Our first morning in Cairo was spent driving to the suburb of Giza. Mohep called it a "suburb", but it wasn't what we would define as suburban. It was just an older part of Cairo on the outer edge of the city.
Driving through the city and beyond the downtown area of our hotel was eye-opening. The traffic was still crazy, but mixed in with the cars, motorcycles and bicycles were people on camels and donkeys. There is trash everywhere and a general veil of disintegration. Every surface of every thing is coated with a thick layer of desert dust. The buildings are stacked upon each other, a filthy, brown Lego collection with thousands of dusty satellite dishes crowding the rooftops.
Many, many of these buildings looked half finished with exposed columns and naked rebar reaching into the blue sky. We were told that people purposely do not finish buildings because then they would have to pay taxes on them. If the building is unfinished they pay no or very little taxes. It seems like a system that doesn't really work for anybody and only exacerbates the post-apocalyptic feel of the city.
We turned a corner in the dusty streets of Cairo and there were the Great Pyramids of Giza. Right there. Right beside the filthy city was the last wonder of the ancient world and beyond that the hazy, desolate desert.
You see the pyramids in pictures, paintings, and movies all your life. They exist as a part of our collective memory. You would think that seeing them in person would be familiar and almost anti-climactic. But you would be wrong. They were overwhelmingly moving and beyond imagining.
The immensity and ingenuity combined with the ancient mythology is unreal. Even though the site was teeming with tourists and souvenir hawkers, it was a surreal experience to stand before these timeless beasts on the plain between desert and city.