I figure it’s time I uploaded pictures of what it is that most of us come to Egypt to see … the pyramids. Granted I’ve put one photograph in my header, but still, it’s high time I gave them more attention.

First, Giza.- the original wonder of the world, an impressive pile of granite rubble that’s perhaps the world’s earliest recorded tourist attraction. As a historian of science I should know. Herodotus wrote about them in his Histories. He, by the way was the ancient world’s Bill Bryson. A traveler and a hell of a good storyteller. Try him out sometime. Actually if you haven’t yet, try them both out. It’s no longer possible to gaze at the pyramids while one is barging, sailing or otherwise traveling along the Nile, (if I could I’d warble out the tune right now but I’ve still not figured how to upload music) but if you could this hazy image below is probably what you’d see. Wherever you see them from, they are every bit as impressive as I had hoped. Time has not robbed them of their beauty nor etc. etc.

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Now, I know I’ve said this to various people at various times, but I’ll put it down here for the record. The pyramids of Giza were at least as far removed from Cleopatra in time as she is from us!!!! Amazing isn’t it? The fact hits me anew every time I see them. My first sight of them was actually during a car ride to the Carrefoure on a very very hot day in August. I remember having a beastly headache from the heat (not even the sun actually) but the moment I saw the pyramids silhouetted– first 2 of them and then the third, little one — was was the first time I felt that I had really come to Egypt. Until then I was just in a hot dusty city that reminded me a lot of Delhi, but without its peculiar perks (chaat and Fab India being the top of the list of the latter). The second time I saw the pyramids was also from a distance. This time it was the top of the Muqattam cliffs, on what many Egyptians declared was the “clearest day in 10 years.” That was also the day I saw the pyramids of Saqara for the first time, also from a distance. Dashour was not visible.

The actual visit to Giza was – as so many of my experiences here in Cairo have tended to be – a faculty trip organized by Louise. The weather was still beastly hot but that didn’t really matter – I couldn’t go in anyway, though I certainly would have if I could have.

02.jpgThe biggest of them all, although it doesn’t necessarily look so in the picture that I put on the header, is the tomb of Cheops or Khufu (I prefer the latter name because that’s what Mahfouz used in his title). It’s the pyramid with the conical tip blunted, but despite that it is still dauntingly and impressively HUGE. It really is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that it was constructed some 5000 years ago, by sheer human labor. And for what? To ensure that some ruler immortality? To quote the commentator from my Mahfouz volume about the same Pharaoh,

Hubris surely never matched.

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A few weeks ago, I went out again to Giza with my Dad for the sound and light show (a hokey experience in many ways but visually quite impressive) in which they projected an outline of Westminster Abbey drawn to scale on the Great Pyramid just to give some idea of the magnitude of this structure. Nothing like a good comparison to drive a point home. Here are some of my attempts at imparting some sense of scale.

For instance, a friend is standing at the base of this picture, the top of which did not even reach a third of total height of the pyramid:

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I call this next one “Asterix and Obelix,” which comic books by the way, have my point of reference for all things Egyptian since I got here. To my mind Asterix and Cleopatra is the best one of them all — of a very fine set of all, I might add. Anyhow, here are my pals whom I’ve labeled after my favorite comic-book characters. Be sure to notice the scale. Obelix there (to NOT give him his real name) cuts quite an impressive figure in person, but even he looks pint-sized against the backdrop of these boulders.

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Here’s one of the whitetop — whitetop.jpg the white (alabaster? limestone?) is said to have once covered the entire pyramid, but was scavenged by successive generations of looters for their own use. This pyramid was built for Khufu’s son and successor, whose name escapes me, but which I’m’ sure either Joschka (Bruce’s son, now in Iran) or William & August (Courtney & Jenni’s kids) supply at a moment’s notice.

No real pictures of the little one I’m afraid, just the one up above to give a contrast to the bigger ones.

To finish up the pictorial tour of Giza, here are some images of the Sphinx, a figure that always stirred my romantic imagination. The idea that centuries together most of this figure was buried under the sand and all that was visible above the sand was a huge head, always gives me a shiver of excitement. The painting by the one guy,with that very image, is one of my favorites. The pics here provide a pan of the Sphinx so to speak. Photo of the Sphinx’s ass provided courtesy of friend and colleague, Yasir Khan.


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