Giza, Egypt

[ 2 ] November 17, 2011 |

We arrived in Cairo, Egypt on the heels of the Arab Spring – the Revolution officially occurred on February 11 when after weeks of protests the regime of President Mubarak fell. Mubarak stepped down, the constitution was suspended and both houses of parliament were dissolved.  In the intermediate before an entirely new government is established, the military is ruling. It’s a complex situation with a lot of players involved- but overall things are headed in the right direction for positive change. A unique time for a visit.

Alison & Pat at the Giza Pyramids, Giza, Egypt

During this transitional phase there are a lot of unknowns for tourists- some reasonable but most unwarranted. Our recommendation is to put Egypt back on your list of places to visit.  We felt entirely safe everywhere we went- even overly protected at times. More than anything we felt welcomed. With tourism as a key industry in the country, protecting tourists is a priority for anyone that relies on visitors to fuel their pockets.  Even without an established government, life moves on. Police and military are at work. There is even a special force of tourism police actively operating. Businesses are open, transportation systems are moving and the Nile is flowing. Go to Egypt!

After our initial research of what we wanted to see throughout Egypt we decided to try something new and utilize a tour company for the first time on our RTW trip. It was a great break from daily planning and detail sorting. I would highly recommend using a tour company for Egypt. The congestion of the city and the various locations of the attractions makes having a local guide pretty much a necessity.  We used Memphis Tours and were more than pleased with all of the services provided. The tour company handled our transport, accommodations, tours, tickets, Nile cruise, most meals, and personal guides to accompany us everywhere. We had a driver and a private guide for all of our expeditions. I booked everything online through a live chat and of course did my own research to confirm I wanted what they were offering and to mix a few things up- add some additional sights and change a few hotel options. They accommodated my every request and whim.

At 7:00 AM after flying all night, we landed at the Cairo airport, purchased our visas, and were met by Tamer, our Memphis Tours representative who then escorted us to our hotel. On the drive there we got our first glimpse of the Nile while crossing the bridge from Cairo to Giza. We spent this first day recovering from travel and enjoying the hotel.

Bridge crossing the Nile, Cairo to Giza

The next morning we were greeted by our Giza/Cairo guide Mahabeeb and driver Nasir. We started the morning with the highlight of Ancient Egypt- the Giza Plateau home of the Great Pyramids of Cheops, Chefren and Mykerinus. The largest of the three and one of the Seven Wonders of the World is the Great Pyramid of Cheops. We were able to climb up a portion of the giant structure. Mahabeeb is an official Egyptologist and went to great lengths to make sure we understood the significance and history of everything we saw. Our first classroom break was right outside the pyramids.

Al & Pat at the Great Pyramid

climbing the Great Pyramid

Mahabeeb's first classroom

Next to this are the other two large pyramids, which served as the burial tombs of the son and grandson (later Pharaohs) of Cheops.

Giza Plateau

Beside the three large pyramids are 6 other smaller pyramids known as the “queens” pyramids. It is thought that the queens or mothers were buried in these smaller pyramids.

The Pyramids of Giza and other pyramids in the region are thought to have been constructed to house the remains of deceased Pharaohs who ruled over Ancient Egypt. The people believed that proper care of the remains was necessary in order for the deceased Pharaoh to perform his new duties as king of the dead. Along with the body, rooms were built inside the pyramids for the possessions of the kings so that he would have all of his stuff with him in his next life. Of course we know that most pyramids and tombs were eventually robbed and the king’s treasures were stolen.

One of the smaller pyramids has been opened up and we were able to climb down the shaft to the open room inside the pyramid. Pat even impersonated a mummy briefly lying in the sand inside the pyramid.

backing down inside a pyramid

Pat the mummy

To the side of the entire complex of pyramids all you see is desert. With a parking lot of camels waiting, we gave in to the tourist attraction and jumped on the back of two camels. Cliché perhaps- but absolutely awesome. With two young boys guiding our camels through the desert we wholeheartedly embraced the moment.

Al & Pat ride Camels

Alison kisses a camel

Real Camels at the Real Pyramids

After our camel ride we drove back around the pyramids to the east side of the complex where The Great Sphinx is located. The Great Sphinx is thought to be the face of Chefren guarding the entrance to the pyramid along side the ancient location of the bank of the Nile.  Connecting the pyramid and Sphinx is a causeway. Outside the pyramids underground are giant pits where “solar boats” have been discovered. These large ships were built to carry the Pharaohs and his family to the afterlife.


We drove to Memphis, Egypt the old kingdom’s capital city (about 20 miles from Giza). Here we saw an enormous statue of Ramses II as well as other sphinx statues.

Ramses II giant statue

Memphis Sphinx

In the middle of the day Mahabeeb announced he was going to make a stop for us at a perfume shop. Being pretty much a 100% fragrance free family we weren’t thrilled but hesitantly agreed to go in. I was expecting Pat’s eyes to swell up and for me to start sneezing like crazy… must to my surprise neither happened.

First we watched a glassblower create fancy perfume bottles. Then we entered the scent lab. After being poured a glass of local hibiscus juice we were given a sheet listing 50 different scents produced in Egypt. Some were pure essences of flowers, others were blends and some were non-flower plant/tree based scents. As the demonstration pitch went on we learned how the majority of perfume manufactures import their essences from Egypt. They have extensive acreage around the Siwa Oasis in western Egypt being used to grow the flowers necessary for making the perfume scents. They proved these were not watered down liquids. There was no alcohol or oil added to any of the scents. What they are selling is the pure flower scent- and none of them made me sneeze or itch once.

making fancy glass perfume bottles

They first shared some of the most popular scents with us smearing drops up both of our arms, wrists, neck etc. We then got to smell and test any of the others we wanted to try out. The most interesting thing was to give them a perfume we knew and they would provide the “essence” that it was made from. For example the Egyptian blend: Five Secret= Channel #5. ; Queen Hatshepsut= Dior J’Adore; Siwa=Polo; Ramses= Hugo Boss.  And the examples go on- any perfume we could think of they showed us the base ingredient. And it worked- they smelled just like it minus the alcohol.  The sales pitch is that you need only a drop of this to last all day since there is no alcohol to evaporate and of course you are getting more for your money since it’s not thinned down (they claim most store bought scents are 90% alcohol and 10% essence.) They went on to demonstrate some of their products as medicinal scents. They have things for stress, headache, memory, concentration, digestion, diet suppression, etc. The Egyptian government doesn’t allow the exportation of the lotus flower (the symbol of Upper Egypt) scent or of a few certain secret blends ie. Secret of the Desert.  Of course you could buy them there and take them with you.

Next we took a detour to an art store showcasing art made on papyrus paper. Papyrus is the symbol of Lower Egypt. We enjoyed a demonstration of the paper being made and got to join in some of the steps.  They slice the stalk of the plant, pound out the water, weave the strips tightly and then press them until they are completely dry. Once the paper is completed it’s nearly impossible to tear since the woven nature makes it so strong.

making papyrus paper

We ended the day with a drive out of town to the Sakkara Complex. Here is the Djoser Pyramid, the first pyramid ever built. The structure is a step-pyramid unlike the Giza pyramids.

Djoser- step pyramid

As we drove back to the hotel we noticed that every building seemed to be incomplete. We couldn’t tell if things were being built or torn down. People were obviously living in structures without windows and with scaffolding all around the exteriors. The most noticeable thing was that every building has rebar and concrete posts on the top floor sticking up- waiting for the next story to be added on. We asked what the deal was and it was explained that two things go on- 1. Many of the buildings are family houses. So when a son gets married he builds the next floor up for his new wife and family. 2. If a building is not complete you don’t have to pay taxes on it. So, no buildings are every fully finished. This is Egypt.

town of Memphis, Egypt





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Category: Alison's Blog, Blog, Destinations, Egypt, Featured Posts

Comments (2)

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  1. Anita says:

    Especially enjoyed your blogs of Egypt and am very enamored with the photo of you and Pat kissing on the camels- That should be a postcard or in a magazine or made into a famous painting – maybe you could enter it into a photo contest- I am very serious- Happy Thanksgiving – sorry you may have a hard time finding turkey and dressing over there- Love you both- Anita

  2. Stephanie Schiltz says:

    I’m catching up on your blog and adventures! I would have never known that they leave their buildings incomplete in Egypt… crazy! I love the pictures, and learning about their special perfumes. I agree with Anita, the kissing camel picture is great! 🙂

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