Scotsabroad's Weblog

April 10, 2009

Pyramid Selling and those Oversized Shoeboxes

Filed under: pyramids — scotsabroad @ 7:50 pm


I like this photograph. It was taken inside the Cheops Boat Museum at the Giza Pyramids when we visited with Shona’s friend Diana. From the outside the museum is an eyesore ( reminds me of the back end of the stand at Tannadice blown in Wizard of Oz style)  but it houses a magnificent Solar Boat and the design lets you see as much of the boat as possible as you climb up from floor level – albeit wearing ridiculous jute shoe covers. There’s another one in reserve awaiting excavation.

This was the week before we returned to Giza for the school’s 30th anniversary celebrations and the prospect of accompanying yet another visitor to the pyramids was not easy to sell to the boys. An anonymous proverb, from the Rough Guide, could be adapted for many a long-term resident of Cairo obliging another visitor by taking them to see one of the wonders of the world: All things dread Time, but Time dreads the Pyramids.

However, I still like going to the pyramids. I still feel there is something magical about visiting the site. We always experience something new and come away with some great memories. Travelling back from the plateau last Thursday we viewed the pyramids at night. They looked fantastic and we all now want to attend the sound and light show to see what it is like. While we were there with Diana the weather turned wild and the wind whipped up the sand. We sought respite in one of the many mastabas surrounding the site and the boys finally got well into the visit as a guard let us crawl down a narrow passage and enter a tomb with a large sarcophagus, turning on the lights and calling after us that we only had three minutes. Recently the school had a visit from one of the chief architects responsible for the redevelopment of the Giza site. His words and aerial photographs  outlined  plans, already underway, to clear large residential areas (and the stables) deemed too close to the pyramids and change the way visitors get their first glimpse of the monument. When we drove there with Diana we parked in a street close to these stables and entered down by the sphinx. It was the first time we had visited at the weekend and attempted to get in without using the main entrance. 

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The streets close to the ticket booth were lined with hundreds (if not thousands) of  colourful and exuberant  Egyptians, having  poured out of buses lining the canal road – all making their way in to visit their monument. Egyptians seem to be able to wear any colour of  bright clothing and make it work. They also seem to think that being descended from the labour force who  built the pyramids in the first place, this entitles them to access all areas. Who are we to disagree? The lower tiers of the great pyramid had great splashes of  colour where people took photographs,  chatted loudly to each other or on the phone and ate their lunch.  It is much cheaper for Egyptians to visit the pyramids (and so it should be) so our fancy 60 LE tickets stood out somewhat. There was a whole load of shit on the roads to avoid from the horses and camels but I hope this vibrant and unique experience does not disappear completely  when the site is finally redeveloped and entering the site becomes more sanitised. God forbid that we see too much of this reality (and humanity) restricted by cost or replaced (to please foreign visitors)  with  clean  streets  and  lifeless Ali Baba pots;  already appearing downtown in newly pedestrianised areas. And will you still be able to slip 20LE to a magician doubling up as a security guard?


 I don’t remember being fascinated by ancient Egypt as a child but I do remember always wanting to visit the pyramids. I recently convinced myself  that this fascination is a result of SRA. I remember in the 1970s working my way through the different sections of coloured story cards and questions from an oversized shoebox, which we could mark ourselves and then, for a few moments, get to use the magical matching coloured pencil ( exotic aqua or unobtainable colours of the elements) to record your results on your workbook. I’m sure my love of reading and desire to travel was partly nurtured from these cards. When I first worked at Duncan Forbes Primary the boxes were still being used as part of the school’s reading programme but the children did not seem to find the same satisfaction. The school did not provide the official coloured pencils which might have been a factor. Published at first in America by a firm (Science Research Associates) producing aptitude tests for soldiers seeking employment after the Korean War, new research might discover that many of  the 100 million students who have used this reading programme  over the last 50 years, have travelled the world to locate historical sites and places they have been made aware of through SRA. Would you be able to tell how successful they were at Reading as a child (what colour of pencil they finally got to use?) by the country, or monument they are visiting? I remember reaching the relevant colour for the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Taj Mohal. Still haven’t visited these places. Wasn’t there a card explaining the history and the magical fermentation process (pioneered by the Egyptians) of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin? 


P.S. If you visit our school website and click on the gallery there is a picture of Lucas singing with Hisham Abbas at the pyramids last week.


1 Comment »

  1. What a fascinating story about the impact of education on a child’s imagination

    Comment by ian fraser — April 14, 2009 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

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