The Great Pyramid of Giza - King Khufu [2589 - 2566 B.C.]
Forty years ago, entering the Great Pyramid at Giza and making the long, steep ascent up into the King's burial chamber was adventurous and quite difficult. There was no ventilation, the stairs were unstable and the lighting in the burial chamber consisted of one bare light bulb, lying vulnerable on the floor.
Back then, whenever I made the climb up to the pyramid's entrance, the old guard at the outside door would give me a condescending look and a sigh as if to say "not you again" and then begrudgingly pull an electricity cable out from a piece of conduit, expose the two bare wires and twist them together to make a contact and so turn on the light up in the chamber.
Now days its civilised and as a result a lot more tourists make the trek. Not only is the lighting adequate, they now have a security camera to keep an eye on visitors.
Inside the King's Burial Chamber and Sarcophagus
Back in the Seventies, I was in the habit of getting up early to be at the pyramid before it opened. I would slip the guard a few Egyptian pounds and he would let me up into the King's chamber, where I would sit on the floor and read my book for an hour or so, until the tourists start to arrive.
One morning, as usual, I climbed up into the centre of the Pyramid, reached the burial chamber, looked around the empty room and took up my position on the floor. Just as I reached for my book, the light bulb flickered and went out. The chamber was pitch black. The electricity had failed. [blackouts across Egypt were a part of daily life and still are]
I figured the wise thing to do was just sit there and wait it out. No way could I negotiate my way out of the chamber and back down the Grand Gallery in the dark. It was dangerous enough when you could see where you were going. That's when I heard the heavy breathing!
The Great Pyramid Grand Gallery to the Burial Chamber
There I was, alone in the dark, in the middle of the Great Pyramid, and I can hear somebody breathing and moaning. Now I really panicked. It's amazing what visions flash through your mind. I was scared.
After what seemed like an eternity the light spluttered back on. My eyes adjusted and I looked around. Nobody there. The heavy breathing started again so I got up and walked behind the huge granite sarcophagus and finally saw a guy lying flat, out of sight, behind the sarcophagus. He was pale, gasping for air and pointing to his shirt pocket. Sure enough I found his little tin box of small white pills and put one under his tongue, which he was just about to swallow.
Eventually he recovered enough to tell me he was a Brazilian tourist and the climb up into the Chamber was too strenuous for him. Shortly before I had arrived he started having a heart attack and I had saved his life. That was OK for him. He took ten years off mine!
Its those sorts of experiences that kept me coming back to Egypt. You just never know and everyday is an adventure.