Two things not to miss, the Pyramids and the Museum. Managed the pyramids on day two, and pretty groovy they are. An exercise in different cultures, though, from start to finish. Like the cab there and back, with a three hour wait while we wandered about, was just over ten bucks. For two. But the chap who negotiated the trip itself demanded over $100. Each. That he settled for $90 raises the question: were we ripped off, if we thought it was worth it?
Colleagues were firmly of the opinion that we had indeed been ripped off. I think not. There was the fiery Arab steed for a start, which I sat on for a good two hours. There was the guide, whose profound love of horses was evident in the way he willingly traded his own bridle with me when the reins came apart in my hands. And he knew how high each of the pyramids was. Finally, there was the priceless opportunity to daydream, to say quietly under my breath at every opportunity, “I am Bedu. I drink when you drink.” So yes, worth it.
But what a folderol! The young guy, the one with the mobile phone who took our money, on learning we were English, immediately exclaimed “Tally Ho! Lovely jubbly!” And he did so again and again throughout his spiel, like an incantation to the ancient gods of tourist loosening. So did almost everyone else around the pyramids, though not, that I recall, anywhere else. Where did the locals get the idea that the English say Tally Ho! and Lovely Jubbly! all the bleedin' time? (And parenthetically, how come news of the Hunt Sabs' Success hasn't made it to Giza?) I imagine that no English persons would ever be so impolite as to correct their local hosts. But how do the Egyptians deal with, say, Germans? “Achtung, Schweinhund!” Or the French, zut alors! Olé toreador. Yasu nafti. Or am I just displaying my own, English, prejudices?
While the young guy sent a boy to find the man who would find the horses, we were ushered into the inner sanctum of the Perfume Museum, where another gentleman ascertained our origins (Tally Ho! Lovely Jubbly!) and then took us through the delights of lotus flower oil, sandalwood, a concoction for men, called Ramses, and another called Tutankhamun. Best of all was a lurid blue liquid to be used only by women, and only after midnight.
“She put one drop here, one drop here, one drop there,” said the chemist/salesman, miming the eternal golden triangle, “and you have erection like this” — another, universal, mime — “three hours, I promise. Egyptian Viagra!”
Oh, how we laughed. But we succumbed, too, not to the lapis aphrodisiac but to the lotus flower oil. And after that, of course, the second choice was half price. Another rip-off? This time, probably yes.
After all that it was a relief to swing a leg over and get going, our guide unaccountably taking us through a back passage where banknotes eased our entry. Similar exchanges took place from time to time with policemen unaccountably roaming the sands on their official issue camels (better than a Panda, arf arf).
As for the pyramids themselves, there's not a lot one can say without sounding foolish. They are impressive. I'm glad I went.