I can’t find words to describe my visit to the Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza. Awe, happiness, and the fulfillment of a childhood dream aren’t enough to cover the emotions of the day.
I left Cairo in the care of a young female Egyptologist and tour guide with dyed silver hair and big grey eyes. Her English was flawless but heavily accented, and she spoke so fast I could barely keep up. Along the (interminable) drive to Giza she told me of the daily lives of modern day residents, and how much Egypt as a whole was affected by the Arab Spring and subsequent steep decline in tourism.
My first sight of the pyramids was entirely unobstructed by buses or tourists. I saw them as they were thousands of years ago, and was speechless.
The Sphinx was almost as breathtaking. I’m sorry to say I didn’t pay as much attention to my expert guide as I should have. I was just too mesmerized by the view.
After being told the pyramids are basically empty inside, I decided not to go in. Instead, the guide took me into the labyrinth of dirt roads in the residential part of the city, where veiled women stand on crumbling sidewalks to sell fruits and vegetables from their small farms. There are very few cars (and the ones I saw are incredibly old and falling apart). Most residents get around by foot, tuk-tuk or horse carts.
I am no stranger to the sight of extreme poverty. Gaza reminded me of Mumbai and the poorest areas of Rio de Janeiro: a lot of trash, a lot of dirt, and not a lot of future.
Back into the more tourist-centric part of Giza, I visited the government-sanctioned papyrus workshop, where I was treated to a demonstration and bought a few small paintings. From there we stopped at a mixed bazaar where several different artisans sell ceramic, alabaster, jewelry, and wood carvings. I had a beautiful cartouche pendant made with my name in hieroglyphics.
At the bazaar I met Adel, an Egyptian man who lived for many years in California. Our conversation was so entertaining that I lost track of time and had to forgo visits to the cotton workshop and perfume shop. On the plus side, I have a new friend in Giza.