Pyramids by Storm

It was still early in the morning as our taxi muscled its way through the Cairo traffic. It twisted through the tired back streets on the edge of the Sahara Desert and stopped where the street met its sands. We unfolded ourselves from the back seat and pulled our gear into the street.

The sun was just starting to heat the air and a cool breeze played through the sand causing it to spread over even more of the shrinking street. A large Arab man sat under the shade of a tree in front of a shabby, concrete barn. He smiled as we approached, tucking in the loose ends of his turban that were flying carelessly in the wind, and introduced himself as Abu Naabi. He barked at his stable boys to saddle up some horses and before long we were mounted and riding towards the desert.

As soon as the horses' hooves hit the soft sand they began jogging and tugging at the reins. But the winds had picked up by now and the sand whipped around our faces and stung our eyes. Cairo disappeared behind us as the desert swallowed it from view. There was nothing around us, no tourists, no buildings, nothing but sand. Naabi knew his way by heart and our horses weaved in and out of line behind him as they danced to get ahead. We folded our heads into our chests to keep the sand out.

For several days we rode sturdy Arab horses around the desert. Here we approached the pyramids after a severe sand storm. The sheer size and bulk of these monuments takes your breath away as completely as any desert sand storm.

Napoleon Bonapart led a French attack on Egypt in 1799. Always mindful of military advantages he had his staff calculate the advantages of the Great Pyramid of Cheops and its surrounding three pyramids, and was astounded to learn that if he could dismantle them, their stones would be enough to build a wall, 9 feet tall and 3 foot thick all around his native France.

As the horses charged up a hill the winds died down and the sand began to settle. And there THEY were--the pyramids. These massive beasts of Giza, these awe-inflicting structures that are farther away on a timeline from Socrates than we are, looming over everything. They were unbelievable, incredible, indescribable, brilliant, everything their legend promised! The horses broke into a canter and tore down the hill causing their own mini-sandstorm at this familiar sight.

As we neared the frayed edges of the pyramids the horses tip-toed around the rubble. In front, a line of tour buses had already gathered and their passengers were forming gaggles around their group leaders. We left Naabi sitting on a fallen stone with the horses and stepped up on the bottom layer of the Pyramid of Cheops. We scrambled our way up to the "entrance" where a man was taking tickets and filtering the flow of traffic. "Watch your head!" he warned as we bobbed into the doorway.

Inside the temperature was much cooler and the limestone walls were polished to a dull shine with the millions of fingers that had run along them. Dad and I had to hunch over as the hall closed in, narrower and shorter, until it ended against another wall. Three thinly cut steps lead out of the hall from the left and onto a wooden ramp. The ceiling was only four feet off the floor now, with a 45° upwards angle. We struggle up the ramp, clutching to the modern handrail along the wall. I hit my head twice and scraped my back three times, even Cassidy was unable to escape injury in the tiny corridor. The air was older and thicker as we climbed higher (the experience is not recommended for the claustrophobic) and just as those rarely used muscles in our legs were tiring out, we reached the end.

The passage let out into an enormous room (the ceiling now being 27 feet from the floor), the Great Galley, with two steep ramps on either side. We took a deep breath of the air and scurried up onto the "up" side. When we reached the top we dropped on all fours and crawled through one last passage the length of one of the blocks, into the King's Chamber.

The chamber was 30 feet long and built from red granite stones. The air was fresher, as they had designed it to ventilate from the northern and southern walls. There was nothing in the room except for an empty sarcophagus. We sat for about 20 minutes just marveling at the awesomeness of the whole thing. At how ancient the walls were, at what an incredible feat they were even now. Truly magnificent!

We clambered our way back out. The fresh air, although hot, was wonderful! After having read and heard about the pyramids for so long it was amazing to finally have the chance to see them. They were in no way a disappointment. Their reputation can't even come close to describing their awesomeness. I give them two thumbs up!

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