Egypt is a country of superlatives and the Pyramids of Giza more so.
Let me explain by going all statistical on you.
- Each of the pyramids has a base on around 13 acres. That’s almost as big as three Eden gardens cricket stadiums.
- It’s around 450 feet high. That’s almost half as high as the Eiffel Tower.
- Each has close to 3 million stone blocks, each weighing up to 60 tons. That could have been used to build 30 empire state buildings in today’s scenario.
- It was built in 20 years flat. In Bangalore, India a 18kms stretch of metro took 11 years to construct.
- But it’s not just about blocks. Just look at the cross-section that shows the elaborate chambers and paths inside them. Now that’s some planning!
- The pyramids are aligned to the north-south axis as well as in relation to each other. Perfect to a minute in a degree.
- Another unusual feature of the Great Pyramid is a concavity of the core that makes the monument an eight-sided figure, rather than four-sided like every other Egyptian pyramid. That is to say, that its four sides are hollowed in or indented along their central lines, from base to peak. The hollowing-in can be noticed only from the air, and only on the equinoxes. (Youtube Link)
So with that geeky background, you can safely assume that whatever you expect when you come to Giza, prepare to be blown away by the sheer size and accuracy of this architectural wonder.
Giza is a suburb of Cairo and is the focal point of the whole region and not just the country. Why? Just see this picture. That’s why. The pyramids are here.
Though this wonderful country has many pyramids, it’s the three Pyramids of Giza, the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure that capture our imagination. The Khufu pyramids is the largest. So everyone that lands from somewhere at the dubious Cairo airport have one thing in mind. The Pyramids.
The Egyptians are well aware of that fact and many run their livelihood on tourism and many others by haggling the shit out of unwary travelers. I’m from India and I thought I’d be used to haggling at a tourist place by now. But nothing prepared me for the haggling and pestering that happens here. You can’t walk 50 meters without someone approaching you with something to sell or offering to be your tour guide or coaxing you into showing you a secret place somewhere or plainly asking for Bakshish for no reason at all etc etc etc. See the three etcs?
It kinda gets on your nerve but hey there are pyramids right? So all is well.
You need to keep aside a full day to do the place any kind of justice. You will most likely hire a camel ride after someone pesters you for 71st time! Be sure to get in early so you can beat the noon heat as much as you can. Entry tickets: Regular: 60 EGP Student: 30 EGP Cheops(Khufu) Pyramid: Regular: 100 EGP Student: 50 EGP Khafre’s Pyramid: Regular: 30 EGP Student: 15 EGP Menkaure’s Pyramid: Regular: 25 EGP Student: 15 EGP
Entry tickets: Regular: 60 EGP Student: 30 EGP Cheops(Khufu) Pyramid: Regular: 100 EGP Student: 50 EGP Khafre’s Pyramid: Regular: 30 EGP Student: 15 EGP Menkaure’s Pyramid: Regular: 25 EGP Student: 15 EGP
1 Egyptian pound (or Lira Egyptienne)= Around 3.6INR= 0.05USD
Once you are done filling up your memory card with landscape photos of the pyramids once you reach the plateau. You go closer and be amazed at how accurately the blocks are aligned. You could almost run your hand across adjacent intact blocks and hardly feel the groove. Today, the pyramids bear light brown tones of their surrounding Desert. But back in their heyday, they sparkled. Originally, the pyramids were encased in slabs of highly polished white limestone. When the sun struck them, they lit up and shimmered. Some believe that the pyramids’ capstones were plated in gold as well. Those dazzling façades have been stripped long ago and used to build mosques. But you can still see remnants of a once-snowy cap atop the middle pyramid.
Around the base of the great pyramid are three of the four smaller pyramids. On the east side of the pyramid stood a now missing Funerary temple. Running down the hill into the valley was a stone causeway, which linked the Funerary temple with a temple in the valley. Around the pyramid were six boat shaped pits that may have contained the hulls of vessels that belonged to the pharaoh. Parts of one of these have been found and reconstructed into a 147-foot long boat that today is enclosed next to the pyramid in its own museum. These were used to transport the stone blocks used for constructing the pyramids.
You can enter the pyramids and see the chambers. You, however, have to go through claustrophobic paths imagining the weight of the stone blocks that sit perfectly aligned overhead.
And then there’s the Sphinx. It was an important mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. It’s partially damaged, but it’s pretty iconic. I, however, coud’nt help feel that it is a bit over-rated.That’s because you have just seen some of the biggest strctures on earth and then end up seeing a 60 feet high statue with the nose and beard missing! A bit of a let down really!
Tips for visiting the Pyramids of Giza
- Hiring a qualified driver is very important. Trust me you don’t want any uncertainty with the cabbies here. If you have a referral, that’s fine or else check with the hotel or a reputed company.
- When you enter the pyramids, the space gets really narrow. Both your shoulders will be rubbing against the walls. Wear comfortable proper fitting clothes and soft heeled shoes.
- Cover up. it’s an Islamic country, moreover, the sun can get pretty harsh. Use a lot of sunscreen and keep your water bottles handy.
- If you are a student make sure you take your ID. It gets you a substantial discount in many places in Egypt including the pyramids. International student ID preferred. Just apply online here.
- Scams everywhere. It’s very unlikely you will get out of Egypt without at least a minor scam. But that’s ok. Don’t let a small score bother you. Take it in your stride. Don’t fight with the locals.
- Bakshish. This would be the word you hear most often on your trip. Everyone expects a tip. I mean everyone.
- You may be tired walking around the pyramids. Use a camel or Horse- cart rides only if the animals looks healthy and well taken care of. Here’s a typical ride!
8. Always go to the southern point for the best spots for photos with all three pyramids. It’s a fair hike.
9. Make sure to go to the Pizza hut at the exit.They have panoramic views of the Pyramids from upstairs. Worth the Pizza definitely!
10.Visa: Most nationals need a pre approved visa to get to Egypt (Embassy website)
11. Egypt Visa for Indians: Indias need a pre-approved visa and their embassy in India is not very helpful nor are their websites. I did mine through a travel agent and it cost me INR 4500 and 10 days time.
12. If you can splurge, stay at the Mena palace( Now Marriott Mena House) right next to the Pyramids. Simply put, it is as good as it can get in Giza
13. What I Read: This book by the famous Egyptologist gives a detailed and entertaining account on the kingdoms and Pyramids that made Egypt. A good read. (Link)
14. What I Saw: I was recommended ‘The Yacoubian Building’ and boy is it awesome. It kinda got me hooked to Egyptian sub-titled movies and I ended up watching about ten more. (IMDB)