Smaller than expected
When we approached Egypt, my cruise mate declared that he didn’t really care about seeing the pyramids because he had seen plenty of photos of them. Incomprehensible! He preferred to visit the historic battleground of El Alamein and its museum and cemetery. To each his own.
The $189 Egypt, tombs and pyramids tour was well worth it. Our guide, a 40-something Egyptian woman was an engineer who stopped her professional life to have a family, then later decided to become a tour guide, which required four years of study. Fluent in English she gave us an insider’s view of Egyptian life and culture and even taught us some Arabic words and phrases. Her name was Hala and she was excellent in every way — personable, intelligent, amusing. After about a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride from the port of Alexandria we reached Cairo and the pyramids. Somehow the pyramids weren’t as big as I expected — perhaps because our cruise ship was the size of Alaska, and by comparison everything else seemed small.
But still magnificent
But they were wonderful nevertheless. It was a tourist/vendor war zone around the pyramids. Since no tourists had been there for eight months during the revolution, the vendors were ravenous and it was a feeding frenzy with the new crop of tourists. Anywhere you pointed your camera some vendor with or without camel and/or traditional Arabian outfit was planting himself in your viewfinder asking for money. We were well prepared for this on the ship and told not to look at or talk to any vendors unless we wanted them to follow us in perpetuity. Engaging in any contact meant that you wanted to buy something.
Not far from the pyramids on the Giza Plateau is the Sphinx, surrounded by mobs of people and fenced off, so you cannot walk right up to it.
Equally fascinating were the tombs of Sakara, where we actually entered an semi-excavated pyramid, crouching down to walk through a dark downhill tunnel to a chamber within. In another tomb beautiful hieroglyphics decked the walls.