Egypt is jam-packed with historical monuments, ancient temples, and artifacts that force you to consider how short your time is on Earth. When you are looking at a statue that has survived for thousands of years, it’s hard not to feel small and insignificant.
Perhaps no other monument in the Middle Eastern nation more epitomizes that impossibly long history than the Pyramids of Giza, a necropolis that dates back nearly 5,000 years and towers over the modern, rundown city of Giza next door.
It is the only one of the ancient seven wonders of the world still standing and, in 2007, 100 million people voted to select it as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
As a history buff, I’ve read more books about Ancient Egypt and seen more photos and videos of the Pyramids than I can remember. I even made a diorama of the Giza complex for a project in middle school.
But upon arriving in Giza after a week in Cairo, I caught my first glimpse of the Pyramids, a sight I had been waiting to see since childhood. I fully expected to be disappointed. How could it ever measure up to the Pyramids of my childhood dreams?
But the Pyramids are there, and they are very real and very big. Seeing them for the first time induces the distinct feeling of vertigo.
It hit me when I looked out from the balcony of my room at Pyramid Loft, a guesthouse in Giza that looks out onto the Pyramids. Here’s what it looked like:
In person and up close, the Pyramids tower nearly 500 feet over the landscape. It’s a constant reminder that no matter how much wealth and power you amass in your life, we’re all going to the same place. I’m looking at you, Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump.
A common complaint about visiting the Pyramids is that it’s not like how you imagine it because the complex sits right up against the dusty and crowded city of Giza. People claim to be disappointed that you don’t arrive from the desert by camel to find nothing but the pyramids for miles.
But for me, the presence of people living in the Pyramids’ shadow is enthralling. At the Pyramids’ feet, a monumental feat of ancient engineering slams into the advance of modern civilization. Time stops for no one, not even great Pharaohs.
Every night, the Egyptian government puts on a two-hour sound and laser light show, where the pyramids light up in all different colors as a booming voice tells stories of ancient Egypt. It’s a kitschy affair.
On my second night in Giza, I visited the Pyramid Loft Homestay, my guesthouse’s sister property, to watch the light show. That property had an even better view for the show, the owner told me.
The light show almost didn’t happen as it was raining for the first time in months. But then the storm cleared slightly and the pyramids were suddenly lit up in green and red and purple.
It ups how strange the view is. Check it out:
I won’t forget that sight anytime soon.
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