Inside a Pyramid: Descending into Khafre's Tomb in Giza, Egypt

by Sharon Wollman

Standing in front of the Sphinx in Giza, Egypt
Standing in front of the Sphinx in Giza, Egypt

Three years ago my husband, Bruce, and I were on his birthday cruise on Star Princess when a Head Waiter friend of ours said the most amazing thing, “Why don’t you come sail with me again in November to Egypt?” We were Elite with Princess and had been on many incredible sailings in the Caribbean and in Europe, but Egypt? Up until that moment, I have to admit that we never in our wildest dreams ever imagined that we would ever be able to travel to Egypt much less sail there. How is that possible? When we returned home I began researching and found that this “trip of a lifetime” was indeed possible on Star Princess.

It was a trip back in time, with Europe cruises beginning in Rome and sailing onto Naples, Piraeus, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Cairo and Alexandria – every port stop took us further and further back in history. When we arrived at the Saqqara Necropolis and Bruce turned to me with a handful of sand and said, “You know when they talk about something being as old as dirt? This is the dirt they’re talking about.” It was funny, yes, but also true – we were awestruck.

We were on Princess’ 2-day overland excursion and early the second day we were at the Giza Plateau when our guide asked, “Who would like to enter a pyramid?” My husband and I nearly jumped out of our seats. I guess it wasn’t enough that the first morning we were entranced by our first views of Egypt: the dramatic sunrise over Port Said, then there was the amazing caravan crossing The Desert Road to Cairo, or our first view of the River Nile and later that evening sitting under a star- filled sky watching the Sound and Light Show at the Great Pyramids – no, it seems that one more adventure awaited.

This was how we found ourselves on a fine, warm, clear November day climbing down into the bowels of Khafre’s Pyramid in Giza. The entrance was a covered with a beige awning and a small group of people waited patiently. The opening to the passageway was about 3 feet square and there was a tiny wooden walkway perhaps 24 inches across. This is the only way in or out.

To take this particular journey we had to crouch over and carefully walk down this wooden stairway, negotiating the stairs would be a challenge at any time, but made even more interesting because we had to carefully pass the individuals coming back up. Those heading down were saying, “I hope I make it” and the people coming up reassured them with “you won’t be sorry.”

Finally at one point the passageway leveled out and we all stopped to stretch to a standing position and catch our breath. Up ahead there was another set of stairs and we were surprised that it was leading up an incline; we followed along and with surprise we realized we made it!

We were standing in Khafre’s Tomb. It was room perhaps 30 square feet, with a granite sarcophagus against the far wall and other stone platforms along the sides. In one corner stood a vase at least 10 feet tall. The walls were a burnished copper color and we could see that they had once had drawings on them. It was dark – lit by a lone light fixture (obviously not original equipment!) and eerily quiet.

Oh yes, it was definitely worth it. We sat for a long time in awe of our surroundings, taking the entire experience in. When we could find the words we discussed the likelihood that our travels would ever bring us to such an amazing place.

I wasn’t aware that I had a bucket list at that time but now as I think about where I want to go and what I want to experience, I know I can see the world one port at a time, on Princess.