Saturday, 9 September 2017

Memphis to Saqqara with Giza thrown in

Day 1 and already I don't know where to begin. That I saw the oldest pyramid in the world? That I saw the best preserved statue of Ramesses II in Egypt? Or the alabaster sphinx? That I couldn't get over the bas relief in the tomb of Titi, which depicted every detail of life in Ancient Egypt, right down to the cow who was afraid her calf had been left behind (it hadn't – one of the servants was carrying it across the Nile)? Yes, it's hot, but when you're swept up in trying to get your head around looking at the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, you tend to forget. And here's another thing: it's not crowded. I mean, seriously, not. Which makes me want to tell everyone, "Get over here now, before everyone else gets wind of how Egypt is now not only extremely good value (try E£23 to the UK £ - more about this in a minute) and how you'll get the most unobstructed photos ever."

Now a little more about the exchange rate. I thought, because I read it in the Lonely Planet guide, that the exchange rate was roughly £1 to E£10. In other words, if something cost E£100, that was like spending £10, but no. As my guide explained, since 2016, when their Eyptian pound fell through the floor, it's now more like £1 equals E£23. So, when the carpet seller said, "It's E£1,200", I thought, Cricky, that's a lot!, but actually it was more like £56. For a one-of-a-kind hand-loomed carpet.

Here's my No 1 tip of the day though: Whether you're traveling solo, as a couple, in a group, whatever, you want a guide. Why come all this way and just look at stuff? Why not have someone along who can tell you everything in an entertaining, sticks-in-your-head way AND (this is crucial) takes care of transportation, so that you're ferried about in an air-conned minibus? At one point, my guide told me that the Sphinx's stone cladding, on its front paws, was a recent addition. Immediately, I heard a young American guy say to his friend, "Did you hear that? Those stones are new!" Poor, chaps, I thought, you won't be getting half as much out of this as I am.

My guide, who speaks smooth English and has a degree in archeology, told me things you wouldn't learn in a guidebook – like how the stars are in exactly the same alignment every 26,000 years (is that all?), and that in 10,500BC, the three Pyramids of Giza, which were built in 2,500BC were dead centre to perfectly match the alignment of Orion's belt. Which means the placement of these pyramids might well be a good 8,000 years older than the actual structures themselves.

I hope I made that clear – he certainly did. And it piques the interest, because clearly these Pyramids haven't given up all their secrets yet...

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