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In The Land Of The Pharaohs - Exploring Giza

Ben Hall

I’m looking through the lens of a camera at one of the Great Pyramids of Giza, trying to fit its vast expanse into a single frame when the fast clip-clop of hooves warns of possible danger. From behind, a camel is being driven towards me at speed. I quickly move forward to let it pass; the beast and its animated rider, who’s been touting for tourist dollars in exchange for photo ops, are being chased by a policeman also atop a camel. Minor drama averted, I return to my “spot” only to find it’s been occupied by half a dozen other camera-toting visitors, who spend the next 10 minutes enjoying essential Kodak moments in front of the only remaining one of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Patience is a virtue, however, and after a week of intensive sightseeing at some of the world’s most important ancient archaeological sites, I’ve learned that it pays to take a relaxed outlook on life when things get a bit hectic on the tourist trail.

The Giza Pyramid Complex 

The Pyramids of Giza is one of the great archeological sites in the world, and it undoubtedly has had a powerful effect on all who’ve stood in their shadows for the past five thousand years. Despite the heat, the dust, the chaos caused by the crowds and camels, and the attempts at crowd and camel control, this is one of those experiences which is simultaneously uplifting and humbling. With the Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, on one side and the slightly smaller Pyramid of Khafre on the other, this is the epicentre of ancient Egyptian culture which is defined by these fantastic feats of engineering. The entire Giza pyramid complex, which covers just under one square kilometre, is believed to have been completed by five pharaohs in under one hundred years by around 2650BC. In the past century, intense scientific and historical research still hasn’t revealed exactly how these great structures were built. Many theories, credible and otherwise, have been offered but there is still no definitive answer.   

The Great Pyramid 

The pyramids, and the Great Sphinx, grab all the attention because of their sheer size but closer to the ground there’s also a complex system of causeways, temples, tombs and cemeteries. Most people mistakenly believe that Giza is a remote location, but it sits on a limestone cliff with the bustling city of Cairo as a dramatic backdrop - as if it really needs it. Naturally, the best starting point at Giza is the Great Pyramid which has confounded scientists and engineers with both its size and mathematical precision. It’s been estimated it contains 2.3 million stone blocks with an average weight of one and a half tons each and the four sides of the pyramid are perfectly oriented to the main points of a compass. Each side is 230 metres long and the pyramid is now 136 metres high and viewed up close it seems impossible it could have been built nearly 5,000 years ago. It was built predominately as the tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu. 

The Pyramid Of Khafre 

Just a few hundred metres away is the Pyramid of Khafre, named after Khufu’s successor, which is often mistakenly identified as the Great Pyramid as it sits on bedrock 10 metres higher giving it the appearance that it’s bigger. The third pyramid in the Giza complex is Menkaure’s which is about half the height of Khafre’s at 62 metres with a base of 103 metres. Walking around the bases of the pyramids is an exercise which takes a lot longer than most people anticipate and gives an appreciation of the scale of the construction. The general consensus among Egyptologists seems to be that the Pyramids were not built by slave labour, as originally thought, but by paid workers who were motivated by their loyalty to the kings. The actual construction is believed to have been carried out with the aid of massive rollers and ropes and levers with a sloping embankment up to the pyramid and estimates of the numbers of workers involved at any one time range from 20,000 to 100,000.

The Great Sphinx 

While the mystery of the pyramids has kept scholars busy for many decades, the Great Sphinx also holds its own secrets and is the unofficial national symbol of Egypt. The huge royal sculpture, with the head of a pharaoh (believed to Khafre) and the body of a lion has stirred the imaginations of writers, poets and adventurers - not to mention the millions of tourists that stand in its shadow each year. The Great Sphinx faces east to greet the rising sun and has a temple in front of it. The depiction of a pharaoh’s head on a lion’s body was used to symbolise power and strength with the intelligence of a king - there are other sphinx’s throughout Egypt but this is the one that features as the “face” of the country, both past and present. For most of its life, the Sphinx has actually been buried in sand and even when Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798 it was covered up to its neck. For the next century several attempts to dig the Sphinx out were aborted because of the sheer weight of the sand but in 1936, the beast was finally revealed in its full glory, complete with surrounding walls and a moat. Its aura lends weight to the belief that these fantastic monuments of Giza were conceived and built as a result of man’s first realisation of the magical concept of eternity. And as an Arab proverb states: “Man fears Time, yet Time fears the Pyramids.”


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  1. Posted by on 24th Jun 2019 Verified Customer

    Best Holiday Ever 5 Star Review

    Went here recently as part of a big tour of Egypt including a visit to Cairo, Valley of the Kings, Luxor and a beach break at the end to catch our breath. It was's all about booking with the right firm and having the right attitude.

  2. Posted by on 24th Jun 2019 Verified Customer

    Safety? 3 Star Review

    Want to go but worry about safety? I keep hearing about attacks and issues........looks great though.

  3. Posted by on 24th Jun 2019 Verified Customer

    Sublime 5 Star Review

    I visited here some years ago before Egypt had any problems with safety and it's a mind blowing place which really captures the soul and imagination. I do have three top tips though.....the first is to avoid Cairo, and instead choose a pyramid view hotel in Giza....I saw your video on Facebook recently and it's quite something to throw open your curtains and see these amazing structures looming in the distance! Also definitely hire a guide to tour the pyramids as they will not only give you good information but also protect you from hawkers...tip well. The final tip is to arrange the tour of the Pyramids at opening time, both to beat the crowds and heat.........plan on spending a good few hours there and take lots of photos! Besides all that enjoy, it is one of the wonders of the world for sure and will leave its mark on you.