After an exciting and mind shattering first day in Cairo Meg and I decided to have an early night so it was a shower, room service, movie and bed night for us. Meg’s sweetness has resulted in many of the people we have met loving her and we were the recipients of many free gifts because of this sweet girl. I was worried that her tall blond hair greened eyed self would catch some unwanted attention but it turns out that the men in Egypt like…..shall we say bigger women and while at the pyramids I was offered 200 camels to marry some guy….and the offers continued throughout our trip giving my self-confidence a much needed boost.
So our second day in Cairo… yet another amazing day. We visited a cotton factory first. Egyptian cotton is very sort after and as most of us know very expensive but here it is also considered an art form. We were once again blessed with a wonderful guide through the factory. We then visited a papyrus factory and gallery. The way they make the paper has not changed in thousands of years. The papyrus plant is considered special because the flower looks like the sun’s rays (think sun god Ra) and when you cut the stalk it looks like a triangle like a....pyramid. The art work is really something and I fell head over heels for one artist in particular. I got a little irritated with the sales guy because when I asked our guide if we can come back on our last day he said "that mean you never come back. You just say" now I had at that point every intension of returning because I really liked two pieces but they are expensive and I don't want to spend that kind of money on day 2 of our trip and have a problem later. He got upset so I walked away. Shahenda later explained that they hear the “we’ll be back” party line so often that they no longer believe it. I felt kinda bad for overreacting but….
We then headed to Memphis where we saw the largest statue of Ramses II ever found. It us HUGE and the detail superb. It even has knees. He took my breath away. Memphis has yielded a large number of statues of this famous pharaoh. When you walk into the museum you are immediately left breathless by this giant statue carved from limestone. It’s about 10 meters in length and beautiful. It was discovered in 1820 by an Italian archaeologist Giovanni Gaviglia.
Because the bottom part of the statue has been broken off probably by the elements. It was apparently discovered under a mountain of sand and because of the damage Ramses is now displayed lying on his back. Some of the colours are still partially persevered but you really have to look to see any. The detail is where the beauty lies for me. The flawless detail of the complex and subtle forms of the human body. The dagger at his waist, his knees and most of all his face. I wish I had the words to describe what looking at him meant to me but the best I can do is to say that in that moment Rameses the Second robbed me of my every breath!! The photos I have added don’t really do him justice but I hope you get the general idea. Oh and by the way the statue wears the white crown of Upper Egypt.
On our way to Saqqara our awesome driver Yusser provided us with our first taste of typical Egyptian cuisine when he bought us falafels from a street vendor. I know some would say we were living dangerously eating food from the streets but I trusted Yusser and Shahy so we ate to our belly’s were so full we could hardly breath and guess what we were fine. Just for the record we had no stomach issues at all while in Egypt but having said that we were careful to drink only bottled water and to eat food recommend by our guides.
Ok back to Saqqara. Saqqara was the ancient capital of Lower Egypt and lies to the south of Cairo. According to legend the city was founded in around 3000 BC. There are several important sites to visit here and we were blessed to see them all.
The Djoser complex is surrounded by a wall made from limestone. The architecture of the wall is reminiscent (gosh that’s a big word I hauled out there) of bound bundles of reeds. The wall has some 14 doors but only one is used by the “living” today. The other doors are for the king to “use” in the afterlife. Then there is the roofed colonnade entrance. It functions as a passage way made for limestone….even the ceiling. It was built to look as though it was made from tree trunks and leads to a portal. When you step through the portal into the hall there are twenty pairs of limestone columns which are amazing. They are cool to the touch as well as “soft”. Between the columns on both sides there are these little chamber type places which some say represented each one of the provinces of Upper and Lower Egypt. Walking through the columns you get a strange feeling….almost one of power!!! The hall leads you to the south court.
The south court was important because of the Heb-Sed festival. This festival was held typically after a kind had been on the throne for about 30 years. During the celebrations the king would perform a ritual run and dance which was aimed at proving that he was still physically able to rule the country and that by completing the ritual he was also rejuvenated and reborn. Rameses who if you stick around Egypt long enough you realise did everything in a BIG way, only left 2 instead of 3 years between his Heb-Sed festivals which meant he was able to celebrate 14 jubilees during his reign of 67 years!!!
In one of the courts you can see the oldest “graffiti” ever found. The people would write “questions” to the king on the walls of the court and hope that someone would ask the king their question and that he would answer them. Not sure how well that system worked.
So the main attraction has got to be the step pyramid, the oldest pyramid in Egypt. It is dated at 2630BC that’s like old people!!!! The step pyramid was intended to hold the mummified body of Pharaoh Djoser and began as a traditional flat roofed mastaba. But by the time the pharaoh’s 19 year reign ended (remember they started to build the pharaoh’s tomb the moment his reign started) it had risen to a six step layer and stood 204 feet high……it was the largest building of its time. Take a moment and think about what it must have been like for the people of that time to stand in front of this incredibly high structure and have nothing to compare it to….no point of reference!!! It must have been awe inspiring to see….as it still is. So they used a lot of stone which made the tomb far more durable than the mud brick ones. The tomb dispite the outer walls and so on was plundered and raided and all that remains of the pharaoh is a mummified foot!!!
Shahenda took us to a spot from where you can see about 12 of the pyramids (as a point of interest there are about 138 pyramids in Egypt with the most recent being discovered in 2008 in Saqqara). I wish I could have taken photos that would have done the sight justice….pyramids in literally every direction we looked. It was amazing!!!
I don’t really have the right words (I know I am running our out of adjectives) to describe the energy in Saqqara. It does feel like it gives off some positive energy….it almost floats above your skin…..strange and yet fantastic.
After a drive through the incredible streets of Cairo (an all 25 million citizens were once again in the streets)we got back to our hotel and after a quick change when down to the pool. We spent some time at the roof top restaurant taking photos of the traffic and of the Giza pyramids. The water was too cold to swim we enjoyed the warm Egyptian sun. We read and wrote about all our experiences in our travel journals. We had a 4 am start the next morning to catch our flight to Aswan so we packed up and then had a wonderful fancy dinner in our hotel. Both Meg and I had veal for the first time.
I loved every minute of being in Cairo and was very excited to move on with our trip but was also looking forward to coming back to this cosmopolitan city at the end of our trip.
|You can see some of the damage clearly here|
|Check out the belly button...the other hole they think is from weather damage|
|In front of an alabaster sphinx|
|Another Rameses statue|
|Meg checking out the sarcophagus will fit her...|
|They suspect this was the first fridge ever....|
|The hall with the columns representing the provinces of Egypt|
|The step pyramid....they are trying to restore it but after the 2011 revolution there is no money|
|The south court|
|Shahy getting rid of sand in her shoes....I had the problem the previous day at|
the pyramids hence the sneakers. It became a bit of a running joke with
|Feet in the middle of nowhere...|
|Some of the oldest "graffiti"|