The group began heading up toward the pyramids. The road was long, uphill, and it was hot hot hot!. I found myself stopping to catch my breath a couple of times. As we walked, we took photos and watched as tourists rode by on camels. And this made me downright excited because I've always wanted to ride a camel. There were also horse drawn carriages passing by asking us if we wanted a leisurely ride up to the pyramids rather than walking but we passed and continued our trek. As we got closer and closer I looked up at the great mounds of stone in awe. I had no idea of their true size. What amazed me more was the size of each individual brick that the pyramids were built from. It must have taken 10 grown men just to push one on a set of logs, or that's how I imagine they must have managed the feat.
To my delight, I found that my husband had gone ahead and was talking to a man who had a camel by his side and he called to us. "So, you want to ride a camel?" "haha.. YES!" I didn't realize how tall camels were either and wondered exactly how the heck I was supposed to get up on it's back. This particular camel was young and full of energy but he was also expertly trained. I watched as the man used a stick and tapped the camel's legs in certain places and this was a command for the camel to lower himself to the ground. I suddenly realized what I was in for. This is when I would climb onto the camel's back and let him raise back up to full height. I looked at him with a bit of nervousness thinking "What if I'm not all the way on when he decides to get up, I'm gonna go flying!" But, I told myself, "I think I just gotta trust this camel's integrity. He seems like a good one." So, I stuck my left foot in the stirrup and he didn't budge as I swung my other leg over and secured my other foot. Then this was the real fun part. The man told me "don't be afraid! Just lean forward!" And I braced myself, holding on desperately to the saddle horn as the camel began to lift the front of his body. I leaned forward almost parallel to his back and held on for dear life until he finally lifted up his back end and my heart skipped a beat as I realized how high I was above the ground.
In my younger years I had been around horses and owned them as well. I used to take riding lessons and was quite a good rider. But that had been many years ago and I could be sure now that riding a camel was NOT AT ALL like riding a horse. I was nervous to say the least especially because I am not fond of heights and it was sort of like being on the roof of a small house or porch. I could just see myself losing my balance and falling off to the sand and so I told myself, "Don't look down!" The man then began to lead me around on the camel's back and the camel was very much at ease. I began to feel comfortable with him and then just completely enjoyed the experience. Here I was, staring at the ancient pyramids on the back of a camel the way men had done for thousands of years. I felt positively alive! At one point, the man gave me the rope and asked me if I wanted to ride the camel freely on my own. And as much as I was sort of exhilarated at the thought, I declined feeling I hadn't enough experience to feel safe with the camel under my control.
After a while, it was time to get off, and the process was now in reverse. The camel was lead to a halt and the man told me to lean back. So I held on again for dear life, and leaned back as the camel went down on his front legs and then lowered his hind legs. The rise and lowering were the scariest parts but really, I felt proud of myself for not chickening out. And when I got off, I went to the camel's face and he greeted me with a loud noise and bad breath. But I was now totally in love with this big great animal. The man told me go ahead and pet him. And so I did and began scratching behind his ears, which he really loved, and I even got a kiss in there. He was just the sweetest thing! I told myself then that if I ever get a chance to raise a camel, I would do it!
Later after our other companions took turns riding on this great camel, Sayed wanted me to ride with him, and so we got back on. This time I was on the back and thank GOD there was a saddle horn both in the front AND back or I'd have gone right off. Especially because there were no second pair of foot holds, and mine were dangling in the wind. So I tightened my legs, through the same crazy steep rise up and we were riding. There is a picture of us with our arms spread out like wings. We have this sort of personal thing between us where we make the "Titanic" ship bow pose a lot in pictures. It was sort of the theme of our relationship. Our wedding song which we had danced to was "My heart will go on." So we made this pose on the camel's back. It was a lot of fun riding with my honey. We enjoyed every minute of it. And when it was time to get down, we thanked the man many times for his kindness and we hadn't even realized how much time we'd spent riding this camel. It wasn't until then that we realized the tourists were filtering out of the area and the site was closing down.
I thought, "bummer!" because I hadn't even gotten to see all the pyramids yet. But a strange turn of events occurred then. There was a guard that was leading people out of the site and nearly everyone was gone by this point. Mohamed decided to have a brilliant idea and talk this man into letting us go quickly up to check out the pyramids before we had to leave. At first, I felt bad because this seemed like an unfair trick on this unsuspecting guard, and I didn't understand why my companions were ok with this. But it turns out that they had been warned earlier by one of the carriage riders that this particular guard had a bad reputation for cheating tourists by telling them they couldn't enter certain areas without paying him. This is very unlawful, as part of the ticket price is to see all areas of the pyramids. So they felt vindicated. Mohamed had told this shady guard that he was affiliated with the higher authorities of the antiquities site. He had convinced him that if he would let us go up to see the pyramids even though it was past the hour, that he would speak on the guards behalf to these uppers and get him a promotion. Mohamed even went so far as to take down his name and number, really playing it up. Then next thing I knew, the man was leading us with a big smile up to the great Pyramid. Not only did we get close, but we got to climb up some levels of the pyramid's steps and Mohamed handed the guard my camera to take pictures of us! What a deal! We really weren't supposed to do that, and there are laws against tourists climbing up. But hey, when you have a chance to stand on a 5000+ year old ancient structure listed as one of the 7 wonders of the world, it's well worth the risk! I was thinking, "Gosh, this is a moment of a life time! This has been my dream since I was just a kid! And here I am!"
So even though we didn't get the full tour of the pyramids and didn't get to check out the smaller ones in the back, we exchanged that for a chance to do something most people who come from all over the world, never get to do. After this, we headed back down and took our time, skipping and singing. The view of Cairo from up on the hill was breath taking. And I vowed to myself that if ever we get the chance, we'll come back and take the full tour of the pyramids again. When we got to the bottom, we found there were a couple of upset tourists. A young couple from Portugal had paid good money for tickets. But they had been deceived. Some terrible thief told them that he required their tickets and he would give them a full tour. Sadly, they didn't know about the kind of shady people that hunted for naive tourists up there, and they trusted him. They expected him to come back, and he never did. They were asking us how we had been in past the closing time and we explained that we'd come early and got sort of lucky. They were very upset that they'd been cheated and my husband asked them if there was anything we could do to help them, though we couldn't do anything about their unfortunate luck. After that, they borrowed Sayed's cell phone and called their family member to pick them up. We waited with them and warned them that there are many untrustworthy people and that they should be very careful the next time they come not to trust anyone. Then their ride arrived after some time and we bid them farewell. Sayed had gotten the guy's name and they became friends on facebook although I don't know if they ever talked much after this.
At this point it was getting late in the afternoon and we were all quite tired. So we started to make arrangements for our trip home. I recalled the events we had experienced as we traveled in bus and car. This was a truly great adventure and a time I feel sure I'll never forget. And I'm glad that I could tell our tale in full details to others and inspire you to take the chance for adventure whenever you get it! Life is short and full of good times and bad times. But when you can seize the day and go out looking for new horizons, new experiences and especially when you can share them with others and experience them with friends and family, they make for incredible memories!
This is the end of this particular adventure, but there are other stories I have yet to tell. More adventures in Egypt and experiences to share. More views of this world that few but those who come here, could scarcely imagine. Egypt really is a wondrous country. And I suggest anyone come and experience her ancient history and contrast between a world that once stood, an empire that was greatest upon this earth long before countries like America were ever settled, and the modern world that exists today, trying to get by and open itself up to a new beginning. The revolution has opened the door to new pathways and there is a new horizon waiting to be shown in the full light of day. And I feel pride and joy at being one such outsider who has gotten the chance to get an inside look!
Until next time, my friends. Be well, and be safe. And come back again!