This is the view from the the courtyard of our hotel (the famous "Mena House"), which is adjacent to the Giza Plateau. We stayed here for a day or two, using it as the based camp for our trips to Giza, Cairo, Saqqara, Memphis, and Dashur. We left from here to go to Luxor, to begin the Nile cruise, but returned to the same hotel afterwards, so that we could spent a little more time exploring Giza before having to leave Egypt. In this photo you can clearly see the Great Pyramid, which was an easy walk from the hotel. Despite the distance you can still see that the sides of the pyramid are rough without its casing stones, and the very top is missing. At night the pyramid would light up with colored lights during the various editions of the sound and light show (presented in different languages), and at certain times of the day and night the Muslim religious prayers could be heard as they were broadcast over loudspeakers from the minarets of the local mosques. The Mena House is an excellent hotel (even though we were staying in the less-interesting "modern" wing), though with so much to see and do we obviously were only there to sleep and occasionally eat.
The first ancient site on the tour was the site of Saqqara (Sakkara). This is a posed shot of me with the step pyramid of Zoser in the background. I'm wearing the same hat I wear on all of my expeditions, and holding the backpack that carries the camcorder supplies, water bottles, and spare stuff. Note how faded the background seems. All of our distance shots at Saqqara seemed very hazy, as if there were a lot of sand in the air.
This is the main hallway at Saqqara, now partially restored. You proceed through this hallway to enter the central compound where the pyramid is located.
Some of the magnificent architecture at Saqqara, using a style we saw no where else in our travels.
The step pyramid of the pharaoh Zoser. This is considered to be the first Egyptian "true" pyramid. The exterior of the pyramid has deteriorated due to considerable weathering from the elements. There are also piles of windblown sand resting on its various "steps".
Another view of the same pyramid.
This photo shows me descending a small staircase in the structure just to the far side of Zoser's step pyramid (where his statue is located in a small enclosure). Typical of Egyptian sites that are surrounded by open areas (like Giza), camels are always available to take tourists for a ride. They are very persistant businessmen who insist that you really NEED to ride on a camel, and it should be THEIR camel that you use. (We always passed on the opportunity; it seemed too "touristy", and Sue commented that the camel drivers smelled worse than their animals.) Also visible in this scene is a small boy leaving on a gray donkey. He had been posing atop his animal next to the pyramid waiting for a sucker like me to come along. When I panned across the area around the pyramid with my camcorder, I paused for about a second on the boy and donkey to add a little local "color" to the scene. He was watching me like a hawk, and and soon as he felt that he had been photographed he rode down to demand payment (for being filmed). We dickered for some time while I tried to convince him that I didn't have any small bills. I tried offering him candy or a pen, but it was only when he realized that it was a pen or nothing that he sullenly accepted my offer and left.
Also to be seen in the background is another type of scam artist. One or two men will sit at an archeological site and pound on pieces of limestone with chisels or whatever, as if he was part of the local restoration effort and was fixing or creating a piece of stone that would be put into one of the nearby structures. If approached, he will offer to let you "help", ie.- you get to hit a rock for awhile. When you are done, he will ask for "baksheesh" (a tip or donation). Even if you just watch, or especially if you take a photo, you are asked for a donation. Basically, unless you ignore them or turn down all their offers, you are expected to give them money. This particular scam is not really prevelant, but we saw it a few times. Whether you are being offered rides on an animal, items for sale, or a chance to see something "that most people don't", it seems like you are constantly under siege to be parted from your money. In light of the local economy it is understandable, but it still detracts from the experience of visiting a site.