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Sightseein -Giza Pyramids & The Sphinx

Giza Pyramids & Sphinx
18km Southwest of Central Cairo
Giza Plateau
Open Daily 7am - 4 pm

The Pyramids
For centuries the great pyramids have intrigued and puzzled visitors, and even in the 20th century it is difficult to stand before them and not be overwhelmed. The three Pyramids were built as tombs for three 4th-dynasty pharaohs: Cheops (Khufu), Chephren (Khafre) and Mycerinus (Menkaure). The Great Pyramid of Cheops is believed to have been built around 2500 BC, one of the most disputed dates in the history of archeology. Today, the Great Pyramid of Cheops stands at 137 meters in height. At the time it was built, the Pyramid's limestone casing and golden tip brought its height to 147 meters. More than 2 million blocks of stone were used in the construction of this pyramid, the precision of which has not seized to amaze architects.

West of the Great Pyramid is the Royal Cemetery which contains 15 mastabas. The Royal Cemetery was the site of the discovery of a 4600 year old mummy of a woman. The mummy is completely encased in plaster, something that is very unique and has not been seen in any other ancient tomb.



Southwest of the Great Pyramid is the Pyramid of Chephren which, visually, seems larger than the Pyramid of Cheops as it stands on higher ground, but is in fact slightly smaller at 136.4 meters in height. Its tip though, still has part of the original limestone casing, which once covered the whole structure. Archeologists have agreed that Chephren's pyramid is the most elaborate of all three in terms of craftsmanship and attention to detail. Among the most interesting features of this pyramid are the substantial remains of Chephren's mortuary temple.

The smallest of the three Pyramids; the Pyramid of Mycerinus, is just 66 meters high. Contrary to that of Chephren, Mycerinus' pyramid is the least elaborate of all three pyramids. Inscriptions suggest that Mycerinus died before the pyramid was complete and that it was his son, Shepseskaf, completed was the one who completed the structure. The burial chamber once contained a splendid sarcophagus of basalt that went missing in a shipwreck off the Spanish coast on its way to England.

All three Pyramids had been looted of most of their treasures long before they were archeologically scrutinized.

To the South of the Pyramid of Mycerinus are three smaller pyramids known as the minor pyramids. A casket containing the bones of a young woman in the largest of the minor pyramids led archeologists to believe that it was built for Mycerinus' wife.

Until recently, the Pyramids were believed to have been built by slaves but recent excavations have given archeologists cause to believe that they were built by willing laborers, paid with lentils and onions, and led by a few thousand skilled craftsmen.

The technique used to build these colossal monuments with blocks weighing from two to sixteen tons remains the subject of architectural and archeological debate.

On any day, at least one of the three Pyramids is open for visitors to enter. There is not much to see inside the pyramids; narrow corridors leading to now empty chambers, however the experience in itself is certainly worth its while. Please note however, that entering any of the Pyramids is not recommended for people suffering from claustrophobia.

The Sphinx

Originally called 'Horem Akhet'or 'Horus, Who is at the horison', this scultpture of a human headed lion stands next to the Pyramid of Chephren and is believed to depict the facial features of the same pharoah.

Known in Arabic as 'Abu el hol', meaning 'father of terror', the figure was named the 'Sphinx' (the strangler) by the Greek because of its resemblance to the mystical winged monster with a woman's head and a lion's body, who proposed a riddle to the people of Thebes and killed all who did not guess the right answer.

The Sphinx which is 50 meters long and 22 meters high, was almost entirely scultped from one piece of sandstone that was left behind in the quarry from which stones were cut out for the Pyramid of Cheops.

Many times during the course of centuries the body of the Sphinx was completely covered in sand, leaving only its head uncovered; a major reason for this soft sandstone structure's survival until today. A memorial stone between its front paws tells the story of how Tuthmosis IV (18th Dynasty) dreamt that if he could clear away the sand to reveal the sculpture's body, he would become Pharaoh; a dream which eventually came true.

Every evening after sunset, the Pyramids plateau is converted into an open-air theatre for the Sound-and-Light shows that are held at the foot of the Sphinx, with a magnificent view of the Pyramids. The shows consist of narrations 'by' the Sphinx, on the history of the Pyramids, in a spectacular setting accompanied by colorful lighting effects. The shows are offered in Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese on different nights. The show schedule changes from season to season.





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