Monday, February 26, 2007

The truth about the Giza pyramids and sphynx

Performers at the Giza Sound and Light Show
They are not in the middle of the desert.
It's funny to see all the tourists angling their cameras to get shots of the pyramids set up in a field of sand. Because it's a lie. The pyramids are IN Cairo.
From them you walk a few hundred feet across a street and there's a line of souvenir stores and Kentucky Fried Chicken stand. And a million buses. OK, there are camels and donkey carts tied up next to the KFC, which is pretty exotic, but these are urban structures. BEHIND the pyramids, on the side away from the tawdry street and parking lots a strand of desert sand has been left undeveloped and that's how the isolated photos get made.

Even this sand is a farce. It's as much squashed water bottles and candy wrappers as sand, as you'll see when you take the obligatory camel ride.

But all this made the place more interesting to me. The hype, the crowds and hustle, the litter, the posing for cliche photos -- I love tourist attractions. William Zissner wrote a wonderful book about American tourist places -- Mount Rushmore among them -- that inspires such behavior. He wanted to find out what about these revered PLACES turn them into attractions. It's easy to answer that in Giza which has been a tourist place for centuries. The age, the magnitude, the engineering feat, the human defiance of decay. Great stuff.

So why not celebrate it all with bagpipers decked out in pharaoh headgear?

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