After a 12 hour Egypt Air flight from New
York, we were met at Cairo Airport by a representative from Egypt Online
Tours and escorted to our hotel....the Mena House in Giza.
Mena House Hotel
The Mena House is set on 40 acres of jasmine-scented gardens with the
Pyramids of Giza towering in the background. The hotel was originally
built in 1869 as a hunting lodge for Khedive Ismail, the King of Egypt.
As you can see from the pictures, the hotel is stunning and in a fantastic
Each morning we had breakfast at an open air restaurant with a view of
the pool and the pyramids....what more could you ask for!
Just to give you an idea how wonderful this hotel is, after our return
from touring the Giza Plateau on Wednesday, the hotel surprised me by
delivering a delicious chocolate ganache birthday cake to my room.....I
was so busy with touring, that I had completely forgotten what day it
was until the cake arrived....I love this hotel!!!
On the first day of our tour, we met Tamer (our driver) and Ahmed (our
tour guide) and headed off to Memphis situated about 12 miles southwest
Memphis served as the capital of Upper and Lower Egypt some 5,000 years
ago during the 1st Dynasty. Though little remains of this Pharonic city,
the open air museum here has a hugh fallen image of Ramses II.
Sakkara is one of the most exciting historical and archaeological areas
in all of Egypt. It is also the site of many tombs from the 1st and 2nd
Dynasties. Most are made out of mud bricks, but some tombs are made of
limestone, decorated with daily life scenes.
The site is dominated by the famous step pyramid of King Zoser. It was
the first pyramid to be built in ancient Egypt, preceding those at Giza
by many centuries, and is the work of the famous architect, Imhotep.
We also visited the Pyramid of King Titi the founder of the sixth dynasty,
and were allowed to go inside. You enter through a steep, small step-ramp
down a 4ft high by 5 ft wide tunnel until you are well underground.
This tomb has one of the earliest representations of the Egyptian "Book
of the Dead".
After the morning tour, we stopped for lunch at a local
restaurant and watched the women making fresh bread. One of the things
we wanted to do while in Egypt was to gain some insight into Egyptian
culture as well as history. One way we thought we could to do this was
to eat Egyptian food whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Our first experience with Egyptian food was with "mezzah", or
appetizers, which appear at the beginning of almost every meal, or are
eaten on their own as a form of snack or light dinner. The entire Middle
East has a vast repertoire of dozens of different “mezzah”,
but common to all is eating from communal plates with the local tasty
bread, or “aish”. Our favorites were Hummus
(mashed chick peas, tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon and olive oil),
Baba Ganoush (grilled, mashed eggplant, garlic, tahini
and lemon), Mehamerah (walnut paste , green peppers and
olive oil), Vine Leaves (grape leaves filled with rice,
parsley and herbs) Chicken Shawerma (thinly sliced marinated
chicken wrapped in a pita with garlic, sumac and onions) and finally,
Koshari (pasta, rice, lentils, chick peas, garlic and
onions in a spicy tomato sauce)
Suprisingly, Egyptian deserts are also quite good. Some are "baklava"
type phillo dough pastries, others are light fruit filled pound cakes.
They even make a great rice pudding!
The afternoon began with a visit to the Giza Plateau. The Great Pyramid
(Pyramid of Khufu) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in
the Giza Necropolis. When it was built, the Great pyramid was 481 ft high.
Over the years, it lost 30 ft off its top. It was ranked as the tallest
structure on Earth for more than 43 centuries. The structure consists
of approximately 2 million blocks of stone, each weighing more than two
Standing at the base of the Great Pyramid, you are immediately impressed
by the sheer size of the thing. It's hard to believe that that it could
have been built in 2560 BC.
A few hundred yards south-west of the Great Pyramid is the slightly smaller
Pyramid of Khafre, one of Khufu's successors who is also considered to
be the builder of the Great Sphinx, and a few hundred yards further south-west
is the Pyramid of Menkaure, Khafre's successor.
In a depression to the south of Khafre's pyramid at Giza sits the Great
Sphinx, a huge limestone creature with the head of a human and a lion's
Ahmed told us that the Sphinx was buried in the sand for most of its life.
It was King Thutmose IV (1425 - 1417 BC) who placed a stela between the
front paws of the figure. On it, Thutmose describes an event that occurred
while he was still a prince. He had gone hunting and fell asleep in the
shade of the sphinx. During a dream, the sphinx spoke to Thutmose and
told him to clear away the sand. The sphinx told him that if he did this,
he would be rewarded with the kingship of Egypt. Thutmose carried out
this request and the sphinx held up his end of the bargain.