"" Writer's Wanderings: Alexandria to Giza, Egypt

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Alexandria to Giza, Egypt

 Alexandria, Egypt. Not as large a seaport as Shanghai but it is probably the second largest we have sailed into. The morning sun was just beginning to peek through the clouds as we finally made it through the lines of security to get to our bus for the excursion to the pyramids. During the days prior to our arrival, our passports were collected, Egyptian authorities came aboard, inspected and stamped everyone’s passports whether they were going ashore or not and then the next day our passports were returned to us.

The ship’s staff instructed us to carry our passports with us and to guard them carefully as a lost passport would mean going to the counsel in Cairo, spending the night in order to get another one and then flying on to our next port to meet the ship again. Not a lovely thought. Bob had left his waist belt that holds money and passports at home and we were kind of at a loss at where to keep them. My purse? His back pocket? I even considered tucking them in my bra and then thought of how sweaty they would get in the Egyptian heat. Finally, I remembered the lightweight pants I’d bought for the hot days and the zippered section in one leg. I had thought my iPhone would fit there but it didn’t. Turns out the passports, although a tight squeeze, fit perfectly.

Exiting the ship, we still had to go through a security check. Usually that happens on the way back but the Egyptian security checked to be sure our passport was stamped and x-rayed bags. I’ll take a guess it was to check for firearms or maybe drugs?

Once on the bus we were relieved to find it was air conditioned and working. The day was already warming and it was said to be up to 95 F by the afternoon. There was also a toilet on the bus but halfway through our three hour bus ride, word spread that it wasn’t flushing. So glad we were sitting near the front.

Our guide rattled off lots of history and dates and facts for the first hour and then gave up when she realized a lot of people were still sleeping. I found the population numbers interesting. There are over 5.5 million in Alexandria and the greater metropolitan area of Cairo tops out at over 22.1 million. Cairo was the direction we were headed but from the highway, it appeared that Alexandria went on for quite a while.

The drive to Giza where the Pyramids and Sphinx are was mostly highway and not a whole lot of traffic between the cities. We passed lots of flat area of mostly sand but there were quite a few areas that were irrigated and looked to have crops growing. A couple of corn fields were done for the year. Our guide said that the land here was sold cheaply by the government and later canals were constructed to bring in the water thereby making it a little more profitable for those farming the land. While I am sure there are those making a lot more money, most of the areas that were populated along our route appeared to be poorer. The median salary is less than $300USD/month.

Giza was not far off the highway. The community is still developing and appeared to be a lot newer than what we’d seen in Alexandria. The Pyramids were about five minutes from our exit but a good fifteen minutes getting into the entrance gate. The weekend in Egypt is Friday and Saturday and this was a Friday crowd swelled with tourists as well as more local people coming for the weekend.

Our first sight of the Pyramids was already pumping up adrenaline. This was what we had booked this segment of the cruise for. As we waited and watched the crowds vying for position in cars and on foot to get into the park, our guide gave us more information about the Pyramids.

I found it fascinating that there were actually seven here in Giza. Most pictures only show the largest three. The Great Pyramid, the largest, was built for Khufu (Cheops), a king of the fourth dynasty. The next largest was built by his son who succeeded him and then the next by the grandson. I believe it was the son who built his as tall as possible without making it taller than his father’s out of respect. It didn’t stop him from building it on a plateau that was a bit higher so that it actually appears taller.

Around the three large pyramids are several smaller ones which our guide said belong to other members of the family. You might say that this was a family cemetery plot.

Finally in the gate, we were instructed that we only had twenty minutes at our first stop, a panoramic view which would take in all of the pyramids. Of course that always works well when you have forty people getting off and on a bus, add the fact that the toilet didn’t work and you have half of us standing in line for the toilets that were just a step above outhouses.

Thankfully our guide could change some money for Egyptian dollars. It cost ten Egyptian dollars to use the facility. For two Euros (about $2USD) I got 4 ten dollar Egyptian bills. I used one and Bob used one to get us a spectacular adventure in toileting. The toilets were flushable but not exactly the cleanest and when you paid your fee, you received a wad of toilet paper to use. Our adventure took a good ten minutes.

Now at this stop we were also told that you could get a camel ride for $5 USD or take a picture with a camel for $3 USD. So, what about that 20 minute thing? It turned into thirty minutes or more by the time our guide and the security guy who was riding with us rounded everyone up. Oh, let me tell you about the security guys. Every one of the thirteen or fifteen buses that left the ship for the pyramids had a security guard. Each one looked like a member of our Secret Service. Dark suits and ties, sunglasses. The only difference is no ear pieces for communication. They used phones and each sported some sort of gun that looked more like one you would shoot to anesthetize a large animal. Maybe it was for a charging camel? Because there were a lot of camels!

Camels and horses were everywhere and their owners trying to hustle you for a ride or a picture. Let me tell you, they were good. One followed us at one point talking behind us cheerfully about our visit and where we were from and when I turned to say something to him, a camel was looming over all of our heads. When I startled, he said, “Not to be afraid. This is Alice. Want a picture?”

I’d like to say we stood amazed looking at the pyramids and perhaps we did for a few minutes while we took a few pictures but the crowds were endless and the, well you know, on the ground was always a possibility of walking in. Did I mention that there were few walkways and the parking lot was a total free-for-all with no organization. So we dodged camels, horses and buggies and cars and buses and found our way back to the bus thankfully unscathed and ready to move on.

Next up: Getting up close to a pyramid with an invitation to go inside.

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