Wednesday afternoon on a hot day in late May is is a quiet time to visit the Great Pyramids which sits practically right in the city of Giza (not Cairo, though they’re very close). That particular day though, 4 months after Egypt’s revolution, was an especially slow one. The Great Pyramids, and Sphinx nearby, are notoriously tourist-tricky places to visit. They’re a healthy breeding ground for scams new and old; designed to pick off the uninitiated lost in their gazes of the only remaining ancient Wonders of the World.
Travelers arriving on their own, walking up to the Pyramids will find people on the street trying to lead you left, right, and any other direction aside from the correct one. This popular trick is found many places, Marrakesh for one, and is easily avoidable by walking up the hill toward the large, unmistakable rock triangles right in front of you. Pay your 60 Egyptian pounds (~$10) to enter and ignore all of the “tour guides” at the entrance. Also, it’s especially important to hold on to your ticket from a few grabbing hands and pass directly through the entrance gate.
It was within all of this commotion to enter I assumed I’d have to run the gauntlet once inside. Yet my entrance seemed to catch everyone off guard. Finally touts baking in the hot Egyptian sun, sitting along the asphalt roads, began approaching me one by one. (There seems to be a tout hierarchy based on age; the older ones get access to the fresh tourist meat.) A few got their chance and gave up one by one (no camel rides for me, thanks) and the rest really looked quite…bored.
- The camel, horse, and carriage touts also seemed noticeably subdued in their advances. I’m told part of the reason is due to the local backlash against them. Many of the touts, out of work during the revolution, were allegedly paid by government officials to incite violent. Scenes of rioters on camel and horseback riding through the crowds demonstrating in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were still fresh at the time.
I strolled around the Great Pyramids for nearly 2 hours before coming upon any other foreigners, vividly demonstrating how badly tourism has been hurt in Egypt since January 25th, which has seen a drop of 35% over the same time last year.
You can see more photos from the Great Pyramids in my gallery here.
Anil, this reminds me of when I visited Angkor Wat recently in the off-season. It was a lonely time for touts & tuk-tuk drivers as the tourists were few and far between – especially compared to when I had gone in peak season.
Being a Wednesday afternoon certainly made for much smaller crowds, though a few in the tourism boards there told me there were long stretches (especially in April) where there were no visitors. Something they hadn’t seen in their careers; figures show things have been slower than expected to recover. The fall elections likely won’t help either…but off season is really the best time to see most tourist places – not complaining about the lack of crowds toooo much 🙂
Cheers, for great timing and also for being able to wander freely without hordes of tourist groups. Off seasons are great but as you said, Egypt is going to be “off season” for few more seasons.
The political climate doesn’t bode well for tourism overall; but on the flip side will be good for the travelers who take advantage of the low prices and smaller crowds 🙂
Hey Anil, I think it’s better when there is less people. It makes you feel like you’re Indiana Jones and the crowds of people are just excavators for your dig site. When I was 16, I snuck into these pyramids after hours with a crazy Irish guy who was actually Belgian. He believed in Atlantis and told me that there existed a secret hall of records under the Sphinx that would reveal the truth about Atlantis and the history of the world. So, for a few nights, we jumped the fence, evaded drowsy Egyptian security guards and waited at the Sphinx with the hope that it would open. Unfortunately, it never did. But I am pretty sure that my friend goes back there often.
haha, that’s a crazy story – have you written about that in more detail? I’d love to check it out. Too bad about the Sphinx though, maybe better luck looking for the Holy Grail in Petra? I’ll be super disappointed if I go and there isn’t an 800 year old knight in there… 🙂
lol, I am going to go back and give it another try! I am working on a book about my adventures and this one will def be in it. Hey, when is the Ultimate Train Challenge? Have you guys already left?
I look forward to that read when you get it done 🙂
As for the The Ultimate Train Challenge, it begins on September 1rst.
Wow – empty Egypt…what a crazy site.
Bet it was much more crowded when you were there? Even Khan el-Khalili market was bare.
Hi there, I am going to book a trip to Egypt in December. I am not sure whether it is safe there in Cairo.
Things can change so I would recommend checking back. Since I haven’t been in some time, I’ll ask on Twitter for you and hope to have some feedback soon.