Amongst the chaotic hustle and bustle of central Cairo, it's almost impossible to imagine that a few hundred years ago, many of the endless skyscrapers and the choc-a-block traffic was non-existent; Egypt was once a vast, uninterrupted desert. Of course, since the Pharaonic times, the impressive pyramids built by the ancient Egyptians have stood proudly as a tourist attraction. On tour or not, escaping Cairo's madness to discover, or re-discover, Cairo's ancient wonders is often an attractive proposal.
The largest three Pyramids are the most well-known and frequently visited, whereas the numerous, smaller constructions hidden in other far-reaching corners of the desert are often overlooked and can be trickier to get to. Many keen and curious explorers choose to take a cliché camel or horse ride in order to get close to the archaic constructions; both can be uncomfortable and might even result in a few flea bites.
Opting for a faster and little more thrilling mode of transport, we visited Sakkara Country Club to take part in one of their quad biking tours. The small four-wheeled beach buggies handle the sandy terrain brilliantly and give the driver freedom to roam freely and quickly across the desert with the breeze creating a nice relief from the scorching desert temperatures.
Sakkara Country Club is situated on the Sakkara Tourist Road and is just as picturesque as its website had promised; a grand, Mediterranean villa located on attractive, spotless grounds.
After parking in their private car park, we headed into the spacious, comfortable and contemporary lobby where we were greeted by a number of courteous staff members. Even though we booked last minute, the team were able to accommodate us at a suitable time. Our designated guide ran through the three most important rules: stay seated, stay in sight and don't go too fast over the dunes. To our surprise, no helmets were required so following the rules became even more crucial.
As we suspected, we were the only people in our group, which actually allowed for an intimate, slightly more tailored experience for which we payed 175LE per person, per hour. The club is located by the desert track itself, so little time was wasted on the road, venturing to the beginning of the trail.
After demonstrating how to use the bikes, our instructor led the way, staying a while ahead of us for the majority of the time. As the weather was a little foggy, it took around five minutes before a group of pyramids appeared in the distance; unfortunately the Great Pyramids were completely out of view at the time of our excursion.
The Sakkara district stretches over several kilometres, and became a popular burial ground for the Pharaohs and Noblemen of the earliest dynasties. Due to this, several pyramids and tombs can be found scattered around these parts, including the unfinished 'Buried Pyramid', started by King Sekhemkhet Djoserty in the course of his short reign during the third dynasty.
Another, and one of the most famous pyramids we came close to, was the Djoser Pyramid, otherwise known as the 'step pyramid', which happens to be one of the oldest, built long before the Great Pyramids. It was built as Pharaoh Djoser's resting place during the third dynasty, between 2667 BC and 2648 BC, and as its second name suggests, the exterior now resembles six steps, differentiating its infratstructure from the later, smooth sided pyramids.
Djoser's tomb is said to sit about 95 feet below the desert surface and when the site was officially excavated in 1934, along with intricate paintings, false doors and inexplicable vaults, only a mummified left foot was found. Had we not been on a tour of the desert by bike, we could have visited and explored the complex on foot – pun intended.
We rode around several smaller pyramid mounds which were, admittedly, much less impressive than the Djoser and the Great Pyramids, although, the atmosphere and the notion of ancient, hidden secrets were enough to be mesmerising in themselves.
Quad biking with Sakkara Country Club presents a different, unconventional way and a must-do opportunity to see some of the incredible pyramids which are often left out of the limelight when it comes to sightseeing. We found that one hour was long enough; however, the bikes can be rented for as long as required.
Please note that you are not provided with helmets or any other kind of safety gear. We recommend that you somehow acquire your own and insist that you take it easy. Be safe.