Pyramid Hustle

The other night I met some fellow travelers – Gary from the UK, Jaren from the US, and Marcelo from Brazil – and we went for supper together and then to a shisha bar for some good conversation and hookah smoking. Earlier that day, Gary and I had gone on a tour of all the major pyramids around greater Cairo.

Our first stop of the day, not counting a quick stop to sample some fresh pressed sugarcane juice, was at Sneferu’s Red Pyramid, which was the first completely successful, smooth sided pyramid. In the distance we could see the bent pyramid, also built by Sneferu.

Sneferu’s 3rd and greatest pyramid, the Red Pyramid, named for the weathered color of its iron-rich limestone.
Sloped tunnel descending 61m to the centre of Sneferu’s Red Pyramid

We ascended about half way up its side and were met by two security guards and a Maadi (Egyptian assault rifle) leaned up against a block. There was a small hole in the side of the pyramid which we hunched into and descended very deep into the heart of the pyramid down a shaft <1m high and dipping 27°;. I’ve always kinda thought I would be susceptible to claustrophobia in such a situation, but just didn’t think about it too much and was more or less fine. At the bottom was a horizontal tunnel that opened up into a 12m tall, corbel vaulted chamber with 11 cantilevered block-layers supporting the tremendous amount of stone atop our heads. Through a tunnel in the far side, was a similar chamber which had scaffolding at the far end reaching up to a final tunnel inlaid high in the sidewall of the chamber. Through this tunnel was a third chamber similar to the first two, but larger (15m tall) with its floor coarsely dug down by ~4m. The air was hard to breath due to a sharp stench that somehow reminded me of stale bat piss. Despite the smell, we stayed here for a while examining the ceiling, caved-in floor, chiseled walls and, in whispered tones, awed about the magnitude and precision of this immense structure we were entombed in.


After making the climb back out into the scorching sunlight, my legs
were completely blown. And the guards insisted on us each giving them
a tip, about which they complained was far too little.

Standing on the side of the Red Pyramid.

Next, we visited Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the oldest of the large-scale pyramids, along with its surrounding temples and tombs. The tombs we explored here were vividly carved with hieroglyphic scenes and paintings which were amazingly well preserved. All through the complex, we were accosted by “guides” who attached themselves to us and “allowed” us to take pictures of the ruins and promptly demanded tips; no matter the amount, they would invariable complain it wasn’t enough. Despite this, we tried to be generous and patient by reminding ourselves that compared with N.A. and Europe, seeing Egypt was still dirt cheap.

Our driver said that before the revolution the large parking lots and parks were jammed by tourists, but we only rarely encountered other tourists throughout the day, even at the Giza pyramids.

Djoser’s Step Pyramid

Crumbing steps made of much smaller blocks than the other great pyramids.

Stars covering the entire ceiling of a tomb beneath a lesser, satellite step pyramid.

So after lunch we made it to Giza and got talked into a guided camel tour for what we thought was an ok price, EG£ 350. It was really amazing; With some practice, camels are definitely the way to get around the desert. Although I felt for our camels, which seemed to be older and in worse shape than most others we encountered. Gary couldn’t bring himself to whip his leading camel, so our guide (who was a pretty big dick) took it upon himself to do it rather liberally, though not overly hard. After loosening up a little, I really enjoyed the bumpy ride and was very impressed with the peaceful and stately nature the camels. After standing up in a pronounced see-saw motion, they raised you to a height about twice that of a horse. As it was fairly late in the day, the tour was rather rushed,  although our guide did his best to tediously convey the bothersome nature of going through the motions of it all. After Gary gave him a rather generous tip, he of course complained it wasn’t enough. And in a carefully crafted manner, to ensure we had a completely authentic Egyptian experience, the tour company insisted on us paying double, because, as they explained, the original price was actually per person. We made the mistake of not explicitly inquiring about this, and they were sure to not miss the opportunity. After some resistance, we finally agreed to just pay the money and be hustled rather than risk any further potentially unpleasant circumstances. We gave our amiable driver a large tip, and I went up to my room to grab more coin only to find my pack lighter, by at least EG£ 600, than I remembered leaving it. As I hadn’t kept strict count on how much I’d spent, I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure a second room key was employed to lift it while I was out. This chapped my ass almost as much as the camel, but nothing to be done; all things considered, it was a very enjoyable day spent in predominantly good company, with a fairly modest price-tag by western standards.

I think I may try to book a room in Giza when I get back from Luxor, so I have an opportunity to just sit in the shade of the pyramids and take it all in, in a more relaxed manner. I also want to fit the two day white and black desert trip in, so the final leg of my stint in Egypt is likely to be more active than the first bit. Tomorrow afternoon I catch the ~11hr train to Luxor. Jaren the Amerc’n is catching the train before mine, so we plan on meeting up again once there.

Cheese galore, but our guide was absolutely insistent.

Cheese factor to infinity and beyond!

Pyramid of Khafre, with its peak capstone still in place.

My camel, apparently named Madonna, kept trying to make out with Gary lol
Khafre’s Pyramid over my left shoulder and horus over my right 🙂
The three Great Pyramids of Giza, with the Sun’s rays forming a fourth celestial pyramid.

Walking the causeway between Khafre’s pyramid, sphinx, and valley temple.

And of course the Great Sphinx which has stood guard over Khafre’s legacy all these many centuries.

TL;DR – Saw pyramids, got hustled.

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7 thoughts on “Pyramid Hustle

  1. Anonymous says

    Great pictures and narrative there man! Put me right in the action minus the inevitable sunburns. Keep em coming! Oh, and learn how to hustle back! haha

  2. Anonymous says

    The above message was brought to you by AL. Regards.

  3. Tiara Mutch says

    I love this post. Especially the comment about about double ass chapping haha. Super cool and as Al said, great writing, it really does go a long way in conveying the environment and experiences you are encountering! Enjoy that 11 hr bus ride!

  4. Tiara Mutch says

    I also enjoy the cheese factor and that's rad you got to ride a camel!

  5. lmutch says

    Awesome thanks for the positive feedback guys, feels corny writing it sometimes but it should be a good way of not forgetting alot of what happened anyways, and it's fun to be able to share with everyone back home.

  6. Cari M says

    What a fantastic experience! All of it – except the part about being relieved of cash without consent. Keep on writing. It is so fun to be able to share in what you are doing – from the comfort of 25 degrees.

  7. Cari M says

    The Great Sphinx was for me the thing that says "Egypt" more than anything else. It is nice that you have met up with some fellow travellers. Take care of yourself as you become more mobile these next days.


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