Today we planned to visit the Pyramids, yeeeeaaah. One of the ancient Seven World Wonders and the only one that was preserved until today. Something we just couldn’t miss.
After the breakfast we went back to our room and packed all our stuff, that night we were supposed to take a train to Aswan in the south. In the lift on the way down we met a hotel employee who asked us about our plans for that day. After we told him that we pretended to visit Gizeh first and then leave Cairo in the night, without saying anything he took our backpacks and put them into a closet.
We could pick them up in the evening. At least we didn’t have to ask for it, haha.
Riding camels in front of the Pyramids!
According to the Lonely Planet guidebook the bus to Gizeh was leaving from a place behind the Egyptian Museum. Good thing, we knew the way already. The bus cost some ridiculous 50 piasters (half Egyptian pound) and the ride took some 25 minutes. Gizeh is a city right next to Cairo, you don’t actually realize where one city ends and the other starts.
Inside of the bus was a guy who smiled at us and suddenly asked us in good English where we were from.
He seemed to be really nice and told us that he had some Czech friends so he knew a bit about Eastern Europe. We’ve been talking about Western tourists and that unlike them we weren’t travelling with a big budget. He nodded and assured us how he knows that Eastern Europeans often look for cheaper prices, blahblah. I definitely preferred to look poor then imposing the picture of a walking wallet in Egypt, it meant less hassle at least. The guy started to give us tips how to avoid the high entrance fees at the Pyramids, we just thought in a pretty naive way how nice he seemed to be and our doubts were getting less and less. We even followed him when he gave us a sign to get off earlier then supposed. The doubts reappeared when he told us that he knew a rental place for camels and that he could get us a good price especially if we were students. And using the services of them we could avoid all the high official entrance fees. Hmm, well, we could at least check the prices in that rental before saying no.
One of the ancient Seven Wonders!
The owner of the place asked us in his tent and as it’s used in Arabic countries we got a cup of tea offered.
Well, this was exactly the situation we wanted to avoid and the nice guy from the bus wasn’t probably as nice as we supposed on the beginning. But we would see. The owner told us the prices for 3 different tours depending on the transportation: horse or camel. Me and Pavel discussed the offer for a while, we didn’t want to spend too much money right on the beginning, but on the other hand…these were the Pyramids and one of the highlights of our trip. We opted suddenly for the big tour on camels for 230 Egyptian pounds, around 33 euro. Student discount already included. A bit expensive, but…well…once in a lifetime we were here, so what. We both didn’t have the exact amount with us, we had to give him each 250 pounds after he promised to return the change later. Our guide was a 17 or 18 years old boy who was accompanied by a 10 years old kid. Allright…whatever. We sit up on our camels while the owner kept our ISIC cards to arrange the discounted entrance fees. Pavel was a bit nervous if they will notice that his card wasn’t valid anymore. We started moving and I heard the owner shouting behind us that we should give our guide some tip on the end, but not more then 60-70 pounds.
Was he kidding? 10 euro???? Our hotel cost 7 euro per night per person. I just couldn’t take this seriously.
Our guide leaded us slowly up a small sand hill, the heat was just deadly. Few minutes later he received a call and left us with the small boy alone. Did they suddenly notice that there was something wrong with Pavel’s card? We were getting a bit nervous, but 10 minutes later the guide returned and gave us our ISIC cards back together with the entrance tickets.
That was it. We continued our way and got suddenly on the top of the hill from where we had a first view on the Pyramids. They were…so huge. They survived the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Arabs and many other nations, but most of the damage on them happened just within the last 40-50 years due to the heavy smog coming from the agglomeration Cairo-Gizeh. Great.
Little stops on our way allowed us to take some pictures. We hoped to get some explanations to this historical monuments, but all we got to hear from our guide was: ”Are you happy my friend? If you are happy, I’m happy.” Over and over again this phrase, heeeeelp. The more often he repeated it, the less “happy” I definitely felt. His main role seemed to be to get rid of the white uniformed guards sitting on camels. We met 4 or 5 of them on our tour and each got a little baksheesh from the guide to shut up and to look the other way.
Would be interesting to know how much they received every time.
When we approached the 2nd Pyramid we made a stop and our guide offered us to go inside while he would wait outside. Of course we were supposed to pay the extra entrance fee by ourselves. I refused, I’ve been inside a Pyramid already in Mexico and it wasn’t worth the money. And I read somewhere that it would be here more or less the same. Pavel wanted to go anyway so our guide explained him the way. While Pavel was gone, we took a little rest sitting down in a shade. I had a look on the tickets the guide gave us after disappearing for 10 minutes. Damn…the ticket cost only 20 pounds!!!!! I was starting to feel really bad that we paid way too much for this whole tour.
We definitely got into one of these tourist traps we wanted to avoid. When Pavel was back I told him about my doubts. He seemed to be visibly angry, but it was too late to backup. We continued our tour and approached soon the Sphinx statue. The guy told us that we had to walk there on our own, he would be waiting outside…100 meters further. At least the entrance was included in our ticket this time.
The Sphinx, the statue of a lion body with a human face, was really impressive. Even if it didn’t have a nose anymore. Where it disappeared is still a big mystery which nobody hasn’t been able to solve yet. We got back to our guide and obviously the end of our tour was coming closer because he came up again with his stupid “happy you, happy me” slogan. This time he also asked us to give him a baksheesh.
Well, it had to come sooner or later. Whatever we would give, he would be happy about it. After a short discussion we decided to be generous though, Pavel had a 10 USD note and he gave it to the young man. That was 50 pounds, quite a lot as we found.
You can’t imagine his reaction. First his face turned into a grotesque mask of the biggest disappointment ever, then he said something like the owner told us to give him at least 70 pounds…each of us!!!!!!! We got angry, Pavel was in a mood to leave our guide with the camels right there and to walk the rest of the way back on our own. At that point the young man got scared. Who knew what would happen to him if he returned without us. He changed his attitude immediately and was asking, begging us to get on the camels again. Honestly, we started to feel sorry for the guy so we did what he wanted.
He even refused to take the 10 dollars from us again. Back in the tent of the owner we found out why.
He complained by his boss about us but without much success. He was told only to be satisfied with the offered money. His eyes were begging the owner for help, but his boss stayed by his decision. He only asked us for some tip for the little boy as well. Great, our guide wasn’t one that liked to share obviously. We gave the kid a dollar at least. The boss brought us a coke from the fridge and let us alone to cool down. But hey, there was still an open bill. He didn’t give us back the change as he promised when we paid for the tour. I was just too angry to leave it like that. I went out and asked the owner directly about it. He looked surprised and told us that he gave the money (20+20 pounds) to our guide together with our ISIC cards and the tickets.
Damn guide. He just kept the money without saying anything. We didn’t leave until the boss forced him to return us the change. And we didn’t care that the young man looked like we were taking away his parents or something.
After this was over we asked how we could get to the nearest bus stop, but the answer was surprising. There were no more busses that day and they would call us a taxi instead. No way. We insisted on going to the bus stop. Suddenly the owner gave up and sent a guy with us to show us the way. The bus needed ages to arrive and we honestly started to worry if the guys might have said the truth, but no. They didn’t. There was our bus and we could get finally back to Cairo.