Some chant. Some meditate. Some dance. Some sit in the lotus position and hum.
Every year hundreds of devotees of the occult travel to Giza Plateau near Cairo to absorb mystical vibes said to be trapped inside the pyramids of the Pharaohs Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus.
Pyramid power is said to cure a host of ills, give glimpses into the future, provide a better night's sleep, even halt aging--all for the price of admission, three Egyptian pounds ($1.20).
Under new rules, pyramid groupies are going to have to pay more--a lot more.
Zahi Hawass, Giza Plateau's director general, said groups of up to 15 now are allowed "to meditate or seek extrasensory powers" in the pyramids for 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($400) and only outside normal tourist hours. Each extra participant pays 50 pounds ($20).
Hawass said seven to eight groups ask permission each month to conduct seances inside the pyramids. Most want either to spend the night inside or to enter at the first rays of dawn.
"In the U.S. and elsewhere you have a lot of people with problems, and these people are seeking solutions. They look to the supernatural, and they think of the pyramids," Hawass said.
"But we can't let these groups interfere with tourists wanting to look at the pyramids from a historical or architectural standpoint."
Hawass said the most active pyramid-visiting mystical groups in the United States are several from Santa Barbara, Calif., and from the Edgar Cayce Foundation of Virginia Beach, Va., named after the American psychic who died in 1945. Cayce taught that the secrets of Atlantis and knowledge of the future are buried under the right front paw of the Sphinx at the foot of Giza Plateau.
In addition to Americans, theme cruises are organized in Europe and growing numbers of Japanese tours come to Giza especially to "tap pyramid power," Hawass said.
"This pyramid power stuff is really big," he said. "People want to believe in magic, and big structures give an air of magic. I'm sure if I called myself the Pyramid Prophet I could have a following larger than the most famous Indian guru."
Built about 4,600 years ago, the pyramids remain enigmas to scientists as well as to seekers of the unknown.
The first person to enter the Great Pyramid of Cheops in post-Pharaonic times was the caliph of Baghdad, Abdullah al-Ma'mun, in AD 820. He forced his way in by heating rocks, then breaking them by pouring on vinegar.
As generations of scientists and tourists, eccentrics and treasure hunters followed him, pyramid mystique grew over the ages.
Perhaps the most famous personality to enter in search of the occult was Napoleon Bonaparte, who spent the night of Aug. 12, 1799, inside Cheops' pyramid and emerged ashen and shaken.
He went to his grave in 1821 without telling what he experienced.
"No! What's the use," Napoleon was said to have told a friend. "You wouldn't believe me anyway."
Hawass said many people, especially in the United States, have ideas and theories about the Giza pyramids, particularly Cheops' Great Pyramid.
"They read that Cheops is made of 2.3 million blocks, each one weighing 2 1/2 tons to 15 tons, each side at an angle of 51 degrees, 50 minutes and 35 seconds," he said.
"They think nobody on Earth could have built this. That the pyramids were built by people from outer space, or survivors from the lost continent of Atlantis.
"They never look at what's attached to the pyramids, the structures, the organization necessary to build them, the cult of the king."
He said more than 200 books about pyramid power have been published in the United States, "but fewer than half a dozen contain any science of value."
Hawass, who has a doctorate in Egyptology from the University of Pennsylvania and has lectured throughout North America about the pyramids, said he had never heard of pyramid power until he went there in 1977.
"I was speaking to an audience in Hartford, Conn., and as I began to talk everyone in the front row held a pyramid above his head. I asked, 'What are you doing?' and they explained about power trapped inside the shape of a pyramid.
"OK. I try to be open-minded. When I returned, I tried some experiments."
The first was to test the theory that pyramids can preserve bodies.
"I bought some meat and put part of it in my office, part inside Cheops. The meat inside my office lasted longer than inside the pyramid. That was one (myth) down.
"If the ancient Egyptians knew that flesh could be preserved by placing a corpse under a pyramid, then why did they invent mummification?"