After a long time on my travel list, Egypt made it to the top of my list this December. Especially when Oman Air had a special flight sale which coincided with Tour Radar’s big sale. Thus it was that I found myself on a flight to Cairo earlier this month.
Since I had a full day free on the first day before the briefing meeting by Timeless Tours, the tour operator, I decided to hire a cab and visit some sites that were not on the tour itinerary. I called Nour Gaber, the female taxi driver recommended on Lonely Planet, and it was great that she was free to take me around that day.
We visited Memphis, now a small open air museum with some relics from the ancient city, and its necropolis, Saqqara, the site of the Step Pyramid, considered the earliest large scale cut stone construction. Built around 2700 BC for the Pharoah Djoser by his vizier Imhotep, the Step Pyramid is considered the prototype for subsequent pyramids including the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Another interesting site within Saqqara was the Serapeum, a burial place for Apis bulls, believed to be incarnations of the ancient deity Ptah.
Nour wanted to show me a carpet weaving school in Saqqara since I had bought a little hand woven wall hanging at a shop outside of the Memphis museum. I was shown how the weavers tie the basic knots in carpet weaving and the instructor challenged me to try it and that he would offer me one month’s job at the carpet school if I did it correctly.
The visit to Dahshur, another necropolis of Memphis, and seeing the results of the pyramid building experiments of ancient Egyptians was fascinating. The first was the Bent Pyramid, build by King Sneferu in 2600 BC. It was a failure as the pyramid began collapsing half way. While it was abandoned, Sneferu did not give up and his next attempt at pyramid building was a success resulting in the Red Pyramid.
Visitors were allowed inside the Red Pyramid and while I made it to the entrance of the tomb, after a few steps down the steep incline, I decided not to go further as it was too steep and difficult for me. However, I understood that this was the more accessible of the pyramids to try exploring than the ones within the Pyramid complex in Giza.
Nour suggested a restaurant for our combined lunch/ dinner as we had been busy the whole day visiting the sites. I am glad that I decided to take her up on her recommendation. It turned out to be a restaurant popular with locals and having massive queues waiting to be seated. As she knew the staff there, she managed to get us a table without the wait. And I was treated to a smorgasbord of delicious Egyptian cuisine.
The next day, which was the first day of the group tour, our group was taken to the Great Pyramid of Giza, which was built for Khufu, Sneferu’s son, in 2500 BC.
Found within the tomb of Sneferu was the Solar boat, that had been buried with the Pharoah so that he would have a mode of transportation in his after life. The boat is now in a museum just behind the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The Pyramid complex in Giza had 9 pyramids of varying sizes. The second largest pyramid in the complex is the pyramid of Khafre, son of Khufu.
The Great Sphinx of Giza was also built by Khafre in 2500 BC.
Seeing the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Sphinx in person was one of the key highlights of this trip.
I’d love to hire Nour as you did for a tour in Saqqara. Do you remember how much you paid her, more or less? I know it’s 3 years ago, but just to have an idea if the lonely planet has it right!
I don’t remember how much I paid her. However, I remember I was fine with whatever fees she quoted and she is a lovely person to get to know during your travel around Cairo.