Where, what or who is Giza?
The immediate vicinity surrounding the pyramids is known as the Giza Plateau/Giza Necropolis. Reaching it from down-town Cairo is very easy, though it really wasn’t for me as I’ll explain later on. However for informational purposes you would simply take a metro to Giza and then catch a short, inexpensive taxi to the Pyramids.
Despite their historical significance and importance as the oldest of the seven ancient wonders of the world, you’d be forgiven for not knowing whether the Giza Pyramids are directly located in Cairo, close to Cairo or nowhere near Cairo! And what about ‘Giza’. What or where is it!?
Giza is an entirely functioning independent city being the third largest in Egypt behind Cairo and Alexandria. That said, Giza, along with five other cities do make up what they call the greater Cairo metropolis.
BTW, they estimate over 25 million in Cairo alone (depending on who you speak to) and between 90 and 100 million people living in Egypt.
To stay in Cairo or to stay in Giza?
‘Time’ can and will likely influence a persons decision whether to stay in Cairo on Giza. The majority of Egypt visitors (past and present) will be tourists restricted by time so unless they had a yearning for Cairo-life, perhaps they choose to stay directly in Giza in closer proximity to the pyramids? Especially as there isn’t too much to do in Cairo, as blogged about in my previous post.
It’s a real shame this site hasn’t been able to reach a wider Internet audience as I’d love to hear what people chose to do in relation to where they stayed and what were the factors. Have any of you lot been, what did you do and why?
With time on my side I wanted to make the most of my experience here by staying in both cities. I wanted to remember Cairo for all things Cairo and to remember Giza independently of Cairo with a primary focus on the Pyramids. I’m happy to say that I did achieve this vision and the view from my Giza hotel alone made the move of city worth it.
I’d like to impart that if you choose to stay in Giza, you will be very pleasantly surprised to hear that the best view of the Pyramids are from budget hotels! How many cities would you expect to hear that from with such an important tourist attraction on offer!? The primary reason for this is that like Cairo, Giza is largely a sh!thole meaning more affordable places have been able to build around the area for decades with no obvious point in the future looking likely to improve the area or the economy and general standard of living.
In saying that there are some surrounding locations that do offer luxury, Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa for example, with a view of the Pyramids coupled with five star accommodation. Clearly I see the appeal and if you’re a family without a modest Western budget, you’re going to choose somewhere like this for 80 euros a night. My information to you is that thankfully you can get ever better views with better proximity for considerably less money so thank-you very much budget accommodation houses in Giza.
Getting to Giza metro
Recently I decided it was finally time for me to move on from my less-than-heavenly place of residence in Cairo. With so many humans beings co-existing on the streets of Cairo at any one time, you’d be hard-pressed to find a patch of pavement that doesn’t contain a homeless person, a street-seller or just a smelly turd left by one of the poor animals. If you do find such a space, you can bet your last pound that it’ll not be a smooth stretch of tarmac meaning if you’re wheeling a luggage bag, you’re resigned to the side of the road. The problem with that should be obvious; trying not to get mowed down by the craziest motorists I’ve ever encountered!
As you can tell from this writing, I survived but getting to the metro just 10 mins away and then boarding it with two pieces of luggage, well, it wasn’t easy.
Check out this vision for an average metro stop. Excise the blur but as you can imagine, I wasn’t really able to stand-still.
Giza metro to my hotel
Now, things is where things turned somewhat difficult for me.
Whilst I was had researched (and subsequently decided) on a place to stay in Giza, I took to the familiarly reliable and somewhat essential Google maps. Standard protocol thus far. However unbeknown to me at the time was that for some reason, the distance between the two points (the metro and the hotel) had switched to car-time, not walk-time. Sooooo when I saw the time as 30 minutes, fool-heartedly I thought ‘Sod it, I can do that‘ – even with my luggage.
Now, process that for a moment. Envisage the walking distance for somewhere that a car will get you in 30 minutes! Granted those 30 minutes (thankfully) include traffic time so more like 20 minutes by car is more realistic. When I eventually reached the hotel, the young man doing the check-in duties says:
“I see this weather is hot for you my friend“.
I knew what he meant as I was looking somewhat flustered, somewhat exhausted.
“No my friend, it is not the weather, it was that I walked here“.
“You walk from where?“.
“Giza metro” I respond.
With his mouth and eyes open wide, he says…. “Whhhaat?”
“Yes indeed” knowing exactly how mad the very thought of this was having now done it! “Also, I did it with those two bad-boys attached to me!” pointing to Bebop V2 and Rocksteady (my luggage).
He says: “I am 26 years and have been here all my life. I have never done this walk or heard of another guest doing it“.
No sh!t I think to myself fully aware of just how tough that was. Infact, I needed to take my mind and body to a new place in terms of the work I was going to need from them. I recall at one point, maybe 40 minutes in, and like a desert mirage manifesting before my eyes, I saw the sacred golden arches! (My friends Steveo and Kennedy should appreciate that one).
Seriously though, never before in my life have I been so thankful for the McDonalds’s worldwide franchise! I had a milkshake savouring every minute thankful of being out of the high 20s heat and weight-free. I savoured every minute of being sat down knowing it wouldn’t be long before I was back to that stretch of road as crazy and more dust-dirty than Cairo.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, me and my 23 kilo combined luggage walked NINE kilometres!!! As in, it took me just over two hours to get to my hotel by foot.
Just for a moment think of the onslaught my mind and body endured during this experience. Arguably it’d have been a tiny fraction less brutal if it wasn’t for the terrible state of the pavements. Honestly folks I still can’t believe I did it with it being easily the toughest two hours I’ve ever endured and not one I’ll want to repeat.
Still, this shows you where I ended up walking but with the correct ‘walking-distance’ time measurement applied. Welcome to the road of bloody longness.
Needless to say I used the next few hours to shower, sleep and relax before a bite to eat ready for the next morning and boy, was everything OK when I saw these views from my room.
Oh, and then this breakfast view from the roof-top:
D’you remember earlier I described Giza as another sh!thole? The following is the view directly behind the rooftop.
The contrast, you’ll agree, is striking. To think the in one rotation of the head, you can go from looking at the most amazing feat of early human ingenuity to such a derelict eyesore. So very sad but that’s the way it is.
I set off late morning and had a walk of 30 meters to get to the ticket gate. Now, that’s more like it, not quite two hours! I handed over my £8 and in I went, immediately accosted by touts/hawkers. I’d managed to palm a lot of them off to other people close by and off I marched and within minutes, I was within twenty meters from The Great Sphinx!
This was so exciting. I remember how many times I’d seen this on TV and to now be standing here was surreal.
Behold, for your viewing pleasure, a proper close-up of its eroded (but still very well preserved) face.
As you can see below, the Great Sphinx and the Great Pyramids are actually in close proximity to each other so having had my time with ‘the naughty minx‘, it was time to see the other wonders directly ahead…
The images above are of The Great Pyramid due it’s bigger size and intended resting place of the Pharaoh of the time (Khufu) responsible for the vision of such an archaeological endeavour. I’ve understood that most Egyptologists agree that the pyramid was intended for the burial of Khufu, but not everyone agrees on where in the pyramid he may have been interred.
For some reason I found myself taking more photos of the second great Pyramid, Khafre’s Pyramid. Khafre was the son of Khufu.
Interestingly, the face of the Sphinx is generally believed to represent the face of Khafra.
You can enter the smaller Pyramid for a cost of around £4 which is significantly better than the extortionate price of seeing the inside of The Great Pyramid. They want £20 from you for this in addition to the near £10 you’ve already paid to enter the sight. I’d have signed up for a look around the smaller one but curse the box-office directly outside for tickets still have to be bought at the entrance. Grrrr, now that’s a smart way to lose out on sales. Silly.
The sad thing is that these pictures show only one side of a typical modern-day experience at the Pyramids. What I mean here is that you are rarely given a free moment to stop and stare at these wonders for fear (and the reality) of being approached by a tout/hawker. In all fairness, the hundreds I’ve encountered since being here and been polite and not extreme or harassing but still, they are prolific in their numbers and relentless in their task.
In fact, I think I spent more time with my head down at 45 degrees than I did up, which is really sad unfortunately. This angle would allow me to potentially spot and divert from on-coming hawkers and equally importantly, it would allow me to avoid trodding on the abundant horse and camel excrement.
Despite only staying in Giza for the one night, I had the entire second day also which actually was the day I captured all of the images above. Before I left I also grabbed a ‘night-shot’ shown below demonstrating one of the Pyramids ‘lit-up’ due to the sound and music show they put on every hour of an evening. Even if I had an interest in paying for this nice and cheesy tourist show with a 20 year old vocal recording, I couldn’t have as I had my own ‘sound and music‘ very shortly ahead of me.
You see, I was about to put myself through an experience I had skilfully managed to avoid for an entire eight months of travel last year…