Cairo – Pyramids of Giza fight for space

Driving in Cairo is a true test of bravery.
Lane etiquette is a secondary factor as cars, buses and dangerously speeding taxi’s compete for space on the busy roads.
Don’t be surprised to see rickshaws pulled by lumbering horses or more nimble donkeys trotting along in the fast lane; while pedestrians with a death wish attempt to cross this Egyptian equivalent of the M1.
Add the constantly blaring horns and the regular scream of ambulance sirens and you are a million miles away from the original Land of the Pharaohs.
Or just a few miles…
For on the edge of this densely packed city sit the Pyramids of Giza, three massive signatures of another age.
Not much more than a century ago the Pyramids Road existed as little more than a dusty carriage track leading out from the city to the peasant village of Giza.
But tourism and a rapidly expanding population now sees Cairo sitting on the doorstep of its own history.
The pyramids are home to three Fourth Dynasty Pharaohs – Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure – and are guarded by the equally impressive Sphinx.
This guardian sports the body of a lion and the head of Khafre – but it no longer has a nose, an act of vandalism blamed variously on British soldiers in World War I or Napoleon’s troops in 1798.
However, 18th-century drawings show the nose is already missing, pointing the finger towards the occupying Turks.
While walking round the pyramids tourists have to be on guard almost as much as drivers on the roads.
Bedouins from the Sahara plague visitors with offers to take pictures, with camel rides and with ancient papyrus.
But accepting any of these would see you left without a camera, stuck aboard a camel with no way down except to hand over your hard earned currency or with a fake that will fade and fall apart if removed from its box.
The pyramids themselves are truly spectacular and its hard to imagine the manufacturing feat that enabled an ancient civilisation to construct such giants.
If you can avoid the busy crowds it is almost possible to visualise how they must have appeared to civilians of that time – and how they inspired worship and fealty to the Pharaohs.
An image only disturbed by the blaring of a distant horn and the realisation you have to compete with rickshaws for the outside lane on the journey home.

> This article was written in June 2008.


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