Friday, August 24, 2007

August 15 - Cairo, Egypt

We arrived late in the evening (August 14) from Geneva, Switzerland and were met by our tour company as soon as the plane landed. We drove over an hour from the airport to our hotel (Le Meridien in Giza) and marveled at how horrible the Cairo traffic was. We would later learn that although there are some traffic signals in Cairo, they are not used and there are no rules of the road. Also about 95% of all cars driven do not have insurance.

We started out the next day by visiting the old town of Memphis and its open air museum. The city of Memphis was the capital of Egypt and was founded around 3100 BC. This is a photo of us in front of the sphinx weighing in about 80 tons.

We then made our way to the Step Pyramid of Saqqara. This is the pyramid of Djoser built around 2600 BC. Until this time, all royal tombs had been built underground using one flat layer of mud brick. This structure represented six layers of stone instead of mud brick and starts to form the pyramid shape that we are familiar with.

Our last stop of the day was to the ancient burial grounds of Giza on the west bank of the Nile across from Cairo. These three pyramids were constructed between 2686 - 2181 BC for three kings.
From left to right:
The Great Pyramid for King Khufu
The Pyramid of Khafre (son of Khufu) - It is actually shorter than his fathers although it doesn't appear so
The Pyramid of Menkaure (the grandson of Khufu)

Here is a close up of the second pyramid (and yes, the camel patrols around it). If you notice the top of this pyramid seems to be very smooth in comparison to the rest of the pyramid. This is the way the pyramids were all built, however later on, the covering of the pyramids was striped and it was used to line aquaducts for the ancient cities.

And last but not least is the Guardian of the Giza plateau, the Sphinx. This huge statue was supposedly used to scare away would be grave robbers from the tombs of the kings behind in the pyramids. Needless to say, it didn't work.

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