That Time I Rode A Camel to the Pyramids

Seeing the Pyramids of Egypt has always been on my Bucket List and recently I got the chance to go see them. My friend and coworker Angelica’s trainer from our gym offered to take her and a few friends on the ‘Grand Tour.’ So Lindsey, Angelica, and I dragged ourselves out of bed on a Saturday morning at 6 am, got in Mohammed Shafei’s black Mercedes, and headed to Giza.

Shafei is a gorgeous trainer at our gym who obviously takes great pride in his body. I’m glad he’s not my trainer, because I don’t think I’d be able to concentrate on exercise while working with him. Riding in the car with him and two friends was tough enough.

After winding through several back streets and meeting up with Shafei’s friend, Michael we arrived at a small stable near the Pyramids. We clambered out of the car and sat on a bench waiting for who knows what. Nearby several frighteningly skinny horses grazed near a concrete wall. The area seems to have been hit hard financially; hardly any tourists come here now. While we waited Shafei, with the help of Michael, took several photos of himself posing in front of horses. He sure looked good, and boy, did he know it, too!

Suddenly Nabir, the proprietor of the stables walked up and told me that my horse was ready. Now, I’m not much of a horsewoman, in fact the last time I rode a horse was in Mongolia when I was a PCV, more than three years ago. Still, I had the most experience of us foreigners and that meant I got to go first. Joy. My horse looked me up and down briefly, but barely twitched as I settled myself into the saddle. Lindsey and Angelica’s horses came out next and they bravely climbed on to go for a nice long walk.

My horse was amazingly calm and gentle, not even batting an eyelash when confronted with a giant earthmover truck. We passed through narrow alleyways with children playing in the streets,  trotted past endless trash heaps, and suddenly we were climbing up dunes with the Pyramids rising to our right obstructed by a large fence. Behind us Cairo spread out in the morning light only slightly obscured by a haze of pollution.

We climbed up the hill, Michael and I walking together while Shafei raced on ahead. Angelica and Lindsey lagged behind with Nabil, more comfortable at a sedate pace. We climbed and climbed as the Pyramids came into view, the third and smallest one waiting the longest to reveal itself.

We crested a dune and saw several Bedouin farshas ahead. We walked up to it and sat to have some tea. It was so peaceful, and the view of Cairo and Giza was incredible.

After our tea we watched Shafei get on a prize Arabian horse and pose for pictures. The horse had been specially trained to stand on his back legs. After that we were invited to sit on a camel and pose for some pictures. Angelica bravely went first and climbed onto the back of the seated camel. He didn’t look mean, and so I went next. The man helping us into the saddle assured me that the camel would remain seated, so I turned to Lindsey and Angelica who had hold of my camera. Then the guide said, “Lean back.” Thinking this would get a better picture I leaned back smiling, when the camel suddenly lurched downward as he maneouvered his hind legs into a standing position. Gasping, leaning back, and holding onto the saddle horn with all my might I glared at the laughing guide as he led the camel in a small circle.

Though unprepared for the sudden camel ride, it turned out to not be so bad. They’re very tall animals, and the lurching required for them to move from sitting to standing and back again is quite heart-stopping. Overall, it was quite fun. Though I had a thing or two to say to the guide. Lindsey climbed on after me, and this time the camel stayed on the ground. Lucky me.

After my impromptu camel ride we got back on the horses and trotted back to the stables. I rode ahead with Shafei and the camel guide. The camel guy (I never did learn his name) was one of the coolest human beings I have ever met. Dressed in modern western clothing he rode the camel like he’d been doing it all his life. He probably had, come to think of it. As he and Shafei chatted I couldn’t help but marvel at the mixing of cultures that he represented.

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Once the horses had been stabled and watered our group was taken to the ticket office to buy our entrance to the Pyramids. We paid 80 Egyptian Pounds (roughly $7) for our tickets, while the Egyptians only paid 2 Egyptian Pounds (roughly 30 cents). This is common at all tourist attractions in Egypt, I’m told. Tickets purchased, we drove back to the stable where three camels waited patiently waited for riders. 3 camels with 5 riders meant someone had to ride solo, so I volunteered. Angelica rode with Michael, and Lindsey rode with Shafei.

The second time I got on a camel I was prepared for the gut-wrenching lurch that happens as it stands up and the alarming height. I was not prepared for a camel’s gait, though. At first I thought I might be a little seasick from the rocking motion, but once my body got with the rhythm it wasn’t so tough.

We entered the Pyramids national park through a gate near the stables and paused to get some water and funky hats. Well, ‘hat’ is a generous term, really it was a piece of cloth and a band to keep the cloth on our heads. Still, it looked cool. We then hiked up the hill, learning the names of our camels. Mine was aptly named Mickey Mouse and he was gentle and followed commands pretty well.

The Pyramids are truly awe-inspiring up close, not to be missed.

The Sphynx is also very cool, though you can’t get that close to it. We did get some obligatory photographs holding up pyramids and kissing sphinxes.

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Categories: Egypt, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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