Our first 2 days in Egypt were in Cairo. It is a mad city – 27M people, crazy traffic, people hanging off buses, 20 year old cars belching out smoke. People often call Cairo dirty, I found it fascinating. Everywhere you turned you saw a different sight whether it was ultra wealth or ultra poverty.
We stayed in the Four Seasons right beside the zoo, which was a tactical mistake. It was my first time experiencing a Four Seasons and to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. The service was out of this world. Coincidentally, the week before I had Richard Abraham speak to my broad team about relationship selling and he referenced the Four Seasons as the penultimate in service – I have to agree. The problem … every hotel was disappointing in comparison.
The view of the Nile from the hotel.
The Cairo skyline from the balcony, overlooking the zoo.
The first day was the Pyramids of Giza. How do you describe this experience? Words like awesome, mind boggling, breathtaking seem to trivialize the experience. Simply put, you stand at the bottom of the tomb of Khufu and look up and you hear the facts – 4,000 years old, the highest standing building in the world for 3800 years (Lincoln Cathedral in London replaced it some time in the 1300s), each stone is approximately 2.5 tonnes, there are a little over 2M of these stones and it is just beyond comprehension. Consider these engineering details:
The accuracy of the pyramid’s workmanship is such that the four sides of the base have a mean error of only 58 mm in length, and 1 minute in angle from a perfect square. The base is horizontal and flat to within 15 mm. The sides of the square are closely aligned to the four cardinal compass points to within 3 minutes of arc and is based not on magnetic north, but true north. The design dimensions, as confirmed by Petrie’s survey and all those following this, are assumed to have been 280 cubits in height by 4×440 cubits around originally, and as these proportions equate to 2 x Pi to an accuracy of better than 0.05%, this was and is considered to have been the deliberate design proportion by Petrie, I. E. S. Edwards, and Miroslav Verner. Verner wrote "We can conclude that although the ancient Egyptians could not precisely define the value of pi, in practise they used it".
The magnitude of effort when they had no form of mechanical support is unfathomable. Early theories on the use of slave labour have now been overturned and the current labour beliefs, based on archaeological study, are quite interesting:
In addition to the many theories as to the techniques involved, there are also disagreements as to the kind of workforce that was used. One theory, suggested by the Greeks, posits that slaves were forced to work until the pyramid was done. This theory is no longer accepted in the modern era, however. Archaeologists believe that the Great Pyramid was built by tens of thousands of skilled workers who camped near the pyramids and worked for a salary or as a form of paying taxes until the construction was completed. The worker’s cemeteries were discovered in 1990 by archaeologists Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner. Verner posited that the labor was organized into a hierarchy, consisting of two gangs of 100,000 men, divided into five zaa or phyle of 20,000 men each, which may have been further divided according to the skills of the workers.
The site is huge. You start the journey at the ticket office ….
It is very steep, people are no longer allowed to climb it (I wouldn’t anyway!). When you stand at the bottom and look up, this is what you see (the woman provides perspective on angle and size of blocks):
I did a lot of this – simply staring. Oh yes, I looked the tourist part (LOL)
You can take a gander into the pyramid and we did climb into the entry point but did not wait (it was not open yet). Of interest, it was HOT. It hit 38 degrees that day so we had to remain well hydrated. There are vendors moving around – a bottle of water is usually 5 L.E. (Egyptian pounds) which is around £0.50 or $1 USD – finally a country that does not rip you off. Go to a museum in the UK and you can pay up to £4.
We moved around the side of the pyramid and were greeted by the camel owners trying to sell us a ride (our guide took us past these guys). They did everything they could to try and convince us to take a picture of their camel for only $1USD.
You have a great view of Cairo. Amazing, I never saw a single cloud in Cairo or Luxor.
We moved around the pyramid to the Eastern Cemetery and the tomb of Queen Hetepheres. Our first stop was to enter into the tomb of the builder where no photos were allowed. It is important to note, if you want to take a photo or two – simply have a few USD with you. We saw our first hieroglyphics here. Standing outside his tomb you can see the 2nd pyramid which still has portions of the lime cover in place:
At completion, the Great Pyramid was surfaced by white ‘casing stones’ – slant-faced, but flat-topped, blocks of highly polished white limestone. Visibly all that remains is the underlying step-pyramid core structure seen today. In AD 1301, a massive earthquake loosened many of the outer casing stones, which were then carted away by Bahri Sultan An-Nasir Nasir-ad-Din al-Hasan in 1356 in order to build mosques and fortresses in nearby Cairo. The stones can still be seen as parts of these structures to this day. Later explorers reported massive piles of rubble at the base of the pyramids left over from the continuing collapse of the casing stones which were subsequently cleared away during continuing excavations of the site. Nevertheless, many of the casing stones around the base of the Great Pyramid can be seen to this day in situ displaying the same workmanship and precision as has been reported for centuries. Petrie also found a different orientation in the core and in the casing measuring 193 cm ± 25 cm. He suggested a redetermination of north was made after the construction of the core, but a mistake was made, and the casing was built with a different orientation.
When the pyramids were first finished, one has to wonder – how did the limestone shine in that 40 degree sun? It must have been brilliant.
A single standing column in the ruins.
A view of the ruins in the eastern cemetery.
We carried on to the Queens tomb which was VERY deep. The below shows how steep the climb was, but the tomb itself was unremarkable with no noticeable markings.
So ends this entry … The Sphinx and our camel tour came next.