Between the Paws of the Sphinx with Dr. Zahi Hawass
If you've ever wondered what it's like to stand between the paws of the Sphinx and look up... this is it 😊
But before I talk about probably my favorite day of the entire trip... I have to back it up a few days!
At this point, we had passed the Tropic of Cancer into the southernmost region of Egypt (and just miles from Sudan) in order to see Abu Simbel.
The history and present-day story of this complex is just bonkers. Abu Simbel consists of two main temples (the first two pictures are one, and the next picture I'm standing in front of is the second one).
They were originally cut straight into stone thousands of years ago, but in the 1960s, in an effort to conserve water for Egypt, there was talk of building a dam, later known as the Aswan High Dam.
BUT by building this, these temples would soon be submerged in water over time and lost forever. So the race was on...
A massive, billion dollar project was started to disassemble these two temples and reassemble them in a nearby (higher) location where they would be safe from flooding.
If I remember correctly, these two temples were taken apart in some 30,000+ pieces, moved, and carefully reassembled.
In fact, if you look back up at the photo that I'm in, you can see the square blocks above the statues where they initially cut the once solid rock into pieces in order to move it 🤯
I mean everything, literally everything inside and out, was moved and reconstructed. Can you spot more of the "graffiti" from the 1800s on that last statue?
You can read more about the history of Abu Simbel here.
We also go the chance to disembark our large river boat to cruise down the Nile in a... smaller boat... in order to see a local Nubian village.
The Nubians are a branch of an ancient African civilization that once lived in and ruled Egypt. They primarily still live in southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
Our second to last day in Egypt brought us to a thousands-year-old granite quarry that provides some evidence as to how the ancient Egyptians could build such massive obelisks for their temples.
The unfinished obelisk still lies here, half-chiseled-out, but was abandoned because of a large crack that coursed through its center. It could no longer be used, bummer!
And below is the ancient method used with rudimentary tools (and rocks, per our guide) of how they would slowly create notches in the rock in hopes of creating a crack in the right direction that would eventually break off the chunk of granite that they wanted.
Can you even imagine? Breaking off a 2, 5, 20 ton chunk of rock using... other small rocks.
Later that day, we took yet another boat down the Nile to a temple on an Island named the Philae Temple (but I renamed it the Feline Temple because, you know... cats 😅).
I suppose the temple was pretty impressive, too 😉
Our final day in Egypt was perhaps the most exciting. It was definitely my favorite day.
We were gifted private access to the Great Pyramid of Giza before it opened to the public. That meant exploring every corner and crevice inside it, all to ourselves, in all of its dark, hot, humid, and eerie glory 😎
They even opened chambers that aren't open to the public, so I spent an hour or so climbing, scooting, and even crawling on my hands and knees at some points going up high into the center and deep into underground chambers.
I took some video when I could, but this is a quick summary of being inside the Great Pyramid of Giza!
And a few more photos of the grounds around the Pyramids, later on, when it was filled with tourists.
A couple of people standing there, for scale 😮
Anyone else think that camels look like an adorable old man? Just me? 🥴
My final memory from Egypt is standing between the paws of the Sphinx with Dr. Zahi Hawass, probably the most famous Egyptologist in the world.
I've grown up seeing him on every Egyptian documentary, TV show, and breaking news segment. What a trip to be standing there with him in person!
We were gifted a visit down into the Sphinx's complex, which again, is closed to the public. I got to touch THE Sphinx.
Did you know it has a tail?? I touched it! And I obviously touched its paws, too 🤗
I took so many photos (it was ridiculous). I'll share some of my favorites here.
And just like that, the Sphinx bid us farewell as the last stop on our grand tour through Egypt. It really was the trip of a lifetime, and I'm still baffled by everything I saw and experienced!
I'll always love looking at these photos to remember it all 😊