I think people often consider The Sphinx as a bit of an afterthought to the pyramids, and while it’s certainly smaller, it’s every bit as impressive. The Giza Plateau in general is a really beautiful area, and (if you can manage to block out the roaming salesmen) can be surprisingly peaceful if you have the time to just sit down and take it all in…
It seems only right that I start this venture with the main event that was the catalyst for the change in course of my life…
I was a dork of a kid, truly. While the other kids were out shooting hoops and jumping rope at lunch time, I was sitting on the side lines, either nose-deep in a book, or scribbling furiously in a note book. Even as a little 5 year old, grade prep. In fact, the only way mum could get me over my separation anxiety and back to school in prep was with a cool, spiral, sticky-note pad and some equally cool pencils. I took them with me, like a security blanket, and wrote and drew while the other kids were playing.
In, I think it may have been grade 3 or 4, I learnt for the first time about Ancient Egypt. We learnt a basic little of the history and mythology, that they had gods and goddesses who governed all facets of life. It was a truly modern civilization that outdated anything else I’d ever heard of (which, at around 8 years old, was basically just the “Jesus era” we learnt about in Sunday school). We saw some pictures in books and on a projector, and something clicked inside of me. I was going to go there. Buggered if I knew how or when, but as sure as I knew the sky was blue, I knew I’d be going.
Over the next few years, I read more than a primary school aged child had any right to on Ancient Egypt. I distinctly remember one afternoon, mum, dad and my sisters going out with family friends, and I politely declining the outing to the park, as I’d just checked out a new book on Egypt from the library, and, devoid of any copiers, scanners, or other such devices (hey, it was the 90s!), I wanted to stay at home and copy information, diagrams, maps and pictures onto lined paper that I kept in a folder, along with the other information I was slowly collecting. I was 11 years old at the time.
Flash forward 14 years; I was 25 years old, had been married 6 months, and we’d been living in our new house all of 16 months. We went on a camping trip at Easter time in 2011, just the two of us, just two nights, just somewhere fairly local. We’d been a bit on edge for a few months, neither of us really knowing why. Over the camping trip, a completely life-changing conversation occurred. Lying on our blow up mattress in our tent one night, talking non-stop, we discovered that neither of us were happy; we didn’t want to be living in a big, beautiful 4 bedroom home on a third of an acre. We wanted a smaller house, closer to the city, that we could leave to travel at will. We both thought the other were happy in our big, beautiful, new home. Neither of us were. Our lives changed from that point.
We spent the next few hours talking about where we wanted to travel to, and the next day coming up with a budget and savings plan to get us on our way. We tossed up between a big USA trip and an Egypt/Euro trip; because I’m a stubborn little Italian and my husband is a saint, I won out, and we started saving in April 2011 for what was dubbed “EuroTrip 2013.”
We saved an absolute truckload of money over the next two years, put our house on the market to downsize, and I started work as a travel agent, and on March 15th 2013, we departed Melbourne for a four week trip around Egypt, Italy, Barcelona, London and Paris. My husband and I had been together for 8 and a half years at this point, and he knew what this trip meant to me – it had been my life dream for almost 20 years, and I’d saved and sacrificed, planned and studied my ass off to get us here.
No doubt I’ll write a lot more about my time in Cairo and Egypt in general in later posts, but this one has to be about the pyramids. They are Egypt. They are the first image conjured in the minds of the masses when they hear the word “Egypt.” And I was going to see them.
Driving through Cairo, we passed piles of garbage, stacked in gutters along the sides of the roads. The government and politics were shaky at the time of our visit, and our guide, Medo, told us that the government had shut down the garbage collection service at that point. Still driving through what seemed to be suburbs, he asked us what our first impressions were of the pyramids. “What are you on about?! We haven’t seen them yet!” He pointed out the window of our cosy little minibus. Our five jaws dropped in unison. There they were, towering over the now pathetic, small bridges and buildings we were passing. Holy crap… there they were.
Approaching the pyramids was surreal. Husband kept asking if I was ok because I was so quiet. Yup, I was ok. I was in shock, but I was ok. Was I seriously doing this? Me, who has been mediocre, average, extraordinarily and definitely NOT special my whole life, was I seriously here achieving my life goal? Yeah, I’m ok honey…
After viewing and photographing them from the viewing plateau, we made our way down through the maze of tour buses and sock-and-sandle clad tourists, to come up close with these … I’m not actually sure what word would sum them up to be honest! The individual blocks they were built from were bigger than me but an extraordinarily long way… they were truly something to behold.
We were both speechless, as we stood before these monstrous monuments of a time long past. Long past, but still so vivid and clear. Made even clearer upon entering one of them… the small, precisely cut tunnels, the exact, right-angled corners of the rooms and inner sanctums, the elegant simplicity of the alter we saw.. Conspiracy jokes aside, maybe they did have some help from the aliens! How these magnificent structures were built by hand is truly incomprehensible.
Nothing could take away from this incredible experience for me – not the stinky camels, the pushy salesmen, the children looking for your money, not a damn thing.
We climbed up a few blocks into one of the beauties, just sat there quietly, taking it all in… it was one of those incredibly rare moments in my life, maybe one of the first true moments, that I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be, and that in that moment, everything was perfect.
There I was, on the other side of the world, at the age of 27, having truly achieved the dream that started at 8 years old… Against all the odds, I’d done it. And in that moment, endless possibilities opened up…