Although the great pyramids of Giza are the most well-known and popular of the pyramids there are many more in and around Cairo. Our day started with a trip to the bent pyramid and the red pyramid. The bent pyramid was named because as it was being built the people realized that the angle they were using would not support the structure so they changed the angle half way through. This created a bent effect towards the top. Behind the bent pyramid was another smaller pyramid said to have belonged to the queen. It was less preserved and had started to crumble to a point where it was difficult to tell it was a pyramid from certain angles. My ever rebellious father ventured to climb the small pyramid. The security guards with us seemed to be alright with this but said “quickly” once my father was up others followed until many of our group were at the top taking pictures.
We continued on to the red pyramid. This one got its name from the use of red granite in its construction. I spent little time looking at the outside as I headed straight for the entrance. The tunnel leading into the pyramid was steep and small. I was required to bend over quite drastically. The descent put a strain on my leg muscles. As we got further into the pyramid it became hotter and I began to sweat. By the time I got to the bottom I felt like my legs were made of rubber. Stairs awaited me. I climbed them slowly and came to a room that had a ceiling that came to a point, what you would expect from the inside of a pyramid. The room smelled strongly of ammonia and I was unable to stand it too long. Although the inside of the pyramid itself was not all that amazing I had the distinct feeling of going back in time.
We went for an early lunch before continuing on. So far the food here has been very good. I have been eating falafel at least twice a day and I’m not yet sick of it. It is so much better than anything you could get at home. The meals consist of falafel with many different dips including tahini, baba ghanoush, tzatziki, and small salads. There have been several kinds of roasted meats including chicken, pork, and beef. The dish kofta, like a lamb sausage without a casing, has been abundant. With the meals no matter what it is there has been bread, and rice or French fries, or both. I’m unable to determine if this is what the locals eat or if they serve us French fries because we are Americans and they believe we would die without them.
Our next destination was a mosque. We walked through a very crowded market like area unlike the city streets of Cairo but more like a village or town. We removed our shoes at the mosque and the woman in our group lined up to our their hijabs (head scarves) put on by our guide Hoda. Everyone tried to do it themselves but after failing several times resigned themselves to be helped. She expertly wrapped them around our heads and put pins in to hold them. Once sufficiently covered up we entered the mosque. We gathered near a stylized niche inside and Hoda told us about Islam. She spoke of how Muslims come and pray several times a day and how if you are doing well with money the religion requires that you give away 2.5% of your savings to others in need. There are not many violent crimes in Egypt due to the fact that everyone helps each other out. I found this incredibly interesting and so refreshingly different than the United States. The reason the women cover themselves is that they believe their body is a gift and when you have a gift you must protect and cherish it. The mosque was not all that impressive but the things that Hoda told us had a great impact on me and I would say learning these things about the Muslim people was the highlight of the day for me.
We left the mosque and entered the market. It was a tourist hub, when there are tourists. There were venders selling any souvenir you could think of. Snow globes, camel statues, little pyramids, scarab beetles, and so much more. A personal favorite of mine was the small delicate perfume bottles. We stopped in the center of the market area and entered a side alley. We were led to a local tea shop and sat down in wooden chairs around tiny round tables. We all ordered tea, coffee, or fresh fruit juice and sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere. It was lovely. We were right in the middle of the action. People bustled around and venders trying to sell to the people (not so lovely). Many of our neighbors were lazing around smoking hookah pipes and enjoying the social time.
After a while of just sitting and talking my father and I got up to go better explore the market area. We went out on a quest to find a snow globe and possibly a few other cute if not slightly tacky souvenirs. It was a success after only a few minutes of looking and quite a lot of time bargaining. We found what we were looking for. Lastly it was time for dinner in Azher park overlooking the citadel. The view was wonderful and the weather was finally cool. It was a lovely end to a busy and eventful day.