Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Going to Egypt pt I

After two and a half days of traveling I am standing in the presence of the last surviving ancient wonder of the world, the pyramids at Giza. I ask Amgad, our guide, if they still impress him, who sees them all the time. He says he prefers the grandeur of the temples, and to wait; I'll see what he means. Fair enough.

He lets us alone to scramble around the enormous base, touching, taking photos, gawking. Egypt gave us no space to ramp up to her oriental alienness. It hit us in the face as soon as the airplane doors opened and we walked out of the plane and into a bus to drive us 200 yards across the tarmac and into the terminal. No queuing, no romance language, no familiar writing. Travel company representatives in suits met us and shepharded us through customs and into our sightseeing van, our driver sleepy but glad to be working. It was 2am Cairo time, the hour when everything comes together.

Seven hours later we're standing on the Giza plateau. The geography is stark: there is the sea, there is the city, there is the Nile, but mostly there is the desert and it is buff and sandy and omnipresent, even when I'm standing at the sea or in the city or floating on the Nile. It is inescapable and unavoidable, and will be propitiated.

But standing beside the enormity of the pyramids cuts my attention in two. See those two tiny figures on G-man's left shoulder? (You may have to look hard.) One sits on a camel, the other on the pyramid itself. Each of those blocks is chest-high on me, and I stand 1.78m.

We want to go inside, but our late 9am start to the day means we've missed out on the limited tickets for the day. Seeing our faces, and that we are truly interested in what we're seeing, Amgad promises to try for tickets when we return to Cairo in a week. We climb in our tour van and Ali drives us to Memphis.

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