Desination Bucket List: The Great Pyramids of Giza
Egypt, a land of wonder and mysteries untold. Even after thousands of years, the astounding structures that made Ancient Egypt the jewel of the olden world are still as amazing as when they were first built. Travelers who want to step back in time and experience the cradle of civilization should put visiting Egypt on top of their bucket list.
What's in Store for You in the Pyramids of Giza
When you think of Egypt, the massive Pyramids of Giza quickly come to mind. Ancient monuments stand along the fertile Nile River Valley, which includes the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings, and Karnak Temple. From books to films, the pyramids have been immortalized as bearers of tales that range from the romantic to the horrific. If you’re looking for an unforgettable trip that will allow you to journey through millennia, read on to find out what Giza has in store for you.
Just a 30-minute ride from Cairo, the Giza Plateau holds the world-famous Necropolis. The three pyramids – Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure – run diagonally southwest. These pyramids are named after the pharaohs that built them, the same pharaohs that made these gargantuan structures their home in the afterlife.
Great Pyramid of Khufu
The Great Pyramid of Khufu looms above the other pyramids. The oldest and largest, this pyramid is also the only remaining member of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” – so prepare to be mind-blown! The Pyramid of Khufu or Cheops in Greek, stood for over 3,800 years as the tallest, man-made structure in the world. Aside from the magnitude of its size, another impressive fact about the pyramid is that it is perfectly oriented to the points of the compass.
This pyramid was initially built during the Fourth dynasty as a tomb for King Khufu and the construction stretched on for approximately 20 years. It rises 480 feet into the sky and is made of 2,300,000 blocks of stone. Even if the architects were hampered by limited surveying tools, the precision of the build is such that there is only a very miniscule difference in the length of the four sides.
Glistening casing stones once covered the outer surface of the pyramid. Truly an architectural marvel, Khufu’s pyramid stands at the heart of an elaborate complex. It’s the core of structures that include a number of small pyramids, a causeway, a valley temple, a mortuary temple, boat pits, and other flat-roofed tombs.
Pyramid of Khafre
Built by Khufu’s son, Khafre, the Pyramid of Khafre or Chephren stands more than a hundred meters southwest of the Great Pyramid. At first glance, this structure may seem larger than the Pyramid of Khufu, but that’s just because it was erected on a higher area in the plateau. It is 135.5 meters high and the original limestone casing can be seen on the pyramid’s apex.
Pyramid of Menkaure
The Pyramid of Menkaure or Mycerinus is the smallest of the pyramids. It rises up to a height of 62 meters and is made of uncharacteristically huge limestone blocks.
Another iconic symbol of Egypt is the Sphinx, located northwest of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Arguably as mysterious and fantastically-built as the pyramids, the Sphinx is nonetheless one of the great wonders of days gone by that should be visited by travelers. Sculpted from natural rock, the Sphinx’s head is shaped like that of a pharaoh and is commonly said to represent Khafre. The head of the pharaoh dons the royal head-cloth with the cobra. The Sphinx is made of granite and its body is shaped similarly to that of a recumbent lion. While the passing of the centuries may have scarred its façade, the Sphinx will still entrance you with its air of majesty and grandeur.
How to Enjoy a Tour of the Pyramids
Seasoned travelers have plenty of advice to give on how to tour the pyramids best. To start off, prepare for the desert heat. Make sure to wear comfortable, light clothing that will enable you to get around the area without wearing you down. Bring protection from the sun, such as a sunscreen, and protective wear such as a hat, scarf, or sunglasses. It’s highly recommended that you bring your own bottle of water, but there are also nearby establishments where you can get refreshments.
The earlier you can get to the site, the better – and it’s not just to escape the heat. Keep in mind that you may not be able to enter the interior structure of all the pyramids, one of the pyramids might be closed for preservation at a certain time. The Pyramid of Khufu also admits only a certain number of tourists in the morning and again in the afternoon, so it is best to be early and get a slot. Tickets are sold at 8:00 a.m. and again at 1:00 p.m.
If you are not able to get tickets to the interior of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, don’t despair. The Pyramid of Khafre has no limits on interior visits and tickets are generally sold throughout the day. For the best panoramic photos of the pyramids, head to the rocky escarpment a few kilometers south of the Pyramid of Menkaure.
Some say that traveling in groups is much better, as you’ll be able to get good transport deals and you won’t be the sole focus of enterprising locals. There are plenty of vendors around the site, and most are willing to go the extra mile just to sell their wares. Also, keep in mind that roaming the areas outside the pyramids are free.
As long as the heat is not intense, it’s quite easy to walk around the pyramids and the Sphinx. Getting to the panoramic viewpoint, however, will require transport.
To Camel or Not to Camel
The people who run the camel rides can drive a hard bargain, and they will be willing to hound you until you give in. If you want to experience a camel ride – and get an excellent photo opportunity – in Egypt, this is definitely the one to take. Don’t give in without bargaining, though. Camel rides can be quite pricey and you’ll be lucky to have one at EGP 50.
If a camel is not for you, there are horses that you can ride at the village stables. The horses are very well cared for and the experience of riding a horse as the sun sets on the pyramids is well worth it.