There are few countries in the world that are as thrilling for a filmmaker/photographer as Egypt. No matter where you are in the country or which way you look, there is something fascinating to focus on. I went to Egypt the first time in 1987 to work on an educational film covering everything – history, people, and nature. For six intensive weeks we covered the entire country and had the advantage of an archeological green card given to us by the government that allowed us into ALL the graves and historical places. I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time. My wife, LaVonne, and her brother, Jens, were part of the film team. We drove our Volkswagen van all the way from Sweden to Gaza, parked it with a helpful Palestinian and were then picked up at the border by a crazy driver from Cairo. On a terrifying trip to Cairo our driver drove so fast that I was convinced we would end up with a camel as a hood ornament. That first experience of Egyptian style driving was a bit like playing Russian roulette – with a little bit of luck it will end well. Before nightfall we made it to Cairo and to Giza.
After a quiet night at the hotel I lodged a few complaints and we were assigned a new driver who, thankfully, drove much more carefully. I also called the Swedish Embassy in the morning to let them know we had arrived. It was with their help that we had been granted a green card. Our contact person at the embassy told us that Egypt was one of the safest countries to visit with very little crime. That was nice to know since I had heard other rumors. (A few years later the situation in Egypt changed dramatically, but that is a story for another blog.)
We had a long list of historic sites, graves and people that we were supposed to film, but first I wanted to visit the pyramids of Giza, crawl through their narrow tunnels and breath in the atmosphere of thousands of years of Egyptian history.
Our new chauffer/guide/translator, who was going to work with us for the duration of our stay, picked us up at our hotel in the morning and drove the short distance to the pyramids. There we were able to walk around all three pyramids – Cheops, Chefren and Mykerinos.
They claim that the pharaohs that ruled Egypt more than 4500 years ago build these enormous pyramids for their final resting place. You have to wonder how they managed. They had no machines that we are aware of and many historians doubt that they even had a wheel. Each block of stone weighs about 2,5 tons, the largest ones probably closer to 15 tons. Historians and researchers are dumbfounded by their miraculous construction. Not even the Egyptians themselves have an explanation to how or even why they were built. The ideas and theories about the origin of the pyramids are as numerous as the blocks they are built of.
We paid our entrance fee and entered the largest, Cheops, pyramid through the so called “Robbers Tunnel”, along the narrow passage and up the staircase, through the gallery until we finally came to the “Kings Chamber.” In the middle of the chamber stood a very simple stone sarcophagus, which they claim was Pharaoh Cheops final resting place, but no one knows for sure.
Is it possible to climb to the top of the pyramids? Yes, but that’s another story.