A Scary Way to See the Pyramids
It was the tenth month of 2010. Fernando and I were halfway through a four-week business trip to Cairo, Egypt. We asked our driver if he could get us a tour of the pyramids, and he said he knew a guy.
We were driven to a neighborhood in Giza, the city just outside the pyramids, to a stable that rented camels and horses. The camels were $US50, and the horses were $US20. We opted for the horses, which were a little rougher to ride but lower to the ground. The exchange rate at then was 19 cents to the Egyptian pound, roughly 5 pounds to the dollar, but the economy was such that what could be bought in the states for a USD could be had in Egypt for an EGP.
Instead of getting close to the pyramids as we had hoped, we circumnavigated the fence around the area, about a 30 minute trip. We rode through the city, seeing a cemetery and an open area where they were burning the carcass of a horse. We then rode up a large hill to the spot where we could take pictures. Several other tours had joined the guide and my co-worker. On our way up, the tour guide asked if we were enjoying the tour, “from the bottom of your heart.” We politely assented.
At the top of the hill, a kid offered a cold soda, without mentioning a price. We found this a lot in the culture, where someone would do something that we in the States would consider common courtesy or part of the package, only to have the service provider come back later demanding a fee. I wasn’t worried and felt prepared to settle up should the need arise.
Satisfied with the distant view of the pyramids, we started back down. The kid then demanded $US50 for the pop. “Fifty?! No. I’ll give you five.” He didn’t argue any more. Twenty pounds was more than sufficient for a cold pop in the desert.
After coming off of the scenic hill we were back in the neighborhood, and our tour guide stopped us. We hadn’t come within sight of the stables yet. Fernando and I felt quite alone. I started looking for landmarks.
The tour guide asked again if we enjoyed the tour, “from the bottom of your heart.” We agreed, and he said, “Good. Please do not tell my master, but he doesn’t pay us very well, and I need additional money before I bring you back to the stables.”
Before Fernando protested too much, I said, “fine,” and gave the guide $US20. “For the both of us,” I said. That wasn’t enough, and he demanded the same from Fernando. Fernando wasn’t happy, but before we got in trouble, I told him I’d pay him back, just give him the extra twenty so we could get out of there.
We sat in the office of the stables until our driver came to get us. I really didn’t want anyone to ask if we liked anything, certainly not from the bottom of our hearts. We didn’t ask our driver for any favors again.
The next week, the JW Marriott had an actual bus trip to the pyramids, where we got to enter the grounds, enter one of the pyramids, and climb on another.
The guide was a lot friendlier.