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The Pyramids of Giza!! The oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World! When we started planning our trip around the world, I put a big pin into Egypt. I have always wanted to see the pyramids up close. During our 21-hour layover in Cairo, I got my wish! Come along as we ride camels, kiss the sphinx, and visit an ancient burial chamber…
Get Your Visa
When you land at Cairo International Airport, your first item of business will be to purchase your Egyptian Visa. You can do this at a few spots in the arrival area. We found a bank kiosk that sold the visas. The standard price is $25, and you must pay in cash, in US Dollars. We did not see a place to exchange money nearby, and you cannot pay with a credit card.
They will add a sticker to a page on your passport, and then you can proceed to the immigration lines. I believe you can also get a visa in advance online, but this was a very simple process at the airport.
Since we arrived in the evening, and we only had 21 total hours on the ground, we wanted to be very efficient. We initially found Emo Tours when we looked for highly-rated pyramids tours. Not only do they offer a great experience at the Pyramids area, but they will also provide transportation from the airport to your hotel.
Airport Pick Up
This may seem trivial, but listen closely! You should absolutely book an airport pick up ahead of time. As soon as we cleared immigration, we were being hounded by taxi drivers and car services. A few of the guys even grabbed my arm and tried to pull me along with them. Not a great way to enter a country…
Fortunately, our Emo tours driver, Mohammed, was waiting for us with a big smile and a sign with my name. We walked directly past the mob of drivers and out of the terminal with Mohammed. He was very friendly, he spoke excellent English, and he warmly welcomed us to Cairo. We hopped into his car, and off we went.
Our resort was 20 miles away from the airport, and traffic in Cairo can be tough. Mohammed actually rode in the front passenger seat while another man drove the car. This allowed him to point things out during the ride. Everything went very smoothly, and we arrived after a 45 minute trip.
Pyramids Half Day Tour
Emo Tours offers half and full day tours to the Pyramids of Giza area. We booked the early half day tour, because it fit our schedule perfectly. Our guide, Ibrahim, met us in the lobby of our hotel at 8am. After a quick introduction, we hopped into his car for the short drive to the pyramids. We arrived just as the gates were opening, so we could be the first ones into the area. I’ll cover exactly what we did below…
Where We Stayed
LeMeridien Pyramids Resort – 3,000 SPG Points
The LeMeridien Pyramids Resort is so close to the pyramids (approx. a half mile) that we could literally see them from our window! This resort is a Category 1 SPG property, making it an unbelievable value at 3,000 points per night! We arrived in the evening, and we were immediately impressed by the lobby. It features an ornately decorated staircase and lots of marble.
Our room was a Deluxe Pyramid View king suite, with a separate bedroom and living room, and a large bathroom. Through the living room window, we could see the huge pool below and the outline of the Great Pyramid rising in the distance.
In the morning, we woke up early for the complementary breakfast buffet. This buffet was very impressive, with all of the usual breakfast items and a made-to-order omelet station. I’m very impressed with the value this hotel offers!
What We Did
Ibrahim, our expert Emo Tours guide, made sure that we saw everything we wanted. He was very knowledgeable, and he even warned us about which trinket peddlers and camel guides to avoid. After the tour, he took us back to the hotel and waited while we cleaned up. Then, he drove us back to the airport to catch our flight.
Up first, a trip inside the Great Pyramid!!! Whaaaat?! One of the options at the pyramids complex is the opportunity to climb deep inside the heart of the Great Pyramid. As we approached the massive ancient structure, I could hardly contain my excitement. I had dreamed about this as a little kid reading books about mummies.
We climbed up the first few levels of blocks toward a hole in the side. As we entered the pyramid, we followed a narrow, winding corridor to a long upward slope. The slope carried us up to a narrow opening, where we had to duck and walk forward into an ancient Egyptian burial chamber! At the far end of this rectangular block room, we saw a sarcophagus. Unfortunately, no mummies were hanging around anywhere. No pictures are allowed inside the pyramid, so you’ll just have to check it out yourself.
Exiting the Great Pyramid, we joined Ibrahim back at the base. He guided us over to the camel area and warned us that many of the camel guides will try to overcharge tourists. Since the camel rides were not part of the tour price, he advised us to only pay around $5 to ride a camel. The camel guides will often try to charge 10x this much!
After we paid the camel guide, he helped us onto two camels for a few great photo ops. First we rode over to get a picture with Giza in the background. Next, we turned around for the epic “Three Pyramid Shot,” where you can see all three of the main pyramids in a line (see top photo). Brooke even got a kiss from one of the camels.
Next, we drove deeper into the complex, to a raised viewing area. Here, Ibrahim took as many pictures as we wanted. We got some really great pictures from this vantage point. We also had the chance to pause and really take in the whole scene. I tried to imagine how they could have possibly built these enormous structures over seven thousands years ago.
Our last stop in the complex was a visit to the Sphinx. This ancient statue stands guard over the area, and it is well-known for its missing nose. We walked down to where it sits and took a few fun pictures. While the whole area looks very remote, we were surprised to see how close the city is. While standing at the feet of the sphinx, we could actually see some fast food restaurants nearby.
Once our time at the pyramids was finished, Ibrahim drove us over to see some real papyrus. Papyrus was the paper used to record the written history of ancient Egypt. We stopped at a store, where they make papyrus in the traditional way. We watched as one of the store employees demonstrated the process. Once they’ve made the papyrus, they create beautiful artwork depicting stories from Egyptian history. We purchased a few small pieces of art, which we could roll up and fit into our backpacks.
Upon our return to the CAI airport, we passed through security with time to spare. We decided to find the First Class Lounge (Terminal 3), since we had access via Priority Pass from the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The lounge was very basic, but it had some food to nibble on and a little bit of internet. We hung out for about an hour, before hopping on our next flight.
We really enjoyed our brief visit to Egypt. Seeing the pyramids and actually getting to go inside the Great Pyramid was a dream come true! Mohammed and Ibrahim made us feel very welcome, and they provided a great experience on behalf of Emo Tours. If you have the chance to visit Cairo, we definitely recommend booking an airport pick up and a Pyramids Tour with Emo Tours. Cheers!