My first trip to the Pyramids at Giza was a complete waste of time

The first time I came to Egypt (2000) was on a 7-night group cruise on the Nile with a lovely bunch of people.  I had no intention of going to Cairo or seeing the Pyramids.  I was on a tight spending budget.  Unfortunately, I listened to the guide on the cruise when he gave us little talks on the benefits of an optional extra trip to the Pyramids.

My first impression of Cairo

I couldn’t take it in at all.  The number of cars, the speed of the traffic, the pedestrians all over the place dodging traffic, the buildings, the colors, the smells—all amounted to sensory overload.  I wasn’t exactly an Irish country girl abroad for the first time, but how could anyone think we could survive the day they sold us?

Pyramids of Giza – Cairo

We arrived at the Giza Plateau.   All I remember is that there were about 5 of us, I think, dying from heat exhaustion, even though the bus must have had air conditioning.  I looked at the Great Pyramid, and honestly, my first thought was, “It’s just a pile of stones. What on earth is all the fuss about?”  Needless to say, now that I have been in it and done my homework on it, I no longer feel that way about the Great Pyramid!

Three of us absolutely refused to get out of the bus, much to the dismay of the guide.  We just wanted to get to the hotel and sleep.  The other two went into one of the two smaller pyramids; one of them came back with the guide while the other, Patricia, got lost.  My regret is that the two who went into the smaller pyramid missed out because they really should have gone into the Great Pyramid – but the guide did not direct them to the Great Pyramid – perhaps because, even though we arrived early, the limited number of tickets they sold back then were already gone.

Good for her – Patricia was really interested and wanted to see the Sphinx.  She did not know that the bus would have driven her down to the Sphinx as part of the tour, so she risked facing the wrath of our tour guide and headed off walking without telling anyone.  Our guide was crying because her manager was screaming down the phone that she was late at our next destination, and her crying intensified when she told him one of us was missing.  Of course, we didn’t know that the Egyptian tourist police were and are very strict about safeguarding tourists.  Nor were we aware that every site we were going to visit was already logged with security police at those sites, so they were expecting us, and it would not go well for the guide if we were late, much less very late.

I don’t remember what we did next; maybe we went to the museum. I presume we ate lunch at some stage, but I have no recollection of it.

The next thing I remember was going to bed in the Cosmopolitan Hotel (not very clean) at about 6 p.m. without dinner.  I slept straight through the night but the odd thing was that it was if I were not sleeping at all and I vividly remember that the Great Pyramid was directly outside our window (of course it wasn’t!) and have no recollection of what we did the next day!  Perhaps I temporarily entered a parallel universe or something!

The moral of my true story

The trip to Cairo was totally wasted on me, and it cost me quite a bit of money.  My time would have been better spent relaxing on the last two days of the cruise, spending my money on something I liked, and returning home to Ireland refreshed, relaxed, satisfied, and ready to face the real world again after my fantastic cruise.

However, let me say that if the trip to Cairo had been better organized, taking into account that we could not lose half a night’s sleep and still be in good condition for a full day’s touring after a flight to Cairo, the experience would undoubtedly have been much more satisfying.

Some of my guests at Mara House want to get EVERYTHING in on their trip to Egypt – it’s just not possible.  So plan well what you want to see and see those sites properly and in a relaxed way.  You will find a way to come back if the experience is enjoyable.  But, if you experience days like I did those two days in Cairo – well, it’s bit of a waste of time and money really, isn’t it?

It’s always wise to plan your trip to the pyramids at the very beginning of your stay in Cairo – in case you have to abandon the day due to the parts of the plateau being closed to the public to allow visiting dignitaries etc. visit.  That way, you can change your plan for the day, go see something else and come back another day.

If you know nothing about the Pyramids at Giza you will easily find hundreds of sites on the web so I am not going to rehash that info here.  Instead I will point you to two other posts I have written containing information I think is a little more exciting and worth thinking about.  Also at the end of the page I will put links to articles by others which I find interesting and maybe you will too.

And if you are wondering if you really need a guide in Cairo, check out my post on the subject here Do I Need A Guide in Cairo? where I give you 7 reasons why you might want to have a guide in Cairo.  Putting that info here will make the post too long.

When I help my guests plan their trip I always have my own first trip to Giza at the back of my mind and warn them of overstretching themselves, especially if they have children with them.  Children don’t want memories of holidays with stressed out, tired adults.  If you would like to see Egypt with my wonderful guides and have me help with your itinerary feel free to send me a message here and I will be happy to help.  The following is the tour to the Giza Plateau that I usually organize.

GIZA PLATEAU Tour itinerary – Mara House Tours

  • Pick up from your hotel in air conditioned transport
  • You are accompanied by a qualified, experienced Egyptologist guide
  • Entry to the Great Pyramid
    • NOTE:   I include the entry ticket to the Gt. Pyramid in my Giza Plateau Tour.  At the moment there is not a problem with the number of tourists allowed in as there was some years ago.  I do think the Gt. Pyramid is amazing and you should go inside and on the day of your tour we do everything we can to ensure this.  However as tourist numbers are rising again in Egypt I must add this note to say “I cannot guarantee entry”  If we fail I will substitute entry to the two smaller pyramids.  Entry to the two smaller pyramids is not included in my Giza Plateau Tour as people rarely want to see them if they have been in the Gt. Pyramid. 
  • Entry to the Solar Boat if open
Solar Boat Museum at Giza Plateau
  • Entry to the Valley Temple at the Sphinx
  • Entry to the Sphinx Enclosure
  • Drive to the Giza “Panorama” and take some optical illusion photos such as this one, of the Pyramids.


  • Camel Ride at the Panorama
camel riding at Giza
  • Drop off at your hotel/apt.
  • Tipping for guide and driver not incl. in price  but is expected.  My tipping guide for Egypt.
  • Subject to Availability
  • Food/drink NOT incl.

This tour takes about three hours.  Some people opt to add on Saqqara or/and the Antiquities Museum at Tahrir Sq.  This is very advisable as it saves you the cost of a guide and transport for a second day and also leaves you with the option of seeing two or three more places the next day.   We can make a change to the itinerary if the GEM – Grand Egyptian Museum is open during your visit.

If you would like to discuss your options you can send me a message here.

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