My Inner Peace

What’s left of Memphis, the first capital of Egypt, and the Magic Stepped Pyramid of Djoser

Back to the car, we went directly to Memphis, the first capital of Egypt established when the unification of the Lower Egypt with the Old Kingdom (Upper Egypt) happened around 1300 B.C. What used to be at a certain point one of the greatest cities of the ancient world, is looking now like a poor village. And it makes you wonder how did we came up with this concept we are so proud of… ”humanity evolution”? Each time I enter a place where I am amazed by the details and the greatness of huge structures and temples staying there for centuries and built in such a way that the modern technology is not able to do it, I cannot help it to ask myself ”where is the evolution of human kind?”. Usually, these places are in the middle of poor communities that lack normal living resources, places full of trash and poverty, and you go there staring at these structures and wondering what happened with this civilization and where are its heirs?

Open-Air Museum, Sphinx, Memphis, Egypt

I don’t have an answer to this question, but what I can tell you is what you could see in Memphis. There is this historical Open-Air Museum where you can see a huge statue of Ramses II missing both feet, that’s why it is exposed in horizontal position. However, there is a colossus of the same king that was very well preserved and a Sphinx in a better shape than the one from the Giza Plateau weighing 80 tones. Moreover, you can witness different granite statues, coffins and tablets dating from various periods of time. And the cherry on top, there are some alabaster stands inside the museum, where you can buy different small statues. One is Ibrahim’s stand and from the entrance he insisted to go and see his shop. I was in a good mood, so I went, telling him I will not buy anything, but I took a picture of him and his stand to show it to the people reading this story.

What I didn’t know at that time, was the fact the Cairo and its surrounding have better prices then Luxor. So, if you go there, you may want to buy your souvenirs in the Lower Egypt (Northern part of Egypt: Cairo, Alexandria, etc.). We didn’t as we wanted to visit first and think about shopping at the end, and we felt a bit ripped-off by the Luxor’s merchants, even if we bargained a lot.

Open-Air Museum, Ramses II, Memphis, Egypt

We’ve spent literally 10 minutes inside the museum as we had on our agenda to visit the Pyramid of Djoser and the Giza Plateau by the end of the day. So, we went back to the car and headed towards the Saqqara necropolis where the Stepped Pyramid of Djoser was waiting for us. In the car, Esra gave us clear instructions not to speak with anyone offering us a tour of the site as they will ask us for money at the end, and obviously not to buy things from the touristic objectives as the prices are sometimes 10 times higher than usual or even more. And this is just because you are a tourist and you are supposed to have a lot of money with you. I have a funny story about this kind of local behaviors, so stay tuned.

Stepped Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara Necropolis, Egypt

Once we entered the site, we were assaulted by different men trying to act like a guide of the site. They were too invasive for my taste, but we’ve managed to get rid of them. After passing the impressive columns from the entrance, here it is the beautiful Stepped Pyramid of Djoser, a six-stepped structure of 62.5 meters height, built in the 27th century B.C. as a burial place for the Pharaoh Djoser. The pyramid was restored for 14 years and it looks amazing! It was opened for visitors in March 2020, so to be honest I feel very grateful for choosing this year to visit Egypt and go there. The entire archeological site looks great. We first went to see the surroundings of the pyramid, and to take some pictures.

We didn’t plan to go inside as we were trying to move fast to arrive in time to the Giza Plateau that day. But, God has always other plans for you, so at a certain point I felt this attraction of seeing what’s inside. And we approached another couple asking a man if we could visit the pyramid inside as well. The man was the husband of a Romanian lady, so we started to talk about the place, about our home country while the man was opening the door for us. The site was supposed to close at 3 pm, and the closing schedule was there, so everyone was rushing us to leave the place as soon as possible, but not this man that open the door of the pyramid for us.

Stepped Pyramid of Djoser inside passage, Saqqara Necropolis, Egypt

We entered this passage more easily to walk in as it was horizontal and very well restored, compared with the one of the Red Pyramid in Dahshur. Here could enter any person as there is no struggle. It is like a walk in the park, but instead of trees and vegetation, you have stones. 😊 This passage leads to a chamber from where you can see 30 meters down another chamber that was closed. actually, when we went around the pyramid, we’ve seen another entrance lower underground but it was closed and the same man opening this side of the pyramid for us told us that is it is closed for visitors. I don’t know why and he never said why, but at a certain point that side of the pyramid was opened as there are various visitors’ pictures online.

Never mind… I guess that side was not for us, so we enjoyed the upper side of the pyramid and once our visit inside ended, we encountered outside the same rush coming from other people taking care of the necropolis to leave fast as they had to close the site.

Stepped Pyramid of Djoser surroundings, Saqqara Necropolis, Egypt

We went back to the car where Esra was waiting for us to drive us to the Giza Plateau. But before reaching the car, we took some pictures outside the site with the gate, and look what strange thing came out on camera on one of it. I swear we didn’t see any aliens there, nor UFO’s, so… 😊

Stepped Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara Necropolis, Egypt

We arrived quite fast as the Saqqara necropolis is located 30 kilometers south of Cairo, so we arrived at one of the entrances of Giza Plateau before 4:00 PM to have enough time to see the three pyramids. Normal schedule of Giza Plateau is from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, but guess what? We planned our visit to Egypt during Ramadan and we didn’t know that everything in the Lower Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria, etc.) is closing 2 hours before during Ramadan. Here, at the gate of Giza Plateau we understood why the people from the Stepped Pyramid of Djoser was rushing us to leave the place as soon as possible. The strange thing was that our driver, Esra, was not aware of this new schedule, otherwise we would have planned our journey differently.

Stepped Pyramid of Djoser surroundings, Saqqara Necropolis, Egypt

So, if you are planning to visit Lower Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria and surroundings) during Ramadan, take into account that everything closes 2 hours before the normal schedule. In the Upper Egypt (Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel etc.), there is no such a rule and the schedule of different sites are even more extended until 9:00 PM (Luxor and Kom Ombo Temples). But I will write a more practical article including the schedule hours of all the sites we’ve seen. Meanwhile, you can read some tips and tricks for a great DYI trip in Egypt.

Stepped Pyramid of Djoser guardian, Saqqara Necropolis, Egypt

To be continued…

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Dahshur Pyramids or where the Desert speaks from inner out

The thought of finally seeing the pyramids was increasing my blood pressure with each kilometer we were approaching. I was so keen to enter one of these structures, and in the same time, I was analyzing the traffic in and outside Cairo to understand why everyone is advising you not to drive in Egypt. To be honest it is not crazier than the traffic in India, and I was thinking I could get used to it. Afterall, when rules are not respected, you are entitled to do anything because no one could ever blame you, right? 😊 Maybe they could blame your tourist status or the fact that you are a woman, but not the fact that you don’t respect the rules. Long story short, I could drive in Egypt but I didn’t. I had a ”scared” friend with me that preferred not to rent a car without a driver, so here I am, unsatisfied with the fact that I didn’t drove in Egypt. Yet, for long journeys, it was better not to drive as I had the chance to rest and even take a nap. 😊

Red Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt

The sun was up, each minute was making the day hotter and finally, we arrived in Dahshur necropolis. After an hour and a half since leaving the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Esra stopped the car in the parking lot of the Red Pyramid, the third largest Pyramid in Egypt, built between 2575–2551 BC by the Pharaoh Sneferu. I suddenly jumped out of the car just to let my entire being to be mesmerized by this structure. We took some pictures outside, and then we headed towards the entrance. It was the first pyramid we went inside of, and it was impressive. We had to go down backwards for 61 meters on a small passage (0.91 m in height and 1.2 m wide) being careful at each stair we were leaving behind. Otherwise, we could have slip and go down faster. 😊 We’ve been lucky to be the only visitors at that time, otherwise we would have had to make room for other people coming up and down.

The passage was ending up into a large chamber (12 meters high and raising in 11 steps), where the ceiling was full of bats. From that chamber a new short horizontal passage starts ending up on another chamber similar to the first one, where you have to go up on a wooden staircase to reach the third chamber (15 meters high) the burial chamber, as the guard reaching us after a while told us.

Red Pyramid third chamber

We went back climbing on the same passage towards the entrance, we had a new photo session outside and we went back to the car. The first experience was amazing, so I was ready to live the second one.

One kilometer further there is the Bent Pyramid built by the same Pharaoh around 2600 BC. It is called the Bent Pyramid because it has two different angles of inclination, raising at 54-degree, and after 47 meters changing its angle to 43-degree inclination. Right after we reached the place, a bus full of tourists came and they headed towards the entrance. So, we’ve decided to skip entering this one to avoid being caught on small passages and loose time waiting for the people to pass. Hence, we started to take some pictures outside when a guardian of the site told us we should go around the pyramid where there is another smaller pyramid built for the wife of the Pharaoh. Wikipedia says this ”Satellite Pyramid” was built for the ”Ka” (the souls of the Pharaoh), so I guess people are telling a lot of stories just to make you do some things and to receive a tip for it afterwards.

So, I started to run around the Bent Pyramid enjoying the desert under my feet and feeling free as never before since this SARS-Covid 19 pandemic started. There, I felt as my spirit was coming back to each cell of my body. I was so happy and I wanted just to sit there and enjoy the moment for a while. And I did. Soon after my friend joined me, we took some pictures and we headed back towards the car without visiting the Satellite Pyramid behind the Bent Pyramid. Meanwhile the guard went there and he probably was waiting for us to make some money, but we just saw the small pyramid from outside, and we went back to the car. Yep, I was jumping around happy and full of these magic energies.     

Bent Pyramid and Satellite Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt

The third pyramid you can see in Dahshur is the Black Pyramid, 1.5 kilometers away from the Bent Pyramid. It was built by King Amenemhat III between 2055–1650 BC, but it is not open for tourists. Actually, due to the fact that this pyramid out of stone as the others, but built with mud bricks, its structure it’s not that solid. Moreover, being built near the Nile and in a lower part of the valley, led to sinking problems under the ground, suffering multiple cracks. The consequence of its instability led to the current status of being closed to avoid putting people’s lives at risk. Nevertheless, I took a picture of it from the Bent Pyramid and we greet it from far.  

To be continued…

I am an independent writter, so if you like my stories, I invite you to support my activity with a donation.


First steps into Cairo’s habits – Tips and tricks for a great DYI trip

After 2 hours sleep, waking up was not easy, but was necessary as our driver was coming at 9:00 AM to pick us up and start the Egyptian adventure. We went on the roof of the hotel to have breakfast, where there is a beautiful terrace and you can see a nice panorama of Cairo’s downtown. The view was amazing, yet we were in a hurry and we had to wait for more than 30 minutes to have everything cooked on the spot. This way, we found out that due to the pandemic and consequently to the low number of tourists, a lot of hotels are not offering open buffets anymore to avoid wasting food and resources. Hence, they are cooking on the sport only for the people present in the dinning room for breakfast. Not having this information upfront, we ended up waiting for breakfast and making our driver waiting for us for half an hour. The great news: the breakfast was amazing! Falafel, boiled eggs, French fries, vegetables, cheese, bread, butter, jam, and tea. I was so impressed, but unfortunately this amazing breakfast was served only the first day. The bad news: the second and the fourth day we received less food, no Falafel and no vegetables which made me very sad and unhappy.

Hotel Amin Cairo – breakfast

Once we met our driver, Esra, a nice lady which was recommended to us by a close friend, we headed towards the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Zamalek (Cairo) to buy the Cairo and Luxor Passes. If you have in mind to visit a lot of sites in both Cairo and Luxor, you should definitely buy both of them because you will receive 50% discount from the Luxor Pass which is more expensive. This way you will save a lot of money and, if you go during a crowded period of time, you can also skip the tickets and entry queues. It is very important to know this information, as no local guide or employee from different sites are aware of it even if the Passes were introduced since 2016. For us the Cairo Pass sold for $100 or 90 EUR, taken separately, was not worth it because we didn’t manage to visit everything we had on our itinerary. This is only if you take into account the entrance fees of the sites we’ve managed to see, which would have cost us 73.5 EUR / person vs. 90 EUR / person paid for Cairo Pass. Otherwise, if we would have managed to see everything, the entrance fees were 95.5 EUR / person vs. Cairo Pass 90 EUR / person. However, the big difference is not consistent for Cairo Pass, but for Premium Luxor Pass. Buying both of them saved us 91.5 EUR / person or $111 / person. Hence, the Cairo Pass + Luxor Premium Pass both sold for $200 / person or 180 EUR / person was a wise choice. Moreover, both are valid for 5 days, so if you want to go and visit the same site in different days, you can do it without paying the entrance fee several times.

Cairo Pass

For Luxor you have 2 options:  

  1. Standard Luxor Pass sold for $100 or 90 EUR which includes all the sites in Luxor area, including Luxor East and West Banks, Luxor and Karnak Temples, except for the Tombs of Seti I, Tutankhamun and Nefertari.
  2. Premium Luxor Pass sold for $200 or 180 EUR which includes all the sites in Luxor area, including Luxor East and West Banks, Luxor and Karnak Temples, plus the Tombs of Seti I, Tutankhamun and Nefertari.

To be honest, if you see these three tombs that are more expensive and for which you have to pay a separate ticket if you don’t have the Luxor Premium Pass, it is like seeing all the other tombs from the Valley of the Kings and from the Valley of the Queens. Most of them are very similar, but in a less good shape than these three. But we will be talking more about Luxor sites in a separate article dedicated to this magic place.

So, if you decide to buy the passes, you should have 2 passport pictures with you and USD or EUR in new banknotes. If the money is not in a very good shape, they will reject it. The lady from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said that the Egyptian National Bank is not accepting old banknotes, so take care of this aspect upfront. Another thing you should take into account, is the rhythm some tasks are performed in Egypt. We’ve spent more than 30 minutes for these passes and we waited just 5 minutes at the beginning, because the lady there had to finish the service for the previous person. So, if you are used with fast tasks performance, forget about it in Egypt, otherwise you will get very frustrated. And, if the lady helping you with the passes will ask you to sit, you better do it from the beginning, otherwise her tone will become more and more inquisitive. 😊

Once you have the passes, you’re free to go and visit all the sites you want in Cairo and Luxor (for Premium Pass), but take a good care of them. As I said before, the employees of the sites are not all aware of the existence of these passes, especially in Cairo, so they will look strangely at it, analyze it, ask a superior if it’s ok to let you pass based on it, and they will not treat that piece of paper kindly. Being written in ink, at a certain point the ink may fade away, so be very careful. In the Valley of the Queens in Luxor we had a strange situation with a guy from the entrance. He didn’t want to give us back the passes without paying him. We refused to give him more money and, at a certain point, while we were trying to explain him that we don’t have to pay anything, I tried to take back the passes, but he didn’t let them go easily. Hence, I had to pry it loose and, in the process, due to this man resistance, a small part of my picture was damaged. All this happened in front of two policemen sitting there and smiling while we were trying to take back our passes. So, be careful and try not to give your pass to everyone asking to see it. It is better to show it from your own hand, but it is not always possible as some of them will insist to take it and study it or ask for a superior permission. So, if you see any abuse, just insist to take it back explaining in every way that you don’t have to pay anything as the passes are granting you free passage in all the areas from Cairo and Luxor (only the Premium Pass covers everything).

Back to our first day… Esra was waiting for us in the car to come back from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Cairo with our passes, ready to start the journey. And finally, around 11:00 AM we headed towards the Saqqara Pyramids.

Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Zamalek (Cairo)

To be continued…

I am an independent writter, so if you like my stories, I invite you to support my activity with a donation.


Traveling to Egypt in time of pandemic

Egypt, a country full of contradictions and fight for money, received us on April 14th of 2021, a period still under the shadow of the SARS-Covid19 pandemic. The funny thing is that here, the story of this disease we are talking about for more than a year now, seems to be nothing more than a strange shadow bringing official safety rules, but not affecting the day-to-day life of usual people. Yes, you have to wear a mask especially inside official places, in Uber or in closed areas. In reality, only the first two categories are respecting these rules. There are a lot of closed areas, even inside the common areas of the hotels, where you can get rid of the mask and nobody will notice. However, in certain hotels the staff is using masks, but for the guests the masks are not mandatory. Today, after a week since this adventure began, I feel like living in another dimension. Our suitcase is full of unused masks that are only bothering me when I move them from a place to another.

But let’s start from the beginning of this DIY trip.

We landed in Cairo at 2:30 am on April 14th after a 2 hours and 45 minutes flight. The flight was comfortable, the new process of the safety measures was much easier than expected, just the airport was so empty that gave me a strange feeling of a deserted area.

I must say that this was my first flight after one year and 5 months since I was in Jordan. Soon after, the restriction of SARS-Covid19 pandemic started to be implemented, and that changed completely my plans.

After landing in Cairo, in the airport we paid $25 for getting the visa that is bought from the Egyptian Bank office where one can usually go for exchanging the money, which we did at first without knowing that at the same office we should have paid for the visa as well. The visa in Cairo is a nice sticky paper, that the airport policeman is applying on your passport. Looks nice and clean and colorful. But before arriving at passport control, we had to introduce our personal data in the emigration form, this time received in English. In the airplane we had received one in Arabic, impossible to read, hence to fill in. Once we arrived at the passport control office, we had to give them the sticky visa paper, the negative RT-PCR test, the passport and the emigration form. Everything there was super-fast, so we went to get our luggage and then to buy a local SIM card to have internet access everywhere. That was a smart move, as we travelled a lot and it was really useful especially when we had to bargain for certain services. 

Cairo Airport

The best deal for the SIM cards is sold by Orange at $10 and includes 18GB of data and 2000 minutes for national calls, which proved to be helpful as we travelled a lot and we had to hire different cars with different drivers and calling them was the best way of communication since not everyone has mobile data active on their phone.

Cairo Airport

Speaking about technology, you should know that WhatsApp video and audio calls are banned, Zoom and Skype are not working at all in Egypt, only Facebook and Google meet allows you to make or join video calls.

So, once the tech part was done, we headed outside the airport where the driver from our hotel was waiting for us. We booked a hotel in Cairo downtown that had the airport pick-up offered as a free service. Not all the hotels in Cairo are offering this free service, so I guess we’ve just been lucky. We arrived at the hotel at 4:30 am. You should know that all the above processes in the airport will take you one hour more or less. That’s what it took us in the middle of the night when only our flight was scheduled. So, I guess when the airport is crowded, you should take more time into account.

Once we checked in, our contact guy from the hotel started to explain to us some options we could have for our journey, and some services he could offer. We took none, and we went further with our plan. We already had an agreement with a local lady we knew via a close friend traveling in Egypt a month before us, so we went to sleep for a couple of hours to be ready to meet her in the morning and start our adventure with Saqqara Pyramids. But this is the story for the next article.

To be continued…

I am an independent writter, so if you like my stories, I invite you to support my activity with a donation.