05.03.2017 29 °C
Up early yesterday as we had booked a camel ride around the pyramids. Being vegan for animal rights, this was never on my agenda. Our two very helpful guys at the hotel convinced us it was the only way to see the pyramids as it's 12km around and you shouldn't do it by foot. I agreed, but I had a pit in my stomach as soon as I did.
So yesrerday morning our guide picks us up with a horse, and we walk behind the hotel to the stables to pick up the two camels. When we met them they were full of flies, and it just broke my heart to know I was participating in this industry. The owner and guide told me he respects them, he does not hit them, and that he takes care of them. I almost cried climbing on for our ride.
They are more difficult to ride than I thought, very bouncy and not that comfy until I sat closer to the front of the saddle. We rode around the back alleys and towards a gate where more camels, horses and guides were. We were the only tourists. There was a lot of yelling in Arabic going on. As our guide led us through this big gate, the security guy yelled and yelled and forced us out. Throughout the next 5 minutes nobody explained what was going on, just lots of yelling in Arabic. So we try again to be led inside, and again we are forced back out. I saw or guide try to give the guard money but he didn't take it. All the while Josh and I are on the camels and they are being pulled and pushed around by other guides and other camels and horses. Finally, our guide hooks Josh's lead onto a string of other camels, and we are led in by another man. I called out to our guide, "you're coming with us right?" He says, "of course!" This is THE saying in Cairo. Everything is, "of course!" So we're inside and they close the gates and our guide is nowhere. The other man unhooks us from his camels and Josh and I are sitting on our camels stationary just waiting. Our guide doesn't come, and at this point other people start asking us if we want to come with them. Uh, no, we say.
Disclosure: this all happened so fast so we have no photos to document.
There are young boys working with the animals as well, and they speak some English. We ask where our guide went, and they say, he's coming, he's coming. One of the boys then takes our lead and guides us back outside the gates and ties us to a post. Again we sit... guys on horses are sprinting past us on this back road, there's a momma dog and 3 pups who are terrified of everything, and probably 4 other adult dogs barking and full of flies. And then all these guys just kind of waiting around with their animals. Finally a young boy helps us get down from the camel as I tell Josh I'm done waiting. My intuition had been kicking in from the start of the day and I should have listened to it when we booked. We asked again where our guide is, they said he's coming, but I didn't want to wait another minute. Josh said he could walk us back because he remembered the route, and I was starting to tear up so we walked away.
The young boys ran after us assuring us our guide would be back but we weren't having it. Then other guys were trying to recruit us to come on their tour, but I was not interested at all. We made it back to our hotel and Muhammad, who arranged our tour, looked shocked to see us! Plus I was really crying at this point. He immediately called our guide and he wasn't answering his phone, the main tour company also couldn't get a hold of him. Muhammad says that sometimes things can happen and maybe he was "taken." We didn't really know what that meant but I didn't like any of it.
Maybe 15 minutes later as we sat in the lobby and Muhammad assured us we could get our money back, our guide walks in! He had a slight limp and his pants were torn. Apparently he had been taken by the guards because he missed paying an entrance fee a couple of times back or something, and he ended up jumping out of the back of the guards car, which is why his pants were ripped. He actually looked like he had tears in his eyes. He apologized and left as the guards also had his camels and he was going to get them back.
Muhammad was shocked but said that these things can happen. He assured us he would get the money back and take care of us. I was mad at myself because I should have trusted my intuition when we booked the ticket. And I'm glad that I trusted it when we were waiting because who knows what could have happened and how long we would have waited there.
I was calm at that point, so we decided to still go to the pyramids and walk them. Muhammad prepped us, and hailed us a cab. We agreed on a price that was way too high, but we're tourists so they charge much higher. The taxi driver spoke no English, and he dropped us off at the gate. We had our tickets already from the tour, so we went through security and we were standing in the desert facing the pyramids head on before we knew it.
The walk looked daunting! But before we knew it we were up the hill and standing next to the sphinx. It was actually a lot smaller than I thought it would be.
Walking up a bit more we got close to one of the big pyramids and we were being solicited by everyone to ride their camel or horse. No thank you, we've been there done that! We weren't sure what areas we could walk in as we were on the road and the camels, horses and other tourists were right next to the pyramids. We finally came across a security guard who checked our tickets and led us around to a tomb. He assured us we could go inside and many men were trying to help me out. He also assured us we didn't have to pay him, which is not common as everyone wants payment after they do anything for you. Descend 30 feet into a pyramid and never come out??? I was super skeptical at this point and unwilling to trust anyone. But we did it anyways, and we were inside one of the small tombs! Crazy. No photos allowed.
As we climbed out the one man who was helping us on the very steep ladder demanded a tip. I told Josh no, let's go, and Josh said he was grabbing him and wouldn't let him go. All we had was a 100 pound note (around $7.50) and Josh grudgingly gave it to him and finally got through. Josh wanted to get away from the security guard because he didn't want to pay off anyone else today as it was already exhausting enough. But he spoke English and he assured me we didn't have to pay so we carried on. He took us to another tomb, told us some history, it was actually the tomb for the man who led the building of one of the pyramids. He led us to a couple of good view points we never would have found and told us more history. There were tons of stray dogs and puppies, it was so hard to see. But we finished with our new guide and he was ready to send us on our way, without payment! It was so refreshing. Josh happily tipped him and he was so grateful.
We carried on walking up the hill and found ourselves at the base of the largest pyramid. It's HUGE, way bigger than we thought it would be.
Here's a photo to grasp the size. See the man walking on blue? He's walking next to it. These things are so huge and the photos just don't show that as much as we felt in real life!
We walked further around and dodged the camel men trying to sell us a ride. Lots of them were very nice and just wanted to know where we're from. When we say Canada, everyone in Egypt says "Canada Dry #1!" Its so bizarre lol. A few guys even posed for a photo for us, "no charge for you my friend!" They say. I only took one photo because I was scared they would turn around and demand money!
We walked down the hill and towards the sphinx again. We didn't get close the first time but we could see people below so we followed. The whole time we felt like we were somewhere we shouldn't be but it was so quiet, hardly any tourists so we just carried on. Then we reached the sphinx and a Chinese bus tour was there, phones out taking selfies in one of the few roped off areas. We got our photos and got out of there!
Walking back down and through the entrance we decided to walk back to our hotel. It wasn't that far and we were over paying people money for nothing! Josh got a cold drink, I got a delicious mango frozen fruit popsicle and we walked. It was nice to walk the street and see the locals. We were stared at the whole way, we're pretty convinced they don't see tourists out and about anymore, just these big bus tours. We saw tons and tons of pitas out in the sun, waiting to be purchased in huge lots by the restaurants. We saw lots of orange juice stores, and I wish I got one. I'll try one before we go I'm sure. We saw lots and lots of coffee shops where men sit, drink coffee and smoke shisha. I felt like in the 15 minute walk we got a little taste of Giza.
Back at the hotel our driver, Mansour, was waiting for us to take us out to the rest of our day. We got waters and headed out with Mansour to explore more of Cairo. More on that in another post!