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Cairo Quickstep Amidst the Pyramids

sunny 18 °C

With Lloyd turning 37 today, there was no better way to convince ourselves that we’re still young than a visit to a couple of 5,000 year old pyramids! And so we spent the day visiting the pyramids at both Saqqara and Giza, which allowed us the opportunity to see how the pyramid concept developed from a stepped version to the smoother pyramids that we all associate with Egypt.

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The stepped pyramid on the left – the first egyptian pyramid - was built more than 4700 years ago for Pharoah Djoser, whereas the famous Pyramid of Khufu on the right was built about 200 years later.

The pyramids are, of course, among the most recognizable images on the planet, with only David Beckham and Princess Di ranking higher according to my highly scientific survey. So it’s only when you get up really close to these massive monuments (and I’m talking about the pyramids now) that you come across anything unexpected. For some, it’s simply the scale, as the true size of the pyramids can only really be appreciated when standing at the base looking up. For others, and I’d put myself in this category, it’s the massive sandstone blocks. Some of these boulders are taller than me!

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From a distance, the pyramids look quite smooth but up close they are quite clumsy looking because the original, smooth limestone veneer that once covered the boulders has eroded over time. Exposed, the engineering accomplishment is almost unthinkable, and you can’t help but wonder at the monumental arrogance displayed by Egypt’s long, long-ago narcissistic leaders.

The contrast with Cairo today is also unavoidable. It would take a good deal more time in country to uncover just how this nation capitalized on the intellectual advantage it clearly enjoyed all those years ago. For Cairo is a dirty, chaotic city where thousands of public servants idle the hours away presumably with purpose but with little visible achievement. Monuments for which we paid hefty entrance fees were frequently strewn with litter while employees allowed themselves to be disturbed to check tickets only on their own schedule. Tourist police seemingly erected false barriers which would mysteriously be removed with the help of a little baksheesh. To the tourist, Egypt appears a corrupt country with little pride, even less discipline and – perhaps worst of all – a complete lack of care. It seems impossible to me that today’s Egypt would be capable of the pyramids. Further, I don’t believe the notion that Egypt has yet to regain the greatness it enjoyed several millennia ago is lost on its population.

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We had a fabulous day, nonetheless, thanks in large part to the extremely knowledgeable guide that Roger had arranged.

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To celebrate Lloyd’s birthday, we splashed out tonight and took Roger and girlfriend Ellen to the Hyatt’s 42nd floor restaurant. We thought the revolving restaurant, with impressive 360° views over nighttime Cairo, would be a treat. In fact, we suspect that the almost imperceptible motion of the rotation left us all a little nauseated, but couldn’t isolate the effect of the motion from the menu prices which probably also had the same effect. Unfortunately, the food itself did little to redeem the restaurant (with steaks cooked incorrectly, lukewarm vegetables etc), and it was a good thing we had chocolate cake back at Rog’s apartment to console ourselves.

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On the left, Lloyd with one of his two chocolate birthday cakes. This one was generously donated to the Lloyd Thyen Chocoholic Fund by my Mum. The other was a ‘hiking cake’ baked by Rog’s following his Mum’s recipe. Lloyd was in chocolate heaven! On the right, Roger had to lend his brother a jacket to get into the restaurant.... chic, no?

On Friday, we intended to get out and explore Cairo, but our plans were stilted when Lloyd got more than he bargained for at the Four Seasons Brunch Buffet. Within a few hours, he was curled up in bed experiencing excruciating stomach cramps and chills that left him shivering violently from top to toe. In between emergency – and I mean emergency - visits to the bathroom, we piled on as many layers as we could find to try and stop the chills while Roger rushed out to the local pharmacy and returned to administer local ‘miracle cure’ Antinol.

Of course, we should have expected it. Most people who come to Egypt experience ‘Mummy Tummy’ (aka Cairo Quickstep or Pharoah’s Revenge), and it can knock you out for three or four days. I had it so bad back in 1995 that my strategy this time was simply not to eat (woohoo! I might be able to fit into my bridesmaid dress after all!). The Antinol seemed to do the trick, however, and the worst of Lloyd’s sickness passed within 24 hours. While we lost two days intended for Cairo exploration, at least we’d be able to pick up the trail on Sunday morning, with our flights down to Luxor.

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Posted by jacquiedro 08:27 Archived in Egypt Tagged round_the_world

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