In Cairo, Alone Time With the Pharaohs

Cultured Traveler


The New York Times

As I stood alone in the silent, darkened King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza, staring into the sarcophagus that had been hollowed from red granite at least 4,500 years ago, my thoughts swirled.

Did this lidless box really once contain the mummy of the mighty Pharaoh Khufu? Did the pyramid’s architectural precision and celestial alignment suggest more than a burial chamber? Would my next encounter be with distant spirits or squinting tourists ducking into the entrance of the ancient stone room?

Little more than five years ago the chamber would have been crowded with visitors as, outside, swarms of tourists hoisted themselves up the massive beige blocks of the pyramid and convoys of tour buses snaked down the entrance road. On this fall day, though, it was mostly Egyptians in small groups milling about the base, only a handful of foreigners among them.

After the 2011 popular uprising in Egypt, tourism collapsed, especially in Cairo, Giza, Luxor and other cultural destinations along the Nile River. One of the unintended consequences is that in the chaotic metropolis of greater Cairo, you can enjoy the privilege of solitude at some of the world’s greatest historic sites.

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