From Sakkara we continued to the Pyramids of Giza. Built by the Egyptian pharaohs of the 4th Dynasty (2600-2500 BC), the Pyramids of Giza, have withstood the test of time in the desert and is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one still in existence. We all must have seen many photographs of the pyramids over the years, but nothing beats coming here and seeing it in person. The sheer size and amazing engineering feat reflect the ambition and power of these ancient Egyptian pharaohs from thousands of years ago. According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, the pharaoh continues his reign and becomes a god in the afterlife and these great pyramids were tombs to house their mortal remains thought to still hold a portion of the pharaoh’s spirit or ka. These massive structures were also filled with items the monarch would need in the afterlife. The pyramid complex was constructed some 4,500 years ago and includes the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Great Sphinx, some lesser pyramids, several cemeteries and a workers’ village. All the pyramids were built with local limestone and then covered with finely polished white limestone or granite as can be seen on the base of the Great Pyramid. When the sun hits these limestones, the pyramids were said to sparkle like jewels in the vast desert. The pyramids all had entrances facing the north with the mortuary temple towards the east. The actual tomb chambers within are relatively small with other chambers for the cult and for burial items.
The Great Pyramid, also called the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops, was the first pyramid built around 2550 BC by Pharaoh Khufu. It is the largest of the pyramids in Giza and the most well known one. The base measures 227.5 meters with a height of 137.2 meters, and apparently took 100,000 men working in three-month shifts over 30 years to construct. Inside the bowels of the pyramid, there really isn’t much to see other than narrow dark corridors leading to the Grand Gallery and then the Tomb Chamber where the granite sarcophagus with Khufu’s mummy once stood. The “hike” up to the burial chamber was quite tiring and hot, and there really wasn’t much to see. There were no reliefs or wall paintings or hieroglyphs inside. There was a mortuary temple connected to the Great Pyramid and three smaller queen’s pyramids and five long boat pits as well as some cemeteries for other royals and nobles. In one of the pits was the broken pieces of a wooden Solar Barque which has subsequently been pieced back together and now displayed at the Solar Boat Museum next to the Great Pyramid.
The second pyramid in Giza, Pyramid of Khafre or Pyramid of Chephren, was built by Khufu’s son Khafre around 2520 BC. It has a height of 135.5 meters and a base of 210.5 meters and although slightly smaller than the Great Pyramid, appears larger because it stands on higher ground and was constructed on a steeper angle. The complex here includes the pyramid itself, a mortuary temple to the east, a valley temple, and the Sphinx. At the apex of the pyramid is a large section of the original white limestone casing. The Sphinx is a mysterious monument with the pharaoh’s head resting on the body of a lion. It is perhaps the most well-known monument in Egypt after the pyramids. Egyptologists have speculated that this majestic monument, at 73 meters hight and 20 meters long, may have been built to stand guard over Khafre’s tomb complex.
The smallest of the three Giza pyramids is the Pyramid of Menkaure or Pyramid of Mycerinus built by Menkaure around 2400 BC. It has a vertical height of 62 meters and a base of 108 meters and was made of unusually large limestone blocks. There is also a valley temple, a mortuary temple and three unfinished pyramids for his queens. Unlike the other two pyramid complexes, no boat pits have been found around the Pyramid of Menkaure. There is a long gash on the northern side of the pyramid created by an attempt by the Kurdish ruler, Al-Malik Al-Aziz Osman bin Salahadin Yusuf, to demolish it. However, it was too difficult and he gave up.
Armed with some introductions to Egyptology, we press on to Luxor to board our Nile cruise for more amazing ancient Egypt encounters. Stayed tuned!
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