Think Egypt, and the first thing that comes to your mind is the pyramids. Undoubtedly, the pyramids are one of the last remaining wonders of the ancient world — making them a must-visit for any tourist. Withstanding the test of time, when all its contemporary structures have vanished from the face of the earth, these pyramids are still standing tall at the very place where they were once built.
A glimpse of all the pyramids
The pyramids are in Giza, a city located right next to capital city Cairo, on the western banks of the river Nile. The photographs of the pyramids that we usually get to see shows three big pyramids. But in reality, there are nine pyramids at the Giza Pyramid Complex. While the big three, comprising the Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu), the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, stand out, there are three other pyramids located near the Great Pyramid and another three near the Pyramid of Menkaure.
Pyramid of Khafre
The Great Pyramid or the Pyramid of Khufu was built in around 2570 BC and is the tallest and the largest pyramid in Egypt, with a height of 138.5 meters. The Pyramid of Khafre was built around 2570 BC with a height of 136.4 meters. Then Pyramid of Menkaure was constructed around 2510 BC and stands at a height of 65.5 meters.
The three big pyramids belong to three generations of pharaohs — Menkaure was the son of Khafre and the grandson of Khufu.
Representing Pharaoh Khafre, the Sphinx is said to be a mythical creature that has a body of a lion with a human head
Along with the pyramids, another iconic structure that grabs eyeballs is the Sphinx. Representing Pharaoh Khafre, the Sphinx is said to be a mythical creature that has a body of a lion with a human head. Built around 2558 - 2532 BC, during the reign of Khafre, the Sphinx is located in front of his pyramid facing the west. Carved from the bedrock of the Giza plateau, the Great Sphinx is a monolith.
Though visually, you get a feeling that the pyramids were constructed with large stone blocks with a smooth outer surface, they were actually built with three different layers of rocks. The inner chamber was constructed with granite stones, which had a reddish-pink colour. These granites came from Aswan in southern Egypt, on boats using the river Nile. The granite stone blocks were much tougher and helped the inner core — chambers housing the sarcophagus inside the pyramid — to withstand the weight of the outer blocks. The outer blocks were made of limestone blocks, which were taken from quarries of Giza itself, thus keeping the transportation minimal.
Pyramid of Menkaure
What we now see are these outer limestone blocks, but at one point, the pyramids had an outer casing of Tura limestone, which were white, unlike the middle layer of yellowish limestones of Giza. The white Tura limestones were chiselled smooth and were used as a casing for the pyramids. Thus, these pyramids once had a smooth and gleaming white surface. As the sun reflected on these pyramids, they would glow and be visible from a great distance.
Unfortunately, most of the smooth outer casings are gone today and what we now see are the limestone blocks from Giza. Only in a few places, one can still see the remains of the outer white Tura limestones.
The sarcophagus inside the King's chamber
You have the option to go inside all three pyramids, but the most popular one is undoubtedly The Great Pyramid. If you are claustrophobic, then stay away from going inside the pyramids, as the passageways are extremely narrow at some sections and you have to crawl from one chamber to the other with barely enough space for one person to cross at a time.
Once you almost reach the center of the pyramid, you will be able to see the King’s chamber housing the now-empty sarcophagus. With limited air supply and only supported by artificial light, this place is extremely hot and humid. But the feeling that one gets standing there, thinking about the thousands of years that this place has witnessed, is surreal.
The grand gallery inside The Great Pyramid
- Students with valid ID cards get a 50 per cent discount on all tickets.
- There are no tickets required for photography and videography, unless done professionally.
- You need to buy tickets to enter the Giza Pyramid Complex at the main gate. This gives you access to cover the entire area, except going inside the pyramids.
- Each of the three pyramids can be entered. However, entering The Great Pyramid happens to be the most expensive . There are no ticket counters inside, thus plan and purchase tickets accordingly at the gate itself.
- Once you enter the gates of the Giza Pyramid Complex, you can either walk around to check out all the pyramids, the Sphinx and other attractions, or you can take a camel ride or horsecart ride around the complex. There are tombs, remains of temples and other structures surrounding the pyramids.
- It will take nearly half a day to go around the entire complex, so plan accordingly.
Working for more than a decade in the book retail & publishing industry, Subhadip Mukherjee is an IT professional who is into blogging for over 15 years. He is also a globetrotter, heritage lover and photography enthusiast.