TRAVEL THERE: THE INFANCY OF PYRAMID BUILDING
I’m worried about Egypt. Tourism is their primary industry, but they aren’t exactly working hard to promote it. Bill and I shook our heads in disbelief during most of the trip. It’s almost as if they don’t want tourists. The first thing I’d like to do is just give everything a good cleaning and add some trashcans. Egyptians themselves are delightful and there are wonderful things to see, but you have to be serious about wanting to visit and you will encounter obstacles. Let me explain.
Do You Know the Way to Dashour?
Were Giza, Dashour and Saqqara in the US, they’d be owned by the National Park Service. All three complexes would be surrounded by federal lands and you’d get a tour map that helped you navigate your way from one site to another. All along the tour route, you’d see lovely hotels, a wide variety of restaurants and other attractions like miniature golf and water slides. Each site would have interpretive signs, museums, exhibits and gift shops. That’s not the way it goes in Egypt. Where is UNESCO, by the way!
Nothing about the Giza site suggests that just a short drive away are two more fantastic historical sites. You’re just supposed to know. There’s not a single sign that points the way. You head off down the road and wander along the side of a filthy canal. Along most of the way, both sides of the road has development, but it’s residences, not fast food and hotels. If you didn’t have a guide, I guarantee you wouldn’t find it.
While there, I discovered that you could ride horses between the sites. You can google “pyramid horse tours” and find all kinds of vendors, but since I didn’t know about the tours, I didn’t know to research it. You are now better informed than I was.
We eventually turned off the main road, but I didn’t see anything that said, “This way to Dashour.” A rutted goat path took us to a military installation. I don’t know any better way to describe it – white painted buildings, with guys in uniform carrying guns. This was not the appropriate welcoming committee for your average American tourist.
I do love one thing about Egyptians – their creativity. Wherever we went were folks who set up shop and went about their business without the accouterments Americans would demand.
- If neighbors want to get together and smoke sheesha, why let the absence of a park stop you. Gather your chairs in the street and pass the hookah. The cars will figure out a way to get around you.
- Want to have a souvenir shop? Then find a piece of pavement and start selling. You can hang wire between signs to display your wares or use a cardboard crate.
- Need an office. Find a table and chair – any table and chair.
The guy in charge at the military installation had followed the examples above – right by the side of the goat path. Both pieces of furniture looked like they’d been built in the 50’s, but for completely different purposes. Sitting on the table was the ubiquitous glass for tea. Who needs anything else?
Worth It for Me
It’s no wonder that our nephew couldn’t understand why we wanted to go to Dashour. With the exception of a few pyramids in serious disrepair there is nothing there. I mean nothing!
But those few pyramids were worth the trip for me. While Zuzu hadn’t found much new ground to cover with me at Giza, he was invaluable at Dashour.
Obviously, the Bent Pyramid is bent, but hearing why and how it got that way, as I stood below it, was fascinating. We climbed up another crumbling pyramid to see the shaft built down into it, where the pharaoh’s body would have been carried and imagined the day of the funeral. How did they get him down all those steps? Another pyramid was tall and skinny, almost like a Christmas tree. How did these configurations develop into what we saw at the Giza Plateau?
I’d read right before I left for Egypt that they’d just found a new pyramid at Dashour – but where? And why didn’t they offer to show it to me for $20 more. I would have gladly coughed up the Jackson.
The whole thing begs for development. In our heads we laid out the informational signage, chose refreshment stands, picked out costumes for the guides and decided where the museum and shop should be. The Egyptians need tourists to spend more days in their country and with just a few bare necessities and a little signage, people would flock to see these wonders, but as it stands, Bill and I were the lone tourists. We would never have found it on our own and even if we would have, I doubt we’re brave enough to confront the military authorities guarding it. What a shame!
But our Pyramid tour was not over. On to Saqqara. Join us next week.