Before I discuss the experience of visiting the pyramids, I’d like to present some context of Port Said, Cairo, the Nile Delta, and a little information about Egyptian society in general.
The Viking Star landed in Port Said, where the Suez Canal meets the Mediterranean. Our tour of the pyramids began with a three and a half hour bus ride from Port Said to Cairo, Egypt’s capital, home to approximately twenty-two million inhabitants, similar in size to Mumbai, India. This bus ride took us through the “breadbasket of Egypt”, the fertile Nile Delta, which is irrigated by an extensive network of canals from the Nile River.
There are many ponds near the canals which are fish farms. We saw orchards of different fruit trees, including many mango trees, originally brought from India. On the road, we saw trucks carrying bananas, oranges, onions, garlic, and more. Posted below are three tomato trucks passed by our bus. Obviously tomatoes are in season.
The Egyptian people in the South, including Luxor, the home of Karnak’s Palace, were mostly relatively poor. Cairo, by contrast, is much more prosperous and expensive. Cairo has an amazing number of buildings under construction, needed to house the many new residents drawn from rural Egypt for the jobs in the big city. The photos I am posting show only a small sample of the many new buildings that are springing up in Cairo’s new suburbs.
Egypt has a problem that it doesn’t grow enough food to feed its growing population of over on hundred million. Wikipedia states that Egypt consists of 94-96% desert. Only 3.5% of Egypt is cultivated. Egypt normally received a large part of its wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine, which have now been disrupted. The government has wheat reserves, but this is an example of the worldwide disruption resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Covid disrupted tourism in Egypt. Tourists’ visits are starting to rebound, but our guide explained that crowds were relatively small compared to pre-covid. Our guide also explained that we would be some of the last tourists to be able to ride in our buses right up to the pyramids. A new system is being constructed to transport all tourists in electric vehicles from the controlled entrance, thus reducing pollution and traffic jams that have detracted from the experience.
The Pyramids were constructed between 2600-2500 BC. That means that they are the oldest manmade structures in the world. There are some ruins that are also that old, but nothing that has survived like the pyramids. I can’t imagine that any person has ever seen the Pyramids and not been impressed. They are simply amazing. It is amazing to think of the Pharoahs and the Egyptian society of that time which led to the creation of the Pyramids, the Karnak Temple, the Sphinx, and other amazing cultural creations.
I learned that the quarry for most of the stones used to build the pyramids was directly adjacent to the pyramids. In the quarry was one huge marble stone which was carved into the Sphinx. Archeologists think that the Sphinx head represents the Pharoah Khafre, whose pyramid is the one shown above with the remnant covering. An interesting fact about Khafre’s pyramid is that it is not the largest of the great pyramids. However, Pharoah Khafre cleverly had his pyramid placed on a higher elevation and built at a slightly steeper angle, such that it looks bigger than the actually bigger Great Pyramid of Giza.
Our tour included a visit to the papyrus store. The Egyptians invented paper in the form of papyrus, a woody plant that grows near the Nile. Thin sheets of the papyrus plant stalks are soaked (and slightly fermented) for a week, and then are put under pressure for a week. The result is a quality of paper that is very strong, almost like a thin sheet of modern vinyl or rubber, much stronger than ordinary modern paper. Ancient papyrus has lasted for millennia, just like the pyramids.
Following our pyramid tour, our guide took us to an upscale store for souvenirs and artworks close by the pyramids. Though we didn’t buy anything, I took lots of photos. Enjoy!
Around the pyramids are many camel drivers and horse carts. They are quite aggressive in trying to persuade tourists to ride their camels or simply have their photo taken with the camels. Here are a few photos from that area around the pyramids.