Friday, June 23, 2017

Serendipity: A Stop-over in Egypt Part II

In the previous post I told how lucky we were to have a 24-hour stop-over in Egypt.  Be sure to read that post first.  Here are pictures LeRon took that I would also like to share.  LeRon was using the better camera and has taken some nice photos.  He's helped out with some of the captions.  Check out the short video too.  If you can't view the video, try changing your browser.

One of our first views of Cairo as we were driving from the airport to Giza.  Love that Arabic writing.  It's like artwork.

Imagine trying to house 25 million people in one city and its surrounding suburbs!  The architecture definitely blends in with the landscape.

Water is the life blood of Egypt.  Where there's water, there's green and where there's not, there's just sand and heat.

Close-up of the Great Pyramid -- the burial tomb of Cheops.  We have a lecture series on Egypt that I need to listen to again.  It will mean more to me now.  Interesting to think that Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus may have seen the pyramids and that was 2000 years ago.  So the pyramids, being about 5000 years old, were about 3000 years old when Jesus was taken to Egypt.

Getting ready to board the cart.  Our wonderful guide, Michael, is ready to help me in.

Nice contrast between the sand and stone and the green foliage that water gives.

Our guide Michael told us that Napoleon's soldiers broke off the Sphinx's nose.  Sad.  I asked google about this theory and this is what I found: 
The Egyptian Arab historian al-Maqrīzī wrote in the 15th century that the nose was actually destroyed by a Sufi Muslim named Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr. In 1378 CE, Egyptian peasants made offerings to the Great Sphinx in the hope of controlling the flood cycle, which would result in a successful harvest. Outraged by this blatant show of devotion, Sa'im al-Dahr destroyed the nose and was later executed for vandalism. Whether this is absolute fact is still debatable.

So amazing to see the Sphinx in real life.  There is nothing like travel to broaden your horizons.

Nice to see tourist police patrolling the grounds.  We've heard horror stories of tourists getting kidnapped at the pyramids.  I think that happened more in past years in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings further south in Egypt.
The pyramids sit in a wilderness of sand and stone and heat.

Ha ha.  To understand this photo, you need to check the previous blog where our guide was taking photos of me touching a pyramid.  LeRon couldn't figure out what we were doing.  This is what he saw (thinking I was crazy!)  I should put this picture in the previous blog but don't think I want to go to the work of doing it.

You can see why LeRon thought I was crazy.  I do look rather silly.  Be sure to see the previous post to see me touching the top of a pyramid.

This is the third largest pyramid -- built for the tomb of the grandson of Cheops.

Camels crossing the Sahara Desert.  It looks so romantic but actually riding a camel is not that comfortable.  I think it's something you need to get used to.  But then riding a horse is something you need to get used to too.

At a scenic overlook there were many camel drivers hoping to make a few dollars giving tourists a ride.  Not many takers on this very hot, almost 40 C day.  And this being the month of Ramadan, Muslim people were fasting with no water to drink, so there were not many Muslim tourists either.

Look closely and you can see the city of Giza in the back, shrouded in cloud (or smog?)  From a distance, you don't really appreciate how large these pyramids are until you stand right beside them and see the size of the stones, layer upon layer, rising above you and see how huge these structures really are.  The sides are steep.  Even though there are signs warning you not to try climbing up, in actual fact, it would be very dangerous because the sides are so steep and the stones would be difficult to climb.

Another view of the lower stones of the pyramid (the third one, which was once faced with granite) with the city in the background.  The lower courses of stone around the entryway have been reconstructed with smooth granite blocks to show what it originally looked like, only it would have been all the way up on all 4 sides.  This pyramid was built by Cheop's grandson and is the smallest, though still large, of the 3 main pyramids.  The largest one, built by the grandfather Cheops, was faced with smooth limestone.  The second largest pyramid, built by Cheops' son, was faced with marble and still has that marble facing on the top Apex.   When all three pyramids were all complete and whole, it truly must have been one of the great marvels of the ancient world.

If you enlarge this picture, you can see 2 entrances to interior passageways.  However, our guide told us that most of the above-ground pyramid is solid and most of the passageways and tomb chambers are underground.  Our guide told us that it took 100,000 slaves over 30 years to build each of these pyramids.  Those that didn't perish building it were slain upon completion to hide the secrets of the entryways and interior tombs and treasure chambers, as well as to be servants to the buried Pharaoh in the after-life.  I'm sure glad we live now and not then.

When the pyramid was first completed, the entire exterior surface was faced with marble.  Over the centuries, the marble has been removed and used for other purposes.  All that remains covered with marble now is the top Apex.  It truly must have been grand to behold it all covered with marble when it was new, about 5,000 years ago!

Colleen is standing at the base of one of the smaller "Queens" pyramids.  Even though it is dwarfed by the 3 much larger Pharaohs' pyramids, it is still a formidable pile of huge stones.  One noticeable thing is that the soil around the pyramids is all coarse sand and small stones.  All of the stones, some of them very large, were carried here on barges on the Nile River from southern Egypt.  What an absolutely Herculean task considering how many thousand tons of stone that must have been for these 3 huge pyramids here and the numerous smaller ones as well. 

The centuries have taken their toll on what was once a smooth surfaced Queen's pyramid. We went down inside the Queen's tomb underneath this small pyramid.

Hieroglyphics on the  wall of one of the the burial chambers are still visible as they were deeply carved.

This burial tomb was pretty fancy with statues carved out of the stone walls and hieroglyphics on all the walls.

Close-up of the hieroglyphics.

Cheops' son's pyramid in the background against a sampling of the stones that surround one of the smaller pyramids.

This could be a David Roberts painting.  He toured the Holy Land in the early 1800's painting pictures of life as he saw it.  This scene of a camel on the road, Muslim tombs in the background reminds me of his paintings only this is a photograph.  The rounded mounds in the background are the remains of tombs of lesser nobles.  The area in front of the mounds is a modern Egyptian Muslim cemetery.

A closer-up view of the Muslim cemetery and ancient burial tombs.

This photo says "Egypt" to me.

Goodbye Sphinx and pyramids.  So glad we got to see you.

Our guide Michael was about the age of our oldest son who is also named Michael.  He was an excellent guide with good English and a kind and caring attitude.  He was so happy to share the pyramids with us.  Also to make a few bucks for guiding us.  During the month of Ramadan, things close at 3 p.m. so not many tourists come.

Hard to believe the Sphinx is 5000 years old and still in such good shape.  So glad we got to see it, nose or no nose!

Serendipity: A Stop-over in Egypt

When I booked our tickets to go to Chicago for Heather's wedding, I knew that we were returning to Nairobi through Cairo but I thought it was just a connection (like when Heather came in December and Michael and Craig in February).  Just before we left for Chicago I noticed that it was not only a connection, but a 25-hour layover!  So I got busy and booked a hotel.  What luck to a have a full day in Cairo!  Our niece, Nancy, and family had lived in Cairo for a couple of years so I contacted her for information about what to see.  And luckily, just like the Nairobi National Park is within Nairobi city limits, the Pyramids of Giza are in Giza, which is right next to Cairo.  A very do-able one day excursion!  How is that for serendipity?!

The Pyramids of Giza are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only wonder to remain pretty much as it was 5000 years ago.  Well, it's standing anyway, as opposed to the other six wonders which are no longer in existence.  So interesting to think that Mary and Joseph, with baby Jesus, probably saw the pyramids when they moved to Egypt as they fled from King Herod.

The pictures below are from my camera.  LeRon also had a camera and I tried to combine the pictures by looking at each one and trying to decide which was best.  It was like going to the eye doctor:  "Can you see this better, or this?"  Your eyes get blurry and they all look alike.  So in this post, I'll put my pictures of the pyramids and in the next one, I'll put LeRon's.  My pictures have a lot of pictures of us because our guide was forever grabbing my camera to take pictures, which was great. Usually no one knows I was there since I usually take the pictures.  LeRon has taken some really cool pictures of the pyramids so be sure to look at the next post. 

At our hotel, which was attached to the airport, we hired a driver to take us to Giza.  We had wanted to see the pyramids of Giza and also the pyramids at Saquarra, which are older still.  But with it being Ramadan, everything closed at 3 p.m. so we opted for Giza and the Cairo Museum and lunch on the Nile.  This is our first view of Egypt . . . sand-colored everything and palm trees.

We learned that Cairo and the metropolitan area around Cairo has a population of 25 million!!!  The whole country of Canada has about 35 million people. 

We love the mosques with their minarets.  We have seen (and heard) mosques in Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Tanzania, Kenya and now Egypt.  We also love the call to prayer which is heard 5 times a day.  Some muezzins have quite melodic voices and some . . . not so much!

If you click on this picture, you can just barely see, in the very center of the picture, our first view of a pyramid. 

Our driver took us down all kinds of narrow little streets.  Hanging across the streets were silver "icicle-type" things which were decorations for the holy month of Ramadan.

We felt at home here in Cairo.  We see tuk-tuks (3-wheeled motorized vehicles) and donkey-pulled carts in Nairobi too.  Here they are horse-pulled carts, ready to take people to the pyramids.

We stopped at a business to pick up a guide and a horse and cart and of course they wanted us to come in and see their products.  This young man's wife is from Toronto.  He was selling perfumes and medicinal products, the recipes for which were supposedly found in the tombs of the pyramids!  He was a good salesman but I only bought one small bottle of lotus perfume.

There were several camel drivers who wanted us to take camels to the pyramids but . . . it was almost 40 Celsius and I have sciatic pain that won't let me sit astride a camel so thank goodness they also had the horse and carts.  The camel drivers complained that "no one" wanted to ride a camel that day.

Our first view of the second largest pyramid.  You can still see at the top some of the marble that it was faced with originally.   The three large pyramids were faced with limestone, marble, and granite.  When they were built, they were shiny and beautiful.

Our guide (a picture of him will come in the next post) was about our son Michael's age (41) and the guide's name was also Michael.  He was great.  Gave us lots of information and took pictures of us all the time.  I highly recommend him even though I only know that his name is Michael (that's the English version of his name anyway).  Behind us to the right is the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the 3 large pyramids.  The one on the left is Cheop's son's pyramid which was faced with marble.

I remember studying about the Sphinx in elementary school.  Never thought I would actually see it.  It was huge although it looked small compared to the pyramids.  The sphinx was carved from one stone.  It was a guardian for the pyramids.

And the pyramids were built as tombs for the pharaohs.  The largest pyramid was for Cheops; the next for his son and the next for his grandson.  Cheop's pyramid was once covered with polished limestone.

The second pyramid was once covered with polished marble.  You can still see some on the peak.  The third pyramid was covered with granite.  Originally all three were shiny and bright.

Now here's where our guide gets into the common photography stunts.  Look closely, I am about to touch the pyramid.

Well, almost anyway.

Look again.  I'm touching the top with my finger.  Cool.

LeRon couldn't figure out what I was doing so we'll get him into the act.  Fun!  I tried to kiss the Sphinx but it looked really silly so I'm not including that photo.

The view of the pyramids against the sands of the Sahara in the heat of the day was striking.

Our cart driver couldn't speak English.  So we didn't have much of a conversation with him.

I was so thankful for the cover to keep off the hot Egyptian sun.

Doesn't this say "Sahara" to you?

Here we are with the three pyramids of Giza.  There were also three small pyramids, one for each larger one.  These were called the "Queen's Pyramids."

Close-up of the stones on one of the Queen's pyramids.  I imagine that in its day it was also covered with limestone or marble or granite.  It's all worn away, leaving only the stones.

We are touching 5000-year old history!

We are about to head down into this pyramid.  One of the Queen's pyramids.

Steep track heading into the pyramid.

It wasn't as claustrophobic as we thought it would be.

Here is where the body lay.  It's very hot down here.  Sweat is pouring off me.

Imagine building this in the first place.

Gorgeous carvings covered the walls.

A last look at the Sphinx and the marble pyramid.  So glad we came here!

And of course they take you to a place where they demonstrate the making of papyrus.  It actually was very interesting.

And of course, lots of gorgeous paintings on papyrus.

Knowing how much we love art, you're probably not surprised that we succumbed and bought a couple of papyrus paintings  On this one she is writing the name "LeRon".  My name, "Colleen" is already written on her left.  Not as beautiful as the "Torrie" papyrus that Eric brought home from his trip to Egypt during his semester at the BYU Jerusalem Center.