I’ve seen pictures of Tutankhamen’s mask, the pyramids and the Sphinx from childhood and while interested I have to be honest and say I was never a mad Egyptologist. However, my visit to what is listed as the number one must see attraction in Africa (according to the lonely planet guide) did not disapoint. Both the pryamids and the subsequent visit to the Egyptian Musuem left a sense of wonder that I can only describe as the children’s fairytale that’s actually real. Truely amazing.
We left our hotel in Giza for the short trip to the Pyramids. There are 9 pyramids in total on this plateau overlooking Greater Cairo and we purchased a ticket to head into the Great Pyramid, standing at 146.5 metres tall. So, with a ticket in hand and ignoring busy streets, taxi rides and using a ” little ” imagination the story begins….
It was no ordinary day. In contrast to the often intense heat one imagines in Egypt the wind was blowing, the air was cool and the sand was being whipped up. As the whirling grains flew in the air six intrepid explorers set off, led by local guide Soloman. A dozen steep steps led up to the low entrance around 5 metres at the base of the pyramid, which itself spanned 226 metres in length. We clambered inside and immediately ducked. It was much warmer inside and we were happy to feel the heat even with the slight stale smell in the air. The ceiling was low and we all needed to stoop considerably to make our way through the initial tunnel entrance. The route was flat so far but as we progressed we were confronted by what looked like a never ending set of steps through the centre of this ancient structure.
Our temperatures rose as we climbed and I upzipped my fleecewhile placing my feet on the metal poles that formed the steps on the plank of wood we were slowly making our way on. This was no time for mistakes. Just one slip from any of our team and it would be a bumpy fall, taking whoever was below on the same journey.
In addition to the stone tomb, long since emptied, there were two small holes in the walls of the room. One brave adventurer decided to check it out, slowly moving their hand forward, unsure of what may be concealed. The hole originally was there for the soul to escape as part of the rebirthing process. Now, it was simply dusty and at this prescent at least time free of spiders or other such creatures. It was a calming place though it is strange to consider being inside a burial chamber, halfway up the largest of the pyramids.
While part of a different tomb, the discovery by Howard Carter of Tutankhamens chamber back in the 1920’s seems reminiscent of Alice falling down the rabbit hole. An accidental discovery thousands of years later leading to an Aladins cave of treasures. A small number of connected rooms housing a vast array of treasures and jewels built up before an untimely royal death aged 18. Concealed within was a mystery encased like a russian doll – a gold leaf painted box, in a gold leaf painted box, in a gold leaf painted box, in a gold leaf painted box. Inside, a casket adorned in gold, bright aqua blue and orange revealing a smaller version inside and in that would lie the mumified body of perhaps the most famous king of Egypt. Covered in the famous golden mask, with gold jewels and ties arond the linen cloth this oiled and preserved body may not be the present everyone may wish tro find to the archeologist the site of the tomb was surely the greatest gift of a lifetime.
As you can see I was blown away by my own discovery here in the museum but to try and step into the shoes of Howard Carter, relatively recently and discover this site compiled such a long time ago really did seem like a fairytale. That said, there is also a feeling that given the effort put into this once upon a time story, for the Pharoahs and their original vision this was not necessarily a happy ending.