For as long as I can remember, I had been drawn to seeing The Great Pyramids of Giza. Growing up seeing photos, hearing stories, and watching movies (both documentaries and horror) led to a deep fascination with visiting one of the oldest civilisations on earth and a seventh wonder of the ancient world.
You must put it on your bucket list and go, walking around everywhere. One is humbled by the 5000 years of civilisation and all the ‘human’ stories that lived during that time.
As my wife and I have a few more funds than when we were younger, we were able to take on a half-day tour through Viator.com, “all-inclusive Private Trip Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Camel-Ride, Lunch, Entrance fees” with an air-conditioned car/driver and English speaking tour guide (Gina who is theoretically an Egyptologist) who was excellent value, I’d suggest contacting Gina direct ( Gina Emil Refky – email@example.com ) as you might getter a better deal direct.
Great Pyramids of Giza Tour
We decided on the 9 am pick-up time. Gina was very proactive in ensuring that we were picked up on time. Since we were so close to the Pyramids, I’m not sure we needed the car/driver side of things, but it was nice to be driven up. It gave Gina the opportunity for introductions and to start our Egyptology education. We did the tour on a Friday. Avoid this day as it is considerably busier than usual, with lots of locals taking the opportunity to visit on one of their holidays.
One of the first benefits of having a local tour guide is how quickly one gains entry; Gina had purchased the extra tickets required (as we wanted to go inside the pyramid) and fast-tracked into the site within minutes. Gina then gave us a great history lesson on the Pyramids of Cheops and his son’s pyramid, the other one which is ‘bigger’ but built lower in the earth to be lower, before we did the obligatory photos from all angles before we entered into the pyramids.
Standing in front of Khufu Pyramid Giza.
Once inside the pyramids, there are some decent ascents similar to stair climbing, along with a 3-4 metre long 1-metre-high tunnel on final entry to negotiate; if you are physically able, I’d highly recommend going inside the queen’s tomb.
Standing on the Great Pyramid of Giza
We ascended the stones towards the entrance and needed to take care of many others, including many kids crawling all over the place, so although reasonably safe, you could fall if you didn’t get things right. Guards on the ‘robbers’ tunnel’ entry give a ticket tear, and in you go. A walk through the robbers’ tunnel until you get to the stairs. A steep ascent is reasonably wide to let people get past and go up and down, but there are sections where it is ‘single file’.
We had one gentleman rushing past not feeling well, and it can be claustrophobic, so make sure you take your time to adjust as you move through. Reaching the top is where you move through the tunnel and into the ‘Queens Chamber’. If you are lucky, you might get a short period where you can soak up the atmosphere alone. We did but after our initial dealings with the guard*.
Entering the Queen’s Chamber – Khufu Pyramid
On initial entry, it is a straight large granite stone room with a granite bench at one end with a light and air conditioner. Spiritually the room is powerful when taking in 4000 years of civilisation. As we were the 2nd coupe in the room and taking photos, the guard came over and offered to take our picture. We obliged and were happy with the result, I tipped Egyptian 50, and all was well. Being in such a special place, we decided to take a ‘moment’, which I like when looking at things like the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
The chamber filled with people and returned to only a few people. The guard found us again and began to give directions. He took us to the other side of the granite bench to sit down. He then cleared the chamber of the other tourists and gave us another moment of ‘meditation’ in the chamber alone – it was a special moment. We were on our way out with a few more photos and a more generous Egyptian £100 tip.
Inside Khufu Pyramid
Following the entry and education of the Cheops Pyramid, it was time to do a camel ride! One can use restrooms at the camels. Make sure you carry Egyptian £10 to get in. Cruising around the pyramids on camels is quite exhilarating. In some ways, you feel like you go back in time and experience camel riding in the Sahara Desert.
Once the camel lead gets to a point, he will also take photos, and they have a few tricks like ‘imaging’ you are holding huge rocks. The camels smell a bit, and we feel they could be looked after better, but it is an excellent experience to do.
Creative photography from our Camel Driver
The final part of the tour was the Sphinx, and this was pretty speedy and abrupt. Firstly, we seemed to be running late as we’d spent longer in the Queen’s Chamber than usual, but I’m not sure about that. Secondly, there were still many people, and finally, I think Gina was keen for us to visit the oil shop.
So just a few quick photos with Sphinx in the background, and off we were again. Earlier in the day, Gina had mentioned the ‘oil of life and love’ and teasingly gave a story about these oils and how they can enhance your life. With the initial sales teaser set, after seeing the Sphynx, Gina asked if we were interested in seeing and smelling the oils. Being drawn in, we said yes!
The Egyptian souvenir shops seem to have a tried and tested method of getting the best sales and are repeatable across all souvenirs. We were first given a demonstration of how they make the glass tumblers to burn the oils. We are absorbing and skilful, and we are then taken into a lovely room surrounded by glass tumblers and offered a drink (we recommend the juice).
A beautiful young lady then takes us through the various oils, smelling them and hearing the story behind them. We were enticed and bought more than expected, but they seemed Moorish. We purchased Lotus Flower, Papyrus Flower, a few others and a couple of tumblers. It was a good purchase, we use them quite a lot now, and it brings back lovely memories of our Egypt trip.
Cairo Oil Store
During the day, we had tipped the guard inside the Pyramid of Cheops chamber, the guard as we came out (he took some photos for us), and the camel driver and his lad. Now was time to tip Gina. How much to tip a guide who you have spent half a day with then? Initially, I gave Gina $20 US for herself and the driver, I can’t remember the vibe, but I gave her another $20 US, which made Gina very happy. She offered it all back, but as I didn’t know how right Gina was ended up with all of it. If I had my time again, I think $30 US, $20 US for Gina, and $10 US for the driver would be generous’.
We organised a quad bike session through the Pyramid Eyes hotel the following dayPyramid Eyes hotel. For everything, you can book on viator.com. You can also book through the hotel you stay at, but be careful. Although the rates should be similar, the hotel may add some ‘extra’ costs. If you are unhappy with what you get, you have a direct place for feedback.
Our driver picks us up around 5:30 pm, and we deliberately target the sunset timeslot, which is a beautiful time to go. Upon arrival, there is a waiting period until our bikes are ready. There were cars, camels, bikes, dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, and people up and down the road. It seems pretty mad at the time but incredibly exciting.
Track to the Sahara Desert
We’ve given a quick lesson, this one to go faster and that one to break. Our guide, a lad around 13-14 years old, jumps on with Candy and motions to me to follow—my first feel at driving in mayhem in Egypt and all the near misses. I have my GoPro 10 in 360 modes during this ride, which is exhilarating. You can see it [here]. The Egyptian police can be a bit funny. As we enter the Pyramid grounds, the officer tells me to remove my GoPro camera, but phones and other cameras seem OK!
In any case, we razzle into the Sahara Desert on our quads having great fun. We do some dunes climb and descents and round into an area which is quite surreal and like a ‘movie’ scene where the camels, horses and others have a rest.
Quad biking the Sahara Desert at Sunset
The lad is equally trained at taking photos with all the trimmings and takes us around what I assume is their designated ‘rally’ track.
Guess it depends on which company you get and which bike you have. Our quad bikes seemed to have the pyramids many times with quite a few miles. We stopped to let them cool down, and there appeared to be a few issues with gear, clutch and brakes. However, the lad seemed to get on top of things quite well.
After 45 minutes, we start heading back, and I sneak my GoPro camera back on for a bit a get some great footage of Candy and I buzzing around the Sahara Desert at sunset with the Great Pyramids of Giza and Cairo in the background. What an experience, absolutely fantastic day – put it on your bucket list.
- Every Egyptian tourist site has guards in most if not all areas. In my blog on Luxor, you can read the conflicts that occur. Essentially these guards will do anything to get money out of tourists, and they’ll offer to take photos mainly, try to give lessons, and do anything else they can to get tips. However, they are paid by the government, and they believe they give Egypt a poor name. I’m not privy to their salaries, but it can be problematic for tourists to go through this experience.