Africa, Destinations, Middle East

The Pyramids and the Cost of Happiness

February 5, 2009 • By

Does anyone really believe I drank 2 bottles of red wine each night and got up at 6 am and toured? The answer is… no. Unfortunately, it took me fighting with the manager at the Hilton Ramses before I convinced him not to charge me $60 from the mini bar. When the manager asked me if I was sure I did not drink the wine, I sarcastically responded that if he wanted to see me drink 4 glasses of wine he would likely be sending me to the hospital or paying for me to spend an entire day if not more in a hotel room, which would cost him much more than the $60 I was refuting. After an hour of that nonsense, he informed me it was ok because they always listen to the customer. WHAT? Then why did we just waste all this time arguing?

The morning was off to a rocky start since the megaphones announcing prayer (think bomb squad) woke me up at 4 am. It is my theory that 18 million people should be able to set an alarm but apparently I am in the minority since it happens like clock work 5 times a day. Maybe that’s why we stopped going to church in the US (my parents and God parents excluded). We need Big Brother reminding us it is time for mass.

Once I got out all of my aggressions and devoured my Egyptian falafel and foul (vegetable bean porridge thing), I set off to the pyramids. I’ve decided Africans in general have two phrases they firmly grasp in the English language hence they use them often. Those words being, “my friend” and “no problem.” Following a close third is “you happy?”

My tour guide has been showing people the sights for 17 years so I figured I was in good hands. He started giving me a rundown on what I would see, “you want to see the sights no problem. I told him I would like to see Islamic Cairo, the Citadel and Giza. “Ok my friend we see Mosques. The agency says you want to see 5-7 no problem.” Actually that is not me. I would like to see the historical mosques but I don’t need to see 7. “Ok my friend, no problem.” My day went on like that for 6 hours.

We kicked off in Memphis, the former capital of the Pharaohs’ and made our way to Saqqara to see the world’s oldest pyramid. Finally, we finished the day an hour before sunset seeing the Pyramids & Sphinx at Giza.

For starters, Ramses II was one very popular ruler. It is quite common for people to say Ramses is their great-grandfather because he had 50 wives and over 200 children. It is referenced all the time with many people saying, “Oh yes my great-grandfather…. He commissioned this tomb or that statue.” Staring up at a large pile of 5,000-year-old rock I have to remind myself they mean Ramses. He must have been a very busy man between caring for his wives, children and overseeing the statues and pyramids being built in his likeness. I don’t know when he had time to wage war. History reflects he ruled Egypt for more than 60 years. For all you movie fans, he is the ruler portrayed in “The Ten Commandments,” who married Nefertiti his great love.

I finally made it to the Pyramids of Giza. To say I was excited would be an understatement. My journey seemed complete the minute I looked into the clear blue sky and stood before these towering tombs of rock and magnificent works of architecture. It’s hard to imagine that most pyramids took 25 years to build and many rulers did not live to witness the final installments. They just “lived” to be buried in them!

I just had to take a camel ride between the pyramids. It was of course the only way to see all 9 pyramids in a line. I felt like a queen! The pyramids are an every day part of Egyptian life. They seem to rest in Cairo’s back yard similar to a child’s swing set.

The Pyramids of Giza were completed around 2600 BC and the Sphinx 2500 BC. It’s an incredible experience to be able to touch the rock that formed these marvels. I loved taking it all in so much that I even enjoyed the light show. I swear it was Ramses himself speaking to me from his tomb.

Remember “you happy?” I finally got the message. When the camel guy asked me 3 times if I was happy and I naively asked him why he kept asking me that, he said, “when we done if you happy you give good tip for me.” Little did I know this was the beginning of the end? I was dragged to a perfume store and then a bazaar and each place asked me if I was happy and then followed with “no fee for looking.” After seeing nothing of interest (14k gold hieroglyphics aren’t my thing) and I hate perfume, I got a lot of “you not happy? What about your mom? She like perfume?” Nope she doesn’t like it either.

Being happy apparently is costly in Egypt.