[More from my wife, Amy, on our visit to Cairo for the Imagine Cup competition.]
Sunday, the kids and I went to Saqqara (pronounced "Sakara") which is just south of Giza. There is a tomb with wonderful carvings on the walls of daily Egyptian life (no photos allowed), a deeper underground tomb that we could go down into (see pictures on Facebook) with a black stone sarcophagus. The main attraction is the Step pyramid. It pre-dates Giza. The steps are called mustafas and one would have been a common burial tomb, but this pharaoh wanted to make an impression and had multiple mustafas built on top of each other to represent the sun and rays (which lead to the standard pyramid shape). The shape is based on the sun, Ra, (top or peak) and the rays coming down to the earth combined to form a pyramid shape. From the Step pyramid, you can see about a mile away south to Dasr where the “Bent” pyramid is (see pictures). The builder got the angle wrong and "bent" the pyramid inward 2/3 of the way up. Needless to say, the pharaoh was not happy and ordered construction of another one next to it.
Pyramids or burial tombs can be found up and down the Nile, but only on the western side. As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, they believed that was representative of the life cycle. So tombs are set in the west where the sun or life ends. There are over 115 discovered “pyramids” at this time. It is estimated that only 25 to 35% of Egypt’s antiquities have been discovered.
We also went to a papyrus shop and learned how the ancient Egyptians made paper out of the plant. We went to a carpet school where youth are taught to weave and knot carpets by hand.
Jeff finished his work in the afternoon, we went to the pool for awhile, then he slept through dinner until the morning.
Yesterday, Monday, we were at the pool during the day and then went to the Khan el Khalili bazaar in the evening. It is the old spice trade route market dating back to the 11th and 12th century. It is a site and experience that cannot really be described. It was crazy, noisy, trashy, pushy salesmen, and local shoulder to shoulder, but very colorful and full of energy. Jeff was offered ten camels for me. I was not flattered.
Today, we are going back to Giza this afternoon and evening for the Microsoft Imagine Cup closing ceremonies and a night time light and sound show at the Sphinx. Right now am sitting pool side, lounging.