Our first night was spent at a middle quality hotel on the Israeli side of the border. The shower worked (although it had no seperate floor, there was just a drain in the middle of the bathroom. An interesting innovation, perhaps), the beds had no bugs, and we were safe. It was a fun night playing games, and some people took taxis to the Red Sea. Word is that there was some skinny dipping. Let it be known that I had nothing to do with that, haha :D
After crossing the border, which I explained in "Egypt 1," we went to Cairo and saw the Pyramids. It's funny, I always thought that they were in the desert a ways, but that is just because the pictures we see of them are facing away from Cairo. In reality, they are very close to residential areas and downtown Cairo.
The Pyramids were more impressive in person than I possibly imagined. Millions of tons of stone stacked perfectly, each block 2.5-5 tons, with hundreds of thousands of blocks. The pyramid of Khufu was the tallest man made structure in the world for 3800 years. They were built in about 2600 BC. Incredible. The inside was less than spectacular, a shaft running upwards to the middle, where and empty tomb room sat. No circulation of air, and thousands of tourists coming through is bad news. The gaurd out front offered me two hundred camels for the girl I was walking in back of. I declined the offer.
Egyptian religion surrounded the afterlife with an obsession that seems intense to me. Every aspect of the pyramids represented resurrection or eternal life or the afterlife or judgement, and as we learned about Egypt in our Ancient Near East class (from Professor Andrew Skinner, a well known scholar and Egyptologist), it was clear that life was good and fleeting and the afterlife was better and permanent for Ancient Egyptians. Everything revolves around judgement day, and having your heart weighed against the feather of Ma'at, which is truth, justice, goodness, balance, well-doing, and all sorts of other things like that. If your heart is heavy with mistakes and misdeeds, you are consigned to the underworld. If your heart is light, you enjoy the embrace of Osiris, the god of resurrection, and you may return to your body (which was why mummification and statue building was so important--either would work) and enjoy the afterlife and becoming one with Osiris, becoming a god yourself. If your body is destroyed, so is your afterlife. Bummer.
Anyways, the pyramids were incredible. So this is random: we watched a light and sound show at the pyramids, and there was an Egyptian bagpipe orchestra that performed there. Awesome. And I have a video of me dancing in front of the pyramids. Yes, ballroom in front of the pyramids. Woot.
The sphinx was cool and a bit smaller than I thought it would be, but I was not feeling very well at that point and do not remember anything. "Awesome: A big lion with a man's face," were my feelings at that point. Lots of people were lining up carefully to get pictures that looked like they were kissing the sphinx, positioning themselves just so that their heads looked similar in size and the lips were just right, and I almost stole a kiss from and unsuspecting Emily Page as she lined up her picture just right, haha. Fortunately I had mercy (and wisdom) enough not to engage in such frivolity :D