It was my birthday on Wednesday and we decided to go to the Pyramids with all of the investors of DashSoft as well as the entire team of local Egyptians. There is nothing like going to the Pyramids with locals. But the adventure started before we even got there.
Riding a taxi in Cairo is always an adventure. The adventure starts before you get into the taxi, when you have to negotiate the fair. Vassil was the butt of our jokes since he paid LE 90 (about $17) to get from the hotel to the office on Monday when we paid about LE 15 ($2.75). Vassil is not the best negotiator but desperately wanted to make amends. We got the inside scoop from the locals that it should cost no more than LE 35 from our hotel to the Pyramids. I warned Vassil that the taxi driver may start at LE 200 and he will have to knock him down. Vassil asked the first taxi for a price and the taxi started at LE 50 and Vassil immediately said 40, not something like 5! Oh well....
As we rode through Cairo, we were due to meet Remon at the Pyramids. He was traveling with the whole team of developers and testers from the office. All of the developers have been to the Pyramids just once in their lives and it was on a school trip. Remon rented a bus, a bus we were not on.
Back in the taxis, Vassil was filming me practicing my Arabic with the drivers of other cars since we were stuck in traffic. After we got to the highway we lost the third taxi in our caravan, holding Richard Campbell and his wife and friend Mike. Our taxi driver phones Richard's taxi and we pull over to the slow lane of the highway and stop and wait for them. I decide to get out and have some fun. I tell my taxi drivers I want to buy my taxi. They start to compete saying who's taxi is better. The fun got even better when a random third taxi appeared and thought we were broken down (I was taking photos of the taxis) and when I explained to him that I was attempting to buy a taxi, he offered his. I had him down to about $700. My driver then shooed him away. Finally Richard's taxi drove by and the look on their faces was priceless, I was walking around on the highway taking photos and they did not expect to see me. Oddly enough, Remon's van passed us by and Reem noticed me on the side of the road taking photos and joking with the taxi drivers. So they pulled over and picked us up. We paid our taxi drivers and took their photos and left for the Pyramids.
Entering the Pyramids you learn that it costs LE 100 ($20) for a foreigner to enter the Pyramids and LE 4 (< $1) for an Egyptian! I pose for a photo with my Egyptian wife Lamees and try to pass myself off as an Egyptian to no avail. I did show my student photo from my MBA program and pay the LE 50 student rate.
We enter the grounds and go inside the Great Pyramid. Unfortunately no cameras are allowed inside and we climb up to the room where the king's body and gold was stored. After climbing up for 15 minutes in the heat and no oxygen, we finally get there. It is an empty room. But a 4,000 year old empty room. Very cool.
We get down and then start having more fun. We take tons of silly photos. The Egyptians were just as excited as us foreigners.
Next we move on to the camels. Yes camels. What kind of trip to the Pyramids would be complete without camels?!?! I have been to the Pyramids about 7 or 8 times so I do not ride a camel but take tons of photos.
We then move to the Sun-Boat museum where the Pharaoh's boat is stored. The admission fee is LE 40 and I once again try to pass myself off as Egyptian. The best I can do is say I am the professor of all of the locals with me, Lamees gives the man her Student ID card and we buy 10 local student passes (LE 20) and one foreigner student pass (LE 20) and go inside. One foreigner costs the same as 10 locals! We meet up with Richard who I instruct to call me Professor.
Next we drive in the bus to the paranoiac view point of all three main Giza Pyramids. We take a team photo.
The locals want to ride horses down to the Sphinx. Most of us get on a horse but some are afraid or want to ride a camel. Some are just plain old boring and take the bus down. (Richard and his crew.) The camel/horse guy double crosses Michael (the local who negotiated the deal) and we are taken down to the Sphinx and then back to where we started. So we take the bus down to the Sphinx to meet Richard and crew.
By now we have been at the Pyramids for about 5 hours and are hungry for lunch. There is a Pizza Hut right across from the Sphinx. I say "let go in there!" and our only dissenter is Remi who says "I can get Pizza Hut in the Netherlands but not Falafel." The locals really want American fast food, who can blame them! I tell Remi that I can get falafel in New York, but not Pizza Hut. (True) So we split up and get some Pizza Hut. The view of the Sphinx inside of Pizza Hut is awe inspiring and my photos are better then outside due to the height of the second floor.
After hanging out and shooting the breeze we take the bus back to the hotel, which contains the largest shopping mall in the Middle East and shop. I decide to hang out in Starbucks and wait for the girls.
We then depart for the Nile where Remon has arranged a boat ride, dinner, and birthday cake as well as Arabic music and dancing. It is a full moon and we cruse along the Nile for a few hours, eating, dancing and having a blast. Several happy birthday chants were sung in both English and Arabic.
We head back to the hotel, have a drink and pass out. It sure has been an interesting 36 years so far.
PS: flickr photos are here.
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