|One of the two I WASN'T in...|
When I was in Egypt a couple years ago, I got to go inside the Pyramid of Khafre...one of the three big Pyramids right outside of Cairo...You can tell Khafre's Pyramid apart from the others because its the one with the big cap stone at the top.
I had always loved Egypt...when I was a little girl, my parents used to take me to the Putnam Museum in Davenport, IA which has a very nice little Ancient Egyptian Exhibit complete with two mummies and lots of interesting artifacts -- My favorite part of the Exhibit was about Egyptian scribes and writing. Every time we visited, my parents used to practically have to drag me out of there when it was time to leave because I was so fascinated. Then PBS used to broadcast all sorts of wonderful documentaries on the subject...basically I was hooked.
So when my Seminary's Archaeology Department was planning a study tour through Egypt, I HAD to find a way to go. This was probably a once in a lifetime chance to go to one of my favorite places in the world and I am SO happy that I got the opportunity to participate. I learned so much on that tour. It was an honor to sit at the feet of my professors and learn from them...
There is a very good reason that the Pyramids of Giza were considered one of the wonders of the ancient world...they are incredible. The length of Khafre's Pyramid alone is roughly the size of two city blocks and the great pyramid is nearly 50 stories high...until the Eiffel Tower was built in the late 1800's no building in the world came close to being that tall.
In the Pictures of the Pyramids of Giza that you usually see in magazines or on TV, it looks like they're set in the middle of no where in the middle of a vast desert...that is not exactly true. They are right on the Edge of Cairo which is an absolutely enormous city. Its a little bit surreal driving around Cairo and seeing the tops of the Pyramids outside the tour bus windows...
The reason my tour group and I decided to enter the Pyramid of Khafre instead of the Great Pyramid (or the Pyramid of Kufu) is simple: the line was shorter. It was very hot there that day (this is in a desert we're talking about here) and I don't think any of us wanted to stay in line for very long.
When you enter the Pyramid of Khafre, you go through a tunnel that is a little over 4 feet high...I am five and a half feet tall, so I had to stoop quite a bit to make my way through the shaft (I can't imagine what that must be like for a taller person). The tunnel slopes down slightly for several yards at first, then levels out for a few steps and then and then angels upward again for several yards. And as if the shaft weren't cramped enough, all the tourists enter the shaft in single file...that means there are many tourists in a line in front of you and several right behind you...so basically, if someone slips and falls, everyone else would too.
I remember when I was walking through the tunnel I was thinking about several things at once: (1) It was incredible going into a Pyramid, (2) My back hurt from hunching over while I walked, (3) I was happy that it was the off season when there aren't as many tourists in Egypt as there often are, so although there were many people in the tunnel with me, it wasn't terribly crowded, and (4) I was extremely over-heated (it can be 90 degrees F. in the Egyptian desert heat, but after going into the oven-heat of an underground tomb or Pyramid, desert heat feels like air conditioning in comparison).
When you reach the end of the tunnel, you end up in the tomb itself which is actually up inside the Pyramid. The tomb is a medium sized rectangular room with an open-topped rectangular box at one end. People often ask me what the room looked like and I think my best descriptor is a very clean concrete basement with reddish-walls.
There was an Egyptian man sitting on the side of the box where the Pharaoh's Sarcophagus had once rested waiting to let you look inside for a small tip (the word for "tip" in Egypt is "Baksheesh"...you hear this word a LOT when you visit Egypt...If someone carries luggage for you or something, they hold out their hand and say insistently, "Baksheesh! Baksheesh!" and you'd better tip them because you're not going to get anything back until you do!). The box in the tomb, by the way is completely empty...I didn't feel ripped off though, oddly enough, because it was really cool looking in there...
High up on one of the walls, there was graffiti. I'm not kidding. A colorful and eccentric 19th Century Explorer (Giovanni Belzoni) entered the tomb and wrote his name on the wall and its still there for us to see today.
The acoustics in that big stone room were incredible. Everything echoed from footsteps to people's voices. At one point one of my professors said, "Hey guys, the acoustics in here are wonderful...we have to sing something."
One of us said, "Let's sing 'Amazing Grace'"
So there we were, in the middle of Khafre's Pyramid singing 'Amazing Grace'...It was so much fun...
The Egyptian man who had been tending the stone box really seemed to enjoy our mini-concert. He stood up and danced over to us with this big grin on his face. He started laughing and applauded when we were finished. "Baksheesh, Baksheesh!" He exclaimed...but instead of wanting money from us, he tried to give money to our professor for our 'wonderful' performance...he didn't take it though...
Before leaving the Pyramid, I took my right hand and laid it against the pyramid wall -- touching with my finger tips wasn't enough. I could not believe that I actually had gotten the chance to visit Egypt and explore the inside of a Pyramid....I still can't totally believe it. I enjoyed that experience so much -- I think a little part of me is still inside that Pyramid and will never really want to leave.