Note: The following story has been translated from my Greek book ‘From Cape Town to Alexandria’ narrating an overland trip from side to side of the African Continent.
Under no circumstances could I let this opportunity to pass without paying a visit to Giza and its pyramids. So, very early one morning, having started at dawn to avoid the traffic, I was passing beside the welcoming Sphinx and I was ascending that corridor, watching those pyramidal tombs swelling in my sight as I was getting closer to them.
What an unparalleled emotion does one experience just by being present in that outstanding place! To be walking on the hot Saharan sand between these prominent, tremendous monuments which were primeval even to the ancients; which have inspired awe to so many people throughout history, and to many more before history began to be written; which have excited the imagination of so many generations of mystics; and all sorts of folks have traveled there throughout the centuries to admire, study, and plunder them.
Since the very first time I remember becoming aware of their existence, an idea has always been circling in my head every time I would face them on a screen or a photograph: to climb them. But now that I was there staring at them with naked eye in front of me, I realized that carrying out this idea would not be such an easy task. It is strictly forbidden to climb even the first levels of them. Inscriptions here and there warn about it and threaten with high fines and penalties.
For quite some long time was I settled under that one Pyramid of Menkaure: the third and the lowest of the three main ones: and I was pondering what chances I had to make it to the top and back down again without being noticed. And every time I was just about to make the dash, some tourist group, patrol, or anyone whatever would suddenly appear, forcing me to wait.
I confess I was ready to give up, as I wasn’t given any good chance and the crowd was getting thicker. It was then that I noticed that dressed-in-white cop heading straight toward me, slowly, sitting cross-legged on a nonchalant camel. When he had approached me enough for me to be able to distinguish his countenance, something in the manner he was twirling his mustache, something in his foxy smile and his glowing eyes… he inspired to me a certainty that he is gonna be my man.
I wasn’t wrong… He kneeled the camel beside me, we exchanged a little preliminary talk, and: “Do you want to go up?”, he said, pointing to the top of the pyramid. We bargained it a bit, and we finally agreed on fifty pounds (4 euros more or less) – He also told me that an American once paid him two hundred dollars for the same reason! He asked some of his colleagues over the radio not to let people access the spot for some minutes; he pointed to the side from which I should go up so that I could not be seen with the binoculars from the watchtower; he warned me not to raise my head above the last block for the aforementioned reason… and I darted!
Without stop, I was jumping over the blocks one at a time. In their full height, the blocks reached up to about my jaw. But in the most of them, I could make use of the various cracks and fissures for steps to aid the ascent. Before I knew it, I had covered all the sixty metres up to the peak of the pyramid. And I was sitting up there stooped behind the head block, as the cop had recommended.
The view was astonishing! The pyramids of Khufu and Khafre appeared much smaller than before, while the smaller pyramids and the rest of the complex’s buildings did not now seem larger the Lego pieces. To the west, wild and imposing, the arid Sahara spread to the distance. To the east, I could from up there see the traveling Nile and the monstrous city that surrounds him, blurrily behind the thick, black cloud of exhaust gas that covered the entire eastern horizon.