We got up just after 4am on our own, which is nice when you have to wake up by 4:30 anyway. Not surprisingly, the lobby was empty at 5:15am. Our breakfast boxes contained an apple, a banana, two half sandwiches, a croissant, two small muffins, a bottle of water, and a coke - $50US. Thankfully we weren't paying for them, but then we realized we likely were, just indirectly. The drive to the airport was uneventful and took about 30 minutes. At the airport, it wasn't particularly busy either, with both immigration and security taking no time at all. Past security, we saw yet another Popeyes, making Amman the third airport where we didn't expect to see one (joining Hong Kong and Istanbul). Justin was starving, and got Popeye's for breakfast - for far less than $50US. Crystal got Shwerma at a Middle Eastern restaurant in the same area.

We boarded our plane to Cairo around 7:45. There was some sort of hiccup they were having with the power, as it kept cutting out, but they fixed it and we departed shortly after our scheduled 8am departure. The window was the dirtiest airline window ever, to the point the camera kept focusing on the dirt and water spots instead of the scenery below. As far as we could tell, there was no circuitous route today, we knew we were heading southwest, and so we certainly had to be flying over Israel. The part we were flying over looked a lot like southern Jordan - desert, with small hills scattered about. But as it turned out, we weren't flying over Israel, because we could tell that we went over the Gulf of Aqaba, and then over the Gulf of Suez, meaning that we had basically flown straight down the Jordanian-Israeli border until getting past Aqaba, then turned west and went over Egypt. After clear skies for most of the flight, there was lots of smog as we descended into Cairo.

We were met by an A&K rep Ahmed even before customs and immigration. After passing through, we were walking to the car when a shady looking dude in a suit started following right behind us. We slowed down to let him pass, but he slowed down as well. When we got to the car, he stopped at the car as well, then started looking at the license plate. We met Wiel, our driver, and Ahmed introduced us to the shady guy, apparently he was our shady guy, our undercover bodyguard, Mohammad - sweet. We took a quick jaunt to our hotel, which was close by in Heliopolis. On the way to hotel, Ahmed told us about a ton of optional stuff that we had no clue about - a light show, tour of the Islamic area, the Coptic area, and/or the Egyptian museum. It was all new to us, and since we were on a group trip (albeit just the two of us), we didn't think we'd have any options available to us. They all sounded interesting, but we'd just have this afternoon/evening and the following Monday, so we weren't sure if we'd be able to squeeze everything in.

We met Sherif, our "Egyptologist," did a quick change to put on some better footwear, and then got a move on. But before we got anywhere, we realized that we tried to leave without our key or paperwork that Ahmed had given us. The whole morning had been a blur, and it was still only around 9am. It took forever to get across town, across the river from Cairo to Giza, and through Giza to the Pyramids, but in all that time we got a ton of explanation of the local areas from Sherif, which was like drinking from a fire hose. From what we recall, we passed by 1) The City of the Dead - an enormous cemetery that is roughly 15 square miles of tomb and mausoleum structures, with streets and people living and working amongst the dead, 2) the Muhammad Ali mosque and the citadel, and 3) the quarry for the pyramids, 12 miles from pyramids. Supposedly way back when, during the time of the year the river was at its highest, 8 or 9 of these 12 miles could be done by boat. Now, because of the High Aswan Dam, river changes elevation by only 15 feet, as opposed to 60 feet as before. All told, it took about 1:45 to get to the Pyramids from Heliopolis.

While the roads were packed, the parking lot was not - it was absolutely empty. Usually there would be 3000-5000 daily visitors, but given everything that transpired in 2013, they are now lucky to get 300. The area is a complex of number of tombs and related buildings. First built was the Great Pyramid of Cheops (aka Khufu), which is also the largest of the pyramids, finished around 2560 BC - i.e., 4500 years ago. The base is a perfect square, 756 feet on each side. The height originally was 481 feet, but now is 455. After that was the Pyramid of Khafre (aka Chephren), which was Cheops' son. His pyramid is about 90% of the size, but built on higher ground, so it appears larger. Third built was the smaller Pyramid of Menkaure (aka Mykerinos). The Great Sphinx is to the east of the pyramids, closer to the Cheops and Khafre pyramids. There are also smaller "queens" pyramids as well.

Our first stop was on the north side of the complex, which had lots of vendors, more than tourists, actually. Then we drove to plateau on west side, facing back towards Cairo. We took all of the normal tourist photos, including one of Crystal touching just the tip of the pyramid. We also went on a short camel ride, Crystal's second in two days. Then went to the south side of the pyramids, and the entrance to the Solar Boat museum. The Great Pyramid of Cheops lost its top in an earthquake (around 1300 AD), when the pyramids lost their smooth sides as well, as they were loosened and then lotten by the Sultan to build mosques and fortresses in Cairo. So they reconstructed just the tip in an area near the Solar Boat museum entrance. In that same area, Sherif showed us some of the few remaining spots where the original outer layer remain, and similar to the stones in Machu Picchu, the stones were cut to perfectly fit next to one another, to the point that you can't slide a piece of paper or a razor blade in between.

We had to put on booties when entering solar boat museum. There seemed to be a school field trip in there along with us. Inside, the air was both temperature and humidity controlled. Sherif told us it was difficult to maintain things discovered (because they start to wear much faster when exposed to the elements), so many things have been found but re-buried for future generations to uncover when they're ready. He told us that what was visible now was just the tip of the iceberg as far as things buried in Egypt. The solar boat was super long, with giant oars that needed two tall people to row. Technically, they weren't really rowing, but were instead stabbing at evil, which is why oars have spears engraved on them. After leaving the museum, we went a little farther east, and saw the sphinx. Unbeknownst to us, the term Sphinx refers generally to any man-beast combination (like manbearpig).

In the vicinity of the Sphinx, Sherif showed us the Valley Temple, which is where they would start the procession of the deceased pharoah to the pyramid. In the Valley Temple, there stand a number of granite pillars that remain super smooth, even after 4000+ years. There were holes carved in the walls to illuminate faces of the pharoahs that used to be there (the statues, not the windows). Sherif was showing us how straight and parallel the pillars were, how amazing it was they were all so exact and parallel. Justin asked whether it was possible that they came in a bit larger than final size, and finish-carved on site to be exactly parallel; Sherif indicated he had never thought of that, and shook Justin's hand in appreciation. We took a number of photos in the Sphinx area, and were about to leave, but Justin asked if we could take some photos back on the west side (a 1-2 minute drive). But since the road was only one way, we had to drive around through Giza, and this took about 15 minutes. Then the guards didn't want to let us back in, but Sherif and Mohammad got us through. We took photos for about 5 minutes, 1/3 of the time it took to drive back there. There still wasn't anyone there, just Justin and a guy on a horse.

We left the area again, then went to gift shop. Calling it a gift shop is selling it short, as it has all sorts of fancy stuff. Crystal got a cartouche with hieroglyphics of our names on either side, and we looked at a bunch of other stuff, but once again, couldn't justify paying a lot for some knick-knack that would likely just gather dust at our house. After leaving, we went to a very late lunch at Andrea. Although in the middle of Cairo, it had a nice garden setting, and very good food. Justin had his first (and perhaps last) Turkish coffee - when asked by Sherif how it tasted, he said "It tastes like burned wood." On the way back, we tried to get to the Islamic area, but we did not get there before the mosques closed. So we just drove back to the hotel, getting back around 4:45.

We left again for light show at 5:15, meaning we drove across town for a 30 minute break just before heading back to where we had just come from. The traffic sucked again, but not quite as bad as in the morning. We drove through the City of the Dead as a bit of a shortcut, but otherwise was along the same general route. We got to Pyramids at 6:40 for 7:00pm showing. There were seats for 3000 people, but there were less than 50. The show was interesting, with super over-dramatic narration, including tone. Justin failed yet again with the tripod (every time he tries to use it, something goes wrong), this time somehow leaving the quick-connect clip that connects the tripod to the camera. So he just rested the barrel of the camera in the area where the clip should have attached, and that did a reasonable job. The show lasted almost an hour, and right near the end, the prayer calls started right behind us in Giza City, so it was like the loudspeakers were yelling at each other.

We drove back to the hotel, leaving at 8 and arriving at 9. On the drive back we went through Tahrir Square, and didn't notice anything odd or unusual - certainly nothing to warrant all of the concern we read about before leaving the US. Back at the hotel, we went to find a restaurant, and kept walking around somewhat aimlessly We found a bar that looked okay, then saw that drinks were more than $20 US, and said screw that. We ended up eating an Italian place, and had some good pizzas and glasses of wine, all for the price of what two drinks would have cost at that bar. We finally got to sleep at around 11pm, after waking up at 3am local time (since we got an hour back on our flight from Jordan) - a super full, super fun, day. Hopefully it's just the tip of good things we'll see in Egypt.