The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Sights & Travel

The Great Pyramids of Giza: Egypt’s Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World

The Great Pyramids of Giza: Egypt’s Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World
    written by
    Clarissa Pharr

    Egypt is a haven of history, from the Valley of the Kings in Luxor and St. Catherine’s cathedral in Sinai, to more recent tourist attractions such as Khan El
    Khalili
    and the Azhar mosque in the heart of Cairo.

    Whether gazing at the
    riverbed where the River Jordan once flowed beneath the Hanging
    Church in Cairo’s
    Coptic quarters
    , or navigating through the overabundant plaques, jewellery
    and mummies of the iconic Egyptian Museum, visitors come from far and wide for
    the chance to experience Egyptian history in its present day.

    Still, few monuments or
    natural wonders compare to the Great Pyramid of Giza also known as the Pyramid
    of Khufu (or Cheops in Greek), which is the oldest and last surviving wonder of
    the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Crowded with bus-loads of tourists and
    trinket-sellers they may be but the Giza Pyramids of Khufu, Khafra and Munkara
    are most certainly worth a visit, whether you are Egyptian or traveling from
    afar.

    Getting There:

    The best way to reach the
    pyramids is by car; be warned that parking in the area can be atrocious and
    when driving up to the gated area
    itself, tour guides and sellers can be quite aggressive in approaching the car.
    If you’re taking a taxi, men offering tours are likely to approach the driver
    and ask to ride with you up to the pyramid gates. If you do opt for a taxi, it’s best to arrange for the driver to wait at a nearby car park across
    from the main gates and a short walk down the road, as you will have to
    fight for a taxi and haggle down extravagant prices with the taxis that usually
    circle the area.

    Note that tour buses and
    guided tours are available at nearly any travel agency in Cairo if you want a package deal that
    includes transportation and a guided tour.  

    Getting In:

    Purchase a ticket at the
    ticket windows located at both the walk-in gate and the gate near
    the area’s parking lot. Tickets for foreigners cost 60LE. Egyptians must be prepared
    to show proof of residency, or you will be charged the foreign price.

    The Pyramids are surrounded
    by paved roads, making it a pleasant walk on less crowded days. Along the way,
    be prepared to encounter any number of camel riders, trinket sellers, and
    people offering tours in languages ranging from Italian to Russian. For any
    service that you decide to try; be it a camel ride or a jaunt around the
    pyramids on a horse-drawn carriage, we recommend that you agree on a price beforehand and be prepared for
    some of the toughest bargainers that you are likely to encounter in Cairo.

    What to See:

    There are three
    major pyramids in the pyramids necropolis in Giza. If you do not fear small
    spaces, take the opportunity to step inside the small cavity of the Great
    Pyramid (for a negotiable tip or fee) to experience the pyramid’s rather daunting
    descending staircase as well as the king’s and queen’s respective burial chambers.

    The Great Pyramid of Khufu is
    believed to have been built over a twenty-year period and completed around
    the year 2560 B.C. For centuries, the Pyramid held the record as the tallest
    man-made structure in the world. Besides the many theories and symbolism that
    it embodies, the Pyramid is one of the most breathtaking monuments of Ancient
    Egypt; take a trip to gaze at its peak and see for yourself.

    Although not as magnificently
    large as the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafra has a more complex
    interior and a large number of statues dedicated to Khafra, son of Khufu,
    including the Sphinx.

    Situated right in front of
    the pyramid and carved out of bedrock, the Great Sphinx depicts the pharaoh
    Khufu as a man-headed lion, a major attraction for visitors. Having survived
    the centuries since its old kingdom-era creation circa 2550 B.C., the features
    of the majestic beast are slightly crumbled. While many claim that the Sphinx’s
    famous loss of its nose can be blamed on Napoleon Bonaparte shooting it off,
    historians differ on the validity of this theory; some claiming that the nose
    fell several centuries before Bonaparte’s entry into Egypt. Nonetheless, it is
    still a magnificent statue and being able to walk amongst its giant paws gives a
    new perspective on history.

    The smallest of the three,
    the Pyramid of Menkara rarely gets the same attention as its two larger
    neighbours; as it lacks the size of Khufu and the Sphinx of Khafra. Menkara’s
    one advantage may be its material: the two predecessors used limestone, whereas
    Menkara used the more valuable and pricier granite in his burial chambers.

    What to Do:

    Aside from the daily tours
    around the necropolis, there is a nightly Sound and Light show held every day
    after dusk. Visible from nearby Barry’s Oriental Restaurant, the show
    features coloured spotlights projected into the sky, with a playful plot
    pertaining to the construction of the pyramids. Perhaps not the most
    fact-ridden or academic take on their origins, the show does provides
    some playful entertainment for spectators.

    Mysteries, theories and
    debate have long surrounded the ancient structures, making a trip to the
    majestic peaks all the more worthwhile.

    For an exciting view of the pyramids, try
    horseback riding around the pyramids area at night under the moonlight. The Mena House Oberoi’s café/restaurant Khan El
    Khalili
    has the closest view of the Giza Pyramids and the Sound and Light show.

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