In 1992, Graham Hancock wrote The Sign and the Seal, an investigative tale of his attempt to locate the Lost Ark of the Covenant.
It is a brilliant book; one that views history thru and alternate lens, which at times history needs.
In 1995, he followed this up with Fingerprints of the Gods, where he does the same to the Pyramids and the Sphinx.
Hancock climbed the Pyramids, and he entered chambers within the Great Pyramid of Khufu not open to the public, and described his visits in a way that made me want to follow his footsteps.
I wanted to climb the Pyramids, and I wanted to explore the underground tunnels underneath the Pyramids.
No one REALLY knows why the Pyramids were built, and until recently there were serious questions about how they were constructed. They Pyramids are OLD, dating back almost 4600 years, and the largest (which is open to the public) remained the tallest building in the world until the Washington Monument was completed in 1884. Hancock also suggested the Sphinx was MUCH older than the Pyramids, as it contained water erosion. Two things happened as a result of that particular chapter:
- Egyptologists went back and did major research to prove the Sphinx was built at the same time or a little AFTER the Pyramids, and:
- Hancock went off his rocker, and began to write books about aliens and civilizations hundreds of thousands of years ago.
I should’ve paid closer attention to the second point, but I didn’t. So when I went to Cairo in March of 1996, I made plans to visit the Giza Plateau.
And like Hancock, I made plans to break the law.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu was sealed for centuries before robbers chiseled their way into the structure, where they came upon the original entrance to the Pyramid.
Today, tourists pay thirty dollars to go in through that entrance, which connects to the main tunnel some fifty feet inside.
Tourists continue upward at this intersection into the Grand Gallery, which offers entrances to two rooms – the King’s Chambers and the Queen’s, designated titles simply based on size.
Those were interesting. But I was more interested in the passage that went underground, and that passage was off-limits.
I went with a group of teachers past the intersection of the two tunnels – the one that led underneath the pyramid had a locked gate which didn’t quite extend to the ceiling, and a security camera aimed at it. I paused for a moment to notice the general lack of people who walked past.
The tourist attraction wasn’t that busy. In between people walking from the entrance deeper into the pyramid, there were gaps of about fifteen seconds.
Which might be enough to climb the gate, squeeze through the opening, and make my way into the tunnel. To calm my nerves and think some more, I caught up to the other ex-pat teachers.
The Grand Gallery was enormous; almost 30 feet high and 150 feet in length, it sloped upwards at a significant incline, which is why steps and railings were installed.
At the beginning, a small passageway led to the Queen’s Chamber; at the top was one that opened into the King’s.
While in each, I had a colleague take a picture of me in front of the air shafts, which had bars put in front of them to prevent an idiot like me from attempting to climb into them.
They weren’t so planned for the underground tunnel.
I walked with the teachers back towards the entrance, then told them I’d catch up later. I walked past the gate and security camera once, then back again.
My stomach churned.
I turned around, slowed down in front of it, and a large group of tourists went past me. I began to notice the humidity and heat, trapped from the influx of humanity. I was sweating profusely. Then, it was quiet – no one was around, and I made my move.
I reached the gate quickly, jumped and grabbed the top while using the middle bar as a pivot for my foot.
I swung the other foot over the top, rotated, then dropped quietly into the subterranean passage.
It was small – about three feet in height, and about the same in width.
So I crouched and made my way quickly down the passage, and then stopped.
The walls had lights attached to them at regular intervals, but in between bowed outwards, offering a smallish hiding place…and I heard footsteps. I braced myself within one of the alcoves and waited. I heard guards yelling, and one unlocked the gate.
A flashlight’s beam shone past me, down towards the underground. Would they make their way down the passage and find me?
I’m sure Egyptian soldiers are paid as well as Syrian ones, so after about fifteen minutes I felt secure enough to continue my journey, and a couple hundred of feet later, I was in the subterranean chamber.
The chamber looked like a completely unfinished cave. Rough walls, various man-made columns that didn’t touch the ceiling were scattered, and a large, deep pit sat in the middle of the room. I approached it with caution – at the time, there was no railing around it, and the drop was fairly steep.
I’d thought that based on Hancock’s writing, this may have once been a secret entrance into the Pyramid. But my imagination had run away with me.
I learned later it was the result of other, more legal explorers looking for water and a constructed tunnel, which were never found.
After I took some pictures and gathered myself, I took a look back up the descending passage.
There were a few soldiers guarding the opening to the outside, their bodies silhouettes against the bright Egyptian sky.
When they moved away from the entrance, I moved quickly to reach the gate, and once there I didn’t wait at all – I climbed it quicker than I had in the first place and dropped onto the stone floor, almost landing on a small kid who was shocked as hell.
I walked quickly towards the exit, beaming from ear to ear. I’d done what no other tourists could, and had gotten away with it.
Later that day, I went with Steve and we rented a falucca, where I told the story of my trip.
He may have called me an idiot, and said if I really wanted to see things that were off-limits to tourists, all I had to do was pay some baksheesh, or bribe money.
A year later I took the boys’ basketball team to Cairo to participate in a tournament, and we had a day to visit the Pyramids. This time, the team and I paid some baksheesh, and were given a private tour of the Pyramid complex, including some very cool tombs and hieroglyphics.
I forgot about Graham Hancock over the next year in Syria, but my love for that rush of excitement didn’t.
Occasionally, baksheesh played a part in some of these adventures. But it was even more fun when I didn’t pay a bribe…
…until it wasn’t…
…to be continued…
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