Today I forced myself out of bed at 6am (okay, 6:20) and after meandering a bit, went to grab breakfast, then came back to the room to finish getting ready for my epic hilltop day. Plan was to walk up there early, wander around the outside of the pyramids, then, depending on time and energy and the sense of the place, maybe pay for admission to the Great Pyramid. Admission to the grounds is 60EGP. The walk was easy, but the concierge was right that it’s better to take a taxi – even at 745 the sun is already getting brutal and there’s noise and dust… actually it was kind of fun.
There really were a lot of people telling me that it was nice to meet me and that they’d make me a nice price on a camel ride and that I should take their picture in front of the pyramids, etc., etc., etc.; I can’t imagine how bad it was before they enclosed the thing as a park and at least vaguely regulated the whole thing. I got pretty good at just blowing the guys off after only a few minutes, though, so that was fine. It’s fascinating, from a detached position, to think about society running like this, always hustling but never getting anywhere, really.
Once you’re inside the park (euphemistically, it’s a park, I guess), you have free reign to go wherever and get sand in your shoes. So I did. It’s sort of hard to believe that you can just wander around a giant archaeological site like that and no one cares, but I guess everything of value has already been found and carted away. That’s both almost impossible to believe and quite depressing at the same time, even if it is understandable – we know a lot about this 5000-year-old culture, why spend money digging up more, I guess. There are plenty of places where you walk around and then realize that the rock beneath your feet is actually a few feet above the intended floor level because you come, for example, to a waist-high door that was clearly for people at one point a few millennia ago.
It took me hours to find the sphinx, which was strange, given that it’s one of the most famous monuments in the world, but that’s a testament to the size of the hilltop (and to my not knowing what valley to look in, really) and to the fact that there’s really nothing like signage anywhere. It’s all pretty obvious, but thinking about the way I’m used to monuments like this, the differences glare. It was a little like wandering around Pompeii, actually, only less well preserved, and a whole lot less organized. Back to the Sphinx, I found her (it?) at just the right time – I was ready to start my walk home after just under three hours on the hill.
Since I’m not a fan of backtracking, I left from the Sphinx rather than from the Great Pyramid, which isn’t, it turns out, on the same street. Consequently, I almost got lost on my walk back because I wasn’t thinking about it, but managed to visualize where I was and make the correct turn that put me back on the main road.
Almost high adventure!
Actually, it was just almost more walking after a challenging few hours on uneven ground and sand. Lots of sand.
After cleaning up a little upon my arrival back at my hotel, I popped over to the pool to read my book (currently A Short History of Nearly Everything after Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time reminded me of it) and try to even up the terrible farmer’s tan I’m rocking. I stayed until I was almost sunburned, and then I left. I’ve currently got that pink-and-scratchy feeling that comes with getting just a tiny bit too much sun, but what else can you expect from lying in the sun with no sunscreen on parallel with central Florida in July? Sheesh. (I actually intend to get sunscreen with a few necessities this evening or tomorrow morning, so don’t chide me for my irresponsibility too much.)
Tonight, I had an experience that the guide books tell you about. I was walking down the Alexandria Highway (it seems to have multiple names, actually) to get some dinner at the next hotel over and I managed to get stopped by Ramses, some sort of assistant manager at my hotel. Or maybe he was just lying to me, I don’t know. Anyway, he told me he’d take me to a great place when I told him I was just looking for a bite to eat, and so he did. It was expensive, at least as far as I can tell, but what the hell, you only get into the car with strangers in dangerous foreign countries embroiled in revolutionary fervor very rarely, right? Gotta grab the opportunity while you can. I had a kebab, which basically took the form of a self-assemble gyro, and it was tasty, although at like $22, it was way more than I was looking to spend. Afterwards, he took me to his “father’s” essence shop, which was indeed very beautiful and full of essences, but I firmly told him that I wasn’t going to buy, but instead would like to think about it, which I am indeed doing. Funny stuff!
Finally, I went up to the rooftop restaurant for a cup of tea, a bottle of water (gotta hydrate!) and some time to write. It worked pretty well, actually, except that I ended up re-writing the new thing rather than writing the already re-written old thing (I grabbed the wrong notebook from my bag, unfortunately). Not to be daunted, I sat down to work on the new thing, decided it was all shit, and threw it away. But I got back to essentially where I was, which is first act roughed out, ending roughed out and the middle a flabby mess, per usual. I have a couple ideas though, to make the middle work, so we’ll see how the rest of the night goes (I’m giving myself one more hour of writing, more or less). Then it’s up tomorrow for a drive to the museum and a mosque. Maybe even some shopping. We’ll see.