Thursday, August 12, 2010

Camels and Pyramids: Reporting from Egypt

We are in Egypt! We've been here for a month now, although we've been so busy I haven't had time to post! Here's a little catch-up post for you of our first week in Egypt. First of all, as you can tell, Misha is absolutely delighted by camels and pyramids. We arrived in the evening on July 13th and the very next day we did all the touristy stuff - camel rides, pyramids, Sphinx, etc. It was exhausting but exhilarating.

First we visited the Dahshur pyramids. I couldn't get Misha to stand in front of the pyramid for a quick picture because he was already off and running to the pyramid itself, and nothing was going to stop him!

This one is called the Bent Pyramid. Fast facts:
-built by Pharaoh Sneferu about 2600 BC
-the sides start with a slope of 55 degrees, but the top section slopes at a 43 degree angle (perhaps to prevent collapse, perhaps to finish the job before the pharaoh's death, who knows)
-unique in that its limestone casing remains mostly intact

Sebastian toddling around in the wind outside the Bent Pyramid. Beside him is our taxi driver.

Upon reaching the pyramid, Misha immediately began climbing the blocks. He got quite high before Josh was able to catch up with him.

There they are!

Our whole family in one very tiny corner of the massive pyramid.

A beautiful camel in the desert.

Time for some camel rides....

Away we go - the whole family!

Next up, also in the Dahshur area, was the Red Pyramid.

Fast Facts:
-third largest pyramid in Egypt, after Khufu and Khafra at Giza
-originally covered with white limestone, but that was peeled off in the Middle Ages to provide building material in Cairo
-probably the world's first true smooth-sided pyramid
-also built by pharaoh Sneferu, after the Bent Pyramid
-its sides are sloped at 43 degrees

Now for the fun part - entering the Red Pyramid. Some people say that going inside isn't anything special, but I for one thought it was the best part. And as for Misha? He would go inside every one if he could. First, we walked up the steps to the entrance:

Here we are, ready to enter the pyramid.

Then you crouch down low (unless you're Misha, in which case the ceiling is the perfect height) and descend a steep, narrow tunnel, using the metal and wooden bars on the floor to stop yourself from skidding. The air is damp and heavy - and it smells like ammonia.

Misha and I look up toward the entrance.

Misha on his way down the tunnel, the doorway to the outside behind him.

The tunnel finally leads you to a square room where you can stand up and stretch your sore calves. Josh looks up at ...

The scaffolding, taking us up several flights to the next part of the pyramid.

At the top of the stairs, another tunnel leads you to the center of the pyramid

which looks down into a pit. There's nothing in it now, but it was cool nonetheless. Then you turn around and realize just how big of a toll the descending tunnel did on your legs as you try to make your way back out!

Exhaustion. But the day's not over yet! We made a stop at the National Papyrus Museum, where we got a demo on how to make papyrus.

He showed us how the pieces are cut and peeled, soaked for six days, and then arranged in an alternating pattern and pressed. Voila!

They gave Misha some papyrus to draw on while Josh and I shopped around at their beautiful papyrus paintings.

One papyrus masterpiece.

It is illegal to take the papyrus plant out of the country.

To finish off the day, we saw the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx. Though touring by camel was tempting, we opted for a horse-drawn carriage to make it easier for Sebastian.

Approaching the looming pyramids.

Once again, the only shot I could get of Misha was his little body running off toward the pyramid!

Fast facts:
-The three large Giza pyramids are Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, with the Sphinx to the east.
-The Great Pyramid (Khufu) has three chambers inside.
-It is the only one of the 7 ancient wonders still in existence.
-The three pyramids are oriented to be nearly exactly north-south and east-west. The theory that they align with Orion's Belt is disputed.

Family shot.

The city of Giza (which melds into Cairo) actually creeps up to the very base of the pyramids themselves.

Another family shot at Giza.

Misha plays in the sand by one huge pyramid with three "wife" pyramids behind.

Fun in the sand.

The Sahara desert sprawls into the distance.

Me and Sebby

A few silly shots - Misha touching the top of the pyramid!

I'm a giant!

Our carriage continued to the great Sphinx.

Josh and Misha before the Sphinx.

Fast facts:
-Very little is known about the Sphinx, but current consensus is that is was built under Khafre around 2500 BC
-Contrary to what our guide said, it was not Napoleon who took off its nose.
-It is the largest monolith statue in the world and the oldest known monumental sculpture.

The Sphinx up close.

This picture cracks me up. Imagine if you had real film and weeks later back in America you discovered that your one shot of the Sphinx looked like this. ;)

Misha and the Sphinx.

Mom and Seb and the Sphinx.

When we finished our tour, Misha got a little camel ride tossed into the deal. He loved that.

The camels grab a bite to eat while waiting for more customers.

All of these pictures come from just our first day in Egypt. We have since traveled to Alexandria (on the Mediterranean) where we spent a month taking the TEFL course. We just finished and are now back in Cairo - where we have been joined by Josh's brother Trystan (a.k.a. Bud) and his fiance Ashley. They will be spending the next two weeks with us as we venture around Egypt some more. Misha is going to be so surprised when he wakes up in the morning to find our guests!