In my previous post on Egypt, I shared my experiences and thoughts of Alexandria which were pretty interesting. Cairo presented a very different side of Egypt, in fact something closer to what we were expecting – polluted, congested (with people and cars) and a lot more tourists.
Pyramids of Giza
Our first destination in Cairo was the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Our driver drove through the city and the next thing we know, we were standing right next to one of the world’s greatest structures, the pyramids. Everyone knows from books, documentaries, etc. that the pyramids are big. But frankly, you can only truly experience the scale of these giants when you see them in person.
We were absolutely in awe standing next to blocks and blocks of limestone, stacked on top of one and other from about 4500 years ago by manual labour (yes, run the scenes you saw on TV and movies in your head now). It was so cool to be able to touch and even climb them.
The big pyramids are tombs for the Kings whereas the little ones (mini, compared to the Kings’) are for their queens.
Our guide then brought us to a vantage point where we could see all the three pyramids.
The oldest and largest of the three pyramids is the Pyramid of Khufu (also knowns as Pyramid of Cheops). The tomb built for Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu was constructed over a 20-year period and it is the oldest Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one left.
The Pyramid of Khafre, built for the son of King Khufu, can be recognized by its layers of its original casing stones (the “finishing layer” covering the limestone we see on the pyramids now) still remaining near its summit.
The smallest of the 3 pyramids on the Giza Plateau is the Pyramid of Menkaure, built for Khafre’s son. The three pyramids are collectively called the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Our guide asked whether we would like to go inside one of the pyramids. He added that since the interior of all the pyramids are similar, he recommended that we go inside Pyramid of Menkaure since it was the cheapest (30 EGP or S$6.50 in November 2010). Great advice because there was nothing to look at! Everything is now in the museum.
From the main entrance of the pyramid, we had to bend down all the way until we reach the burial chamber. The passage was narrow, hot, humid and stuffy. It can be somewhat claustrophobic. No cameras were allowed inside (we had to surrender them!) but here’s a shot of what it looked like.
The Great Sphinx of Giza
We also saw the largest and most famous sphinx in the world – the Great Sphinx of Giza. The Sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and a human head, was sculpted from soft sandstone. Due to the nature of sandstone and the pollution from modern Cairo, the conditions of the sphinx (and the pyramids) have been deteriorating. The nose was almost non-existent!
Saqqara / Sakkara
This is supposedly where it all began – first Egyptian pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser or Step Pyramid, is located in Saqqara (about 45mins drive from Giza) and is on a smaller scale. Here in the desert, it is where we imagine pyramids would be sited, not beside a KFC in the city where the Pyramids of Giza are!
We had read and heard so much about avoiding the vendors at the tourist attractions and people who want to take pictures with you in return for money. However, we managed to snap a picture with this local (for free) and left without any issue. I guess we were lucky. Or maybe we ran too fast from him!
Sound and Light Show – Giza
There’s a sound and light show at the Giza Plateau in the evening which we wanted to watch but didn’t reserve any tickets. Our guide then gave us some insider tips – go to the KFC (really!) beside the Giza, order some food and sit at the rooftop to watch a free show! When we reached there, there were already groups of people sitting and waiting for the show, mainly locals and probably their guests. Although there were street lamps and lights from advertisement boards around us spoiling the ambience a little, it was a great alternative to watching the show inside the Giza Plateau and it’s FREE!
Our first pyramids experience was truly magical and surreal!
Have you been to Cairo? Also check out Alexandria in Egypt if you are interested.