Giza Pyramids Tour
The Giza Plateau is the northern extension of the necropolis of Memphis, situated on the west bank of the Nile and is today part of the suburbs of modern Cairo. When visiting the Giza pyramids for the first time the traveller anticipates the experience of standing before these magnificent structures rising out of the desert sands in a kind of time-warp, but the greatest surprise is when you turn around and feel the skyscrapers of the rapidly growing city closing in, as if they were trying to outshine their ancient neighbors
The Giza Plateau is famous for three pyramids. Khufu’s son, Khafre (Greek, Chephren) also constructed a pyramid next to his father’s monument. From a distance Khafre’s pyramid looks higher than Khufu’s, but this illusion is due to the structure being built on rising ground. The third pyramid belongs to Menkaure (Greek, Mycerinus) and is the smallest of the three. When they were built they were encased in thousands of blocks of white limestone from the Tura quarries across the river and must have presented an imposing sight, shining from a great distance in the scorching sunlight of the desert. Now most of the casing stones have gone, robbed in ancient times, but some can still be seen on the apex of Khafre’s pyramid.
The pyramids of Giza have always fascinated mankind and a great many mysteries have been built around them. Napoleon Bonaparte himself was greatly impressed by the structures when he conquered Egypt in 1798, at the time when they were truly out in the desert. They have been given many names – the ‘Granaries of Joseph’, the ‘Mountains of the Pharaohs’ – and there are numerous theories about their origins, including their construction by long-lost civilisations such as Atlanteans or even extra-terrestrials. There is great speculation on exactly how they were built, using the primitive construction methods of the time and whether their orientation was cosmic or religious.
Each pyramid had its own associated structures which included satellite pyramids, mortuary temple, causeway and valley temple, though not all of these can be seen clearly today. Khufu and Khafre’s pyramids had boat-pits alongside, in which full-sized wooden boats in kit form were buried. Khufu’s ‘solar boat’ was discovered in over 1200 pieces in 1954 and was instantly claimed as the oldest wooden boat in the world. The boat has now been expertly reassembled over a period of many years and iThe pyramid complexes are surrounded by vast cemeteries of mastaba tombs, similar in size and originally laid out in street-like rows, but these have been disrupted by the intrusion of later burials. Mastaba is the name given to a large rectangular superstructure built over a deep burial shaft and comes from the Arabic word for ‘bench’. There are hundreds of mastaba tombs at Giza where the Old Kingdom elite were buried close to their pharaohs. The earliest and most extensive cemeteries are to the east and west of Khufu’s pyramid. There are also many private tombs cut into the rock-faces of quarries surrounding the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure. Many of the Old Kingdom tombs at Giza can be visited, but it is difficult to predict exactly which ones are open at any given time. Some of them have spectacular reliefs with beautifully carved hieroglyphs and engaged statues of their owners – the Old Kingdom was possibly the finest period of art in the history of Egypt.