Cairo: Climbing the World’s Most Famous Monument
When my boss told me a story of how he illegally climbed the Great Pyramids of Giza, I knew this was a mission for the Missadventures. I asked Mihae if she was up for the challenge, “YES!” she quipped with no hesitation.
And off to Cairo we were with our guys in tow. We stayed at Le Meridan Pyramids, a beautiful 4-star property with a swim up bar the overlooked the three giant tombs ($60 per night). Upon checking in, our bellman, Mshai* escorted us to our room. As soon as we left the lobby, Mihae blurted, “We want to climb the Pyramids, do you know anyone who can take us?”
“I have some camels in my backyard,” said Mshai. “Meet me behind the hotel tomorrow night at midnight. I will take you.”
“How many camels do you have?” I asked.
“How many do you want?” he replied.
The next evening, after a day of exploring the city, visiting the Cairo Museum and a locals-only bazaar, we were ready for our mission. We left a note in our room explaining what we have done in the event we did not return, and nervously made our way to our meeting place. Just as he promised, Mshai pulled up with a friend in a rickety old car, which was not much more than a pile of rust set upon an engine.
We left the paved streets of Cairo and turned off onto a dirt road. As the clock passed 1:00 a.m., we passed neighborhoods of broken down homes that visitors do not see. We starred out the window at miles of camels tied to chain length fences, children playing along the dirt roads, men smoking cigarettes as they ride their horses with wagons of melons trailing behind them. We even spotted a dead donkey lying in a stream. Mshai explained to us that because of the heat, many people choose to sleep during the day and the nights outdoors when its cooler. Some of the neighborhoods looked like it has been hit by a bomb.
We pull up into his driveway and his family is eagerly awaiting us. The $100 we paid for this “private tour” is more than most Egyptians make in a month. They helped us onto our camels, waved goodbye and we set off into the darkness.
The ride into the desert was pure magic. The crescent shaped moon was brighter than any we had seen before and cast a light directly to the top of the center Pyramid. We knew this was no accident as the ancient Egyptians knew their astronomy and the sides of all three of the pyramids were astronomically oriented to be north-south and east-west within a small fraction of a degree.
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers built the Pyramids at Giza over 80 years. Much of the work probably happened while the River Nile was flooded.
Our camels walked for what seemed like hours, and our backs began to ache as we slowly inched up and down countless sand dunes before arriving at the Giza Acropolis.
We climbed the The Pyramid of Khafre, which is the second largest and the tomb of the the fourth dynasty pharoh Khafre (Chephren). The pyramid has a base length of 215.25 m (707 ft) and originally rises to a height of 143.5 m (471 ft). It was most likely opened and robbed during the First Intermediate Period.
The Pyramid is made of Limestone blocks (weighing more than 2 tons each). Each block came up to our waists but we eagerly pushed onward and upwards.
We didn’t make it to the very top of the Pyramid, as our guide was afraid we would be spotted by a security guard. We stopped near the top to take in the view of the sprawling city of more than 15 million.
Mshai passed around a few warm beers and cigarettes from his knapsack and as we sat, he told us stories of growing up in Egypt, his homeland that he has yet to set foot out of.
We arrived back at the hotel the next morning exhausted and giddy. We were not able to take photos of the expedition and had video footage that we accidentally taped over with footage of monkeys at the Sydney Zoo. We will only have the memories of our adventure but we know this is a story will be will telling our grandchildren.
*Name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.