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The Khamussin

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At Nasser’s stables, I hoist myself up into the saddle of a mottled Arabian mare. She’s small, but spirited, and we canter for a while into the dark gray void that appears abruptly at the edge of Giza and doesn’t end until it spills into the Atlantic Ocean three thousand miles to the west. Here the Sahara is fine grit and jagged rock, no gently rolling white sand dunes. After a quarter of a mile kicking dust, Nasser reins his mare in at the base of a hundred-foot up-thrust of rock.

“Up there you will get the best view,” he says. “I’ll wait with the horses. If you see any camel riders, stay down. It is the police.”

“I thought you knew them all.”

He laughs. “I do. That’s why you should stay down.”

Scrambling to the top of the butte, I watch a gradually widening band of lighter gray on the horizon as the aten—a blood red solar disc—rises. And with the morning light comes khamussin—the Saharan wind. Airborne sand draws a curtain across the plain of Giza, slowly diffusing, then erasing the three distinct shapes breaking the horizon to the north like much-too-perfect mountain peaks.

They are like nothing I have ever seen in my life, like nothing else on the face of the Earth. Battered for at least five millennia by the elements, pillaged by generations of by soulless marauders and avaricious monarchs, probed by scores of archeologists and armies of thieving diggers, the pyramids of Giza still beggar the imagination.

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