Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.

Andrej Ciesielski’s view of the Pyramid of Khafre (screenshot via @andrejcie/Instagram)

One teenager’s daredevil stunt to procure aerial photographs and video of the Egyptian desert has earned him a lifelong ban from the country. Two weeks ago, 18-year-old German tourist Andrej Ciesielski scaled the Great Pyramid of Giza, where he snapped sweeping views of the city from a height of 455 feet, including a stunning shot of the Pyramid of Khafre. Unfortunately, while the Munich-based video editor completed his journey unscathed, Egyptian authorities detained him when he touched ground, releasing him after questioning. One hopes Ciesielski’s climb and his images that quickly went viral were worth the trouble: Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty this week sent official notice to the German Embassy in Cairo that Ciesielski may never return to Egypt, as Egyptian Streets first reported.

The Egyptian government has forbidden pyramid-scaling since 1951, with those who break the law facing up to three years in prison, but authorities apparently rarely enforced it until 1973. Ciesielski, who has pulled similar stunts in Dubai and in Hong Kong, is one of the many photographers testing such trespassing laws through the global trend of “rooftopping,” which has grown in recent years. His most recent climb followed a day of scrambling up buildings in central Cairo to photograph Tahrir Square and Talaat Harb Square from above, as he related in a blog post from January 25. In that same post, he recounts his epic climb up the ancient pyramid, noting that he faced little security as he started what seems to have been a pretty casual and carefree ascent.

“When I started climbing, a street seller was standing behind me, but I didn’t care about him,” Ciesielski wrote. “I turned around, he laughed, and I continued climbing. At the [halfway mark] some people got attention on me and looked up. That’s how the police spotted me. They shouted something in Arabic, I think, but I didn’t care and kept going while listening to music.”

Ciesielski claims he scaled the pyramid in just eight minutes and took 20 minutes to climb down. According to Ahram Online, although antiquities and tourism police initially arrested the teen, they released him because he was reportedly unaware of the law and had promised to never do it again. They also confiscated his photographs and video, but he still managed to share the material on Facebook, where they still reside.

As the Pyramid of Cheops is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, preserving it is one reason why the ban exists; another is simply because scaling it — as Ciesielski’s video footage emphasizes — is incredibly dangerous. A number of such daredevils have actually fallen to their deaths in the past. Ciesielski was much more fortunate — albeit not as lucky as the Russian photographers who beat him to the stunt. In 2013, a lens-toting trio made a nighttime climb to the peak of the same pyramid; although they dodged a run-in with the authorities, their photographs sparked international outrage for their disrespect of the regulations, leading them to later apologize for the deed. And lest we forget, Mark Twain made one (legal) journey up the pyramid in 1867, although his detailed written account describes a process much more exhausting, involving being “dragged up” by local guides each step that was “as high as a dinner-table.”

#cairo #egypt #travel

A photo posted by Andrej Ciesielski (@andrejcie) on

#cairo #egypt #travel

A photo posted by Andrej Ciesielski (@andrejcie) on

The Latest

Required Reading

This week, the National Gallery of Art finally acquired a major work by Faith Ringgold, the director of The Velvet Underground talks film, North America’s Hindu Nationalist problem, canceling legacy admissions, and more.

Did Judy Chicago Just Troll Us?

Nowhere in the museums’ advertising blitzkrieg for the performance were we told to bring our wildfire-season masks as well as our covid masks, and covid masks don’t prevent smoke inhalation.

Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

13 replies on “Egypt Bans Teen Who Climbed and Took Photos Atop the Great Pyramid of Giza”

  1. Irresponsible, selfish jerk and liar. ” According to Ahram Online, although antiquities and tourism police initially arrested the teen, they released him because he was reportedly unaware of the law and had promised to never do it again. They also confiscated his photographs and video, but he still managed to share the material on Facebook, where they still reside.”

    1. like you really give a FUCK… have you honestly thought about this in the past 2 days since you posted your ignorant retort?? if not, then do you want to know why that is? … well, im going to wager why: YOURE a selfish jerk, as well. So get real, lady! And irresponsible? do you have any kids of your own? if you do, then duh! teenagers generally are… “generally” so if you please, refer to David DiLillo’s comment. Its seems conclusive that you don’t relate to digital natives, so you should not shame him so quickly. Because you don’t understand and you are not aware of the timeline to what you’re reciting. Who says he lied? Did he go up a second time? Were his photos/video posted prior to the material being confiscated? … do you know what WiFi is?

      1. If he admitted he ignored police, and stated that he’d done similar previous antics in the past, then yeah, he’s a liar. And if they Egyptian police thought that then that would explain why he’s been banned from the country _for life_.

        1. Ok. Banning him out of the country followed the “initial arrest” but there is NOTHING that says he attempted to do it TWICE, or again, only that he ignored the police when they shouted SOMETHING in Arabic… DURING his climb (singular)… “although antiquities and tourism police initially arrested the teen, they released him because he was reportedly unaware of the law and had promised to never do it again.” ALSO, they banned him because it IS a law, and his claim that he was unaware of it is irrespective to upholding THE LAW… which, before it was a ban was a 3 year imprisonment that was RARELY enforced. And this law is meant as a safety measure as wall as to preserve an internationally recognized landmark. Sure, the Egyptian government (let’s get technical) have announced that he is banned “for life” … but, do laws change overtime and/or in the history of convictions is it possible to be exonerated from previous offenses because they are no longer enacted? YES. So let’s hold off on the judgements, if you are capable of doing so. Quite frankly, did you read the article? “Egyptian authorities detained him when he touched ground, releasing him after questioning.” So, your statement about the police is weakly supported. And, did you miss the part about the Russian trio doing the same thing 2013, not to mention the record of his OTHER stunts were in Dubai and Hong Kong … very clearly, this is an actual hobby that extends beyond any one perpetrator with only criminal intent. BUT, of course (and I mean this sincerely) you are entitled to think whatever you want and I do not need to change your mind. If, in the light of this conversation, you do not choose to read in between the lines, then, overall, I only feel sad for you and fear how easily manipulated you might possibly be.

          1. “Hobby.” Being a clueless narcissist does seem to be the most popular millennial hobby, yeah. You’d have to be both to believe that climbing the Great Pyramid was acceptable. The police started shouting at him halfway up… did he descend? He did not.

      2. I think the lying part was were he claimed to be unaware of the law preventing people from clambering all over an ancient monument. No one’s saying that he went up twice. Not all teenagers are irresponsible, and claiming that they are doesn’t excuse anyone’s behaviour. Not sure why you’re defending this person so aggressively.

      1. I’m gonna go climb your house. It’s just a pile of wood. Don’t get mad when I do things on your property that you don’t want…Seriously, it’s not his to climb, it’s their “house” they make the rules. How hard is that to understand? Considering your username has Soldier in it I’d figure you’d understand following rules and regulations.

  2. These are ancient cultural masterpieces that deserve protection and respect. Shame on you for publishing these photos to recognize an illegal stunt that doesn’t provide anything new to the public and only aggrandizes an apparently already disingenuous and self-centered teenage ego.

  3. “They shouted something in Arabic, I think, but I didn’t care and kept going while listening to music.” Of course he didn’t care. He’s 18. Cultural treasures of antiquity are to be scaled and quantified by Likes on social media.

Comments are closed.