Under siege

Hating the pyramids

I feel under siege in Cairo – I can’t enjoy talking to anyone for the expectation that they will later ask me to visit their “father’s” carpet shop or buy an Egyptian sim card from them.

At the overpass I’m not entirely sure where to stand, and choose shade over precise positioning. A man passing says I’m standing in the wrong place and need to go to the bus station behind the hedge for the pyramids bus. As he leads me there he introduces himself as Ali, who works at the Sheraton. On hearing I’m British he tells me he worked at the Embassy for 6 years on security, but now of course works at the Hilton. He stays with me, gets on the bus with me, pays the 1 Egyptian pound fare, gives me mints, gets me onto a minibus, and allows me to be driven way beyond the pyramids saying I must take a horse or camel. I know this to be nonsense and turn in the opposite direction to walk back to the pyramids. He doesn’t come after me or even call.

Its difficult to find anyone who will give me honest information about where the entrance might be, instead of trying to get me on some sort of pack animal.

Inside the pyramid complex its little different. Its hot too, and the hottest part of the day, but I don’t mind that anywhere near as much as offers of camels or ridiculously priced bottles of water.

As its the end of Ramadan holiday Egyptian visitors outnumber foreigners substantially. The quip of saying something to me in Arabic gets stale quickly.

I circle the two larger pyramids to try and soak up the atmosphere of an Egyptian holiday at the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World. It only succeeds in leaving me depressed, that humanity can make a place so fundamentally spiritual (its one big graveyard after all really) so ugly, with the cat-calls for camels, the rubbish strewn ground, and the traffic jam of visitors’ vehicles around the pyramids themselves. I can’t decide whether a lush green golf course at the foot of the pyramid plateau mocks the pyramids and their dryness or whether its the other way round.

I leave disappointed, and wish I could be leaving Cairo and all my disappointments behind. I really cannot be bothered with the bus so find a taxi to take me to Tahrir Square. As I explain to him why I’m not enjoying Cairo he asks if I have a phone, so next time I need a taxi I can call him…
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