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!


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