Skydiving over the Pyramids

After my second jump over the pyramids

Egypt, such a land of dreams.

Everybody has a mental picture of what it should be like, and like most, I also had some rough ideas of what to expect. Especially after hanging out with some Egyptians, I had a pretty good idea of what the traffic would be like in Cairo. It didn’t get to see a lot of it unfortunately as it was a very short trip.

It was not like my usual trips as it had a very special goal. It was my first skydiving trip and quite the unique one!

First of all, I never thought it would be doable, let alone that I, a baby skydiver, would be able to do it.

But that’s the great thing about having friends from that country and being an honorary member of the “Egyptian bastards”. I was told about the insane project. And when it started to be put together I was invited to join. Getting most of my other skydiving friends insanely jealous in the process!

Flying to a different sand box

The day I flew to Cairo, I have to admit I was nervous. Even though I knew my friends were going to be there, I was still flying in on my own. By now you wouldn’t think that it would no longer get me nervous, but it’s like the more I travel, the more anxious I get to arrive in an unknown city. Until I get to the plane that is. Once I’m on my way I’m fine and know I’ll figure it out, but on the days before I fly out, I seemingly wonder if I can still do it. Silly me.

Cairo

It would have been a lot easier if I had decided to join my Dubai friends, but being the Egyptians that they are, they got everything ready rather last minute. I knew this would most likely happen and I didn’t want to wait and risk paying more money. So I booked without them.

So there I was, arriving in Cairo, alone. Well technically surrounded by tons of people (and some very good looking) but I was on my own.

Since I had borrowed a parachute, I had to buy a suitcase for the trip as it didn’t fit in my usual green backpack.

After an uneventful flight, I paid for my visa went through immigration and collected my suitcase. While watching the suitcases get onto the carousel, I kept thinking that with my luck, and a borrowed parachute in it, my suitcase might not make it. But of course, even if it was the one before last, eventually it made it.

I had planned on changing some of my money at the airport, but there was a long queue and of course, I didn’t want to wait. So I walked out, only to find out there didn’t seem to be any money exchange office, not that I could see anyway, but there were quite a few ATMs.

I withdrew money and cued at the Vodafone booth to get a SIM card. There was a rather cute guy who was also waiting for a SIM card and I almost wanted to ask for his number but in the end, I decided against it. I was way too shy, unfortunately.

Why remove the old plate when you can just add the new one on top?

Once I got my SIM card with data, I ordered an Uber. The first driver somehow didn’t manage to find me, and after calling me and not managing to communicate between my non-existent Arabic and his very limited English he cancelled the ride.

By then I had already been waiting for a bit so when the second driver finally picked me up in his dusty old car, I was ready to leave. But that was without counting on the guard asking him a bunch of questions. What they actually talked about I have no idea, but I was starting to feel like getting to the hotel would be quite the adventure!

Eventually, we got the okay and we left. It took about 1 hour to reach the hotel, thankfully the traffic was actually quite smooth. The driver was very funny as he tried to communicate using Google translate. It worked somehow and he showed me some of the attractions on the way. Between the traffic (light by Cairo standards), his typing questions on his phone and trying to point out everything I needed to see, the ride was quite interesting. It would have however been incredibly stressful to anyone coming straight from Western countries, but I loved it. Once I checked my seat belt was actually holding me of course!

Cairo

When there is proper traffic it must be really painful to try to get anywhere as the streets are very narrow. People don’t follow rules. Pedestrians are crossing just about anywhere. There was even one guy who had missed his exit so he rolled his window down, signalled with his hand outside of the vehicle and started to reverse. Seemingly not caring about whether or not there was oncoming traffic.

When we made it to the hotel, it was dark, but I could still make out the outline of the pyramids in the dark. It felt surreal.

1st jump or crashing on the walls surrounding the Pyramids

The next day we all started out by having breakfast before piling up into buses to go have a look at the landing area. The landing area was definitely not as smooth as an actual landing area in most drop zones but the surroundings were surreal. The landing area was in front of the Pyramid of Menkaure, right next to the Pyramid of Khafre. We all took photos of course and then got back on the bus to reach the military base.

So far Cairo was exactly what I was expecting, sandy, dirty and old. There are some new developments in the city of course with malls and even an Ikea (although it did look rather out of place). It was great. Seeing the pyramids was really weird. I was not sure what to think. Everything felt very odd as I did not quite realize what’s happening to me.

Some of the C-130

When we arrived at the base, the process was rather slow, which was to be expected of course. We finally got in the military base, got the briefing of jumping out of a Hercules C-130, and started splitting into different groups and passes.

Jumping out of a C-130 is quite different than from a Twin Otter, first of all, you jump out of the tail, and there no separation between the groups as the plane goes quite fast even when it slows down.

I had decided to do my first jump on my own, so I could enjoy the view and not get distracted. I was already jumping out of a new plane, and landing in an unfamiliar area. It was enough changes for me.

Getting on the Hercules!

The jump was quite overwhelming. The experience of sitting in a military plane was quite unique. I thought of my dad a lot as I knew he would be impressed. He used to take me to all the airshows when I was younger, so not only to see a Hercules but sitting in one was special.

I wasn’t all that nervous yet, but I think that’s because I had no idea what was happening to me.

Finally, it was time. I got close to the door, and quickly it was my turn to run out and jump. Looking back at the plane was quite fun. Seeing everybody else exit too.

And the view.

I had never thought in my life I would see the pyramids like this. Seeing the extent of the city and how close the pyramids are was insane.

I had packed my parachute for myself for the first time since my course, so I was wondering how that was going to open, but it was super smooth. Thankfully!

That view!

We all had decided to open up quite high as we knew we would want to take in the views. Doing my landing pattern over the pyramids was surreal. And it really put into perspective the sheer size and immense feat of engineering involved in building them.

As I was in my final approach though, I saw a dust devil. I had never experienced one of those fuckers but I had heard about them. I knew they were affecting areas a lot larger than they seemed, but I didn’t really realize how big exactly. And at that point, I didn’t have much time. I tried to avoid it as best as I could but got caught in it anyway. It all happened really quickly and next thing I knew I was crashing onto a rock wall in front of the pyramid.

The wall I crashed in, the whole was already there I promise!

Adrenaline had kicked in so I didn’t feel anything. My only worry, when everybody came rushing towards me, was that they were trying to pick up my parachute, dragging it on the very sharp rocks. I didn’t know if it was okay but I didn’t want to risk ripping a hole in it.

At that point, I was surrounded by people, which looked quite scared as both my arms were bleeding. I took my helmet off, told people to leave my parachute where it was and started gathering all the lines. One of the organizers really wanted me to have the paramedics look at me, but I kept telling her I was fine, it was only skin after all!

Eventually, she did manage to convince me to have them at least clean my cuts. I was so embarrassed. Not only did I messed up my landing, but it was a unique experience and I had managed to fuck it up.

Proudly saying hello to my wall the next day

While everybody was dealing with the media, and on a high from their jump, I took my parachute and my bruised ego and went back and hid on the bus.

Eventually, everybody got back on board, and we went to the hotel. I was very lucky that a French paramedic was part of the group and that he had brought stuff with him. An actual suitcase full of meds and bandages, which I ended up using a lot of.

He cleaned my wounds properly and bandaged me up. Then I joined everybody in the hotel hallways to pack my parachute.

The Nile

At night we had a cruise on the Nile. It was interesting to see. The buildings are either really new or falling apart. There didn’t seem to be much in between.

Driving in Cairo sure was once again rather interesting. People cross the street everywhere, walk in on motorways. There are no traffic rules as far as I can see. When I was in the uber from the airport, I had seen a guy who had taken the wrong exit, rolling down his window signalling to people he was reversing and then simply backed into incoming traffic. I had thought this was funny and rather unexpected, but the exact same thing happened with our bus that night. The police made the bus go backwards, stopping people and we moved to the other exit. But reversing a bus onto an exit rampway sure is not quite the same as a small car!

Cairo

During the Nile cruise, I chatted with the French crew but I was clearly not in the same mood as everybody as all I kept thinking about was my landing failure. It was also a lot of emotions for one day and I was getting quite tired. I spent quite some time simply looking at the city pass by.

When we were back on the bus heading to the hotel sitting was feeling a bit uncomfortable. And when I got in my room after Tom changed my bandages once again, I took off my clothes and that’s when I saw the biggest nastiest bruise I had ever seen on my butt. It was taking almost an entire side of my ass. No wonder sitting felt a bit uncomfortable!!

Second day

Once again after breakfast, we all piled up in buses. This time we knew the drill and were a bit more efficient in the planning,

We were constantly under police escort, one car in the front and a truck with officers with guns in the back. It was a bit surreal but it was true that there were barely any other tourists so I guess we were easily targetable.

Skydiving over the pyramids!

For that second jump, Tom, my personal French paramedic offered to jump with me so I would have at least have some photos of my experience. It was very sweet of him. And it is true that if I didn’t jump with him I would have actually had no photos since I am not experienced enough to be jumping with a camera. This jump went really well, and even though I was quite stressed out about my landing, it was a very smooth landing.

After the jump, we came back to pack our parachutes and quickly we had to get on our way to go to the restaurant. The vegetarian options were the same for most meals, fries, soup, white rice, and pasta. Not the most interesting choices. And if I was to do this again I don’t think I would take any of the meals. I had been craving kosheri and since they kept feeding us, I ended up not being hungry enough for my favourite Egyptian food!

A pretend ground briefing at the Egyptian Museum

After lunch, we went to the Egyptian Museum and it was fascinating. Although like everything else there was a lot of waiting and then rushing through. Seeing the mommies was special. It’s really weird to think they use to be alive about 5000 years ago. And we can still make up their bodies and faces. I found it really weird to be looking at people as it didn’t feel quite right to have a bunch of bodies and people taking photos… Tutankhamon’s mask was also really impressive. Super shiny and eerily beautiful.

I really enjoyed the museum and the rather messy presentation. I could have easily spent the entire day there looking at all the artifacts, however, we had very little time.

Khal el-Khalili souk

The next activity was Khan el-Khalili a major souk in the city centre. Just like most of the French guys, I didn’t feel like walking around and being hassled so instead we grabbed tea and enjoyed some quiet time and interesting conversations before going back for yet another dinner on the Nile.

Our bus inching its way through the souk

I didn’t feel all that sociable during the day. It’s always really challenging for me to always be with a group. Sometimes I am envious of people who can seemingly spend time with a lot of other people and be perfectly okay. Not needing any alone time. I am also not used to travel in a pack and I am quite independent so it was rather difficult to always be waiting on people.

Last jump

For our last day, everybody was once again a lot quicker and as Bill Booth (skydiving legend, engineer of the three ring system and overall just really cool dude) said: ”the first day it was super exciting, the second day was good and now it’s routine.” It’s a crazy thought that jumping over the pyramids was now routine, but it was oddly so true.

The legendary and hilariously funny Bill Booth

For my last jump, I decided to go alone again so I could enjoy the view and not worry about anything. I took in as much of the views I possibly could. When it was time to land, all I could think about was don’t fuck it up, don’t fuck it up. So, of course, it wasn’t a very good landing. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the first one as I landed on my feet but then somehow managed to trip over my own feet and end on my knees, adding a few more scratches to my already badly bruised up body.

Giza house next to the pyramids

After the jump I attempted to go back to the Pyramids with Tom, because I wanted to have a look inside, but after the taxi driver tried to rip us off and I lost my shit, the guard wouldn’t sell us tickets to go inside of the pyramids as it was closing very shortly so we walked back to the hotel going through the small streets. It felt like I could breathe again. Not being in a group, walking and discovering new areas was great. We met a whole bunch of locals going about their day and they all kept telling us the pyramids were the other way as if it was the only possible reason to go to that area!

Giza

Discovering new places really is what’s keeping me alive. Seeing, hearing, smelling new places. There’s nothing like it. I had a really good time. I loved Cairo. It’s busy, dusty, just how I like my cities.

Back to reality and processing my epic adventure!

It was a very quick trip, so much so indeed that it took me a long time to even realize it had happened.

As one of the guys said, I didn’t even know jumping over the pyramids was on my bucket list. And out of a Hercules on top of it, it was fucking epic.

I did leave pretty beaten up by my first bad landing and my last tumble. I had scratches and bandages on my arms and legs and a massive purple bruise on my butt. I’m very lucky I didn’t actually get hurt more as it was a pretty bad landing. I did look like I took a serious beating though. But since I actually did, I guess it was quite normal.

Already the third and last jump over the pyramids

The Uber I took to get back to the airport drove me next to the Military Base and it made me want to go and ask if I could get back on the C130!

When I arrived back in Dubai, I went to the pharmacy to buy some cream to put on my wounds (since I no longer had my own personal paramedic looking after me). Of course, the pharmacist being Egyptian I had to show him some photos and videos! And like most other Egyptians (besides my Skydiving friends) they had never seen the view from that angle.

This very short trip does make me want to return to Egypt and explore the rest of the country, and see the pyramids again, most likely from the ground this time though!