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78"x66" oil paint on French polyester, 2016


Experience in Egypt

It was winter 2010 and I was sweating through my shirt when arriving at the InterContinental in Cairo. The luxury hotel was more like a military fortress with blast walls and heavily armed guards. Reading about previous foreigner hotel bombings, I felt a little more at ease by the increased security. I was there to capture the pyramids from above. And, no laws currently existed to fly drones in Egypt, so I had to go door knocking in Giza. With a few weeks of studying the Arabic language, I only had one shot to complete the task.

After finding the local police station,  I was able to hire a guide, Mohamad, who knew the area well and said it would be no problem to fly a drone there. The guide took me to a building that was under construction to be the highest building next to the pyramids with a stylish rooftop deck. I pieced together my custom made UAV with a lens zooming camera, and managed to capture the pyramids from late afternoon until night. Being in the Middle East, I anticipated capturing a grey soupy sky, but that afternoon, the sky was the most colorful and glorious that I could have ever imagined. At night there was a light show on the pyramids, giving extra shape and dimension to the enormous dark structures, with loud speakers trumpeting music and dialogue about the history of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. 


After the drone flights were complete, my guide ran up to me and yelled that we have to leave. Moments later a group of men grabbed my guide and dragged him out of the building beating him on the head. The boss of the group, a Napoleon Commander type figure, asked me if I "believed". Contemplating the loaded question and the situation -- I said Yes, and just as quickly, they stepped away, leaving me alone flabbergasted. From a distance, I followed behind the group out and eventually exiting the building.


With urgency, I was able to grab the nearest taxi back to the hotel. Relieved, watching the bright city lights moving passed the car seat window, I thought about what had just happened and what was on my camera's memory cards. This was truly a once in a lifetime event that would never be replicated again.  -T.J. Mueller

About The Egyptian Pyramids

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

Based on a mark in an interior chamber naming the work gang and a reference to fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb over a 10 to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. Initially at 146.5 metres (481 feet), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface; what is seen today is the underlying core structure. Some of the casing stones that once covered the structure can still be seen around the base. There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid's construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.

There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built and was unfinished. The Queen's Chamber and King's Chamber are higher up within the pyramid structure. The main part of the Giza complex is a setting of buildings that included two mortuary temples in honour of Khufu (one close to the pyramid and one near the Nile), three smaller pyramids for Khufu's wives, an even smaller "satellite" pyramid, a raised causeway connecting the two temples, and small mastaba tombs surrounding the pyramid for nobles.

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