Friday, November 14, 2008

Egypt 2008: Sakkara

October 11th.

This was the first full day of our trip. We had several outings on our schedule and Wael had told us the night before that we had to be in the lobby at 7:15am (wake up call at 6). The first excursion was to be to Sakkara, the great necropolis at the outskirts of the city, and we were the only ones going.

A brief digression: the day before we had met some countrymen, they were also travelling with Egypt Reiser, and were staying in the same hotel, but other than that had nothing to do with us. While waiting to check in on the 10th we had started to make friends with them – nothing like a trip abroad to make you feel kinship with any & all random Norwegian you come across. ;-)

This was a group of four people who were all much older than us. There was a husband and wife team, Einar and Sissel, her sister Berit, and Berit's friend Inger-Lise. We never found out exactly how old they were, but over the week or so that we spent together Berit mentioned, several times, her 75th birthday party that had been and gone … and I think she was the younger sister. I hope I’ll be in as good shape as these people were when I’m pushing 80. :-o But more on Einar and his ladies later. They were not scheduled to go to Sakkara with us, we were going to meet up with them later to see the pyramids in daylight. :-)

Wael met us in the lobby and introduced us to our guide, Hatem, a cheerful-looking personage of indeterminate age who allegedly spoke Swedish. This was a very strange sort of Swedish with a little Norwegian and some German thrown in, and initially it didn’t sound like any Swedish we'd ever heard, but once we'd reset our ears, so to speak, we had very little trouble understanding him. He was enthusiastic and friendly and turned out to be quite knowledgeable too, so overall we were really happy with him as a guide. He was the most fun in Alexandria. :-) But first, Sakkara!

We drove directly there, somewhat recklessly, and got there in fact too early … they opened the area up for visitors at 8am and we had to wait for about 10-15 minutes before we could drive through the gates. Hatem told us about date palms in the meantime. :-) When the guards finally let us through we drove off again, only stopping to get tickets (Hatem took care of this) and then heading off to our destination.

Sakkara as I mentioned is a necropolis … a city of the dead, ie an ancient burial site. Many types of graves have been excavated there, and burial customs from many many centuries can be traced in the finds. There is a quite new museum there, which unfortunately we didn't have time to visit. Well, that wasn’t what we went there to see anyway. CH was the prime mover in our choosing this excursion, because Sakkara was one of the places she missed on her first trip to Egypt. (Did I mention that? She spent a week in Egypt 13 years ago.) So she definitely wanted to see it this time. What people mainly come there to see is the biggest and most important grave in this city of graves – the first pyramid in Egypt, the Stepped Pyramid which hid the tomb of king Zhoser. It was designed and constructed for him by his brilliant architect and engineer, Imhotep, who was later deified and worshipped as the god of medicine.

This excursion was almost the coolest thing we experienced on the whole trip. Not because the place itself was so amazing, but because we were there all alone. :-o We were the first ones to arrive, there was literally not a single other tourist to be seen – it was just us, Hatem, a couple of guards outside the king's burial grounds, and a few souvenir sellers who seemed only half awake at first and who, when they came to, were shooed away by Hatem and basically didn't bother us at all. It was just so cool … !! to be there all by ourselves. I can’t describe it. It rocked. :-D

Hatem leading us towards the entrance to the funerary complex.

CH in the hall of pillars that leads to the grounds in front of the pyramid. These pillars are about 4600 years old. :-o

The first pyramid!

Hatem explaining the development of burial customs in ancient Egypt.

A view across the necropolis, with some more pyramids in the distance. (Those are not the Giza pyramids, but some other ones. CH, I know you're reading this, which pyramids were these? I don't remember, but I know that you know ... :-)

Hatem and CH posing with camels in the background. :-D

CH and me in front of the pyramid. Photo by Hatem. :-)

Looking up the side of the pyramid.

A lot of work is being done to maintain and preserve this precious structure.

But not everyone is overwhelmed with awe of the ancients. ;-)

Since no one but us had walked around and disturbed the fine-grained sand yet, there was evidence of animal activity, though we only saw some wild dogs.

The patter of tiny feet …

Here you see a life and death struggle between a desert lizard and a small bird … or possibly a snake may have been involved.

Leaving, oh noes!

It’s the first pyramid … !!

Desperate for one last glimpse …

We headed off again just as the serious busloads of tourists started to arrive. What a wonderful wonderful experience. :-) To see more pictures from Sakkara, go here.

Happy now, Paz?? ;-)


Margo said...

Those are awesome pictures! I want to go to Egypt!

Findabair said...

Oooh, looks wonderful to have been the only ones there - you were lucky!! That's often the worst part of being a tourist I think - the *other* tourists :) And great photos!

Oh and by the way - found this and thought of you :)

Paz said...

I am always happy Madam, comes with the territory of being a simple minded chap :). Thks for sharing more of the beautiful pictures, it was worth nagging you!

Rose said...

Of all the places I want to visit, Egypt is top of my list (on the way to Norway of course lol). Your photos are fantastic and Im loving seeing this place through your eyes!! Thanks so much for sharing them with us!!
Hugs xxx

Lina said...

Looks amazing! Never been to Egypt but you're pictures is making me think about adding it to my list of places to go! Maybe I'll stop there next time I go to India?!

Anonymous said...

Being the infamous, high maintenance CH, I feel I should leave a few tidbits of information when asked, or when appropriate:-)
Pyramids in the distance are in Dashur - a great pyramid field. The ones in the picture are the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid Think they were designed by Imhotep - the great pyramid architect, thought not 100% sure. Both were built for the same Pharaoh, Sneferu, who happened to be the father of Khufu, most commonly known as Cheops.
Thanks Leisha, you are doing a good job helping me remember:-)

Leisha Camden said...

I am soo slow to comment on the comments ... shame on me. But better late than never. :-) To all of you who are thinking that maybe you want to go to Egypt, I definitely recommend it. The things we saw there were just so amazing, I am so grateful to have seen it all ... and we only saw some parts ... and the weather was fantastic for the time of year, as a Norwegian I thought it was really wonderful to be able to escape to that climate for a couple of weeks. ;-)

And CH, you posted a comment, whee!! :-D I know you stop by every so often. ;-) Thanks for the info. The Red Pyramid!! I remember it when you mention it, of course. ;-) I wonder why two pyramids were built for one king?? Of course you're more than welcome to comment on anything here whenever you have something you feel like saying ... more Egypt posts coming up, so I may be needing your input, probably. :-)