This is the fourteenth in a series of repeated posts (e.g. published elsewhere before) from outside of China, detailing the start of my expatriate life. There will always be a post a day about China so if you’re not interested in other material – you can stop reading now.
That evening our Egyptian tour guide, Stefan who is young, enthusiastic and has quite the maddest hair for an Arab, it is half-afro, half-bird’s nest and all electric, arrives to take us to the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Unfortunately he could not get a car with a driver, so has “borrowed” the bus and driver that picked us up from the airport, this will be quite the longest drive of my life through one city. It goes on and on and on, and unfortunately not through the lived in bits where I could see the teeming throng of Cairo, but on what appears to be the world’s largest orbital motorway which has less charm than the M25.
We will have to hurry with it all, we arrive at the Pyramids with only 2 hours daylight remaining and we still want to see the Sphinx, and there is no nocturnal exploration of either as they have turned them into a hugely expensive tourist trap at night where they shine lights on them for the tourist who wonders what they look like in Purple or Green. Well for nearly a $100 dollars you can find out. I wasn’t that curious so we needed to do a bit of a run round.
We stop near a pay gate and as the driver has to get out to talk to the guards I try and open the bus door to have a better look at the Great Pyramid looming in the distance, only to have my colleague remonstrate with me. It turns out that almost everything in Egypt has two prices (quite legally) one for locals (and/or other Arabs) and one for tourists. I am to remain hidden in the bus (which has heavily tinted windows) in order to avoid paying the tourist price (often 10 to 50 times more than the local price).
Sneaky negotiation over, we drive past the armoured police (machine guns at the ready, for what I do not know) and park up near the Great Pyramid.
My first observation is not how big it is, or how amazing it is, or how beautiful. It is how filthy it is, I don’t know what they do with the money extracted from visitors, but they certainly don’t spend it on keeping the site clean. It is strewn with refuse from end to end, in parts (like inside the pyramid on the stairs) it is nearly half a foot thick, there is also a strong stench of urine with perhaps an undercurrent of faeces.
I pull myself together to take a proper look at the majesty of it all, and my view is immediately blocked by an idiot on a camel. He wants me to spend 200 Egyptian Pounds on having my photo taken with him, considering I have had this done in the UAE (for free) I tell him to sod off, but he doesn’t want to go, apparently there has a been a shortage of white gullible idiots today and he is determined to fleece me. Thankfully Stefan intercedes and chases him off hurling abuse in Arabic. To be continued…