Cairo: The Pyramids and a valuable lesson learnt

Posted on March 11, 2010

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On  our second day in Cairo we went to the pyramids. We were hugely disappointed in the whole experience but if you are reading this blog before you go, you won’t be. We had met a great taxi driver on the way from the airport – an honest guy (so we thought), called Mostafa, who was hugely interesting and telling us all about his culture and the way of life in Egypt. He offered us a price of E£200-E£250 per half day as a guide so we decided to take him up on the offer. So he met us to drive us to the pyramids. He was his chatty self on the way there and we discussed other trips the next day and him taking us to the airport on our way back home, we wanted to give business to goo local guys, rather than tour companies.

When arriving at the pyramids he asked us if we wanted a camel or horse to go around the pyramids. My friend isn’t a horse rider and not a fan of camels but he told us it was a large area and impossible to walk. He also told us that the ride should be about E£100-E£150 each. When we got there, mounted on a ‘lively but not crazy’ horse for me and ‘quiet’ for my non riding friend at a place that we could ‘trust’, we were asked for E£200 each. We finally agreed on E150 each including the entrance fee.

We set off to the back side of the pyramids, with my horse having several bucking and rearing tantrums. I asked to switch horses before we got onto open land where he could take off with or without me. That was a good choice, he proceeded to go nuts as we went through the gate.

We were given the tickets. They were genuine but tickets that had obviously been used a number of times before. They had a great scam going with the guards at the back entrance!

The guides, raced around and found it entertaining to whip my friends horse, knowing full well that she couldn’t ride.  She was terrified and we had to ask them three times to stop. We saw similar behaviour with another group, resulting in horses kicking each other, and one of the riders who had dismounted. We noticed as we heard the scream. We made it back in one piece, mainly due to us as getting off the horses and walking the last bit. The guide, who hadn’t actually told us anything about the pyramids still asked for a baksheesh (tip).

In fact, many people were walking the pyramids, it is just fine to do that! If you do go, I wouldn’t recommend taking the horses but if you do want an experience, negotiate a decent fee on a camel (this shouldn’t be any more than E£100 each, if they say no, just walk away and you will usually get the price you ask for)

Unimpressed with his advice and choice of partner, we told Mostafa about our experience. He mentioned it to the owner and then drive off. He went to pains to tell us that he couldn’t believe that we had that treatment and that we should have spoken to the tourist police about the used tickets, but it was too late as we were on our way home. Hmmm.

We had a long negotiation when we got back. I wasn’t prepared to pay the E£200 as he hadn’t been our guide and had given us bad advice. Besides, he would have got a good baksheesh from the stables we went to. He asked for E£150 which we gave him with a parting remark about how we thought that was too much but were keen to finish for the day and if he could look himself in the mirror and be fine with it, then it’s fine by us. He gave us E£30 back and told us that he is good with his God.

The pyramids weren’t quite the experience we were expecting but have given us a story to come back with! If you go, learn from our lesson and I am sure you’ll love the magnificent and quite amazing world heritage site.

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Posted in: Egypt