Monday, March 23, 2009

Giza - الجيزة‎

The pyramids at Giza are striking. It's interesting because they are much closer to the city and civilization than one would expect. They are also paradoxically larger and smaller than expected.

Personally, I enjoyed Saqqara more, but perhaps that was because it was the first pyramid I saw that made me think to myself 'I'm really in Egypt'. There were more tour buses at The Great Pyramid Complex - and of course more people.

I didn't expect the exterior to be so craggy. In it's prime it was covered with casing stones made of white limestone, most of which are no longer there (you can see what's remaining towards the bottom of the pyramid). Archeologists suggest the pyramids would have a sheen to them from the sunlight glowing off the façade. I'm sure that was quite a sight!

The Khufu (Cheops in Greek) Pyramid is the last remaining of the original Seven Wonders of the World. It was constructed over a 20 year period around 2560 BC. It remains the largest, despite the fact the Pyramid of Khafre appears larger, due to its placement on the plateau.

Rani took a few photos of us from different perspectives while we stood on the pyramid. They help to give some perspective to how big each boulder truly is. A common misnomer is that the pyramid were built using slave labor. While I am sure the days of hauling, measuring, and cutting these enormous stones was a grueling task, Rani told us that it was more of an honor to be involved in building something so grand, and for the King no less. It does make a lot of sense that the people would have to work together in order for the pieces to fit so perfectly and really stand as a test of time.

We paid an extra 30 LE to go inside the Pyramid of Khafre, which was not overly exciting. First, we had to hunch down and walk into serious dank humidity. There really wasn't much to see besides a painted inscription on the wall and a sarcophagus.

We weren't allowed to take our camera in, however Rani took a few photos of us as we were exiting. For once the midday sun felt rather cool. I couldn't stop thinking about the grave robbers and how much they must have really been after treasure. Many of the graves were robbed eons ago. Some of the mummies were desecrated by being stolen and boiled and later used for medicinal purposes.

The bodies were meant to be preserved and used in the afterlife, along with everything else they might possible need, including various beds, chairs, amulets, and even their organs.

Going inside was not for the faint of heart. We also understood more clearly why people would believe in a curse, considering several men died after entering the pyramids, not long after they were discovered. Even thousands of years later the air down there is not the best.

Surprisingly the photo on the right depicts what used to be a bank of the Nile River. Now the Nile is not even in sight because it has substantially receded. You can see a bit of Giza in the background - it's so very close.

We went from the pyramids down to the Sphinx and the temple valley. There were many tourists, as well as what appeared to be locals - presumably celebrating Mother's Day.

The Sphinx itself is undergoing some restoration thanks to UNESCO. The proportions looks a bit off, so it most likely has undergone restorations in the past as well. We saw several young children selling postcards and taking photos of tourists or positioning them for photos so their faces would line up with the Sphinx. Even the youngest are well versed in selling things. It made me stop and think about how drastically different our childhoods are.

We admired the structures and before we knew it the area was closing. The day passed so quickly and we were very worn out, but we walked away feeling like we'd certainly spent a day of our lives living and learning. These are the moments that I live for.

The flood of people came from the Giza complex. The young girls look so expressive with their bright colors, while maintaining their Islamic traditions. I truly cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up as a young Islamic girl. Rani would tell us more about that in the coming days, but as always, I have so much to learn.

After we left the complex we walked down the street. It is so different to see taxis and cars sharing the streets with horses, donkeys, and camels. The juxtaposition of old and new gave me a lot to think about. Looking at the sophistication of building such monumental structures - and then the stark contrast in how dilapidated and run down most of the city is.

That is something that I really struggled with. The Egyptians that we encountered were highly and impressively educated. There has to be more to it, as to why this once powerful city could fall into such poverty and disarray. It does make me understand how religion is of the utmost importance to many of the people in this amazing area.


JoernandAllison said...

I never realized that the pyramids were so craggy either. Imagine what it once looked like with the sun shining off them! How beautiful!
Traveling always leaves a mark on your life, but this trip must have made a serious impact! Thanks so much for all your wonderful pictures and detailed descriptions!

Lane said...

I am so envious of this trip! Thanks for all the details, I'm hoping to get there sometime soon!