These blog posts were originally sent as emails to my immediate family and friends. Their format has been left mostly intact.
At the Unas pyramid- only recently opened to the public- we were able to see an incredibly well preserved tomb with reliefs and hieroglyphs surrounding it on all four walls, AND (this is hard to describe so bear with me) there was another layer of relief carved on top of the other carvings of a very large man. It wasn’t apparent until they turned out the lights (spooky!) and shone the flashlight parallel to the wall. It was an incredible feeling to stand inside something built over 4,000 years ago and imagine how similar it was to when it was first created.
My favorite factoid was that carving the reliefs was (likely- understanding of it evolves as we gather more info) a multi-step process involving many professionals. The first step was that painters would come in and paint the scene. Then carvers would make the paintings three-dimensional, then the painters would come back in again and add color. You could see this process in one of the tombs that was only partially completed. There was a lot to look at in the carvings- Nile crocodiles fighting Nile hippos, hair stylists, butchering of livestock, lots of lotus flowers and papyrus, and a fair few penises too. The carvings were supposed to be everything the royalty might need in the afterlife so there were lots of scenes of servants and food.
The highlight of the trip was the Red Pyramid, built during the 4th dynasty. It was a 64 meter drop into the tomb, which you had to descend while bent almost halfway over. Now that I’m retelling it, I’m not sure exactly why this was the highlight except that it was so physically strenuous and cramped that it made us giddy.
Our lunch consisted of a cocktail of carbohydrates in hefty servings. The dish had (at least) three different kinds of noodles in it, lentils, chick peas, a few other unidentifiable grains, and a topping of fried onions. (I found out later that this is called Koshari and is a popular Egyptian dish.) After touring the pyramids, it was much needed.
We ended the day at the Giza Plateau, which was awe-inspiring but much more crowded than the other sites. It offered some great photo ops. We also stopped by a papyrus museum (I got MJ a scroll with the hieroglyphic alphabet and her name!), and a fancy essential oil shop.
Other “I’m definitely in another country” moments included; women balancing massive pots, boxes, and bags on their heads, watching one car weave between two other cars on a two-lane road, and waking at 5am to the call to prayer played on loudspeakers citywide.
Tomorrow, more touring, napping in town (the B&B is far from the city center) at an American dancer’s flat, then heading out for a double bellydance show! Performances usually happen no earlier than 12am, but luckily this aligns well with my internal EST clock.
Oh! And last but not least… Today I tried to flush a toilet using a random knob in the wall. I heard the rushing noise of water and figured I’d gotten it right. But then I felt water hitting my knees…? And my shoes. And basically my entire body from mid-thigh down. Turns out, it was the knob to turn on the bidet.