Why You Should Go:
Because if you are a first timer, why else did you go to Egypt? The whole area is iconic!
The Down Side:
The fact that there is a golf course, a Pizza Hut and numerous other restaurants surrounding 3 sides of the plaza area. If you are not aware of this before going, it can be quite a disappointing sight.
The lack of caring in regards to disposing of trash is just utterly horrific (this is a common theme throughout Cairo in general).
With those quick notes being stated, you are crazy if you decide not to visit this bucket list wonderland!
The Great Pyramids of Giza:
Let’s face it. When you think of Egypt, you think of the pyramids. That’s okay, they ARE iconic after all. Good news for you, when going to Egypt, you would almost have to really TRY to avoid them.
What many people do not realize is that the pyramids pretty much sit atop the city of Cairo. There are even people that live within 100's of feet of the pyramids in the surround neighborhoods of Giza. The hustle and bustle around the pyramids is a bit insane with tourists and locals alike. I was shocked at the amount of locals who go to the “park” area on their holiday and weekend as their family outings. I don’t know that there is necessarily a good time of day to go the pyramids between the Cairo traffic and pyramids crowd but it’s well worth the entry fee regardless. I also recommend entering on the backside to avoid some of the lines.
One of the cool things about the pyramids is that you can actually climb up certain parts of the pyramid to get your photo. The size and smoothness of the stones is amazing to see and feel in person. It makes for a bit of a surreal moment to actually be living in that moment. Additionally, there is a spot where you can climb inside of the pyramids through an uneventful and narrow ladder way. Not to take away from the experience but the lack of excitement in the barren tomb makes it a little anticlimactic and the journey inside is probably not best suited for those that are claustrophobic, out of shape or even tall people since you are bent over majority of the time. However, the main point to remember here is that you are actually climbing into the tomb of one of the ancient wonders of the world…and THAT is pretty damn cool!
After you get your obligatory photos, make sure you go around the back side to get your picture on the desert side. It really gives the pyramids the majestic feel that you were probably hoping when thinking of Egypt. This is also the place where you should take your photo with or on a camel and you can ride them through the desert if that is something you choose to do. Keep in mind that you will have to pay the camel handler for even just a photo. Don’t worry, you can negotiate on the amount but make sure you agree on a set price and be firm in exactly what you are doing before hopping on the camel (or really purchasing literally anything in Egypt!).
Back on the other side …or the “front side” of the pyramids, you will find The Great Sphinx. I won’t lie; this was my favorite view point. It was everything my history books were made of and so much more than any Nat Geo documentary. To be standing there with the giant sphinx leading the path towards the 2 giant pyramids in the background; Cairo spanning the front of the area and the Sahara Desert providing a mystical backdrop off in the distance truly gives a magical feel to the area. A trip to the Sphinx absolutely does not disappoint!
Dress Code:There is not a temple here so you can dress as you please but keep in mind that you are in a conservative country and should be mindful of their beliefs.
Try to visit the pyramids after lunch hour. The mornings tend to be a bit hazy and your view is not as good. Plus A LOT of the tour buses visit in the mornings and although it is always busy, it is nice to avoid a bit of the crowd.
Visit the back side of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx to see the majestic views.
Haggle with camel owners and souvenir vendors (always start with half of what you are willing to pay and be prepared to fully walk away).
When buying ANYTHING, set the price firmly in stone with exactly what you are getting. Do not get caught up in haggling in Egyptian Pound or US Dollar. Try to stick with one. An easy tactic for locals to take advantage of, is you confusing the conversion rate (you can also keep an exchange calculator on your phone).
Camel riding should be done on the Sahara/ backside of the pyramid. It is a nicer and more personalized experience and if you want, they will take you out into the desert.
If you have a private guide, tell the things you for sure want to see or the photos you definitely want to take.
Do not be alarmed if the locals want to take photos with you. You are unique to them and different from what many of the locals see in their towns.
Despite the crowd, take in the experience to the fullest. Climb the pyramid steps that are open to the public, take the photos you have dreamed of and remember that you are standing in one of the most legendary places on earth!
Pyramid Facts (because learning is growing):
The Great Pyramids are located only 15 miles from Downtown Cairo (in fact, they overlook the entire city).
The pyramids were built on the West Bank of the Nile. This is important because in Egypt, the East Bank of the Nile is where the sun rises and is considered to always be the side of the living; whereas the West Bank is where the sunsets and is the side of the dead. This is prevalent throughout the country of Egypt, with tombs being on the west and city living on the east.
The pyramids were built as apart of the Old Kingdom (4th Dynasty) from 2613-2498 BC.
The Great Pyramids were believed to have been topped with gold foiling and were actually white in color due to limestone casings that were originally places on them.
They offer a sound and light show at the pyramids. I opted to skip it because I heard not so great reviews but I am sure for some it is a lovely experience for around $60 US.
Enamored by Giza