It’s early saturday morning in Cairo, the city has quietened down after a busy friday night when the streets are packed with the locals..
It seems the young egyptian people really have an enjoyable friday night out in Cairo. The side streets are blooming with cafes, most do not serve alcohol although it is not too difficult to find the occasional beer. Mainly people are just enjoying coffee or the local tea, chaja. As it goes I’m walking down Mohamed El Alfy street heading toward Tahrir square. I just pass the Hotel Cosmopolitan,a colonial style building downtown and meet up with my soon to be best friend in the golden city, Abdullah. Hi, where you from? the by now familiar way Egyptian introduce themselves with foreigners. I smile and we end up stopping in at the cult Cairo cafe Riche for a morning coffee and shisha.
The limestone plateau of Giza
Abdullah is a Giza boy, he works the streets of Cairo for numerous souvenir places all for commission like so many others. It’s a slow day for him, he tells me. Next thing you know were on our way to Giza. Crossing the Qasr El Nil Bridge for the first time is certainly impressive, there’s a whole family on a vespa, road workers repairing the bridge in the midst of tremendous traffic. Our cab driver takes us towards the pyramid approaching from the south. Later I find the main road from Cairo is a bit further north, however Abdullah wants to show me the real Giza and the right way to approach the pyramids.
A shocker it is as there in the distance among the old macadam roads of Giza city, among the horses the cars the children playing in the streets; something grand and mystical vibrates in the hot desert air above the plateau. The cab driver and Abdullah smile at my over-reaction. I get it, one would get used to them.
Camels, it must be love
Tarif a government licensed guide for the Giza pyramid complex and I are introduced. Abdullah is quite impressed with my bargaining skills as Tarif and I haggle the price of the tour and come to an agreement.
By horse back it is and once were underway it is magical. Passing the tomb city with hundreds of local boys riding their horses fishing for potential clients. The Egyptian revolution of 2011 left it’s toll on the tourism industry of Egypt to no ones surprise.
I don’t mind at all to visit this ancient site without the millions of tourists around. Tarif is quite the guide, and Sonal the lovely Indian lady accompanying me by horseback have access to the tombs thanks to good local knowledge of our mentioned guide. A Bedouin with a camel approaches; Oh you look like Omar Sharif, are you Egyptian? Won over by this charming pitch I am quickly up on his camel like it’s been yesterday I last rode one. In fact I never have. The closest I’ve come would be grandfathers donkey.
The size of every single block
It just is overwhelming to concur with history books and construction methods described, one who has ever worked with stone is just begone. I approach these massive blocks, especially the ground level corner ones with a light smirk on my face. The angles are so perfect. Each stone is the size of a van. And must weight at least twice as much. Stone masonry of this scale is divine, and this is an understatement.
Are you happy?
As we have rounded the site for a few hours on horseback and camelback, Tarif poises this simple question to me. Magic, my friend and nothing less is what one has to say with first encountering these magnificent wonders of the world, these statues to human nature, human spirit. These standings to the tests of time.
Abdullah awaits me. An invitation to his home in Giza for a nice evening supper prepared by his mother is too good to pass. I am introduced to his whole family, first his eight year old younger brother. Then his cousin our cab driver back to Cairo and his son. Thank you for a lovely meal and for taking me in your home. Such is the hospitality of the Egyptian people I was fortunate enough to meet. Unprecedented.