A slow night train to Cairo should be on everyones agenda at least once a
lifetime, and was an amazing trip of seductive sunset. Pity, then, about the Egyptian Railways dinner; a camel steak served up in my cabin by this very
annoyed Saddam lookalike, who forced me (on looks alone) to swallow every morsel
of its leathery hide. Gulp...
Much later, one awakes refreshed and hungry, alighting into the station chaos
of chickens and livestock, then hitting the crescendo of traffic confusion which is Cairo. This is all worth the journey alone. It's an amazing sight
after being bred in an over-regulated
society like London Town. Now, at the very edge of Cairo, the mangled metropolis
stops dead in its tracks as it meets the curtain of sand, the Sahara Desert.
But this is no mere environmental coincidence. Its a strategic directive so as
to not spoil the backdrop to the marker of this point, the Great Pyramids.
Built around 5000 years ago, as burial tombs for Egytian Pharoahs and Kings etc etc, these 3 objects are astounding for their size and beauty as well as their construction story, for in those far off days of supposed non-computerized and non-mechanized savagery these humans were able to consruct almost impossibly huge monuments to a mathematically sickening specification. And here they have stood for millenia's, 3 pyramid shapes around 400 feet high, their square bases in perfect conjuntion with each other and with the surrounding star systems. Almost an incalculable feat of resourceless ingenuity. At the far side of this arena is the famously blasted face of the spinx, its lion guardian pose being an amusing touch in this delightful collection. And so, to take in this oasis, one looks from afar atop a sand dune onto the pyramids and its Sahara mirage. One of the best views on the planet. A mystical moment from the movies, and it's so hilarious to see in its flesh. And sad to know that they have been ransacked through their lives into a state of a shambolic shadow, for no longer they be topped out in a golden shroud, no longer be filled with treasure. But still breathtaking in the extreme.
On first glance, the Pyramids are one of those visions that bring on a smile. It's funny to be stunned by something you've gazed upon in books and on TV for years, suddenly there before you, thrilling, overwhelming. As one approaches the gargantuan shapes you have, as with any visitor attraction, a gauntlet of heavy pressure memorabelia merchants, albeit this time chasing you upon a camel, which is quite a sales pitch in itself. And the closer you get the more you realize that these pyramids are not the assumed smooth sided creations but are built of individual massive sculptured rectangular steps of stone, making this an ascendable latticework of great dimension.
Running more guantlets of self appointed unnofficial tour guides, it's of importance to enter at least one pyramid and to feel the weight of thousands of tons of stone above your head, whilst crouching down and almost crawling into these entrance tunnels designed as a feeble attempt to conceal and protect the wealth inside. And just to think how those ancients could constuct all this and decorate with hieroglyphics and paintings in darkness, and to imagine how it might have looked before the first vandalistic pirates broke in to disturb and desecrate and destroy. But all thats left is a busted up door seal and an immovable granite sarcophagus, and what wall art is not abused. Importantly, the inner sanctumz must be experienced for that moving aura, that deep, chilling eerieness. Its easy to imagine yourself back in Pharoah fantasia. Once you've struggled from the ancient tomb and back into the stillness of the arabian heat, its time to run the gauntlets of irritating guides, salesmen, and three-legged-camel-ride merchants They are such a fun introduction to the culture, and well worth the tip. Retreating from the vendors, one must circumnavigate the 3 obilisks to take in the complete perspective, and to fill your shoes with Sahara Sand, before a quick dip in the nile, and then back to blighty!!
Charles (of London Town)