Going to Extremes

The more that you travel, the more that you realize that the scenery of most places will remind you of some other place that you have visited. When we first started traveling we expected to be find everyplace that we visited to be strange and exotic, but were often surprised at how familiar the landscape actually was. Part of that is for obvious reasons. The various regions of the planet are by there very nature similar due to forces of nature and the climate. Also, the mind tends to try and make relations to what it has seen before as a coping mechanism to keep from becoming overwhelmed.

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Andes Mountains in South America
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Standing in the desert in Egypt

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t unique and special locations, there are many of them around the world. What it does mean is that sometimes you have to go some extremes to truly experience something that is completely different than what you’ve seen before. The more that you do that, the more difficult it will become to find new ones. That is just a part of what makes traveling so addictive. If you have never been to the large mountains before, you will be awed by their magnificence. The next time you visit a place and see those peaks reaching for the sky, you will be reminded of your previous trip. The same is true of rainforests, arctic tundra, tropical islands, vast deserts, and dramatic canyons.

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Amazon Rainforest
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Lava Fields in Iceland in Winter

We certainly haven’t even been close to visiting every place around the world and we will continue to pursue those moments when we truly see scenery that is new and unique to us. The time of year can also change the way that a place looks, so seeing it in different seasons can also effect your perception of it. No doubt we will have plenty of moments where we say “doesn’t this place look a lot like…”. How far are you willing to go to find the places that aren’t like anything that you’ve ever seen before?

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Great Sand Dunes in Colorado
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View of the Quilotoa Caldera and Lagoon in Ecuador

 

Step Pyramid in Saqqara, Egypt

The Pyramid of Djoser, or Step Pyramid, is an ancient pyramid in the Saqqara Necropolis. It is located about an hour outside of Cairo and we toured it as part of trip to the Giza plateau. Although most people associate the pyramids of Egypt with the smooth sided Great Pyramids, step pyramids were the predecessors to such technology. There are other temples and burial grounds to be seen around the Step Pyramid, but as with Dahshur, there are not nearly as many visitors as at the Great Pyramids.

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Exploring the Site
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Ancient Wall
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A Crumbing Tomb
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Step Pyramid

The Step Pyramid was built around the 27th century BC and is considered the earliest large cut-stone in the world. Tourists are able to descend down the tunnel that leads to an ancient tomb, which is just an empty chamber with hieroglyphs today. It can be extremely hot, so be sure to drink plenty of water and be prepared for cramped quarters as you walk down the tunnel that has had a ramp and railings added for safety reasons.

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Steep Tunnel
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More of the Complex
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Hieroglyphs in the Tomb Chamber
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Ancient Doorway

Walking around the entire complex was very interesting and it is a shame that more people do not visit. The site was looted during the uprising in 2011, but fortunately the monuments were left relatively unharmed. For anyone who is visiting Cairo, Saqqara should definitely be one of the top sites to see during your time there.

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Another View of the Pyramid
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Weathered Statue
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Restorations Under Way
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Repair Work to Stabilize the Pyramid

 

The Giza Pyramid Complex

No visit to Cairo in Egypt would be complete without going to see the Great Pyramids. Although the Pyramid of Khufu is officially known as The Great Pyramid, the entire complex is often referred to as the Great Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramid of Khufu is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World and also one of the most intact wonders and stands 481 feet tall (146.5 meters). There are actually six pyramids that make up the pyramid complex as well as the Great Sphynx. The Pyramid of Khafre still has the limestone covering at the top of the pyramid that would have covered all of the pyramids making their sides completely smooth as opposed to the exposed stones that are visible today.

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The Great Sphynx
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Pyramid of Khafre
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Looking Up at the Great Pyramid
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View of the Giza Plateau with Cairo in the Background

The three large pyramids are certainly the focal point of the complex, but there are other interesting features of the site including pits where the remains of a ship were buried. It is important to understand that to the ancient Egyptians, because the sky was blue and water was blue, they believed that they needed to sail to the afterworld. It was an important connection to the Nile, which they relied on for there survival, and the world of the gods. The three smaller pyramids were for queens of the Pharaohs which serve as a reminder that the Egyptians had a high regard for women of royalty. Clearly, the Great Sphynx is also an important sight to see while spending time on the Giza plateau.

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One of the Queen Pyramids
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One of the Pits Where the Ship was Unearthed
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One of the Many Camels
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Busy Road Between the Sphynx and the Great Pyramid

Because of its close proximity to Cairo, the pyramid complex is extremely busy with tourists, horse drawn carriages, camels, and people peddling trinkets. It is worth having a guide with you so that you can learn the historical facts regarding the pyramids, but it is a location that you can visit on your own. Riding a camel in the desert with the pyramids in the background is about as touristy as it gets, but is worth doing for that classic photo opportunity. Although fascinating, it only takes a couple of hours to fully see the Great Pyramids and the surrounding sights.

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Yes, We Rode the Camels
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The Great Pyramid Up Close, People in the Foreground Providing Scale
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Face of the Great Sphynx
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The Giza Plateau

Clearly, seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World is an incredible experience. Gazing up at the pyramids, seeing not only their height, but also the symmetry of their architecture has to make you marvel at the ingenuity of the people who built them over 4,500 years ago. In fact, the Great Pyramid was the largest man-made structure for over 3,800 years, truly an impressive feat.

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Walking Around the Great Pyramid with the Pyramid of Khafre in the Background
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The Great Sphynx

 

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The Great Pyramid
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Walking Among the Pyramids