The Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza are over 4500 years old. They were built as the burial places for Khufu, Khfare, and Menkaure, three Pharaohs during the Old Kingdom.
Each pyramids at Giza has a name; “Khufu’s Horizon”, Khafre is Great”, and “Menkaure is Divine.” As divine places, all the pyramids are believed to have had names, even the small ones, and there are over 100 pyramids scattered around Egypt. One of my favorites is “Djedefre’s Starry Sky.”
They were not the first pyramids, but are the most enduring.
Despite the efforts of many people to dismantle and plunder them, they have survived to this day. They are visible proof of the superb mathematical, project planning, construction and organisational skills of the Ancient Egyptians.
In 2003 the village of the workmen who built the pyramids was discovered, offering final evidence that they were built by free citizens of ancient Egypt.
Their wonders were recorded by the Greeks and the Romans and they are the only remaining example of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
They are located across the River Nile from Cairo on the West Bank. The area is called Giza and there is a village named Mena located quite close to the Giza Plateau which is the location of the Pyramids.
The Sphinx, the Solar Boat Museum, and many mastaba (tombs) are located on around the pyramids. The Giza Plateau is a geographic feature that continues down to Memphis, Abusir and Saqqara, and most of the 100 pyramids were built on this formation. The Step Pyramid of Doser is located at Saqqara (Sakkara) and the Red and Bent pyramids of Senefru are located at Abusir.
The best time of day to see the Pyramids is the early morning, just after sunrise. There is a cool breeze off the desert and most of the other tourists are having breakfast.
The local villagers work at the Pyramids. They sell postcards, trinkets and camel rides. They run shops in the village which sell souvenirs and they work as guides to the sites. They dress up in their colorful Arab finery and decorate their camels so that you can photograph them. You must negotiate a fee for the photographs. These fees are called baksheesh and are a type of commission.
There is a spectacular evening light show. Your hotel or guide will know how to book tickets for you. The weblinks page includes a link to the company that produces this show. The web site includes a schedule for the Pyramids show and other sound and light shows around the country. This is quite handy, as the shows alternate in language. So you will want to book for a night that you can understand the narrative!
|The Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu)
The interior blocks of the pyramids have been revealed by centuries of plunder of the smooth limestone blocks that formed the outer cover. The small sign warns that it is forbidden to climb the pyramid. In the 1800’s tourists climbed to the top and stood on the platform that was created when the pyramidion capstone was removed. There is a beautiful basalt pyramidion stone in the Cairo museum.
|The Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu) and Solarboat Museum
The true size of Cheops is illustrated by the figure as compared to the pyramid in the background. Just at the bottom of the pyramid you can see the solar boat museum. The boats that carried the Pharaoh over the Nile to his burial were buried beside the pyramids. The museum is air conditioned to preserve the 3000 year old boat, and is a great place to spend the afternoon when the sun is hottest.
|The Pyramid of Chephren (Khafra)
Almost as large as the Pyramid of Khufu, the pyramid of Chephren (Khafra) stands on the plateau behind the Sphinx. Note the remaining cover stones at the top. The cover stones were once polished to a dazzling white.
|The Pyramid of Mycerinus (Menkaure)
The pyramid of the Menkaure is much smaller than the other two and was originally covered in pink limestone sheathing. Some say the arrangement of the three pyramids matches the place of the stars in the constellation Orion (Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka). It is speculated that the pyramids formed a personal Stairway to the Stars for each pharaoh buried within.
This colorized picture was taken while the Sphinx was still buried, sometime between 1890 and 1920.
|Tombs and Excavations
It was a privilege to be buried near the Pharaoh. There are hundreds of tombs surrounding the pyramids. Excavations are now taking place on the plateau. One of the most exciting finds has been the tombs of the workmen who built the pyramids.
|Seeing the Pyramids at Dawn
There are many ways to see the pyramids, and one of the best is to rent a camel ride out into the desert in the early morning. There are also still horses available for riding. One innovative tour can take you from Giza down the plateau to Saqqara and Abusir to see the other famous pyramids. This is a guided tour using camels as transport. As everywhere in Egypt, just ask around at the hotel, most tour services can be arranged at any time.