This morning was indeed a beautiful one. This early, the heat was already penetrating, but it did not bother me. I was used to warmer climates and preferred heat and sunshine to cold and rain; Ray, on the other hand, wouldn’t stop complaining about how sweaty he was from the very moment he set his foot on this land.
How I loved Egypt… I would read about ancient Egypt for hours on end. There is something magical about this place, something that makes my mind travel to another time, a time of Pharaohs and gods… and mummies.
I had just celebrated my birthday last week, and my dear friend Ray arranged a trip for us to my dream destination. We were going to stay outside of the city of Cairo, in a small village located near many archeological sites, called Al Simhara, and in spite of the fact that I knew we weren’t exactly going to stay at a 5 star hotel with all conveniences, I was still a little surprised that the travel agency had neglected to mention to Ray (or Ray had “neglected” to mention to me) that we would actually stay at a camping site…
As I stepped out of my tent, I took a deep breath to smell the warm, sandy and slightly humid air of this wonderful place. My breath was taken away shortly after, when I noticed the Pyramid of the Burning Sands just across a small river. Meanwhile, Ray had also woken and he was silently approaching me from behind, obviously in one of his plenty –and unsuccessful – efforts to scare me.
“Good morning Ray” I said boringly.
“Huh?… Oh… aaah… hey …Good morning…” he answered, surprised that I had sensed him even though he was as nimble as a Felis catus (a characterization he often used for himself when he was boasting about his agility, swiftness, acuteness… physical and mental superiority in general).
“You know where we’re going tonight, don’t you?” I said mischievously.
“Uhmm, to the half sunken boat you’re lookin’ at across that river? …” he said amused.
“Very funny. But if you just look a little bit over that boat, you’ll see the Pyramid of the Burning Sands.” I said.
“Uuh… I’m hopin’ it’s a local club or somethin’…” he said, looking just a little frightened by what he had just heard.
“ Raaaay… c’mon…” I said practically purring. “It’s either this or going tomorrow with hordes of tourists yelling, taking pictures and standing in our way… I want to have the place for ourselves. To admire the site, not the backs of random people. What are you afraid of?”
He came in front of me, he looked at me with one of his smart-ass grins and started: “Well, you know… it’s not that we’ll probably have to climb up fences, sneak past guards and security cameras, get arrested for trespassing and spend the rest of our holidays caged in some filthy cages they call jails… it’s also that if we do manage to get in, then there is a slight chance that we’ll get killed by some ancient traps or who knows…maybe we’ll even get to know king Tutankhamun.” his grin was replaced by a more serious expression, which made me want to laugh so hard.
“Aha! In that case, my friend, you should consider yourself very honored. It is not like an ancient king, dead for some thousand years, wakes from his eternal slumber just to greet little scared boys like you, everyday” I replied, trying not to burst into laughter with how naïve my friend could get at times.
The rest of our day passed quickly, as we strolled through the small streets and alleys of the village and browsed the local marketplace for souvenirs and other goods. I would touch and examine every little thing that caught my attention, which was making Ray angry for some reason that will always be a complete mystery to me.
“Since I’m sure you are not going to buy this, why, oh why, do you have to spend so much time looking at it?!!” he repeated over, and over. It seemed to be Ray’s favorite sentence for the day. What is it about men and shopping?
When the sun started to set, leaving a purple-red color in the sky, the first stars started to show up, creating a wonderful, dreamy atmosphere that brought stories like One Thousand and One Nights to my mind.
Ray and I were strictly friends. I think he might have liked me at some point, but I made sure it was clear to him that we were not each other’s type. So, no romantic egyptian nights between us.
I could see Ray was getting more and more frustrated, but he didn’t dare ask me about what we would eventually do, probably hoping that I had forgotten about the crazy adventure I had talked to him about in the morning. He probably hadn’t noticed that I was leading him straight to the walls fencing the pyramid.
We walked next to a small hut-like structure, protected by a metal fence. We stayed there for a couple of minutes, admiring the night sky.
Ray started to ramble on about how city life sucks and how we have hardly any connections to nature anymore in big cities like ours.
“So, we’ll jump the fence and get in that hut. The hut obviously has another exit which leads behind the big walls surrounding the pyramid.” I interrupted him.
Ray held his stance for a second, as if time had stopped, with his eyes closed, his arm still extended and his mouth half open as if he was about to continue speaking. He was processing what he had just heard. “…what… how… WHAT??” he finally uttered.
“Did you not see the guard who came past us, got in there and after a couple of minutes was on the other side of the walls? Unless he was somehow teleported, this door will take us to the other side.” I replied in a most confident tone.
Ray nodded at me to lead the way with disappointment. Yeah, now he knew I hadn’t forgotten about our explorations. I approached the metal fence and realized that its door was unlocked. So was the door leading inside the hut.
“Wait… what if there are guards in there?” Ray whispered.
“There probably will be… We’ll say we were just looking for the restroom…” I said unable to provide a more convincing excuse.
“Looking for a restroom in the middle of the desert?! Just how stupid do you think they are?! Does this hut look like public restrooms to you??” Ray shouted in surprise.
“Oh shut up, they’ll hear us! They’ll just think we are stupid tourists, who search for this sort of …civilization even in the desert.” I said, unsure myself of whether it was making any sense at all. Ray shook his head and finally let me open the door.
We got in to a small room which looked like the guards’ headquarters or something. There were only two desks, and some monitors from the security cameras. There were stairs to the end of the room that leaded down, so we headed to them.
Once we reached the bottom of the stairs, we found another door. Only this time it was locked. Thankfully, the lock was an old one, so I had no trouble picking it.
“Woah, were didya learn this?” Ray asked excited.
“Oh, a friend of ours taught me. I think you know who that could be.” I said.
“Frank…” He murmured and I thought I saw a hint of sadness on his face.
“I thought you were best friends.” I said hoping that he would willingly spit out what was wrong. Frank, Shani, Ray and I have been an inseparable quartette for years. Why would Ray be upset about Frank?
“Yeah, best friends. How about we keep on moving, huh? Shall we?” he said, eager to change the subject.
“Sure, let’s move.” I knew better than to keep asking him stuff. He could be exasperatingly stubborn and I didn’t want to end up arguing with him over such a trivial matter. Surely it was something stupid as a fight over a girl or something like that.
Behind the door was a long, narrow corridor, filled with sand. It looked very old and some parts of the stone wall had collapsed. We passed two or three closed doors, but kept moving forward. The corridor ended to a small area with stairs going up. The stairs leaded to another small room similar to the first one. We managed to get out to the open again without facing any major difficulties and to my deep satisfaction we were now on the right side of the walls. This specific pyramid was not heavily guarded, so we sneaked past only a few guards and reached the front entrance of the pyramid.
I looked at the large stone which blocked the way, and I started feeling around the intricate carvings, puzzled.
“What? Don’t tell me that you expected to conveniently find a doorknob!” Ray said sarcastically.
After a few seconds I touched something that felt different. I carefully pushed it and suddenly the stone receded. We, now, had access to the interior.