The way of the camel – Saqqara

1st March 2008

At 4:30am I was driven though Cairo at night by a nice Saudi man named Ahmed. We drove through deserted downtown and the deserted slums and onto pyramids road. We then turned off and drove off the track to some stables and had some tea with the owner of one of them. I bought myself a 2.5-hour camel ride in the desert to watch the sunrise over Cairo. I got on the camel, which is always a little hair raising and we were off down the back streets. Medo was my guides name and of course he asked me all about where I was from and how much I was enjoying Egypt. We set off through many a deserted desert area and I saw wild jackals playing with local stray dogs. It started to get light, and we trekked up and down the sand dunes.

We stopped for the longest time, and I watched the glowing red sun appear over the dusty, dirty beautiful city of Cairo. It was truly amazing. I then had Medo take many a picture with me showing off with the camel, I’m sure he was sick of my vanity by the time we got back.

I also had a few pictures taken with the horse Medo was riding before we set off again. We rode down some more dunes and around the fenced enclosure of the Giza pyramids, which could not be seen due to the mist.

Medo instructed me on how to drive the camel myself and pretty soon I became a natural, (if I do say so myself), camels are very easy to ride and I rode this one through a horses graveyard in the failing light of sunrise, which was especially eerie.

Egyptian banner
Egyptian banner
With the guides horse in the Giza desert
With the Medo’s horse
The solar boat museum
The Solar Braque Museum
Me with the Sphinx
Chillin with the Sphinx
Riding a horse at Saqqara
Riding a horse at Saqqara
Mastaba of Mereruka at Saqqara
Mereruka in his mastaba
Pyramid texts in the Teti pyramid at Saqqara
The ‘Pyramid texts’ inside the pyramid of Teti

We finally got back to the stables, with me driving the whole way and I gave Medo a tip and went off to see the Giza pyramids.

The Giza Pyramids were awesome as always, although this morning I spent most of my time looking for the stupid ticket office to the Great Pyramid which I never found! I went into the Mastaba of the Kings doctor, that was great, except the guard at the door insisted on showing me around and then insisted on baksheesh.

I also saw the Sphinx again and walked around the Great Pyramid about 3 times. I was there early so I didn’t get pestered too much to buy souvenirs or to have a camel/horse/donkey/whatever ride.

I finally got to go in the Khufu boat museum. The boat museum is this giant construction next to the Great Pyramid that houses the Funerary Boat of the King. It was amazing to see how intact it is and indeed how big it is! I had to put these funny slippers on over my shoes to keep the germs out of the place.

I left feeling a little disappointed about not getting to go into the Great Pyramid, but who can really be disappointed at Giza.

Today I also went back to Saqqara, one of my favorite sites in Egypt, because it is home to my favorite pyramid, the Step Pyramid of King Djoser. The drive from Giza took about half an hour and I was driven up to the Pyramid. I explored the site and as usual chastised myself for accidentally standing on things I shouldn’t. Last time I had unknowingly stood on the enclosure wall, this time it was the South Tomb! (Nothing is roped off in Egypt and you can climb all over everything!)

I explored the site, this time knowing what most of the buildings in the complex were, having done a big presentation on it at Uni not too long ago. I’ve studied this pyramid so much I could probably lead the tours here, no I know I could lead the tours here.

This time I also decided to get a horse…yes I braved getting on a horse. I rode around the pyramid and around in the desert for a while, it was fun, but the horse got a bit skittish towards the end. I watched a couple of Arabs bolt over the dunes on their horses and into the distant desert and wished I could ride like that.

I went back down to the platform and met my driver and then went over to the other side of the site to visit the tomb of Mereruka, the Vizir. His mastaba was spectacular. His Ka statue was still standing in its niche just as it had done for over 5000 years. The carvings and paintings of daily life in ancient Egypt, which were on the walls were as vivid as ever. Some of the rooms did not contain tourists, thank God and I climbed into some dark chambers with only the light on my phone as a guide.

I also went into the Pyramid of Teti, which I was unaware was open. I got to see the pyramid texts, something I never thought I would see, as the pyramid of Unas is always closed. I had some sneaky man offer to take pictures of me in the pyramid, but of course he wanted bakseesh again. He even told me to climb into the king’s sarcophagus like a mummy. Now I know I’ve come a long way, but some things are just sacred, putting things in perspective it’s still someone’s coffin and it’s disrespectful. I can’t even imagine how many stupid tourists had climbed in there.

With my camel at Giza
With my camel
Riding through a Giza slum
Riding through the Giza slum
Playing silly buggers with my camel
Taking silly photos with the camel
Great Pyramid
Khufu’s Pyramid
Teti pyramid at Saqqara
Standing outside the pyramid of Teti
Way out of the Teti pyramid at Saqqare
The way into the pyramid of Teti

Away from Saqqara we drove around 15 minutes to Dahshur, this is somewhere I came back to Egypt to visit. Let me just say it was worth all the hassle, all the added cost and all the risk.

I got to Dahshur, which was the last thing on the list for the day and headed straight up the Red Pyramid built by King Snefru. This pyramid is the world first true pyramid, and it is older than the three Pyramids at Giza. I reached the entrance after a harrowing climb and to my surprise the pyramid was open…not only that, for once no one followed me inside.

I climbed down a passageway with a very low roof, that was much steeper than the pyramid of Khafre (sorry mum, you’d never have made this one), it was such a long passage that at one point I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I looked back and saw a light and looked forward and saw light equally far away, so I pressed on. I came out in a vaulted room, with a ceiling about 15 m high. I passed through another tunnel and came out into a similar room with a rickety old staircase at the end of it.

I placed one foot on one of the stairs and it let out a mighty creek. It was like in one of those movies, where someone tests the step and they put their weight on it and fall straight through. After deliberating for a bit, I decided to climb the staircase to see what was at the top, why not, I though no one’s here to stop me.

Climbing out of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur
Climbing out of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur
The deserted site of the Red Pyramid of Sneferu

I reached the top and there was another tunnel which I had to crawl through, I came out in Snefru’s vaulted burial chamber that was extremely dimly lit. I’d had quite a climb to get to it, so I just sat in there on my own admiring it for about half an hour.

I climbed out of the pyramid and explored around it, I was much closer to the Bent Pyramid, which I had never been close to before, but unfortunately couldn’t visit as it is in a military zone. I could also see the black pyramid of Amenemhet III off in the distance. I explored all around the pyramid, the site was deserted and apart from a few soldiers hanging around I was on my own and I loved it. It was nice to sit and admire the view of the other two pyramids without being hassled.

I eventually went back to my driver for the long drive back to Cairo.

Inverted Atlas - Egyptian Archaeology Tour

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