I have had the good fortune in my lifetime of meeting a very large number of people. Among them are a family who live in Egypt. When I was considering whether I should even consider taking this trip, I reached out to one of them about the state of things in her country. She didn’t reply, which I didn’t really think much about – the way I saw it she was likely busy, as many of us are. In any case I was worried she might go overboard in welcoming me, and I really don’t like to feel like an imposition. (n.b. it sounds like the initial message wasn’t seen, and was likely cleared away by a young child’s fingertips)
Well, eventually I posted about the trip on Facebook, which she saw, and then ALL THE THINGS happened. Which basically meant I was correct.
And was reminded today that just because you’re correct about something, that doesn’t mean you’re correct about everything. Because Nabila and Mohamed greeted me like family. And being welcomed by your Egyptian family is like being greeted by your Indian family and your Sicilian family. These are some of the best things life can give you.
And they involve offensive amounts of food.
It also means Mohamed picked me up at the airport last night, and then took me to dinner on the way to the hotel.
And it means I scrapped all of my plans for my two days in Cairo, but have no regrets about that. In fact, I have the opposite of regrets — I just can’t think of the right word — perhaps “euphoria” fits. In all truth, the plans were solid but in the end this was better.
This morning Mohamed arranged for a breakfast overlooking the Pyramids of Giza with Nabila and their beautiful, brilliant, daughters. The food was great, and the view was sublime, but the company was extraordinary.
We then met Bassem, our guide, who described the history of the Great Pyramids, as well as the other, older pyramids visible in the distance. He also put to rest any rumors that they were built by aliens.
He explained that the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is the tallest and the only one of the three that contains a burial chamber – the others have their burial chambers underneath the pyramids (so are solid). He also explained that the blocks of the Great Pyramid are the largest, by far, so it shows less wear than the others.
And it’s true, the others, with their smaller blocks, don’t seem to be holding up as well and are clearly starting to show their ages (5,000 years).
We then drove to the front of the pyramids for more photos, although from this angle they are so close as to be difficult to photograph well.
The Great Sphinx was the next stop. It is also showing its age, owing to the poor quality of stone out of which it was carved. The stone for construction of the second pyramid was mined from this site, but during the process the workers recognized that some of the stone was flawed and excavated around it. Eventually there was a massive block of unused stone left in the middle of the plateau. Rather than remove the block of bad stone entirely, the Pharaoh requested a sphinx be shaped, and the rest is history.
The nose, by the way, is in the Louvre. The Egyptian people would like it back to replace it, but the French will not return it. Bassem points out that people probably don’t even notice it in Paris, and I can confirm that I don’t recall seeing it.
As the day progressed, Bassem and I went to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, which probably would have been challenging for the younger members of the party.
Later in the evening, however, I met again with my Egyptian family as we went for a sail in a felucca as the sun set between the buildings to the west.
And after that: there was yet more food.
Getting to know my Egyptian family — who I never even realized I had — will, in the end, be the highlight of this trip. And well worth every minute spent in the air on this truncated journey of mine.