Egypt’s archaeological sites have amazed and enthralled visitors for centuries. Holiday highlights include the pyramids of Giza, the beautiful temples of Karnak and Philae, and the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Cairo is the base for exploring Egypt’s pyramids – allow at least a couple of days to tour the amazing site.
Here are some useful tips…
Get there early
As in 8.00 am, when the site opens. By 9.30 am the carpark is full of tour buses, and the tourist circus in full swing. As well as beating the crowds, arriving early helps you beat the heat. Which brings us to our next piece of so-obvious-it’s-often-overlooked advice…
Take sun protection
Egypt is, believe it or not, a great big desert. Which means Cairo is in the middle of a great big desert. It’s hot. In summer, it’s very very hot. Since you aren’t a lizard, you need to do like the Aussies do, and “slip, slap, slop.” And since you aren’t a camel, you need to carry water with you. Sure, you can buy drinks at the Pyramids. A small bottle of lukewarm water will set you back at least $1, and is like drinking molten plastic.
Take your time
Many tour groups get as little as an hour at the Pyramids. Whilst this is enough time to rock up and go, “Wow, what a cool pile of stones!”, it’s not enough time to do the site justice. Have a wander – it’s difficult to appreciate the sheer scale of the Pyramids without walking around the base of one.
You should also visit the Solar Boat Museum, and go inside one of the pyramids. Ideally, you’ll snaffle a ticket to enter the Great Pyramid. One hundred and fifty tickets go on sale as soon as the site opens (plus another 150 in the afternoon), and they cost 100 LE each.
For your picture-postcard shot of the Pyramids, you need to walk or get a lift up to the viewing point. If you want a different slant to the whole experience, try starting your visit at the Great Sphinx. Afterwards, you can usually nip around the outside of the enclosure, and walk up the stone causeway to Chephren’s Pyramid.
Finally, unless you are an ace haggler, or love being ripped off, it’s best not to ride a camel at the Pyramids. Take a ride into the desert outside the enclosure instead.
Manage your expectations
Forget the postcards. The Pyramids do not rise in splendid isolation from the shifting sands of the desert. The site is stuck out on the western edge of Greater Cairo, and backs on to a village that has long since been swallowed by the city. There is a Pizza Hut literally a stone’s throw from the Sphinx.
The site gets incredibly crowded: snap-happy tourists, guides in safari suits and shades, police bristling with guns and moustaches, and of course the ever-present touts. Everyone is milling around in varying states of wonderment, confusion, arrogance, and desperation.
Finally, unless the area has recently been cleaned, the site is what the ancient Egyptians knew as a “shit tip.” Yep, there’s rubbish everywhere; plastic bags swirling through the air like obscene parodies of tumbleweed. There’s not a lot you can do about any of this. But forewarned is forearmed.