Friday, January 31, 2020

Dream Destination & three things I didn't like - Giza Pyramids Complex

Written & photography By Hamza Shafique (Instagram / Facebook)

Nine years old me, wanted to be an archaeologist only because of the fascination with ancient Egyptian culture and Giza pyramids. Giza pyramids have been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, and I would love to go back to Pyramids and Cairo in a heartbeat. When I visited Giza pyramids, I was mesmerized by the engineering marvel of ancient world and it met my expectation fully but there were also few things that really disappointed me from overall experience perspective.

First, I want to clarify that idea behind documenting this experience is not to discourage anyone to visit Giza pyramids or reduce the image of this magnanimous monument. I simply want people, who like me are in awe of this ancient wonder of the world, to be more mentally prepared for a better experience.

Even though it was a dream come true to be able to stand next to them but it's also a fact that my overall experience was not as grand as the structures themselves. Visitor experience should be the priority of authorities managing such important sites. Because most of the visitors are like me, who wait many years to be able to visit.
I kept wondering if this monument was in Dubai, how different the experience would have been.
Here are the three things that I didn't like and should be improved.

1-No Plan or Structure:

First thing first there is absolutely no visitor plan available.  Giza Pyramid complex is huge and contains the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their associated pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx of Giza. So, its natural one would expect some kind of a visitor road map, some signage with information on site etc. but there is absolutely no lay out or fixed visitor track which makes it very hard for a tourist who wants to visit it all by himself,  your experience completely relies on how good the tour operator company that you have booked.

There is also no proper paved walkway instead you get uneven /broken ground and now imagine wheels getting stuck, things falling off and even carrying the fully loaded stroller, yes that’s what you will get when you will visit with a baby in a stroller. The whole complex is still in very primitive form. For me it was a little inconvenience but for a family with a baby in our group, it was a complete nightmare.

We all have seen those amazing pictures of all three pyramids next to each other but throughout the trip, I never found one view where all three are in line in one frame, later on I found our tour operator skipped that spot and instead took us to some other spot for full picture. And that’s how I missed my dream shot of the pyramids. I mean even Ikea store has directions like, on the right there is bed section and from bed if you don’t want to follow towel section to reach lights section, don’t worry, there is a shortcut which will save you time and effort. I wish there was some guideline available that mentioned, if you go right you get this view and make sure your tour operator takes you there.

2-Persistent Locals:

Usually tour operators start tour with the itinerary of tour, amazing sites that we will see, what time will be the lunch etc. But this one started with list of warnings and gist of them was, limit the interaction with locals as much as possible, probably not even smile or have an eye contact because if you do so, they will assume that you are willing to give them money. Long story short, our guide was like only look at the stuff being sold if you are willing to buy. Even if you are taking a picture and a smiling local comes and says let’s take a picture together, Don’t, because after the picture he will demand money and things can get unpleasant.

To be fair, in general people I met in Cairo were hospitable and friendly but most of the people I met expected some sort of reward for their help. My friend told me since revolution tourism is really low hence the situation low demand and high supply has been created which is causing such behavior.
Coming back to the experience at Pyramids, I must say our tour operator was right. My friend told me don’t show any one your ticket because foreigners get different tickets and thats how they figure out who is not from Egypt. As soon as I entered the complex (entering the complex was struggle on a different level too, story for some other time) a random man came and asked me to show the ticket and my friend came to my rescue and took my ticket from my hand , to which the guy who asked me ticket, tried to snatch the ticket from my friend's hand and in this tussle my ticket was torn in half and there my dream went down the drain of framing it to keep as a souvenir. After that I just stayed with the group, even though I really wanted to ride a camel and view the local souvenirs, but I just didn’t.

3-The Natural Fertilizer:

 We all have seen those lovely pictures of tourist posing with camels and horses next to pyramids. There were camel and horse tours of the complex available in very affordable rates, but what was also available with them was their waste all over the complex. Reminiscing the olden times when Nile used to flow next to the pyramids, there were little puddles of horse/camel pee along with little pyramids of horse/camel shit. This shouldn’t be the case when you visit your dream destination.
Despite of all above mentioned things , I still had an amazing time and would love to visit it again and this time will be more prepared.

This Post is based on my visit in 2018, I am not sure how things would be in 2020.


  1. Dear Hamza. I wanna thank you alot for sharing these constructive points about visiting Cairo.
    Honestly I don't remember if I was your guide or not but I so remember I was ur guide for Alex.
    Any way
    As Egyptian Egyptologist I invite you again to visit my Country. Just book your flights and ur hotels and I will arrange all ur tours in Cairo complementary and I will be your guide and I promise I will not let you down.
    I am available from 12 November to the beginning of March and you can choose any dates you like and this is serious invitation. I care about my country and I care about our reputation and I also believe guide can make it or break it.

    1. Sherif thanks alot. Yes you were my guide in Alexandria and that trip was superb. Thanks alot for offer but I just highlighted few points that are there from tourist who want to visit alone without guide , :) , Egypt is a beautiful place .

  2. I visited Cairo with my family sometimes early 80s and the picture you paint today was exactly the same then. The same bakhsheesh expecting locals and the same problems. The museum is quite an experience but then even more of Egyptian artefacts and mummies are displayed in museums in London. That we had visited earlier.
    Nevertheless quite an experience.

    1. Yeah Museum is good but also very overwhelming.
      And thanks for visiting the blog