The Underwhelming Pyramids of Giza

The Pyramids of Giza. You learn about them as a child in school. You see pictures and wonder how they were built. You might even hope to see them in person one day.

Well I was ‘lucky’ enough to see them in real life during a 4 month long backpacking trip in Africa. Before I tell you about my time at the Pyramids, it would be best if I gave you some background on my experience in Egypt so you can understand my mind frame whilst there.

We (Frank and I) had gone to Egypt after 2 weeks in Morocco. This would be the second stop on our Tour D’Afrique and I was really looking forward to it. I was exhausted with the hawkers in the market stalls of the souks in Morocco and the endless tour guides and street vendors who asked for unreasonably large tips after every single thing. I had one guy saying I had to pay €4 because I took a picture of his snake (his actual snake, not his willy! – But even that wouldn’t be worth €4). I kid you not, you would look at people and they would ask for a tip. It was ridiculous!

So we arrived in Egypt after an overnight flight to Cairo and headed straight to the hostel for some sleep. Later that day we started to explore. Cairo isn’t the world’s nicest city, but it was interesting to see the culture and of course, the food. Quickly, I started to notice that men kept staring at me. I also started to notice that they would not speak to me when I would order food, train tickets, etc. At one point, while walking down the street near our hostel, I felt a very firm grab on my ass. I assumed it to be Frank, because who on Earth would forcefully grab a women’s butt on the street?! I looked up and Frank was actually ahead of me. I turned around to find 2 Egyptian men pointing, laughing and staring at me. I was mortified and felt very violated. It sucked. I did my best to just brush it off and still looked forward to our trip to the pyramids the following day.

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We arranged a tour complete with papyrus and essential oils pit stops along the way. Upon stopping at both the papyrus and essential oils places we were given hard sells. This, quite frankly, was fucking annoying. We just wanted to see these stupid pyramids.

Eventually we got there and realized you can pretty much see everything from outside the gates, and you can also see a Pizza Hut and other contemporary businesses right outside the front which kind of takes away from the ancient-ness of it all.  

Once you walk in, the hawkers are like a moth to a flame. They are on you like white on rice and they are not taking no for an answer. They are trying to sell anything and everything to you; trinkets, head scarves, as well as rides around the pyramids on horses that probably haven’t been fed in months.

We managed to fend off the front line of hawkers and were finally able to get a proper look at the perplexing sphinx and pyramids. Our initial thoughts were ‘is that it?’ Although the pyramids themselves are quite large, the sphinx is tiny. So tiny, it’s incredibly underwhelming. I was fairly shocked that there was such a big fuss over something so small. You also can’t get very close to it, thus making it seem a lot smaller. The pyramids are exactly what they look like, large piles of rubble shaped as a pyramid. There’s nothing special to them. You can go inside but it costs an arm and a leg so we felt strongly it wouldn’t be worth it. At this point, we were tempted to leave. But, in an effort to get our tickets worth, we continued to wonder around, attempt to take silly photos and try to enjoy our time there.

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Sure enough along the way, more and more hawkers would interrupt us on our once in a lifetime trip to ask us to purchase their shit.

One guy in particular who was selling men’s head scarves approached us and thought it would be fun to open up a new scarf from its packaging, place it on Frank’s head and have me take pics of the two of them. Frank knew the jig so was very reluctant and kept saying over and over again how he didn’t want it. Initially everyone was sort of laughing and the mood was light hearted. Very quickly though, the man became agitated. When he finally took Frank’s repeated no’s as an answer he then demanded that we had to give him money because he was down a product as he had opened up a new scarf from its packaging. There was no way we were giving him a cent. As Frank and he argued back and forth, I thought to myself: this is actually ridiculous. We’ve come to Egypt from other continents to experience what we hoped to be one of the most amazing things to see in our lifetimes. Yet, we’ve been relentlessly hassled by hawker after hawker and I am fucking over it. I got pissed off and screamed at the man to leave us alone and that he was ruining our trip. His reaction was a very loud ‘hey’ whilst raising his arm up as if he was going to backhand me. Luckily Frank stepped in at just the right time to defuse the situation. I was terrified and we just sort of walked away and prayed he didn’t follow us. He didn’t but kept screaming at us in Arabic. Oh well. At least he was away from us.

After I calmed down, we continued to ‘enjoy’ the pyramids. As expected, more and more hawkers continued to bother us but we just blanked them and kept walking. I’m not sure I’m conveying the level of hassle we dealt with. It was like we had a revolving door in front of us where they would come in, unyieldingly ask us to buy their junk. It was exhausting.

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At one point, a really nice guy with healthier looking horses offered us a really good price to take us around the enclosure. We thought, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And at least this way no additional hawkers would come and bother us. So we accepted his offer and hopped on the horses.

This very nice man took us around the entire enclosure. Even to the back where there are smaller, less famous pyramids. He took photos for us and even let us feed and pet his horses between rides. He told us little facts about the grounds, like the time Shakira came and held a concert there as well as other little factoids we found interesting. In the end, we had had a nice afternoon. But as we rounded the corner back to the front entrance, we dismounted the horses and our enjoyment faded when the man demanded more money. This really nice man who was just trying to make a living was now trying to extort us just like all the other merchants.  I was so over it at that point. I said to him, “C’mon man, we’ve paid you for your services, unless there’s some sort of horse ride pimp involved, we’re pretty sure you’re keeping your wages”. Like with everyone else, we went back and forth for a bit and ended up giving him like €2 and said we had no more cash. But even still, we shouldn’t have given him anything.

We left pissed off. This was meant to be a once in a lifetime experience, a trip to the Pyramids of Giza in ancient Egypt. All we got was bombardment from vendors whilst looking at underwhelming landmarks. We voiced our frustrations to our tour guide who informed us that prior to the revolution, which had happened only a few months before, the sellers weren’t allowed into the enclosure. It was because of the new political party that they were allowed in. If only we had gone sooner.

All in all, the experience sucked. I would, however, recommend going if you happen to be in the area. But I wouldn’t fly all the way from your home country just to see these things because they ain’t worth it. You won’t get the same ‘holy shit’ feeling you get when you see the Eiffel Tower or even Big Ben (which I still get after having lived in London for 3 years now). You’re better off going to see Abu Simbel or potentially the Valley of the Kings. 

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