Michael Divine

We rose early (maybe too early) had breakfast and had Sabet drop us off at the Sphinx which was a less touristic area. First he drove us into a deadend and tried to get us to buy camel rides from his friends who surrounded the car with the hard sell but it felt like a hustle and we refused to get out of the car with emphatic No Thank Yous so straight to the Sphinx it was. We found out there that we had to buy separate tickets for entry into the Great Pyramid (all tickets are sold separately – different tickets for the pyramids, the Cheops boat museum, etc.) on the other side of the ‘park’ so we made our way into the grounds of the Pyramids – surrounded by dunes high up on the Giza plateau overlooking Cairo and the approaching neighborhoods of Giza. The tourist industry there is intense and we were accosted left and right by kids, adults, old men, all selling us camel rides, post cards, small wooden statues of Bast, etc etc…

Anyhow, there we were. At the Sphinx in Giza in Egypt.

“It is the antiquity of the Sphinx which thrills us as we look upon it, for in itself it has no charms.” – John Stoddard, 1898 (wikipedia)

And that is what draws us to it, I think. The Sphinx has no great carvings or inscriptions but it is the extreme age and lack of story surrounding it that intrigues. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture in existence and is, by some estimates, almost 5000 years old. By the estimates of the pseudoscientists… well… I don’t even want to go there.  So we look at it and we see – this mass of stone – these massive multi-ton blocks – piled and sculpted and preserved by the mounds of sand that have constantly piled up around it. And no one knows it’s exact meaning or purpose. A god, a pharaoh, aligned with the stars, or an offering to the Nile… It is that mystery which intrigues us. Because otherwise, it is a rather unremarkable structure with a badly eroded pock-marked face which is also, incidentally, missing it’s nose.

I have heard people tell stories of it’s true purpose. I have heard about secret libraries beneath it housing all of the ancient knowledge, including Atlantis, written on scrolls of papyrus. How often we dream of a key to the mystery – some ancient book which explains it all. I’ve heard conspiracies and conjecture. However – the fact is, no one knows – and anyone who believes otherwise is merely repeating myth and legend. Intuition doesn’t lead us to make conclusions based on evidence-less claims… Nor do star beings tell us secrets that no one else, including teams of archaeologists, have failed to uncover.

I marvel sometimes at all that we will never know. I marvel at that mystery and for that, I’m grateful I had a chance to sit with the Sphinx, if but for a few uninterrupted moments.

At the end of the observation area we met with a group of young Muslim women – all in their hijabs, maybe 20 years old at most and giggling and laughing and gesticulating and they wanted to take pictures with Violet and Dela and Brad and I. They were very forward and it was cute after seeing so much subdued behavior from the women around us in their robes and such.

So what next? Camel rides! Across the Sahara! Or at least the several kilometers to the pyramids. We negotiated with a guy with some healthy looking camels – 30 pounds for each of us, riding on two camels – brad and dela and Violet and I. Then the other guy who’d been hassling us came riding up on his horse. A shouting match ensued as he began to whisk us away and he began to tell us how much he charged. Well jeez… people insinuate themselves into your space easily here – next thing you know they’ve put some trinket in your lap that they called a gift and now they want money and now this guy appears out of nowhere, pissed that we chose camels and not horses. None the less… we went along with him, tired of the hassle, the hustle…

The camels plodded along with us on their backs. They have this loping waltz of a walk. I rubbed the neck of ours and he made a sound like a ton-ton from Empire Strikes Back and it was hard to tell if he was annoyed or appreciated it. Our shadows began to stretch in the sand and we circled around the pyramids astride these big slow moving fuzzy behemoths. It was awesome. We took pictures. We laughed. We were tourists enjoying the ride.

As our camels approached the Great Pyramids, I took a picture of two women in a horse drawn carriage. They waved and laughed. “Egypt is safe!” they called to us and it made me happy to have that greeting.

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