No One Told Us This Was Illegal: Cairo, Egypt
Some may think that The Great Pyramid is the oldest pyramid in Egypt, but it’s not, a few days after visiting the Pyramids of Giza we set out to visit a site that included The Red Pyramid, The Bent Pyramid, the Black Pyramid (Dashur) and a third site with the Step Pyramid (Saqqara).
In case you are new here, we are Will and Katy. We are a travel couple that is traveling around the world. We are “DIYing” this Egypt trip, with no guides or tours. We thought going to visit these Dashur and Saqqara sites would have been as easy as visiting the Pyramids of Giza.
We took an Uber from Giza since we knew that Uber is the most affordable transportation, but as soon as we hit the road the driver tried to sell us an all-day car ride, saying he would wait for us at the pyramid and take us back since there would be no other form of transportation. We weren’t sure if that was true or not, so we just kept saying no thank you. Then he proceeded to tell us it was a long 5km walk in the desert and we couldn’t walk from the entrance of the site where we pay for our tickets to the actual pyramids. Which we said to that, no thank you, we can walk it, the distance is not a problem for us. Unfortunately, this is where language can be a barrier. We kept understanding him saying that it was not going to be easy for us to walk, but to our surprise, when we arrived at Dahshur, the guards there told us that it is ACTUALLY ILLEGAL for tourists to walk from the entrance to the pyramids because we would be walking through a military zone! Also, why is there a military zone near a historical, tourist destination!? We are still wondering that! Ok, so NO ONE communicated that to us. Both the staff guy at the hotel, who was trying to sell us a private car (when we arrived), and our Uber driver, told us that it’s “not possible” to walk in the desert, not that it is illegal. So we were left with no other option but to have our Uber driver drive us through the grounds of Dashur. He said he would not charge us for wait time, and once we were done in Dashur he could take us to Saqqara, wait for us, and then take us back to Giza…. and that we could pay him whatever we would like. Ok, so we absolutely hate that, because they already have an expectation of how much they want to receive, and we weren’t planning on paying for a private car to be with us all day. We continued with our plans of visiting the pyramids while hoping the Uber driver would keep his word on paying him “whatever” we like. Despite the confusion getting to the Dahshur site, we were glad to have visited it. Seeing the Black and Bent Pyramids allowed us to see the first attempts of the Egyptians trying to build pyramids. We couldn’t walk up to the Black Pyramid because there was a big dune valley that wrapped around it, acting like a moat. This pyramid was from a dynasty earlier than the Great Pyramid. The Bent and Red Pyramid were from the same dynasty as the Great Pyramid. You can see on the bent one how as they were a little more than halfway finished they changed the way they were building it, which is why it’s bent. We were going to go inside this pyramid, but as we began to descend the pathway down was more narrow, and there was a couple that was returning from the tomb room, they said it was a far path and it looked the same as the pyramids in Giza. So we quickly decided to turn around and not make the full descent. We then went a km over to the red pyramid, which didn’t look red at all, even when we walked up to it, it looked more brown.
From Dahshur we went to the Saqqara site, this entry cost included visiting the Step Pyramid and a museum. When we walked out to see the Step Pyramid, we knew we didn’t want to spend as much time here, because we didn’t want to keep the Uber driver waiting, we did want to give him extra for waiting, but not for too long! So as we walked up we asked a security guard there for directions on which way to enter, to which we gave us a “guide.” We said we did not need a guide, but this older man insisted on showing us around.
As we started we realized it was actually a good idea for him to walk us around and explain things quickly since we didn’t want to be there too long. He was able to show us all the grounds and explain quite a bit in less than 30 minutes. But at the end, as we had expected he asked for a tip, which we were planning on doing so, but the tip we gave him, he complained that it wasn’t enough. We were stern and said we had nothing else (because we knew we needed money for the Uber driver). Visiting the Saqqara site was the coolest and Will’s favorite. Not very many people and we were able to see original hieroglyphics on the walls instead of in a museum. We didn’t expect that at all! This site also had a small, but interesting museum filled with artifacts and even a mummy!
We wrapped up our visit and made the drive back to our hotel in Giza. All the while discussing in the backseat with one another how much would be fair to give the Uber driver. We arrived and we pulled out the cash and told the driver, this is all we can afford to give you, and instead of being grateful, he asks for more, he says that is too little. It's really frustrating because we gave him more than the average Egyptian in Cairo makes in a day, and he only "worked for 3 hours"! If he had a number in his mind he should have said so from the beginning. We were firm and told him we have nothing else, and we got out of the car. Aside from these men trying to get us to give them more money, we really did enjoy visiting the Dahshur and Saqqara sites, we just wish the Egyptians are more straightforward with you, which they are not. So just expect that! Until next time... What could possibly be next?