Welcome to volume two of my four-part series of our favorite man-made wonders of the world. While Machu Picchu was our clear favorite, choosing our number two on this list was not quite as easy. The Great Pyramid of Giza or the Taj Mahal? I mean, how does one even choose? Talk about a Sophie’s Choice moment…but I’ve made my choice and there’s no turning back now.
But damn. I totally ruined the surprise by alluding to The Great Wall being the fourth favorite–but I’ve never been very good at being discreet before so why would I choose to start now?
Where do I even begin in a.) writing about this incredible ancient monument b.) describing what it was like to ride on a camel across the Sahara Desert to see and explore these majestic structures and c.) explaining how much T dislikes camels?
I will first start by saying that we traveled to Egypt at a very different time where we felt relatively safe and were revered by countless Egyptians due to President Obama being sworn into office just a few months before. Everywhere (and I mean everywhere) we went, locals would scream out “Obama! Obama!” and were OBSESSED with T…from requests for photos to hugs, handshakes and practically bowing down to T (oh how I wish I was making this up), their infatuation with T was so ridiculous that we began to wonder if some actually believed that my husband was Obama?! It was absolutely insane — I am not exaggerating when I say that T was treated like a celebrity…me on the other hand, well, they couldn’t have cared less about me! HA! But don’t worry, I made sure I kept my husband’s ego in check (as much as humanly possible, that is) by reminding his loving and adoring fans that he is just a regular person and not the second coming of Obama (albeit a huge Obama supporter nonetheless, so maybe that counted for something?).
Now, I recognize that today’s Egypt is very different than it was 7+ years ago–political unrest and instability have made traveling here much more challenging and uncertain. While of course there is no simple solution and I am by no means suggesting that you should put you and your loved ones in harm’s way, if you are thinking about traveling to Egypt, you may want to consider using a tour company. I have spoken about the benefits of joining organized tours in previous posts about India and Turkey and while no tour company is perfect and there are certainly drawbacks of using a tour company, in the case of traveling to somewhere like Egypt, there are many advantages. We used the company Gate 1 Travel and had a fantastic experience–we felt completely safe the entire time, saw and experienced a ton with very little planning on our part (although this aspect can simultaneously be a disadvantage) and made some friends who we still keep in touch with along the way. In terms of tour operators, our Egyptian tour was a huge success.
The three Egyptian pyramids: Menkaure, Khafre, Khufu
The majestic Pyramids of Giza overlook the sprawling city of Cairo and the view from the city of the Pyramids off in the distance is nothing short of spectacular. Of course, any iconic site that is revered and renowned around the world like the Pyramids runs the risk of not living up to the hype and being a disappointment. But in our opinion, this couldn’t have been further from the case. We were in awe of these spectacular structures from the moment we arrived to the second we left. The sheer size of these monuments is impressive: the Great Pyramid alone is comprised of more than 2.5 million individual stones, each weighing over 6,000 pounds. As if that wasn’t incredible enough, each stone was individually crafted to perfectly fit into the overall structure, all without machinery and modern technology. I know. Our minds are blown, too. This ancient complex includes the three pyramids known as the “Great Pyramids”, the Great Sphinx, several cemeteries, and an industrial area. It is believed that the Great Pyramids were built by tens of thousands of people spanning over multiple decades.
Visitors are able to enter the Great Pyramid of Khufu, although the number of tickets issued daily are limited. Another advantage of visiting the pyramids with a tour company? Your admission inside is included, prearranged and guaranteed! You know how much I appreciate (and recommend!) well-planned out trips. The pyramid’s interior tunnels are narrow, low, and hot–not the most comfortable of experiences and at times a bit claustrophobic–but a not-to-be-missed experience nonetheless and definitely worth it.
The Sphinx is carved from the bedrock of the Giza Plateau and symbolizes wisdom and strength. Constructed of only limestone, it’s regarded as one the largest single-stone structures in the world. Just like the Great Pyramids, its magnitude and sense of mystery is truly mind-blowing.
For as long as we continue to travel this wondrous world of ours, few experiences will be able to rival riding across the desert sands of the Sahara on the back of a camel with the pyramids as our destination. Yes, the ride was bumpy and our camels spit constantly, but this excursion remains one of my all-time favorite travel moments. While T loved visiting the pyramids, he would be more than happy if he never had to sit on a camel ever again. But of course, with dreams of traveling to places like Morocco, Jordan, and the UAE, (hopefully) there will be many more camel rides in our future! So I guess Egypt’s greatest short-lived celebrity is just going to have to get over it.
Additional Tips for Visiting The Pyramids:
*Visit During the Cooler Months: I know. This tip is pretty obvious, and I know that you would never travel to Egypt in August, but you know, it’s those other people that I’m really speaking to right now. So while there are plenty of mysteries surrounding the pyramids, the oppressive summer heat is not one of them. Yet there are plenty of people who still plan their visits to Egypt during the summer and then complain that it was too hot. I mean, come on. If you have flexibility in your schedules, try to plan your excursion during October-April and/or in the morning. We traveled in March and temperatures were comfortable and cool–hovering around 70 degrees. If you’re traveling all the way to Egypt, it’s worth making the effort to not have to deal with 100+ temperatures.
*Plan Ahead: You know how anxious I get when I hear of last-minute plans and lack of preparation. I beg you.
*Wear Appropriate Clothing and Shoes: Only in my travel life do I care about comfortable clothes and shoes. Wear closed-toed and sturdy shoes, dress in layers, and if you’re riding a camel, wear pants. So pretty much the exact opposite of my typical daily wear!
*Drink Plenty of Water and Stay Hydrated: I mean you’re in the DESERT. So yeah, you need to drink water.
*Bring Small Bills: Carry plenty of small bills so you can tip your driver, tour guide(s), etc.
*Appreciate and Adapt: Enjoy every minute (even when your camel doesn’t cooperate, you are sweating profusely while crawling through the narrow tunnels of the pyramids, and/or local sellers repeatedly harass you…chances are all three of these things–and maybe more–will happen during your visit). But seriously, who cares?! You’re standing in front of and inside the PYRAMIDS! Take multiple moments to appreciate that you are seeing one of the most incredible and impressive structures in the world and no minor inconvenience should ever devalue this awesome experience.
*We traveled to Egypt in Spring 2009.