Sunday, March 28, 2010

Egypt 1: We get there.

We got to Cairo after a 12 hour flight, exhausted.  It was mid afternoon Egypt time but 6am New York time.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  We were picked up by the shuttle and driven through Cairo's crazy traffic, all the way through the city and out near the Giza plateau, to our hotel--40 kilometers from the airport.

Our hotel, called the Mina House, has been a favorite hotel for Egyptian travelers since 1869.   It's a time warp throwback to the old British colonialism, and still sports both the good and the bad aspects of that system.

Normally, I'm not a big fan of five star hotels, but I have say that when  we opened the drapes in our room and saw  the above view, I had to admit the place might have some redeeming social value.  We had come all this way to see the pyramids and there they were, right outside our window in the haze.  So close, yet so far away.

Slept a couple of hours and then went to dinner with some members of our small group to a fish restaurant across the street from our hotel.  Getting there risked life and limb with the insane Cairo traffic, but that's another story.

The Mina House concierge  had been promoting  a pyramid light show for some outrageous price.  $30 American, as I recall.  John Anthony West, the man leading our group, said to avoid it as it was a rip off.

Fortunately for us, our table at the fish restaurant had a wonderful view of the great pyramid, giving us ring side seat to the "light" show which was mostly just different colored spot lights.  Also, fortunately, I had purchased a small, lightweight tripod in New York before leaving.  Set it up on the table while we ate and fired off some shots.  This was a half second exposure at ISO 1250.  There is noise in the night sky here but considering the shot would have been several seconds long with film, I'm not going to complain.

The next morning bright and early we were out on the Giza plateau.  Here we all are walking across the parking lot as the great pyramid and the sphinx came into view.  John Anthony West, our leader, is the guy with the pith helmet.  I badly wanted one but we couldn't find one before we left and even if we had, it would have been impossible to ship, given our luggage constraints.  John just leaves his in Egypt between trips.

This is a view as we got closer.  Notice the large limestone blocks in front of the Sphinx.  These are all that is left of a old temple.  There are two temples, the one next to it on the left, out of view, is much better preserved.  There was a sandstorm and rain the day we arrived.  I expected the air to be clear the next day, instead, there was still a huge amount of haze in the air.  Even though we were nearly within spitting distance from the great pyramid, one could hardly see it.

  At last we were close enough to see the face clearly.  I hadn't realized just how much damage the face has suffered.  Notice the great pyramid barely visible behind in the haze.

  This is a closer look at the large limestone blocks which remain of the ruined temple in front of the sphinx.  This area is blocked off behind a fence.  It appears that the Egyptian authorities are making attempts at restoration.

Here is an image of me that Melony took while I was making the previous photo through the bars.  I think I look like a dork in that hat.  Melony says the hat looked good on me.  Whatever.  I do have to say that it made the hot, relentless sun out there bearable. 

There is more to come.  Lots more.

Continue on to Post 2: Sphinx Temple by clicking here.


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