An Experience in Giza, Without Giza

An Experience in Giza, Without Giza

I’m sure that many of you have dreamed of seeing The Great Pyramids of Giza, and once there, you felt like it was a dream come true. Having studied Egyptian Architecture, and thanks to my love for Egyptian history, I had that same dream.  And well, recently it became true, but not how I had envisioned it.

The Pyramids of Giza were the first ancient Egyptian building I got to see in person.  They were my real-life introduction to the Old Kingdom. Once I got there, I couldn’t wait to get in and start marveling on these massive funerary structures.

My guide asked me if I wanted the short version or the long version of the history behind the pyramids.  I wanted the long version, and even a longer one if it existed.

The Pyramids of Giza were built by the Pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure (Biggest, medium, and smaller pyramid, respectively from left to right in the picture below – father, son, and grandson, also respectively).

The Pyramids of Giza

Egyptologists believe that Khufu’s pyramid was built as a tomb and it took around 20 years to build, concluding around 2560 BC.  The pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure followed between 2520 and 2472 BC.

Initially, at 146.5 meters (480.6 ft), the Great Pyramid (Khufu’s) was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years.

It was early, still quite chilly on a February morning.  The sun was high.  Shining but not warming.  Khufu’s pyramid stones played with the sunlight by creating shadows that distinguished each step, stone by stone.

The Pyramids of Giza

Originally the pyramids didn’t look this way.  They had a smooth casting stone surface that covered the stones we see today – much like we see on the top of Khafre’s pyramid.   The top and the base were painted and decorated with hieroglyphs.  On the very top, there was a metal tip (probably gold) that glistened under the sun, making the pyramids visible for miles and miles – and making them a target for looters too.

There’s one rule every guide will tell you when you visit Giza; “No matter what, ignore the vendors.  Don’t even make eye contact.”  And this I did.  The tactic worked smoothly, until this one vendor, who I’ll call Khalid, approached me intently while I was taking pictures of Khufu’s pyramid.

The Pyramids of Giza

Like every other vendor, Khalid wanted to sell me his ordinary, touristic, knock-off merchandise.  And like every other vendor, I ignored him.  He wouldn’t give up.  He followed me along the side of the pyramid, getting pushier with each step.

At that point, I had to break my silence and asked him to back off.  He wouldn’t.  He got closer to me and starts patting his merchandise on my chest, saying it was free.

“Free, take it, free, free!”

That annoyed me, so I shouted him to back off.

Huh, it worked!  He backed off immediately.  About five minutes later I realized why he backed up so easily.  He had stolen my iPod.  What I didn’t notice at the time was that while he was pushing his merchandise on my chest, he was pushing his hand in my jacket pocket to steal the iPod.

I was furious!

I went back to the rear part of Khufu’s pyramid, where the incident happened and hunted Khalid down.  He was nowhere to be seen.  With my guide, I alerted the police and let them know about the incident.  Turns out that one of Giza’s security guard had seen the incident as it happened, live and in Technicolor.

“Perfect!”, I thought, he’s my alibi and I’ll get my iPod back!

But, I forgot one thing, I was in Egypt, and like it or not, most people you come across in touristic places are highly crooked.  It’s all about milking the tourist.

The police found Khalid and searched him, without my presence… hmmm.  As soon as I was notified of this, I knew my iPod would never be found.  Either Khalid stashed it somewhere safe or passed it to one of his accomplices, or the police made a deal with him (highly probable) in order to let him keep the iPod.   I lean for the latter, but I’ll never know.

With no hopes of finding my iPod at the “scene of the crime”, I’m sent to the nearest police station to make a police report.  I had two options, either do a regular report or do an accusation.

I wanted to make an accusation (and the police “wanted” me to do that one, at first).  At the end of filling all the forms (written in English and translated by them into Arabic), the police gathered and started discussing “something” in Arabic, of course.

After maybe ten minutes of discussion, the story changed…  They don’t want me to do an accusation; they want me to do a regular report and claim, “I lost my iPod”.  WTF?!!  I wasn’t willing to do that.

“Hello?! Didn’t one of you guys see the theft happening?! How on earth do you expect me to take the blame?!”

The police didn’t want to help any more on the matter, and they were only willing to do a regular report with me taking the fault.  I definitely knew my iPod was never to be seen again, so I didn’t bother.  Well, I did the silly, let-me-waste-my-time-report just for insurance purposes.

The report was in Arabic… great!  My insurance won’t accept that.

After spending a whole morning in this situation, I went back to Giza to finish seeing Khafre and Menkaure’s pyramids, and the Sphinx.  During the rest of my visit I was kind of bummed and slightly pissed.

No one came close to me for the rest of the day, except for this one guy who wanted to scam me of my entrance ticket at the Sphinx.  He didn’t know I was a ticking time bomb and that I had so much rage as potential energy that would snap at any moment.

The Pyramids of Giza

The guy took my ticket off my hand (he’s not an official worker).  I asked kindly, but in a serious tone, to get my ticket back.  He ignored me.  Oh no, he did the two things that piss me off the most: getting ignored and being fooled/scammed.

BOOM!!  My rage fell on him, with absolutely no compassion…  I didn’t get physical, but I was strong verbally, had no filter, and told him how people like him are the worst thing that could happen to Egypt.  How they ruin people’s experiences by trying to milk money out of them.

How they’re ruining themselves by treating visitors like if they’re only cash cows.  How they should learn to treat tourist to feel welcomed in their country and not hassle them, especially now that the country is in a shit-hole.

How deeper they would be in that shit-hole if it weren’t because of the rich heritage they have and how much tourism it brings to their country…

Not a word back… he wasn’t expecting all that.  I ripped my ticket off his hand and left.  I had had enough of Giza.

Obviously, my visit was not the typical Giza visit.  I admit I did not enjoy it at all, though I still consider the pyramids as must-see sight while in Egypt.  Ancient Egyptian history is always interesting, no matter what.

Next time, I’ll be more careful and won’t allow anyone get close to me. Yes, there will be a next time for me at the pyramids.

Tip: Pockets closed all the time, ignore all sellers, and keep them at a distance if they intend to approach you.

Have you had any bad experience at a touristy site?

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13 thoughts on “An Experience in Giza, Without Giza”

  1. Ugh. They chased me and Jaime all the time. That totally sucks. I was not incredibly impressed with Giza anyhow. I’m sorry for your ipod.

    Hoping you get to go back and have a calmer experience.

    1. hahaha… I can picture you and Jaime avoiding them. I have to admit that among all the ancient monuments, the pyramids are indeed not the most impressive, but they are quite cool so see firsthand.

  2. See, it’s all the stories like this (and it seems like almost everyone has one!) that turn me off visiting the Pyramids. It sucks that you can’t just go to enjoy the history, but have to be on your guard the whole time!

    1. I too believe almost everyone has a not so pleasant experience or bugging tale about the pyramids. It’s a shame, because the pyramids are true heritage and history that is worth knowing about. The Egyptians are the ones who have to step up to improve this situation if they want to keep their heritage alive and shared throughout the world.

  3. Sorry to read this happened to you, especially in a place you looked forward to seeing. I understand that sellers want to make money, but to chase you around while you’re taking photos, let alone to steal from your jacket… I can see how this would make you angry, both about the cost of the iPod and the contents it contains. I think it’s sad the Egyptian police goes along with this since they’re hurting their own country as well. I liked that you put an emphasis on how this was not necessarily the regular Giza experience and that you’ll go back. I hope next time you’ll have a better experience.

    1. Ayelet, that’s my opinion too. Yes, they stole my iPod and it pissed me off. But, the ones getting hurt the most are them, because this is the impression they are creating on themselves and acts like those are the ones that will slowly keep people away, and leave the sellers with less money eventually. I believe they have to learn how to deal with people…

  4. This all sounds far too familiar… I remember them ripping my entry ticket out of my hand both at the gate and at the Sphinx and me having to fight to get it back. And I remember the obnoxious vendors, though I was fairly good at avoiding them (my Canadian friend with me at the time who was not such a seasoned traveler was not so lucky, as he was thrust onto a camel in a costume (for “free”) and walked away having spent 100 pounds on it.

    All that said, I mostly enjoyed the visit to the pyramids. Maybe because I was with other people, we sort of found our own lingo and wandered away from the main path.

    I didn’t find the vendors at the pyramids though to be nearly as awful at the vendors in Luxor. I was about ready to deck one of them on the first day, especially the horse drawn carriage drivers who would incessantly follow me around and eventually shout “But I have to buy food for my horse!”

    Sorry to hear about your rotten experience!

    1. Aaron, the vendors in Giza and Luxor were equally annoying, in my experience. I also had the horse drawn carriage drivers follow me and bug me to ride with them. They even insulted me when I said no repeatedly. Sure, insult me, that will definitely make me want to ride with you! 😛

  5. We got a little infuriated due to the elaborate scam pulled on us at Giza plateau. We got in a taxi when exiting the train station at Giza and was about to pull out when another passenger jumped in the front seat, said something in Egyptian to the driver and off we went, he then turned and told us he was a teacher and his name was Omar Sharif (good start), he was supposedly on his way to a wedding and could we drop him off on route, we agreed. Once he knew our destination he decided to inform us that there were two ways in, the tourist way and the Egyptian way, We were adamant we would go the tourist way even though his way sounded hassle free and cheap. Eventually we got to his drop off which just happened to be his mate’s stables where we told by the taxi driver this was the entrance and left us down a dirt track listening to a very long and pressurising sales pitch which included telling us it would cost $100 each to go the tourist route and his camels were the cheapest alternative at $50. We could see the pyramids in the background so we decided we had got our bearings and walked 30 minutes to the entrance. It eventually cost us $9 to get in the tourist route. It did put a slight dampener on the whole experience, and of course the scams continued around the pyramids too, but that’s another story.

    1. Oh wow, so sorry to hear about your experience, though I’m not the least surprised it happened there. I think Egypt is one of the worst places on earth when it comes to scams and shady people. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true.

  6. Hey Norbert

    Sorry that this incident put a bad nasty in your mouth for Egypt! This is another one of my “to do list” places. I have dream of the Pyramids all my life! Its sad that this like this happen, it really puts people off going to places like this.. I guess you need to stop in Thailand first, get a few hidden zipped pockets then head back 🙂

  7. David from Travelscams.org

    Great article, thanks for the tips! Indeed, Egypt is a country that needs no introduction, with its gorgeous sweeping deserts as well as some of the most iconic structures on earth. However, the country has one of the highest numbers of tourist targeted scams globally.

    Do be wary of the unlicensed touts, papyrus scroll museums, camel handlers, tours with hidden extras, Valley of the Kings photography scam, show me your ticket scam, public beach scam, inflated prices, friendship gifts, postcard scam, scarf photo scam, entry visa scam, horse carriage scam, felucca scam, tourist menu scam and many more!

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