounds for the same ticket!
[ now I know how foreigners feel when they visit the Taj Mahal and see that for Indians, it costs Rs.50 where as for them it costs $50 ! ! ! ]
They only allow 200 people to enter into the Pyramid in a day ! And I was lucky to be there early enough! The security guards at the entrance collected my cameras (photography is banned inside) and I entered the pathway leading inside !
The path consisted of a tunnel inclined upwards at about 45 degrees and wide enough just for one person to move in either direction. The fact that the tunnel was only about 4 feet high made it even worse, as one cannot stand upright ! So effectively one had to be crouching while trying to climb up the slope !
The climb was arduous and half way through, I was nearly exhausted ! Finally, I reached the final segment of the climb which constituted a much larger sized tunnel ! It was very elegant and impressive with heiroglyphic ornamentations on the walls on either side !
By now, the top of the tunnel was visible to me ! So close yet so far!
There was a young western couple standing at the top, who, seeing me struggle my way up, were kind enough to encourage by shouting out, “Come on , you can do it!”, or ” ….just a lil’ bit more!”…….. With this new found inspiration, I dragged my tired body up ……..when I finally reached the top, I was nearly overcome with fatigue, and gasping for air ! There wasn’t too much ventilation around there and the air was extremely humid ! The chamber was straight ahead, the entrance to it being yet another low passageway.
As I stood there trying to compose myself, I picked up a conversation with the couple, who seemed to be more interested in each other, than the historic marvels that lay around ….the girl was Australian, named Amanda and the guy an American named Tanner! They were engaged and in true Western fashion, were going around the world on their honeymoon, even before getting married !
I crouched through the passageway and entered my destination – the chamber, located geometrically somewhere in the heart of the Pyramid. It was a small room, with an empty Sarcophagus lying at one end [ ……..the mummy would have been long removed ! ] . There was an amazing sense of calm and peace in the chamber, and many western tourists were seen to be sitting on the floor and meditating ! The Pyramid is said to have lots of positive energy properties about it, and maybe it was just wishful thinking , but it did feel as if there was something different inside the chamber!
I stood there for a few minutes , savouring the feeling, and then went back out. Along with Amanda, Tanner and many other tourists, I commenced my climb down.
Next, I walked towards the Solar Boat Museum, just behind the Great Pyramid. This housed a large wooden solar boat belonging to the Pharoah Khufu (Cheops), that had been excavated from that exact spot !
There were lots of camels nearby, with touts offering tourists rides on them at exorbitant prices ! I avoided them , but couldn’t resist getting photographed sitting on one, for which I had to pay around 5 Egyptian pounds as ‘Baksheesh’ !!!
It was starting to get increasingly hot at the Pyramids complex. Being at the edge of the desert, the sun was scorching and unbearable…….I had been carrying just one bottle of water and soon my throats were dry. The thing about the Pyramids, is that due to its design, it does not cast too much of a shadow, and hence there was no solace from the hot sun.
South-west to the great Pyramid was the second Pyramid – the Pyramid of Khufru. This was almost the same size as the Pyramid of Cheops, but technically, a few metres shorter. Here too, there were lots of tourists trying to enter the Pyramid, but the thought of another strenous climb inside and having to part with yet another 100 pounds, refrained me from doing so. After all, the interiors of this Pyramid couldn’t be too different from that of the Great Pyramid, which I had just seen.
Besides the 2 big ones there were 7 more smaller Pyramids of various sizes, meant for the queens or high priests! Apart from that, there were lots of excavations still in progress at many spots around the Pyramids…………
As I walked towards the third Pyramid, an Egyptian lady approached me with some postcards, souvenirs and other paraphernilia ……I refused and as I was walking past, a strong desert wind blew at us, throwing away the postcards that she was carrying ….scatterring them over the small dunes around !
Being the chivalrous person that I was, I went forward and helped her pick them up …..as I was leaving, she stopped me and put a ‘Keffiyeh’ – the traditional Arab head-scarf, on my hand ! I refused saying that I didn’t want to buy it , but she was adamant, saying that it was a gift from her ! After much nagging, I finally accepted it, and she tied it around my head for me…….She asked me to give me my camera and shot a couple of pictures for me with it ! As I thanked her and was about to leave, was when she brought out her true intentions …..she asked for ‘Baksheesh’ !!!
“WHAT ??? …..I thought you said it was a gift !!!” , I protested……..but she wouldn’t let me go…….frustrated, I took out 2 pounds and handed it to her….but it was hardly enough. …..She had eyed the extra pounds in my wallet and wanted them as well ……finally, left with no other option, I handed over 2 more pounds and walked away ……
[ So much for showing a little generosity these days ! ]
I had hardly covered 15 metres, when another guy came to me and said that the Keffiyeh on my head was not proper ……he offered to tie it properly for me , which I refused ….however, he was adamant too, and re-did it for me in a better fashion ……..just as before, he too took a couple of snaps for me and demanded a ‘Baksheesh’ …..I couldn’t get rid of him either until I paid him another 4 pounds !
Cursing myself, I decided not to even respond to any of these touts, who try first to be friendly and then churn out some ‘Baksheesh’ ! By now, I had learnt their Modus Operandi ….the best thing to do was to outright ignore them ….be rude if need be, but never entertain these touts !
I braved the heat and walked down the sands to the third pyramid……..with the desert as the backdrop, the Pyramids presented a very poignant picture ! They just stood there ….with a silent, arrogant beauty about them ! What was even more fascinating was realizing that they had been standing so, for the past 5000 years !
Mark Antony, [ not the singer who was dumb enough to marry J Lo , but the original Roman who had ‘roman’ced Cleopatra ] is said to have climbed the great Pyramid……….. Napolean is said to have slept inside it ………… Hitler’s Nazi army had been photographed sitting on it …………Kajol had run around it in a chiffon saree in the song “Suraj hua madham” [ from the highly-torturous movie “Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham” ] …………….and here I was standing next to it ! It was an amazing feeling!
Today the Pyramids are around 5000 years old …..the only one remaining of the ancient 7 Wonders of the World !!! …… even at Mark Antony’s time (sometime in the first century BC) , the Pyramids were ancient at around 2500 years ! The architectural marvel of the structures just cannot be described in words ! Each of the structures are so geometrically accurate, that in spite of being so huge, the margin of error at the base is just under a few inches ! While building the Pyramids, the huge stones comprising it must have been lifted to heights of upto 150 metres to the top of the structures …..which is a very tough task even with the modern technology available today !
In addition, the 9 Pyramids are aligned in a manner precisely corresponding to some particular constellation in the sky. This proves the advanced knowledge of astronomy possessed by the ancient Egyptians.
But how the ancient Egyptians managed to build them without any modern gadgets is one of the greatest mysteries facing mankind ! A lot of theories had been proposed for it, but none had been devoid of flaws. This essentially means that to this day, there is no clear explanation to how these Pyramids could have been built 5000 years ago, at a time when the rest of the world hadn’t even discovered Iron !
What is known though, is that the Pharoahs had employed slaves in their construction, and that the stones used to build the Pyramids were actually quarried 100’s of kilometres away and transported to the construction site over the Nile. Back then, the Nile used to flow right beside the Pyramids complex, but over the past 5000 years it had naturally changed its course and today is about 20 kilometres away !
But the even GREATER mystery to me was how, not even a teeny-weeny bit of this intelligence possessed by the ancient Egyptians, had sunk down to the present-day ones ! [ Clearly evolution couldn’t have worked backwards !!! ]
With all these questions ringing in my head, I walked towards the eastern end of the complex, where stood the Sphynx ! Compared to the Pyramids, the Sphynx looked tiny – a stone structure of a Pharoah’s head super-imposed on the body of a lion …….meant originally to protect the great Pyramids !
Beside the Sphynx were the chambers where mummification of the carcasses were carried out! By about 1 PM, I was nearly dehyrated and almost dying of the heat and thirst ! I had truly underestimated the desert ! I got out of the complex through the exit in front of the Sphynx and went straight into the KFC store for refreshments! After a few chicken legs and a refreshing Pepsi, I set out to return back to the city of Cairo.