(Above Pano created by combining 4 different shots in Photoshop, then using content-aware scaling to squeeze it together a bit..)
Seeing the Great Pyramids has always been on my bucket list, as are Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, and that huge rock stump looking thing from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. When I found out I was assigned to a trip to Cairo (I fly business jets in my “other” job) I was ecstatic. I started researching the best locations from which to shoot the pyramids, I read blogs on the best tours to take, etc. Then I looked closer at the tripsheet that listed our itinerary. We would be arriving (after flying over 12 hours from Asia) just before sunset and leaving the next day around noon. So, my dream of spending the day climbing to the top of the pyramids had to be modified a little. That’s okay, we get to visit a lot of interesting places with our job; we’re used to catching the high points during very short stays.
After a long day of flying, complete with a fuel stop in Turkey, I knew that we all would be tired but everybody on the crew wanted to see the iconic pyramids so we came up with a plan. As soon as our passengers left, we would change quickly on the airplane, put it to bed and have our handlers at the airport take us to the famous location. We departed Asia on time, fuel stop in Turkey was quick, and it looked like we were going to be able to get to see the pyramids just before sunset.
On our arrival to Cairo, the ATC controllers took us right over the pyramid location. This was our first view of the famous site. Now I know this is more of a photo blog, but I have to say something about air traffic control (ATC) in Egypt. It’s pretty basic. Do you remember that app for the iphone where you try to land small airplanes, jets, and helicopters without having them run into each other? I have a feeling that the average ATC controller in Cairo could get to level 2. Maybe. Anyway, enough flying talk, back to photography.
Here is a shot of the Pyramids from the cockpit. Notice how close they are to the city. I found it interesting that in addition to the three big ones they had built three baby ones near the smaller one. Do you think think the workers who built the larger ones looked down on the guys constructing the baby pyramids? "Hey Achmed, that's a real cute little hill you're working on there.... I hope you don't get sore moving those tiny blocks ALL the way to the top...." That kind of stuff.
Anyway... We landed, and ended up getting on the road about 30 minutes before sunset. While we couldn't actually enter the park, our guide was able to get us on the roof of a building across the street from the park that afforded us a good view. Here I am on the roof:
We stayed up there for about 45 minutes until the sun fully set. Here are a few of the shots from the roof.
I was pleasantly surprised by our hotel. We stayed at the Cairo Marriott Hotel which is located on an island on the Nile and used to be some rich guy's palace. Sometimes the planets line up in your favor, and my luck continued this day as I was upgraded to a suite. (I freaking love it when that happens... especially the next day. “Oh, you mean ALL you guys didn’t get upgraded to a suite? Maybe next time…” Here is the view from my “veranda.”
Yup, that's the Nile river down there! I ended up having breakfast on the veranda the next morning. It was a few years ago, but I remember sitting in my fancy hotel robe, sipping some Egyptian coffee and kicking my legs up. (Trying NOT to flash all of Cairo - or maybe I did. That might have been the impetus of the Arab Spring riots that started just a couple months later.)
After breakfast it was back to reality. We got dressed, headed downstairs and waited for our ride to the airport. We didn’t have to fly as far that day.
One more photo and story. I mentioned that ATC in Cairo was a little “basic.” Ground control wasn’t any different and it took us almost 40 minutes to get from where we were parked to the runway. While we were waiting for our turn to take off I noticed this guard shack below, and thought the guy inside must have the loneliest job ever. (I’ve shared this shot before, but it was a while ago so I thought I would include it.)
I’m ecstatic that I was able to check the pyramids off my bucket list. While I didn’t get to touch any, seeing them was enough. Now if I can just see the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming my life may be complete….