Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East
There is no place on earth that manages to capture our imagination as completely as Egypt. Though cities like Alexandria and Cairo are modern cosmopolitans in every sense of the word, it is easy enough to close your eyes, aided, perhaps, by the scent of fried garlic and bread, and imagine yourself traveling centuries back in time. Discoveries of new chambers and tomb entrances only feed our fascination with this incomparable culture. Travel back in time and discover the extravagance of Giza and the opulence of the royal tombs.
Giza is located on the western banks of Egypt, about 20 kilometers from Cairo. When we think of Egypt, it is perhaps Giza we most often see. Visitors will find the Great Sphinx, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and other sacred structures. These are the most recognizable - and revered - structures in the world, and seeing them is a must for visitors. However, it is important to know that, while you can certainly see all three structures from the outside, you will not be able to go inside all of them. The structures close on a rotating basis to aid in preservation, and only 300 people can visit inside per day.
It is hard not to feel like Indiana Jones when you're climbing inside these famous pyramids, though, if you are lucky enough to get in. It is a feeling you will never forget as the ghosts of the pharaohs follow you through the tombs.
South of Giza, and opposite Luxor (formerly Thebes) is the Valley of the Kings. This is the resting place of 62 pharaohs, including Tutankhamen, and is a series of tombs that was designed for secrecy. A long, narrow, twisting path was intended to discourage tomb raiders, though that had varying success. Visitors can buy a ticket, which entitles them to view three tombs of their choosing. For those who want to see more, or who want to visit Tutankhamen's tombs, a separate ticket is required. As in Giza, some of the tombs may be closed for "resting" or renovations, so remain flexible with your itinerary.
It is interesting to see the differences in the tombs themselves. The Tomb of Thutmose III is very remote and requires a hike up several flights of stairs, but visitors are rewarded with an aesthetically-pleasing tomb with simple decoration. The Tomb of Merneptah features paintings and reliefs in generally good condition, and the tomb of Ramesses the VI is the most opulent, and interesting, of all with very well preserved decorative elements.
Which should you visit? The easy answer, of course, is both! But whatever your decision, both Giza and the Valley of the Kings offers an exceptional experience.
Enid Glasgow is a travel writer who recently visited Egypt. http://www.bigfive.com/navigator-series/africa-middle-east/egypt.html