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The Pyramids Of Giza

Of all of Egypt's major tourist attractions, only one is at the top of any list - the Pyramids of Giza. They're Egypt's three main pyramids, built in the 4th Dynasty (circa 2550 B.C). The pyramids of Ancient Egypt were built as tombs for kings (and queens), and it was an exclusive honor to have such a tomb. However, this tradition only applied in the Old and Middle Kingdoms.

 

Today there are more than 93 pyramids in Egypt; the most famous ones are those at Giza.

Now let's go for a little tour around the site of the pyramids and try to explore the magnificence of the area:

 

The Great Pyramid of Khufu:

 

Pyramids of Khufu

 

The famous Great Pyramid of Khufu is by far the biggest, tallest, and most intact pyramid in Egypt. After its construction, it became one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”, and today, it is the only one of them remaining. For a period of 4300 years, the pyramid was also the tallest building on earth, until the French built the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

Khufu’s Pyramid is built entirely of limestone and is considered an architectural masterpiece. It contains around 1,300,000 blocks ranging in weight from 2.5 tons to 15 tons. Its square base covers 13 acres, and its sides measure about 230m (755ft).  Its four sides face the four cardinal points precisely and it has an angle of 52 degrees. The original height of the pyramid was 146.5m (488ft), but today it is only 137m (455ft) high. Tthe 9m (33ft) that is missing is due to the theft of the fine quality limestone covering, or casing stones, by the Ottoman Turks in the 15 Century A.D, to build houses and Mosques in Cairo.

The pyramid's entrance, along with that of almost every other pyramid in Egypt, is located at the northern side. On this side there are actually 2 entrances, one is the original, and is 17m (55ft) above ground level, and the other one is a man-made forced entrance located below it. Created in the 9th Century A.D by Khalif El-Mamoun, who was seeking the treasures that he thought might have been kept inside. He sent out stonemasons to open up an entrance, and they cut it midway across the center of the northern side. Their tunnel goes almost 35m into the pyramid and was crudely cut, and at the end, it connects with the original inner corridors of the pyramid. Nothing was found inside, as it was plundered in antiquity. Nowadays visitors, to the site, use Mamoun’s entrance to gain access to the pyramid, as it is actually considered to be a shortcut.

 

The Pyramids of Giza

 

 

Please Note: If you attempt to go inside the pyramid, you will have to bend down all the way till you reach the burial chamber!

 

Pyramids of Khufu

 

From the main entrance of the pyramid there is a long narrow corridor with low roof that descends for more than 100m (330ft), which takes you to a chamber, located about 24m (79ft) below ground level, which is an unfinished burial chamber with very little fresh air inside, and is inaccessible today. 

 

Almost 20m (66ft) from that descending corridor there is another corridor connected to it, which takes you up into the heart of the pyramid. This ascending corridor reaches one of the great parts of the Great Pyramid, the "Grand Gallery"! This large, long, rectangular hall is 49m (161ft) long and 15m (49ft) high, with a long tunnel at the bottom that takes you the 2nd chamber, which is famously known as the "Queen's Chamber". It actually has nothing to do with a queen and was given this name by the early Arabs, who went inside the pyramids and gave it its name. It is commonly believed that it served as a magazine, or a storeroom, inside the pyramid.

 

When you ascend the “Grand Gallery”, you will find, at its end, an entrance to the 3rd chamber, which was the real burial chamber of King Khufu, and this is where you will find his stone sarcophagus, which was made out of one block of granite. This amazing chamber is rectangular in form, has a flat roof, and is built out of granite that was brought from the city of Aswan, which is located 1000Km (625 miles) away. The roof consists of 9 slabs of granite; each one estimated to be around 50 tons in weight! Above the roof of the burial chamber, the Ancient Egyptians built 5 small relieving chambers so that the huge pressure, of the weight above, would not cause the burial chamber to collapse. These 5 chambers are also made of granite and are about 1m (3 ft) above each other. The tops of the first 4 are flat, the 5th one having a pointed top to divert the enormous pressure of weight away from the burial chamber.

 

Both the northern and southern walls of the burial chamber have two small tunnels with rectangular entrances. They are small, and once were thought to go all the way through the outer sides of the pyramid, though no exterior openings have been found, and are believed to be “star shafts” that served a certain purpose in the ancient cult connecting the King with the stars.       

                       

If you need to know more about these small tunnels, and their connection to the stars, it is a long story! I guess you will need to come to one of my lectures!!! 

One last point! The Great Pyramid is the tomb of the great Egyptian King, Khufu. The name “Cheops” is also associated with this King and his Pyramid, the name being given to him by the Greeks. Though both names are generally accepted, Khufu was used in this description because it was his birth name! The same goes for Khafre (Chephren in Greek) and Menkaure (Mycerinus), and their pyramids are described below. 

 

 

The Pyramid of Khafre:

 

The Pyramid of Khafre

 

Khafre's Pyramid, or the 2nd Pyramid, is easily recognizable by the layers of its original casing stones that still remain near its summit and this, along with the fact that it actually stands on a higher part of the plateau, gives the impression that it is taller than the Great Pyramid. An optical illusion, as it is only 136m (446 ft) tall, with sides of 214.5m (704ft), a surface area of 11 acres and an angle of 53 degrees. It also has lost some of its original height through the years, once being 143.5m (471ft) tall.

 

The only similarity to his father's pyramid is the entrance in the same, north facing side. There are no corridors leading into the heart of this Pyramid, the burial chamber being underground, and a long descending passageway has to be negotiated to reach it. This entrance is 50 feet (15m) above ground level, leading to the narrow passage, which descends at a 25-degree angle into the large burial chamber, which measures 14.2m by 5m by 6.9m (46.5ft by 16.5ft by 22.5ft). To take the weight of the pyramid, the roof of the chamber is set at the same angles as the pyramid face. A large, black sarcophagus is found in this room.

A lower corridor is directly under the upper corridor, and once contained a portcullis that could be lowered to prevent entry as well as an unfinished burial chamber, which was cut from the bedrock and, it is thought, unused. Like the upper corridor, this one has a 25-degree slope, it then levels out, climbs slightly, and eventually, the 2 of them join together. The United passageway then leads to the burial chamber.

 

 

The Pyramid of Menkaure:

 

Pyramid of Menkaure

 

Khafre's son, Menkaure, built the smallest of the 3 main pyramids on the Giza Plateau. This one was only a mere 65.5m (215ft) tall, nowadays 62m (203ft), with sides of 105m (344ft) and an angle of 51.3 degrees. It is thought that this pyramid was altered during its construction, and made a lot bigger than originally planned. The original, smaller pyramid had a simple descending corridor and burial chamber, but when it was enlarged, a new corridor was built with 3 portcullises and a small paneled chamber. Later still, another burial chamber, along with a storeroom were added at a lower level. This pyramid, like its 2 neighbors, has a north facing the entrance.

 

Apart from the size, Menkaure's Pyramid differed from the other 2 in the choice of casing stones. Whereas the pyramids of his father and grandfather were completely cased in fine, white, Turah limestone, Menkaure's Pyramid was only partly cased in Turah limestone, from about 15m up! The first 15 meters was cased with pink granite, which had come from Aswan, the last of which was taken by Muhammad Ali Pasha (1805-1848) who used them to construct his arsenal in Alexandria.

 

 

The Great Sphinx:

 

The Great Sphinx, or as the ancients knew it, “Shesib Ankh” or “the living image”, has to be one of the most recognizable constructions in history. Think of the Sphinx and you automatically think of Egypt and the Giza Plateau. 
Sculpted from soft sandstone, many believe that it would have disappeared long ago had it not been buried in the sand for so many long periods in its lifetime. The body is 60m (200ft) long and 20m (65ft) tall. Its face is 4m (13ft) wide with eyes measuring 2m (6 ft) high. It faces the rising sun and was revered so much by the ancients, that they built a temple in front of it. 
 The 18th Dynasty King, Thutmose IV installed a stele between its front paws, describing how, when Thutmose was a young Prince, he had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the Sphinx ‘s head. Thutmose had a dream where Ra Hor-Akhty the sun God, talking through the Sphinx, spoke to him, telling the young Prince to clear away the sand because the Sphinx was choking on it. The Sphinx said to him that if he did this, he would become King of Egypt.  Thutmose cleared away all the sand and s after 2 years,  the god fulfilled his promise to the price and he was made the king of Egypt. 

 


Today, part of the “uraeus” (the sacred cobra at the forehead ) and the nose are missing (not shot off by Napoleon’s men as many believe, but were destroyed by Sa'im Al-Dahr, a Sufi fanatic from the Khanqah of Sa'id Al-Su'ada. In 1378, upon finding the Egyptian peasants making offerings to the Sphinx in the hope of increasing their harvest, Sa'im Al-Dahr was so outraged that he destroyed the nose!). There are small parts of a beard in the Cairo museum and big one at  British Museum in London which reputedly belong to the Sphinx, but many Egyptologists deny this, as the style of beard found, does not relate to the “names” that The Sphinx wears – different Dynasties! Because of the soft sandstone, the Sphinx has been repaired many times; sometimes the repairs causing even more damage! Also, due to the wind, humidity, and pollution from modern Cairo, its condition is still deteriorating, and the present renovations are a never-ending task.

 

Know before you go as a tourist :

  • The Giza pyramids opening times from 800 AM and close at 1700
  • Winter Season working hours are - ( 8:00 -- 16:30)
  • The month of Ramadan Opening hours -( 8:00 --15:00)
  • Area Entrance ticket per person - 160. LE
  • Entrance to Cheops boat Museum – 200 LE
  • Entrance to Khafree's Pyramid – 100 LE
  • Entrance to Khufu's Pyramid – 360 LE

 

Other facts:

 

  • It is forbidden to climb the Pyramids. You are only allowed to climb up the stone steps that lead to the entrance, which is 55 feet above ground level.
  • It is strongly advisable to wear good walking shoes.
  • The best time to go the Pyramids is in the morning between 0800 and 1200 - or 15:00 to 17:00
  • If you wish to go inside the Great Pyramid, there is an extra ticket for this that will cost you 360LE ($20 USD ) You will find the ticket office for the entrance to the Great Pyramid in front of the north-eastern side of the Pyramid. Sometimes is quite difficult to get this ticket, as the amount is limited to a certain number of visitors. They sell only 300 tickets daily, and they are divided among morning and afternoon. 
  • Note they sell 150 at 8:00,  and then at exactly 1300, the other 150. 
  • If you wish to go inside Khafre's Pyramid, you will have to get an extra entrance ticket - 100 LE. In addition to that, they charge  100 LE  (4 USD ) for cameras. 
  • If you want to get a camel or horse ride, the best place for this are the stables at the foot of the Pyramids plateau, it is cheap and safe.
  • In order to get rid of the vendors, simply say "No, thank you! " or "La Shukran" and they will go away, Believe it or not, it works.
  • As for the street vendors Don't say the word "imshi", like many of the guidebooks will advise you, it is simply means get lost, and you don't want to offend anyone in there, after all, they are just trying to make a living. Here are Some useful Arabic words for you
  • Tip for you: If you don't want to pay the extra entrance ticket for any of the above-mentioned pyramids Pyramids and still want to have similar experience of being inside one, then go the eastern side of the Great Pyramid and you will find there three subsidiaries smaller Pyramids (one was for the Khufu's daughter, one for Khufu's wife and the third one for Khufu's mother). Two of these Pyramids (his wife's and his mothers) are opened for visitors, and there is no extra charge to get in. All you need to do is show your site ticket to the guard and you will be in!
  • If you ever feel that you need to go to the toilet during your visit,  your best place to reach is at the Boat Museum which is located on the southern side of the Great Pyramid. Just tell the people at the entrance that you only want to use the toilet and they will let you in.

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